After opening the season with a disappointing 4-1 loss at home to Michigan, Northwestern men’s soccer came alive this past week, downing Wisconsin 5-2 and preseason Big Ten favorite Indiana 1-0. The two victories put NU at 2-1 on the season, the team’s best start in over six years.
The ‘Cats netted three goals in the first thirty minutes against the Badgers. Junior midfielder Richie Bennett started things off with a score in the 15th minute, sending a deflected shot into the bottom right corner off of a pretty set up from sophomore forward Ugo Achara Jr.
Less than five minutes later, Achara got in on the action himself with a beautiful header off of a corner kick. Ten minutes later, Achara scored again on a beautiful left-footed curler into the top left corner. The Nigeria native finished the game with an three shots on target, two goals and an assist, good for a five-point afternoon.
Much like Northwestern’s season opener against Michigan, its defense in the first half was impeccable. Led by redshirt first-year defender Deng Deng Kur and first-year Rom Brown, NU did well to disrupt Wisconsin’s possession by keeping pressing incessantly.
Ethan Bandre, the graduate transfer goalkeeper out of the University of the Pacific, held his own in the first start of his Northwestern career, but faced a whopping 15 (!) shots, making three saves. The Badgers scored twice in the second half, but it was too little, too late as the Wildcats cruised to a 5-2 finish, the first time since 2004 that NU scored five goals in a conference game.
Four days later, Northwestern took on No. 7 Indiana at home. The Hoosiers, a perennial Big Ten powerhouse, started off their season 2-0 and hadn’t conceded a goal.
Defense dominated the majority of the first half, but the Hoosiers started to put the heat on NU as the first half wore on, generating a number of corner kicks and opportunities inside the box. They had ten shots to the Wildcats’ two but no lead at the halftime whistle.
The second half was a similar story. Each team generated a number of shots from inside the respective 18-yard boxes, but the defenses did well to clear chance after chance. Northwestern’s keeper Miha Miskovic had himself a phenomenal redemption game after getting benched for conceding three goals to Michigan. The senior totaled five saves.
As the final minutes ticked down, the contest was shaping up to be a scoreless draw until Northwestern drew a throw-in well into Hoosier territory in the 87th minute. Spencer Farina’s threw a perfect long ball into the box, with multiple players making contact and Achara getting the final touch before the ball ended up in the back of the net.
The late goal held up as the defense stymied one final Hoosier set piece before time expired.
Northwestern has a few days off until it travels to Columbus this Sunday to take on Ohio State.