Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

36° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Wildcats get spark from deep bench (Men’s Soccer)

Coach Tim Lenahan tells his bench players, “You’re one play away from playing.”

At any moment during the game, one of the 15 players sitting on the bench could be called on to replace an injured starter or to add some energy on the field.

This is how bench players prepare for each game: They get a few minutes to warm up on the sidelines before being thrown into the contest, expected to integrate immediately and add a boost to the team on the field.

What has made No. 9 Northwestern (9-3-2, 2-2-1 Big Ten) successful this season has been its ability to be ready when that “one play” happens.

The Wildcats have survived injuries without missing a beat because of their depth.

“I really give tribute to the guys every day at practice,” Lenahan said. “Sometimes when you aren’t playing and you are good enough to be a starter on some teams, it’s disappointing. They know at some places they could play a little bit more, but the fact (is) that they care about their teammates here. They know when they’re called upon, it’s their job to step up a little bit.”

The bench has recorded three goals and three assists. But the effect the bench can have on a game can not always be measured by these statistics.

Sophomore forward Eamon O’Neill said the main goal of the bench is to bring energy and work hard on the field and in practice.

“If we’re not playing well, you try to raise the level (and) raise the intensity on the field,” O’Neill said. “If we are playing well, you try to keep it going and raise the level more. You just try to bring energy and work hard and keep things going the way they are.”

Bench players must be prepared to enter the game at full speed with little time to warm up physically. Mental preparation becomes very important because at any moment a bench player’s opportunity to play major minutes could come.

“They say it’s hard to keep up with the speed of the game right when you step on as a sub,” junior defender Geoff Fallon said. “I think the most important part is getting your first two passes completed and getting that confidence that you’ve only been playing for five minutes, but you are up with the speed of play. As long as you are mentally focused, physically you can warm up quick, but that confidence factor right when you step on the field is very important.”

The Cats have needed the luxury of a deep bench this season more than ever. NU has been able to continue winning despite injuries to three starters. NU will continue to need help from the bench as it wraps up Big Ten play against No. 16 Michigan State (11-1-3, 2-1-1) on Sunday and heads into the conference tournament.

Lenahan said the team will be able to continue winning in future years because of the deep bench it has now.

“When you have a good program, you have good players,” Lenahan said. “You recruit good players every year. The difference is those good players don’t get to play as much because there’s other good players there. In the past, we recruited good players, they stepped on the field right away and then maybe your bench was a little weak. Now we have all players who are capable of playing at this level and to have that option has been really helpful to us.”

Reach Philip Rossman-Reich at

[email protected].

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Wildcats get spark from deep bench (Men’s Soccer)