Men’s Soccer: Man of the offense

Jimmy Mitchell

Midway through last Saturday’s match against Penn State, Northwestern was in an uncharacteristic jam.

The Nittany Lions pushed a goal past the usually reliable Misha Rosenthal, knotting the game at one and putting the Wildcats’ undefeated 2008 season in jeopardy.

But less than 10 minutes later, NU forward Matt Eliason fired a shot from the right side of the field for the game-winning goal. The team held on for the 2-1 victory.

Eliason said composure has been key for excelling in important moments like on Saturday.

“I’m working really hard trying to stay confident in moments like in the Penn State game and trying to stay composed,” he said.

Eliason’s play guaranteed the No. 3 Cats (9-0-2, 2-0-0 Big Ten) would enter this Saturday’s match at Wisconsin with a chance to keep its perfect season alive.

The Cats have relied on Eliason’s big plays all season, and he has continued to deliver.

Eliason has emerged as the breakout star of the 2008 team. The sophomore forward from Lombard, Ill., has scored nine of the team’s 18 goals.

Last year, his freshman season began with promise. His first goal, which came on an overtime game-winner in the second game of the season, foreshadowing his eventual success.

But the latter part of the 2007 campaign saw Eliason’s play decline. He went scoreless in the final nine games of the season, playing part of that time with a broken foot.

“He’s been very important. In five of the nine games that we’ve won, he’s scored the goal for us to win,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “Any time you have that one legitimate scoring threat, it absolutely changes the game. You don’t worry about the score because you know, with Matt, you’re always one second away from scoring a goal.”

Eliason still started all 20 matches as a freshman and finished second on the team with five goals and six assists.

A rejuvenated Eliason has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in 2008.

“He’s really developed a feel for the moment,” Lenahan said. “I think that (the injury) really hindered his ability to score in the second half of the year. Certainly this year he’s shown a flair for the dramatic.”

Eliason’s nine goals not only lead the team but also place the sophomore second on the Big Ten scoring list. His five game-winning goals are also the best mark for any player in the conference.

Despite the accolades, Eliason said his on-field accomplishments are a credit to both his teammates and the program.

“It’s been great being a part of the Wildcat community and being part of a team. It’s great to hang out with all the guys all the time,” Eliason said. “It’s exceeded anything I could have hoped for. I just want to try and continue everything we’re doing.”

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