Men’s Soccer: Winning ways return

Jimmy Mitchell

Traveling downtown to face local rival Loyola-Chicago, Northwestern found itself, for the first time in the 2008 season, looking to rebound from a loss.

The Wildcats (12-1-2, 3-1-0 Big Ten) were able to do just that Tuesday, as they defeated the Ramblers (8-5-2, 3-2-1 Horizon League) 1-0.

NU’s victory came after its first loss of the year, a 3-1 dismantling at the hands of Michigan Saturday. The Cats did not hide their frustration following being upset by the Wolverines.

“That old saying that a loss is good for a team, it gets you refocused, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” coach Tim Lenahan said after Saturday’s loss.

Senior Brian Usinger, who scored the game-winning goal Tuesday on a header late in the second half, said the Cats’ frustration served as motivation.

“We were all really pissed off that we lost, but it was bound to happen sometime,” Usinger said. “We wanted to get the ship right and get back on the winning side of things. We knew (Loyola-Chicago) was good. We took them pretty seriously, and we worked hard and got the ‘W’.”

NU began Tuesday’s match with an uneven performance. The Cats started the first half controlling possession, but quickly ceded momentum to Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers controlled the ball for the majority of the period, but were limited to four shots and no shots on goal by the Cats’ defense.

The second half saw NU return to form. The Cats possessed the ball for the vast majority of the half, surging into Ramblers’ territory and creating a number of scoring opportunities. NU’s improved play culminated in Usinger’s goal on a header, with the assist from senior defender Drew Ratner.

After three consecutive halves of less than stellar play, NU’s performance in the second half was a dramatic improvement in Lenahan’s eyes.

“Our big thing was we really wanted to focus on our team playing well tonight,” Lenahan said. “If we weren’t able to get a win tonight, but we played well, I was going to be okay with that. I just want to focus on getting back to doing what we can do.”

NU’s defensive corps made the lead stand, as Loyola-Chicago was unable to attempt a shot after Usinger’s score.

“They had a couple chances in the first half, but in the second half we really limited them,” Lenahan said. “I think it was a solid performance overall tonight. Offensively, we moved the ball really well in the second half. The best defense is a good offense, being able to keep the ball a little bit so the other team doesn’t have it.”

For Usinger, the match marked the third consecutive game in which he scored a goal. Tuesday’s goal also held personal significance for the senior defender.

“It was my mom’s birthday today, ” Usinger said. “So that one was for her.”

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