Men’s Soccer: Wildcats draw against defense-focused Spartans

Tim Balk, Reporter


Two overtime periods weren’t enough to decide Northwestern’s game with Michigan State on Sunday, as the battle between the No. 25 Wildcats (7-2-5, 2-1-3 Big Ten) and the No. 10 Spartans (9-3-3, 3-1-2) ended in a 1-1 draw.

At the sun-drenched DeMartin Soccer Complex in East Lansing, Michigan, NU looked to win its second consecutive Big Ten game in what was billed as a battle of defensive powerhouses.

Ultimately, the game lived up to expectations, with Michigan State’s junior defender Zach Carroll scoring the Spartans’ only goal of the game from 12 yards out before the Cats equalized via sophomore forward Mike Roberge, who would have the last scoring action of the match despite the possibility of a sudden-death goal.

“It’s late in the year, you’re trying to get points for the Big Ten standings, but you don’t want to give away points either for the NCAA tournament,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “You’re going to have two teams that are a little bit conservative defensively. It was a really hard-fought battle.”

Both teams entered the game sluggishly on offense. The game’s first 10 minutes of play saw just one shot as both defenses flexed their muscles.

As the half progressed, the Spartans attempted to probe into the Cats’ sturdy defense, but NU seemed to have all the answers, cutting out every chance that started to materialize. When NU attacked, they faced equally tough defense from Michigan State.

The Spartans appeared to have a great chance in the 23rd minute when Michigan State senior midfielder Fatai Alashe blasted a good ball toward NU’s net, but Tyler Miller, NU’s senior goalie, made an impressive save, sprawling to his right to knock the shot away and preserve the 0-0 tie.

The score would hold until halftime.

Michigan State came out on the aggressive after the break, relentlessly attacking the Cats’ defense.

In the 61st minute, with Michigan State on an attack, NU senior defender Nikko Boxall pushed sophomore Spartan midfielder Andrew Herr in the box, drawing a yellow card and giving the Spartans a penalty kick. Carroll took the penalty kick and pinned it in the top left corner of the goal, giving the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

“I’m disappointed that we gave up another penalty kick,” Lenahan said.

Five of the 8 goals NU has conceded this year have come from the spot.

But NU answered just minutes later when Roberge tied the game up, scoring at point-blank off a deflected ball in the 65th minute. The goal was Roberge’s second of the season. The sophomore also scored in the team’s previous match against Rutgers. NU junior midfielder Cole Missimo was credited with the assist.

“They were really tough opponents today, it was nice to get a point on the road,” Roberge said. “(The ball) just kind of bounced right to me, and I was in the right place at the right time, but it was a great play from Cole Missimo.”

The rest of the half was defensively oriented, although Michigan State came flying toward the goal in the game’s final minute. The Cats managed to stomp out the attack, sending the game into overtime.

Neither team was able to find the goal in the first overtime, as defense continued to rule.

A scary moment came when NU junior defender Henry Herrill appeared to knock heads with another player in the 99th minute. Herrill was able to walk off the field on his own power.

The second overtime proved as uneventful as the first, with each offense struggling to put pressure on the net, resulting in the 1-1 final.

“To come away with a point on the road after being down and giving up a penalty kick (shows) there’s a lot of fight in this group,” Lenahan said. “They don’t like to lose.”

It was the last regular season game outside of Illinois for the Cats. NU will take on Loyola University of Chicago on Wednesday in Chicago before finishing off the regular season with home games against Penn State and Wisconsin.

Julian Gerez contributed reporting.

The headline of this story was updated Oct. 27 at 12:07.

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