Men’s Soccer: Northwestern looks to get the ball rolling again at Central Florida


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Jeffrey Hopson whips in a cross. The Wildcats are looking for a road win Wednesday at Central Florida.

Marty Johnson, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

In the midst of a rough season, it’s crucial for Northwestern to beat inferior teams.

For the Wildcats (2-7-1, 1-3-1 Big Ten) to get their season back on track, they must do exactly that when they travel to Orlando to face Central Florida (2-5, 1-1 AAC) on Wednesday.

After NU’s 4-0 loss to Maryland on Friday, coach Tim Lenahan said he was displeased with how his team practiced leading up to the game.

“We had trouble balancing our confidence, camaraderie and having fun,” Lenahan said.

As a result, the coach wanted to see better training sessions from his team Monday and Tuesday. Senior defender Willis Griffith said he was pleased with the team’s work early this week.

“We had two good days of training,” Griffith said. “There’s a sense of urgency around the team.”

Griffith said the Cats used their recent practice time to work on play in the middle of the field, which was an issue against the Terrapins. Facing Maryland, the Cats were unable to make connecting passes to junior forward Elo Ozumba, which caused the team’s offense to stall.

In some regards, Central Florida resembles NU. Both teams have been outscored by their opponents and often struggle to find the back of the net. The Knights have scored 11 goals to their opponents’ 14, while the Cats have scored eight and allowed 18.

Although the two teams’ statistics are similar, they have faced very different levels of competition. The Knights play in the American Athletic Conference, which currently has no top 25 teams. Meanwhile, NU competes in a fierce Big Ten featuring three ranked teams, including No. 1 Maryland.

This year, NU has faced four ranked teams. Central Florida has only taken on one. Both teams have faced No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast, with the Cats beating the Eagles 2-1 and the Knights losing 3-1.

Ozumba said the team is confident going into Wednesday’s match despite the long trip to Florida.

“We have very high morale on the team right now because we’re playing in Orlando, and it’s one of the nicer places that we get to play,” Ozumba said.

With tough games against No. 21 Michigan State, No. 14 Loyola and No. 2 Notre Dame still remaining on its schedule, the Cats will need strong performances going forward to finish the season with a .500 record. NU has to thrive against its next three opponents, who have a combined record of 6-18-3.

It starts in Orlando. Griffith believes that the team will be focused on the task at hand.

“It’s a tough trip on the way down,” Griffith said. “But once we get off the plane, it’s all soccer.”

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