Men’s Soccer: Northwestern prepares for difficult challenge at No. 3 Maryland


(Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs)

Elo Ozuma looks to find an open teammate. The senior forward hopes to help the Cats shock No. 3 Maryland on Friday.

Hugh Mallen, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

In four years in the Big Ten, Maryland has lost only four conference games. Northwestern has already lost four this year.

However, the Wildcats (2-7-0, 0-4-0 Big Ten) have won two of their last three matchups against the No. 3 Terrapins, (6-0-3, 2-0-2) proving to be Maryland’s toughest Big Ten opponent yet. NU will look for its third win over the defending conference champions Friday night in a stadium that regularly houses college soccer’s largest home crowds.

“They’ve lost four times in the Big Ten, and two of those losses are us,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “In 2014 we played really well and won in OT. In 2015, we were able, in the rain, to get a late goal and steal one. We got badly outplayed.”

Maryland isn’t the only elite team to fall victim to NU’s upset strategy during Lenahan’s 17-year tenure at the Cats’ helm.

Most notably, NU took a shocking 2-1 overtime victory against No. 2 Notre Dame last year on a overtime header from then-senior Mike Roberge. Lenahan will look to apply his formula against Maryland to add a bright spot to a disappointing 2017 campaign.

“We are pretty good at adjusting to teams that might have more talent than us and forcing them to break us down,” Lenahan said. “The goal is to stay in the game and make it a one play, two play game, and then you make the play.”

Maryland enters this showdown on a 27-match unbeaten streak in the regular season, with its last loss coming in 2015.

The Terrapins’ success isn’t limited to the regular season, as they’ve won their past five conference tournaments. Two of those came in the ACC, and more recently they’ve won the Big Ten tournament three years running.

Still, NU relishes the opportunity to upset a conference foe and the No. 3 team in the nation. Senior forward Elo Ozumba believes the Cats best chance to beat Maryland will come from staying in their defensive shape and taking advantage on the counterattack.

“We know about their stingy defense, and we know about their attack,” Ozumba said. “But the way we play, we know we can catch them on the break.”

Regardless of NU’s game plan, the Terrapins present a unique challenge for the Cats’ attack. This year, they have allowed only five goals in nine games, and none in Big Ten play.

According to Lenahan, Maryland features seven or eight future professional soccer players. The most notable of the group is junior forward Gordon Wild, who has scored five goals in nine games. Northwestern, as a team, has only notched six goals in nine games.

Junior midfielder Camden Buescher, who scored in the Cats’ 2015 Maryland upset, attributes NU’s success against top tier opponents to the team’s loose mentality.

“We’re thinking, ‘what do we have to lose?’” Buescher said. “The pressure is on them. We need to just go out, play our game and then we’ll have a good chance.”

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