Men’s Soccer: Northwestern seeks first Big Ten win against No. 19 Michigan


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Matt Moderwell gains traction on a loose ball. The junior scored the game-tying goal Wednesday against Indiana.

Andrew Golden, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Soccer

Heading into this weekend, Northwestern is looking for its first conference win of the season.

After a heartbreaking overtime loss at home to Maryland 12 days ago to open conference play, the Wildcats (4-3-2, 0-2-1 Big Ten) played to a draw against Ohio State and lost another soul-crushing game to Indiana on Wednesday.

On Saturday, NU heads home to face No. 19 Michigan (6-1-1, 2-0-1), last year’s Big Ten regular season champion. Since losing to Tulsa in their second game of the season, Michigan has yet to be beaten and has a record of 6-0-1.

In two games against the Wolverines last fall, the Cats lost 3-1 in the regular season and 4-1 in the Big Ten Tournament. Both games were played in Ann Arbor.

NU will have a big challenge ahead as the Cats head into their second of three straight games against ranked teams.

Coach Tim Lenahan had high praise for Michigan and believes the Wolverines have talent on all sides of the ball.

“They’re the most athletic team we’ll play,” Lenahan said. “Their midfield might be the best midfield in the country. So it’s a challenge.”

That midfield features senior Robbie Mertz and sophomore Marc Ybarra. Mertz was named to the 2017 All-Big Ten second team and Ybarra is tied for the team lead in assists with four.

Lenahan added that Michigan has a lot of experience and most of their team is returning from last year, so the Wolverines will have a lot of weapons in their arsenal.

Aside from their midfield, Michigan has a trio of talented forwards that will affect the game. Sophomores Mohammed Zakyi and Umar Farouk Osman and junior Jack Hallahan are Michigan’s top three scorers this season and have combined for 11 goals.

Sophomore goalie Miha Miskovic says that the Cats will work on the little things in practice this week to prepare for the Wolverines’ attack.

“We have to make sure we prepare all of our tactics for Michigan,” Miskovic said. “They are very senior-oriented and have a fast group of guys, but I think we can exploit their defense.”

Miskovic thinks NU can attack Michigan’s wings and if the Cats stick to the game plan, they have a chance to win.

An added advantage for NU is that the Cats will be on their home turf for after a long road trip. Lenahan hopes that a crowd shows up to Martin Stadium and makes a difference in the game.

“I hope that people will file out from (the football game against Michigan and come watch our game),” Lenahan said. “They will see a high level game and I hope the people have a high level of energy.”

Lenahan said he hoped NU can get two victories against Michigan this weekend as football also faces the Wolverines this weekend.

Regardless of the challenge that lies ahead, Lenahan is confident that his group can compete and put up with a tough matchup.

“I think we have some fight in us,” Lenahan said. “We keep growing by leaps and bounds every time we take the field.”

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