Northwestern looks to break five-game winless streak against Penn State


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Mattias Tomasino kicks the ball. The junior midfielder has started every game this year.

Andrew Golden, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Soccer

For most teams on a five-game winless streak, there are not normally any positives.

But coach Tim Lenahan made it clear to his Northwestern team that they can move past their bad stretch and salvage the season.

“I said (to the team) the season really begins right now,” Lenahan said. “These last five games were tough. We played probably five of the best ten teams in the country and we’re not ready for that. We’re still growing.”

Heading into the season, Lenahan said he hoped Northwestern (4-5-2, 0-3-1 Big Ten) would be at or above .500 by this part of its schedule. In order for his team to get back to .500, they will have to beat Penn State (2-6-1, 1-2-1) at Martin Stadium on Saturday, a team that has only won one of its last seven games.

Despite being a conference opponent, this is the Wildcats’ first look at the Nittany Lions with their new coach, Jeff Cook.

“We’ll get started on Penn State tomorrow,” Lenahan said after the Wildcats’ loss on Tuesday. “I don’t really know them as well as some of the other teams because of the new coach, but I will know them by Thursday.”

The Cats and the Nittany Lions have both struggled offensively. In both NU and Penn State’s last three games, they each have scored just one goal.

No one on Penn State’s team has scored more than two goals this season and the Nittany Lions’ leading point scorer is forward Jeremy Rafanello, who has five points on the season. Along with Rafanello, Lenahan added that midfielder Aaron Molloy, who is second on the team in points, was really good at dropping back and possessing the ball.

The Cats will have to keep the Nittany Lions from scoring and get ahead early, as they have played from behind in their last three contests.

“We learned that we need to come out strong right away,” sophomore goalkeeper Miha Miskovic said of the last three games. “It doesn’t matter where we play or who we play.”

NU’s weakness all season has been possessing the ball. They have had spurts of success offensively during the past couple of games, but ultimately haven’t put it together for a full match.

Sophomore midfielder Tommy Katsiyiannis and junior midfielder Mattias Tomasino have been great at trying to create opportunities for the Cats, but they have not been able to turn the better ball movement into more shots and goals.

In his first career start Tuesday, sophomore forward Spencer Howard took all three shots for the Cats and played a key role offensively. Howard said NU is “just going to keep grinding.”

“I always going to try to impact the game offensively,” Howard said. “Credit to my teammates. The opportunities wouldn’t be there if we didn’t have play down the flanks and crosses into the box to get me into those good areas.”

Lenahan said he knows his team is working hard, but the next few games will define them and the rest of their 2018 campaign.

“We’re going out there and we’re competing,” Lenahan said. “The success of the season will be determined in the next seven games and the Big Ten Tournament.”

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