Men’s Soccer: Northwestern falls to UIC despite early lead


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs)

Richie Bennett controls a pass. The freshman midfielder played every minute of Tuesday’s game.

Stephen Council, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

It looked for a while like Northwestern might spoil Illinois-Chicago’s senior night.

The Wildcats, visiting the Flames, ultimately fell 3-1 on Tuesday in Chicago. NU (4-7-4, 0-4-2 Big Ten) was seeking its first win since Sept. 9, but Horizon League-leading UIC (10-3-1, 4-1-1 Horizon League) got hot in the second half and came back against a hard-fighting Cats’ side.

Junior forward Ty Seager pushed a shot past Flames’ goalkeeper Sawyer Jackman in the fifth minute. The ball slowly rolled into the net, shocking both Jackman and the home Chicago crowd.

“I think a lot of the team was almost relieved. Like we were so excited to get a quick goal and to be off to a quick start,” freshman midfielder Richie Bennett said. “It was exactly how we drew it up.”

A few minutes after the early goal, the momentum began to shift in UIC’s favor. By the 25th minute, the home side had forced NU goalkeeper Miha Miskovic to make five saves, and the Cats’ defenders were being stretched all over the field.

Sophomore defender Garrett Opperman acknowledged the first half was a lot of work for the defense.

“Our defense just has a lot of grit,” Opperman said. “We work hard back there.”

The last 10 minutes of the first half were action packed, as NU fended off shot after shot. Max Todd, Markell Saddler and Oscar Gonzalez headed the attack for the Flames, and NU defenders blocked four shots in a three-minute stretch. By the end of the first half, the Flames had amassed 14 shots to the Cats’ two.

“We had absorbed a lot of pressure, so we were thinking if we absorbed too much more pressure we’d have to make some tactical changes,” coach Tim Lenahan said.

Both teams came out with intensity to start the second half. Todd ripped a shot over the Northwestern goal, and the Cats’ sophomore midfielder Tommy Katsiyiannis came back two minutes later with a dangerous shot that fizzled just left of goal.

In the 56th minute, UIC kicked into a higher gear and three minutes later found its equalizer. Catching NU off guard after a poor clearance, Gonzalez sliced the Flames’ 19th shot of the game into the back of the net.

UIC struck again five minutes later, after a streaking counterattack earned the Flames a corner kick. Peter Becht knocked in the Gonzalez cross, and UIC took a 2-1 lead.

Lenahan said he liked what he saw from his side in the next few possessions.

“We threw everything we had at them to try and get an equalizer,” Lenahan said.

The Cats played hard for the rest of the game, including a brutal collision in the Flames box and a header off the crossbar in the 83rd minute. Despite UIC’s relentless attack, NU managed to consistently get chances as it fought for a second goal.

Seconds before the final whistle, Saddler put the game away for the Flames with a clean strike past Miskovic. With his fifth goal of the season, the forward sealed the win for UIC and ensured the Flames their 10th win.

“We put all of our effort in, all of our energy in (to come back),” Bennett said.

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