Men’s Soccer: Northwestern’s offense needs to score more in order to see more wins


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Garrett Opperman clears the ball. The junior defender has started every match the past two seasons.

Peter Warren, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

After a quirky, disappointing 2018 season, Northwestern is looking for a bounce-back 2019 campaign.

The Wildcats finished the season 6-9-5 with a 0-5-3 record in the Big Ten, and at one point went over a month without a win. But there was more to the story than the wins and the losses.

NU played in 10 overtime games, and won only one of them. The Cats took eventual national champion Maryland to overtime in September, and put up fierce battles against national semifinalist Indiana twice — once in Bloomington and once during the Big Ten tournament.

Up top, sophomore forward Jose Del Valle will hope to build upon a quiet first season of college soccer. Del Valle arrived in Evanston after over a decade of playing in Real Madrid’s youth system and proved to be an excellent goal scorer. However, he struggled to score goals and maintain fitness in 2018 for NU.

He started the opener against Cleveland State but departed after 24 minutes due to injury, and did not play again for three weeks. After that, he did not miss any more extended time, but coach Tim Lenahan said he was still adjusting to playing more than one game a week. As a result, Del Valle only played one full game, and missed a few games here and there for extra rest.

When he played, the Madrid native did not find the back of the net as much as expected, scoring only two goals on the season. He wasn’t the only one. The Cats throughout the season struggled to create scoring chances.

NU scored only 24 goals in 20 games, and when excluding a 6-0 victory over Division III Concordia-Chicago, that number drops to less than a goal per game. Cats opponents also shot the ball 135 more times than NU.

For the Cats to turn some of those overtime losses and close regulation defeats into wins in 2019, they need to put the ball into the back of the net more often. Del Valle should be better after a full year in the United States adjusting to a different style of play. Helping him out up front will be seniors Ty Seager and Mac Mazzola, who were both named All-Big Ten preseason honorees.

Sophomore Richie Bennett, a fellow All-Big Ten preseason honoree, will be a settling force in the midfield. Seniors Sean Lynch and Mattias Tomasino and pacey sophomore Bardia Kimiavi will also look to step up in the midfield.

Between the two pipes will be junior goalkeeper Miha Miskovic. Earning the starting job at the beginning of the season in 2018, Miskovic had an impressive season. He had eight shutouts on the year, which tied for first in the Big Ten and was top 10 in the country, and made a conference-best 73 saves. While the offense struggled to score goals, Miskovic and the back line kept the team in games.

The two biggest pieces of that backline also return from last season. Junior center back Garrett Opperman has started every game since he arrived on campus and has played the full game in all but one of them. Along with Opperman, sophomore full back Julian Zighelboim was the only other player to start every game of the 2018 season.

NU opens the season this weekend with two matches in Bloomington, Indiana. The Cats battle UCLA on Friday and then take on Pittsburgh on Sunday.

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