Men’s Soccer: Northwestern looks to beat defending Big Ten champion Indiana for the first time since 2009

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Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Bardia Kimiavi dribbles the ball through midfield. The sophomore has three goals and two assists this season.

Drew Schott, Reporter

Even throughout the slog of last year’s winless conference campaign, Northwestern played some of its best soccer against one of the Big Ten’s best: Indiana. The Wildcats lost both of their road matches against the defending Big Ten champions by one goal, including a 2-1 overtime defeat in the second round of the 2018 Big Ten tournament.

But this season, a new and improved NU (5-3-1, 1-0-1 Big Ten) roster, led by midfielders sophomore Bardia Kimiavi and senior Matt Moderwell, hopes to hand the No. 5 Hoosiers (5-1-2, 1-0-0) their first conference defeat of the season and their first defeat to the Cats in over a decade.

“(Indiana is) a preeminent program in the country,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “They have eight stars on their jersey for a reason.”

This will be the Cats’ second match up this season against a top-25 team. On Sept. 20, NU beat defending national champion No. 25 Maryland 3-1 on the road.

NU will face one of the most productive offenses in the conference. The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten with 125 shots and 64 corner kicks. Spearheaded by forward Ian Black, Indiana’s offensive leader, they’ve scored 13 goals, good for second in the conference.

The Hoosiers are led defensively by Jack Maher, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year and the 21st-best player in the nation according to Top Drawer Soccer’s preseason rankings.

With a win over Indiana, the Cats could pull off one of the program’s largest upsets in recent history. Lenahan said the Cats must take advantage of scoring chances, something they failed to do in a 0-0 tie against Ohio State on Sept. 28.

In its two matchups against Indiana last season, NU was outshot 49-6. But the 2019 Cats have performed better in the attacking third. In its first nine games last year, the team managed just 63 shots. This year, they’ve already fired 88, with 25 coming over the past three games. Additionally, NU ranks No. 37 in the nation and second in the Big Ten — behind Michigan — with a .471 shot accuracy percentage.

The success NU has had this season has resulted in Lenahan expressing confidence in the roster.

“I know where this group is,” he said after the Cats’ victory over UIC on Sept. 24. “We’re better. We have better players. We learned how to compete and this year, we’re going to learn how to win.”

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