Men’s Soccer: Northwestern looks to defeat Indiana for the first time since 2011


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Rom Brown dribbles the ball. The freshman midfielder registered an assist in Northwestern’s 5-2 win over Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Drew Schott, Web Editor

Men’s Soccer

On Nov. 11, 2011, No. 25 Northwestern defeated No. 9 Indiana after six rounds of penalty kicks to advance to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament. The semifinal victory over the Hoosiers that led the Wildcats to their first conference title in history also marked the last time NU would outscore the crimson-and-cream for nearly a decade.

The Big Ten rivals have met 11 times since 2012, with Indiana winning eight matches and tying NU three times. The Hoosiers are currently on a five-game victory streak in the conference rivalry and have outscored the Cats 10-3 during that span.

NU (1-1, 1-1 Big Ten) is looking to change that Saturday at Ryan Fieldhouse when undefeated Indiana (2-0, 2-0 Big Ten) comes to Evanston.

Already two matches through an abbreviated 10-game spring season, the Cats bounced back with an offensive clinic against Wisconsin after a collapse in the season opener against Michigan.

Sophomore forward Ugo Achara Jr. was the key cog in the purple-and-white’s offensive success versus the Badgers, scoring two goals and contributing an assist. It was an improvement from his performance against the Wolverines, which comprised two fouls, one yellow card and one shot in 39 minutes.

“He’s a key guy for us,” coach Tim Lenahan said.

The Enugu, Nigeria native is also the last Cats player to score against the Hoosiers.

When NU last played Indiana in 2019, the purple-and-white fell 3-1. However, Achara Jr. made one of, if not the best, play of his young Cats career that night in Evanston.

In the 39th minute, NU was on the attack when the forward received a pass from senior midfielder Sean Lynch. Achara Jr. quickly stopped the ball and fired a right-footed shot. The result: a beautiful goal that curved into the top right corner of the net.

Defeating the Hoosiers will require strong offensive performances from players like Achara Jr. Additionally, the Cats will need to heed Lenahan’s advice of getting the ball to the purple-and-white’s playmakers.

Following the 4-1 defeat to Michigan this season, Lenahan said the loss was in part because of his team’s inability to find “special” players such as junior midfielder Richie Bennett and freshman midfielder Rom Brown.

In addition to Bennett and Brown, players like junior midfielder Bardia Kimiavi— three assists in two games — and freshman midfielder Joseph Arena — one goal and one assist in two games — stand out as valuable offensive assets for the Cats’ attack.

In the Hoosiers’ first two matches of 2021, the team outscored opponents 6-0 behind the stellar play of forward Victor Bezerra— the Big Ten’s scoring leader with four goals — and goalie Roman Celentano. The squad is currently tied for the most corner kicks in the conference with 12 and has fired 19 shots, good for fifth in the Big Ten.

To beat the defending conference champion, it is clear that NU will have to rise to the occasion defensively, as well as between the posts. Senior Miha Miskovic started the season in goal, but was replaced by graduate goalie Ethan Bandre after giving up three goals against the Wolverines. Bandre played all 90 minutes against Wisconsin and saved three of five shots.

Last week, Lenahan said he is “comfortable” with both Bandre and Miskovic and expects each keeper to see playing time this spring.

This season will be Lenahan’s last coaching the Cats before retirement. In his 20 years at NU, he’s already won Big Ten Coach of the Year and topped 300 wins in Evanston. A win over the opponent that has evaded his team for so long would only add to his NU legend.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @dschott328

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