Men’s Soccer: Northwestern readies for the post-Lenahan era


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Northwestern players huddle on the pitch. 2021 will be the first season for Wildcats coach Russell Payne, who succeeded Tim Lenahan.

Drew Schott, Senior Staffer

Men’s Soccer

For the first time in two decades, Tim Lenahan will not be pacing along the Northwestern sideline.

The winningest men’s soccer coach in Wildcats history retired following NU’s 2021 spring season, where the Cats went 0-7-1 after winning two of their first three games.

Replacing Lenahan is Russell Payne, previously the head coach for Army. At West Point, he helped the Black Knights win a conference championship for the first time since 1996 and mentored the first Army player selected in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

Now, he will look to develop the Wildcats, who are hoping to return to the top of the Big Ten and contend for their first NCAA Tournament berth in seven years.

On June 16, forward Ugo Achara Jr. — a First Team All-Big Ten honoree who scored five goals and notched an assist in 2020 — announced he was transferring to Louisville. To replace him, NU will look to players such as senior midfielders Bardia Kimiavi and Richie Bennett and junior midfielder Vicente Castro. The three combined for two goals and eight assists last season.

Additionally, sophomore midfielders Joseph Arena and Rom Brown showcased potential, with Arena scoring one goal and notching two assists and Brown garnering one of each.

In net last year, both Miha Miskovic and Ethan Bandre saw playing time. The graduate students return to Evanston this season and will provide stability to a position Payne, who played goalie at Maryland, is familiar with.

The competition will be difficult this season, as Big Ten opponents Penn State, Indiana and Maryland are coming off appearances in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

While the Cats may not be in contention for a conference title this season, Payne will look to follow in Lenahan’s footsteps and gradually help NU regain its former place near the top of college soccer.

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Twitter: @dschott328

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