Men’s Soccer: First-half errors hamper Northwestern push, fall to Villanova 2-0


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern senior midfielder Bardia Kimiavi dribbles up the field. NU fell to Villanova 2-0 after a pair of defensive miscues in the first half.

Alex Cervantes, Reporter

Northwestern men’s soccer struggled to overcome two first-half errors, falling to Villanova 2-0 despite a strong second half showing Sunday at Martin Stadium.

NU (5-8-2, 2-5 Big Ten) has had difficulty putting together complete performances throughout the season.Their latest effort against VU (9-6, 4-4 Big East) was no different. 

Midway through the first period, NU senior midfielder Richie Bennett made a bad tackle and awarded VU a penalty. VU junior forward and leading scorer Lyam MacKinnon stepped up, placing his shot past graduate goalkeeper Ethan Bandre to give VU a 1-0 lead.

“We were focused in the first five minutes, but the first half, we just didn’t really come out sharp,” Bandre said. 

Falling behind early isn’t new for NU this season. The team has conceded four first-half goals in their last five matches. All three losses in that span happened when opponents scored in the first period.

VU’s high press caused NU trouble in their defensive third. That pressure ultimately led to a second goal for VU, as NU sophomore defender Deng Deng Kur botched a tackle, giving VU an open shot at the goal.  

After taking a commanding 2-0 lead, VU was content with sitting deep and letting NU drive at their backline and be more aggressive in the second-half. The team took eight shots and forced three saves, but none found their way past VU senior goalkeeper Kent Dickey.

Coach Russell Payne said the game was a “disappointing performance for the program,” but did highlight the team’s second-half effort.

“We were lackluster in the first half, on both sides of the ball,” Payne said. “In the second half, the effort change and the attitude change generated a bunch of chances that last 20 minutes. We could have tied the game up.”

NU senior midfielder Bardia Kimiavi said the team has strived for complete 90-minute performances, calling it a “theme of our season.” He added opponents have taken advantage of NU when they “switch off.” 

NU will look to turn the page quickly with the team’s upcoming final regular season game against Michigan State on Halloween. The match holds massive postseason implications, as NU currently sits at eighth in the Big Ten standings, just three points above last-place Ohio State. The top eight teams in conference play advance to the Big Ten tournament. 

The Buckeyes have two conference games remaining with six points up for grabs, facing Michigan on Tuesday and Rutgers on Sunday. However, should it come down to a tie for points, NU will advance thanks to its 1-0 win against OSU earlier this month.

After a season so far mired by inconsistency and riding on the upcoming match, Payne said NU needs to have both eyes focused on the task at hand: defeating the Spartans.

“If we’ve got one eye on anybody other than our next opponent, and we’re focused on somebody else in the Big Ten, then we’re not doing the right things this week,” Payne said. “We have a game to play on Sunday, whatever happens on Tuesday should have no bearing on our effort and our approach.”

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex

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