Men’s Soccer: Northwestern falls flat in Chicago Cup in a pair of 1-0 defeats


Seeger Gray/The Daily Northwestern

Sophomore defender Brandon Clagette lines up a shot. Northwestern was unable to convert any of its chances in the Chicago Cup, dropping a pair of 1-0 contests.

Alex Cervantes and Jade Thomas

Men’s Soccer

As the host for the 2022 Chicago Cup, Northwestern welcomed three other Chicago-area teams to Evanston for a chance to be crowned the best team in the city on Saturday. The Wildcats were unable to protect home turf, emerging trophyless after dropping a pair of 1-0 contests.

“We have to continue to trust the process, and losing is a part of that (sometimes),” junior defender Deng Deng Kur said. “The way we play is high risk, high reward. But the message is to stay calm, stay collected and continue with our principles because they’ll pay off in the long run.”

The cup’s opener featured a clash of CTA’s Red Line and Purple Line as NU squared off against Loyola-Chicago. Just eight minutes into the match, the Ramblers earned a penalty shot after junior goalkeeper Kevin Klausz was late to a tackle. Loyola-Chicago took a 1-0 lead after converting the penalty and held the lead for the rest of the match.

Nevertheless, the Cats showed promise in the second half. Coach Russell Payne’s squad was the more attacking side in the final 15 minutes. Shouts for a penalty in the game’s waning moments were denied by the referee, and Chicago’s Big Ten team was unable to level the scoreline.

Senior midfielder Bardia Kimiavi said the game was “pretty even,” but NU lacked some energy in the game’s opening minutes.

“The biggest problem was just matching their intensity,” Kimiavi said. “(We didn’t) win those second balls in the midfield or those transition moments, so credit to them. It shouldn’t take us going down a goal to really ramp up that intensity.”

Two weeks after the defeat to the Ramblers, the Cats looked for a rebound victory against DePaul. But NU fell short of a win despite a strong defensive stand in another 1-0 loss on Saturday.

Klausz was a brick wall for most of the first half, saving numerous potential Blue Demon goals. Though the Cats’ defense was strong, the offense struggled to convert its chances.

In the first half, sophomore defender Brandon Clagette streaked down the right flank, combining with junior midfielder Eric Smits, who laid it off to senior forward Jose del Valle. But the Madrid native’s shot missed wide, catching the side netting.

NU’s offensive struggles persisted in the second half. Clagette had an opportunity to score at the beginning of the period, but DePaul’s goalkeeper stopped the attack.

Similar to the Loyola-Chicago match, the Cats were once again threatening in the game’s final stages.

After initiating a counterattack, sophomore forward Justin Weiss’ pass across the center of the box just missed the outstretched legs of Kimiavi. Sophomore midfielder Rom Brown’s attempt from distance was parried away by the Blue Demons’ goalie and sophomore midfielder Joseph Arena missed a chance with two minutes left to go in the game, too.

In a sick twist of events for NU, the Blue Demons sealed the Cats’ fate with a goal by forward Marek Gonda with 51 seconds remaining in the game.

“Towards the end, we definitely started creating a lot more chances and kind of putting them on the backfoot,” Kimiavi said. “I think we created a lot of good moments, and there’s definitely a lot of things that we did well.”

NU now looks to add some momentum going into the offseason in its spring season finale against Illinois-Springfield on Sunday.

The message and approach remains the same for the Cats, Deng said.

“Just because we lost the last two games, we can’t all of a sudden try to change who we are,” Deng said. “We can tweak a couple of things, but for the most part, we need to keep our game plan consistent and trust it.”

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