Men’s Soccer: Northwestern battles back, draws Wisconsin-Milwaukee 1-1


Talia Winiarsky/The Daily Northwestern

Junior midfielder Joseph Arena heads the ball against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Arena scored the Wildcats’ only goal in the 1-1 draw, becoming NU’s 11th goalscorer this season.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern faced Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a chilly non-conference affair Wednesday under the lights at Martin Stadium.

The midweek reprieve from their respective conference slates offered the Wildcats and Panthers a chance at victory in a season in which wins have been few and far between for both — the two squads have combined for three total wins this season. Still, NU has picked up its play in October, as the Cats entered the matchup with a 1-1-2 record this month. 

“We were not getting any results in September at all,” coach Russell Payne said. “These last few weeks, we’ve had a lot better results and we’ve scored in every game. So, it’s definitely a way more positive moment for the team.”

NU (2-7-5, 0-4-2 Big Ten) commanded possession for much of the opening frame. But keeping the ball inside the center of the park is useless if the team can’t generate attacking chances, Payne said. 

All it takes is one sequence to turn a game on its head, and that moment arrived for the Panthers in the 31st minute. 

Threatening down the right channel, Milwaukee (1-7-6, 0-3-3 Horizon League) played the ball back toward the middle of the field, which eventually found the feet of David Cox. He wasted little time whipping a pass into the box.

NU seemed flat-footed as the ball bounced right between the Cats’ two central defenders, graduate student Ethan Dudley and senior Deng Deng Kur. Sophomore defender Brandon Clagette was a step behind Panther Emil Lindgren Pedersen, who netted the game’s opening goal.

“Earlier in the match, there was more of an intent to go forward off our possession,” Payne said. “And we got away from that … They got a ball in between two of our guys, we didn’t communicate well, they scored. It is that simple.”

Milwaukee’s 1-0 halftime lead was the first time since Sept. 23 that NU had gone into the halftime break facing a deficit. As they’ve done recently, the Cats responded in quick fashion out of intermission. 

In the 57th minute, Dudley launched a long-range effort on goal. Milwaukee goalkeeper Nick Chiappa saved Dudley’s shot but pushed the ball straight into the path of junior midfielder Joseph Arena.

As all good poaching attackers do, Arena was in a great position to pounce on the rebound. The New Jersey native leapt at the ball and headed it into the back of the net to bring the score level, 1-1.

Despite some late pushes in the final third, neither the Cats nor Panthers nabbed what would’ve been the game-winning goal.

“We created a lot of penetration in the final third, got in the box a lot,” Payne said. “We need more quality in the box at those times.”

Now with its third draw in five games, NU looks to refocus with a pair of critical matchups approaching.

Currently dead last in the Big Ten standings, the Cats sit two points behind Wisconsin and Michigan. NU will host the Badgers in its final home game of the season on Sunday and, needless to say, securing three points is the paramount concern. 

A draw or loss this weekend makes the uphill climb for a conference tournament bid all the tougher. With a win, NU could control its own destiny as it travels to Michigan State the following weekend. 

“So now we turn the page and our focus is on points this weekend against Wisconsin,” Payne said. “We have everything to play for. We can put ourselves in the playoffs over the next two games and we’re going to work our butts off to do that.”

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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