Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Men’s Soccer: Defensive lapses in first half send No. 21 Northwestern to 2-1 loss against No. 20 Michigan State

Jorge Melendez/The Daily Northwestern
Graduate student forward Ugo Achara Jr. leaps for an aerial duel against a Spartan. Northwestern fell to Michigan State 2-1 on Friday.

A poor first half on both sides of the ball ultimately sunk No. 21 Northwestern in a 2-1 loss against No. 20 Michigan State Friday. The Wildcats suffered their second consecutive defeat  and fell to fourth in the Big Ten table with two regular-season conference games remaining.

“A tie probably would have been fair in both of these two games, but we made two defensive mistakes and gave up goals on both mistakes,” coach Russell Payne said. “So it’s us versus us.”

The first goal NU (9-2-3, 3-2-1 Big Ten) surrendered was a product of some misfortune, as a shot inside the penalty area by Michigan State (7-0-6, 3-0-4 Big Ten) forward Richie Ludwig found the hand of freshman defender Fritz Volmar. 

Spartans midfielder Sean Kerrigan sent graduate student goalkeeper Jackson Weyman to the left while burying his penalty kick in the bottom right corner.

The second goal the ‘Cats conceded was the result of an errant back pass attempt by freshman defender Owen Noverr. 

The center back tried to volley a bouncing ball to Weyman, but left his pass short and too far to Weyman’s right. The goalkeeper sprinted out of the net to try and clear the ball away, but found himself too far out of position when the ball was picked up by Michigan State forward Jake Spadafora. The sophomore played a square pass across the 18-yard line to a charging Ludwig, who guided the ball into the top corner as Weyman tried to sprint back into position.

However, NU rallied from an ugly first 45 minutes to quickly cut into the Spartans’ lead during the early stages of the second half. 

In the 51st minute, junior midfielder Collin McCamy sent a cross into the penalty area that bounced to graduate student forward Ugo Achara Jr. His first shot was blocked, but his second attempt snuck under the outstretched right hand of Michigan State goalkeeper Zac Kelly.

The ‘Cats nearly came away from the game with a tie and a crucial point. Volmar sprinted toward the goal with five seconds remaining, but his last-second shot was pushed away by Kelly.

Michigan State was able to neutralize NU’s midfield in the first half with some relentless on-ball pressure, taking away the team’s ability to find its forwards in dangerous positions further up the field. Payne gave credit to how hard the Spartans worked to close down any available space to turn in the first half.

“They’re a very good transitional team, and against most of the teams we’ve played this year, we’ve been able to turn with the ball and keep going up the field, but they weren’t allowing us to do that.” Payne said.

Payne said he made a tactical adjustment in the second half, subbing in junior midfielder Paul Son and playing him as a striker to put more pressure on Michigan State’s back line. The move worked immediately, as the ‘Cats put two quality shots on the frame before Achara’s goal. 

But, ultimately, NU could not come up with an equalizer.

“The way we played in the second 45 minutes, it was Northwestern soccer,” Payne said. “It was all the things we wanted to do in the first half, so if we play that way against Indiana Tuesday, we’ll have a good night. But we can’t afford to have two different halves.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @colincapece 

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