Disastrous Second Half sinks ‘Cats in Season Opener
By Kikue Higuchi
Northwestern men’s soccer dropped it’s season opener to the Wolverines 4-1 Friday night despite taking a 1-0 lead into the second half. The ‘Cats showcased their defense, but only because of their inability to maintain control of the ball on the opposite end.
Miha Miskovic started in goal for the Wildcats facing a total of 11 shots and grabbing four saves while allowing three goals. Deng Deng Kur, Jack Ratterman and Spencer Farina started in the back alongside Miskovic, which proved to be the strongest defensive lineup for the ‘Cats. They were able to shut out the Wolverines in the first half. Kur put on a notable display, using great positioning throughout the game and executing a few key step-ins and headers to stymie the Michigan offense.
Ugo Achara Jr., Richie Bennet, Vicente Castro, Bardia Kimiavi, Logan Weaver, Rom Brown and Joseph Arena filled out the rest of the starting lineup for the Wildcats, but after today’s performance Lenahan might be looking to switch things up in the coming weeks. The defense shined, but only because it had ample opportunities to. Michigan had total control over the ball and set the pace for most of the game. The Wildcats only put up four shots while the Wolverines posted thirteen. Michigan’s constant pressure on the Northwestern back-line eventually paid off in the second half, and the Wolverines took the game.
A bright spot on the Northwestern offense came early in the game. Five minutes into the game, Arena, a true first-year, netted his first collegiate goal on an assist from Bardia Kimiavi and Vicente Castro. It was the Wildcats’ first offensive possession of the game, and was their only productive one. From then on, Michigan easily maintained possession and kept the heat on Northwestern’s defense. The Wolverines put up six shots and attempted three corners in just the first half, but had yet to really test Miskovic. He only had two saves, and only one was from a solid, close range shot. Northwestern created a couple of chances with short offensive possessions to close out the half, but ill-advised crosses gave the ball back to Michigan.
Northwestern’s second half rotation in the back-line proved devastating as the Wolverines opened the second half firing. Michigan’s Marc Ybarra equalized early with a free kick on Michigan’s second possession. They grabbed two more goals within two minutes as Northwestern’s defense began to break down. Moshtaba Al-Hasnawi knocked one into the right and Cameron Martin grabbed an easy goal off a rebound the ‘Cats were unable to control.
The Wildcats managed to find some offensive possessions halfway through the final frame, but couldn’t find anything to do with them. Simple mistakes and miscommunications gave the ball back to the Wolverines and once again, Michigan easily controlled the ball. With just twenty minutes left to play, Ragen Jackson launched a penalty kick over Ethan Bandre, who subbed in at goal for Miskovic, to ice the game.
Michigan is a formidable opponent, going three-straight seasons with 11or more wins and an NCAA Tournament appearance. It’s too early to tell if Lenahan’s squad will be able to shape up and find a way to control the ball on their offensive possessions, but its performance tonight is definitely a blotch on the report card.