Nick’s Knacks: A New Direction

By Nicholas Guiang

Last week, I don’t think I would’ve believed that the same Northwestern team that lost 4-1 to Michigan could take down a seventh-ranked Indiana team with a last second stunner. After such a disappointing start to the season in a lackluster loss to an, I admit, very good Michigan squad, Northwestern came prepared not only to defend against a silky smooth Indiana offense, but to create chances for its own. 

While Indiana dominated much of the game and possession, as expected, Northwestern wasn’t afraid to hold the ball in its offensive half. While chances were ultimately thin for the ‘Cats with eight shots compared to the 17 Indiana scrounged up, they managed to find promise in them. And shockingly, these weren’t last ditch balls launched into the box or ambitious shots only Kevin De Bruyne could crack, the Wildcats found space behind Indiana with their speed and creativity out wide. Specifically, Bardia Kimiavi looked quite sprightly on the left flank combining with his midfielders Rom Brown and Richie Bennet while also offering support to the lone forward , Ugo Achara Jr, who put on a show of his own.

Achara scored the lone goal of the afternoon in the 87th minute off a terrific throw in from Notre Dame graduate transfer Spencer Farina. Achara was reactive and proactive. He found opportunities to split defenders that often allowed the Northwestern offense to calm itself after a long spell of possession from Indiana. However, late in the game, Northwestern and Achara turned up the heat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the team play like this in my three years here. Coach Lenahan, who I spoke to earlier in the year, told me we would see more ‘soccer’ played this year and I didn’t believe him after that Michigan performance, but Saturday afternoon, against a composed and experienced Hoosier squad, I saw potential for flare and silkiness in a team that has often look barbaric and one dimensional. 

While I haven’t often been impressed by the NU men’s soccer team over the past couple seasons, this performance looked like a new direction, not only for this squad but also to the end of Coach Lenahan’s career. As he wraps up his final campaign, performances like this will grow his lasting impression upon this program. After seasons with lack of old success, if Lenahan can go out swinging by building a skillful and composed team he will truly be memorable. 

With a schedule ahead that holds two physically dominant squads in Ohio State and Michigan State, a tough road still lies before the Wildcats, but if they can dig up a consistent spell of these types of performances, they could shock an often strong Big Ten Conference.