When the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team opens play at the NIU adidas/Magnuson Inn Invitational against Oregon State at 5 p.m. today, there will be two Huskie head coaches on the sideline – one former and one current.
Second-year NIU head coach Eric Luzzi will be managing opposite Steve Simmons, the current Beaver leader that guided Northern Illinois to the 2006 Mid-American Conference Championship before taking the OSU job in the summer of 2009. The trip is Simmons’ first to DeKalb since leaving the program with the third-most wins in NIU history.
The team’s entering today’s contest are coming from opposite angles. The Huskies are looking to bounce back from opening the season 0-1-1 at the very difficult Nike Invitational in Portland, Ore. Northern Illinois tied No. 19 Portland in the first match, then fell 1-0 to Washington on an unusual goal off a deflected throw-in. The Beavers enter DeKalb with a 2-0-0 record, with wins over UMKC and Green Bay.
Luzzi, who coached as Simmons’ top assistant for three seasons in DeKalb, is focused more on the match-up on the field than on the sidelines.
“The bit with Steve coming back to DeKalb is a nice side story,” Luzzi said. “But, at the end of the day, neither of us will be on the field deciding the game.”
That attitude echoes Luzzi’s sentiments from a year ago, when Northern Illinois traveled to Corvallis and defeated the Simmons-coached Beavers, 2-0. Current Huskies Juan Hoyos and Brad Horton, two of the 19 Huskies playing against their former leader, scored against their former coach in that match-up. This time around, there are only 11 players on the NIU roster that were coached by Simmons.
“This year, it’s only juniors and seniors who had him (as a coach),” junior midfielder Finn Jor said. “So obviously, it is going to be a little bit different, but we’re up for it.”
Luzzi has stayed true to his preseason promise to start and sub-in players who have shown the best in practice and exhibitions. Two freshman have started and four have played significant minutes. Luzzi used the same starting line-up in each of the first two games, but has left the door wide open to change his line-up.
“We are going to start the players that earn it in training,” Luzzi said. “Our team has depth at every position, and the guys are continuing to compete for starting spots and time.”
The match with Oregon State is the last game of a soccer tripleheader at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex. Northwestern takes on Cleveland State at 11:30 a.m. in the opening game of the NIU adidas/Magnuson Inn Invitational, and the NIU women battle Illinois State at 2:30 p.m.
Fans coming to watch any of the three soccer matches at the Northern Illinois Soccer and Track & Field Complex today must download, print and display the to avoid a parking fee. This will allow fans to park in the Convocation Center Lot C2, which is immediately west of the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex, free of charge. Because of an event conflict at Huskie Stadium, fans who do not display the pass within their vehicle will be charged to park.
The NIU adidas/Magnuson Inn Invitational continues Sunday, Sept. 12. OSU faces Northwestern at 11 a.m.; the Huskies take on Cleveland State at 1:30 p.m. No special parking permits are required for Day Two of the tournament.
For more information on NIU soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.