Sophomore Karim Darbaki led the No. 20 Northern Illinois men’s soccer team offensive output against Portland Sunday, scoring two first half goals off set pieces to lead the the Huskies (5-0-0) over the Pilots (2-2-1), 4-0.
After scoring in the 85th minute two days before to defeat Valparaiso 1-0, NIU did not hesitate against UP as Jayson LeSeth took a free kick from the left edge of the 18-yard box, that found its way to Darbaki’s head to give the Huskies the early lead in the sixth minute.
Twenty-two minutes later, LeSeth took another free kick toward net.
Senior Finn Jor flicked the ball with his head to Darbaki in the goal box, who put away his second goal and lifted NIU, 2-0.
In the second half, the Huskies play improved drastically – shutting down Portland’s offensive attacks and transitioning to offense at a quicker rate.
Hogan connected on net in the 66th minute, receiving a laser cross from classmate Isaac Kannah and putting the chance away for a 3-0 Northern Illinois lead.
In the waining minute of the match, NIU scored its fourth tally when Hoffman scored with two minutes left on the clock, on a brilliantly played ball from senior Johnny Tyma.
Though the Huskies led in nearly all statistical categories, they were still outshot by the Pilots in the first half, 7-5. Head Coach Eric Luzzi, though happy with the win, still thinks there’s room to improve .
“To be honest, even though we were ahead 2-0 in the first half, I was still disappointed with our performance. We were very opportunistic on set pieces, but outside of that, I don’t think we were switched-on mentally. But credit to the guys though, it’s hard to turn that switch on and they definitely did that, I thought the second half was an outstanding performance. We scored two more good goals and I thought that we weren’t too far off from having one or two more.”
Luzzi was very aware of the accomplishment the team committed today and was proud of the players. “Scoring four goals against any Division I opponent, especially one like Portland, is good – it’s something to be proud of.” The Huskies last scored four or more goals Nov. 4, 2010, a 5-1 victory for NIU over Milwaukee.
With the Huskies finishing 2-0 over the weekend, the team won the NIU adidas Invitational and had four players selected to the All-Tournament squad. Senior Francis Otira was the tournament MVP, while goalkeeper Jordan Godsey, Darbaki and Kannah were also on the list.
Northern Illinois will return to action next weekend, staying in-state for the Northwestern LakeSide Classic Sept. 16 and 18, to take on Xavier and UC Davis, respectively.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.