Sophomore James Stevenson (Falkirk, Scotland/St. Mungo’s) scored a pair of goals and senior Pat Sloan (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy) recorded a goal and an assist as the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team blanked Western Michigan 3-0 on Wednesday afternoon at the NIU Soccer Complex.
“It was a strange game,” NIU head coach Eric Luzzi said. “We had the wind in our face and we controlled the first 20 minutes. In the second half, with the wind in our favor, (Western Michigan) controlled the first 15 minutes. It is unfortunate when the weather plays as big of a factor as it did today, but I was really proud of the guys that they were able to manage the rain and the wind and were able to get a result.”
Northern Illinois (9-4-0, 1-2-0 MAC) started brightly as freshman Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) struck a shot off the right post in the 12th minute.
Just five minutes later, senior Finn Jor (Oslo, Norway/ Academy for Elite Athletes) nearly opened the scoring for the Huskies as his shot appeared to be headed for goal before being cleared off the goal line by a Western Michigan defender.
With the wind at its back in the first half, Western Michigan (5-9-1, 1-2-1 MAC) began to take more control in the final 25 minutes of the opening stanza. The Broncos outshot NIU 9-3 in the first half, but junior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) made five saves to help keep the game scoreless at the intermission.
After a slow start to the second half, the Huskies roared to life in the 64th minute on a goal by Sloan. NIU built the play down the left wing side before sophomore Karim Darbaki (Faribualt, Minn./Shattuck St. Mary’s) crossed the ball into the box. Sloan met the cross from and made no mistake, volleying home a goal past the helpless Bronco goalkeeper.
The goal was the third of the season for the senior for Lisle, Ill.
Just 63 seconds later, the Huskies doubled their advantage off a corner kick. Sophomore Gael Rivera (Oslo, Norway/WANG Elite Sports Academy) played the corner into a dangerous area just in front of the WMU goal where Stevenson was first to meet it and head it in to give NIU a 2-0 lead.
Western Michigan looked to answer in the 69th minute as Pat Schiffer took a shot from just outside the 18-yard box that forced a fine save from Godsey.
Godsey finished with six saves en route to posting his seventh shutout of the season.
Stevenson tallied the final goal in the 84th minute, putting the finishing touches on an excellent attack by the Huskies. Senior Kenny Kranz (Champaign, Ill./Centennial) began the play on the right-wing with a pass to Sloan who fed a ball in toward the near post run of Stevenson. The Falkirk, Scotland native scored with his first touch to put the Huskies in front 3-0.
Stevenson now has a team-high four goals on the season.
“He was born to be a striker,” Luzzi said of Stevenson. “The quality of his movement, the quality of his runs in the box and how he gets himself free. The way he deals with any service or pressure, he just finds a way. He is savvy around the box and is capable of doing special things.”
The Huskies will remain at home this weekend as they host Florida Atlantic on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 23, at the NIU Soccer Complex. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.