Sophomore James Stevenson (Falkirk, Scotland/St. Mungo’s) scored the lone goal in the 41st minute as the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team defeated Florida Atlantic, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon at the NIU Soccer Complex.
Junior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) recorded his second-straight shutout, and eighth of the season, as the Huskies improved to 10-4 overall, 2-2 in Mid-American Conference play.
“Today the performance was subpar for our standards,” NIU head coach Eric Luzzi said. “So the fact that we got the result in spite of the performance, I’m happy for the seniors, but its more relief (than happiness).”
After a slow start in which both teams had just one shot attempt in the opening 30 minutes, sophomore Karim Darbaki (Faribualt, Minn./Shattuck St. Mary’s) had a chance to open the scoring with a header from the six-yard box that went just over the top of the goal in the 33rd minute.
The Huskies scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal off a set piece when Darbaki earned NIU a free kick just outside the corner of the box.
Freshman Jayson LeSeth (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West) played an excellent driven ball across the box to the far post into the path of a run by Stevenson. The Falkirk, Scotland native made no mistake in slotting home a first-time touch past the Florida Atlantic goalkeeper from just inside the six-yard box.
The goal was the fifth of the season for Stevenson, and his third this week after netting a pair in a 3-0 win on Wednesday against Western Michigan.
“We talk about it during the week, we talk about it in the scouting report and I talked about it 20 minutes before the game, I said we had to score a goal on a set piece today,” Luzzi said. “The service was fantastic, whipped in, dangerous and James (Stevenson) snuck in around the back side with a clean finish. It was a great goal.”
NIU took the lead into the intermission, outshooting Florida Atlantic 4-1 in the opening 45 minutes.
The Huskies had a chance to double the lead on a penalty kick in the 53rd minute. FAU was whistled for a foul in the box on a corner kick and senior Brad Horton (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) stepped up to take the spot kick. Horton’s effort was saved by Owl goalkeeper Jeremy Crumpton and the Huskies were whistled for a foul attempting to follow up on the rebound.
Florida Atlantic came on strong in the final 35 minutes of the contest, the Owls outshot NIU 8-5 in the second half but were unable to sneak a goal past Godsey.
In the final five minutes, FAU had a pair of chances that forced saves by Godsey. Sky Cutler fired a long-range shot in the 86th minute that Godsey had to tip over the crossbar and, a minute later, Godsey was called upon again to save a headed attempt by Darnell King.
Having won two consecutive conference matches, NIU will continue conference play next Saturday, Oct. 29, as the Huskies travel to Bowling Green to meet the Falcons at 6 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.