The Northern Illinois men’s soccer team played its third-straight overtime match and played to its second consecutive draw on Sunday afternoon as it tied Drake, 1-1, in the final match of the NIU adidas Invitational.
Junior midfielder Gael Rivera (Oslo, Norway/WANG Elite Sports Academy) pulled the Huskies even in the 54th minute after NIU had conceded a first half goal.
“Today was really the first time this season that our guys truly battled and dealt with a physical team and a high-paced game,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “We have been somewhat spoiled in the last two games to have been on the ball pretty much the whole game and today was a little bit more even.
“Drake is a blue-collar team, they work hard and they push the pace of the game. They are not an easy team to play against and I was really pleased with the way our guys responded to being down a goal, getting the goal back and really trying to push for the winner.”
Neither team had created much in the way of chances before Drake (1-4-1) opened the scoring in the 28th minute. The Bulldogs drew a foul about 30 yards from the NIU goal and Addison Eck stepped over the ball. Eck touched the ball into the path of Michael Thaden, changing the angle just enough for Thaden to fire a shot past a diving Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs).
The best chance of the first half for Northern Illinois (0-2-2) came to junior forward James Stevenson (Falkirk, Scotland/St. Mungo’s) in the in the 36th minute. Sophomore midfielder Jayson LeSeth (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West), who was one of three Huskies named to the all-tournament team, played Stevenson in behind the Drake defense. From a tight angle on the left-side, Stevenson looked to tuck a shot inside the far post, but Drake goalkeeper Rich Gallagher did well to get down and make a save.
Joining LeSeth on the all-tournament team from NIU were Rivera and freshman defender Charlie Oliver (Crystal Lake, Ill./Crystal Lake South).
NIU found an equalizer in the 54th minute on its first shot of the second half.
Junior midfielder Karim Darbaki (Crystal, Minn./Shattuck St. Mary’s) found Rivera in space behind the Bulldog defense. Rivera took a couple of touches and calmly placed the ball past Gallagher for his second goal of the season.
As the Huskies pressed for a winner, Rivera had another chance in the 60th minute. After receiving a switched ball on the right-hand side, Rivera struck a hard shot that was beaten away by Gallagher.
Freshman midfielder Gabe Christianson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Kennedy) had a chance for NIU from just outside the box in the 85th minute, but his shot sailed over top of the crossbar.
Just a minute later, sophomore midfielder Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) looked certain to score with a shot that dipped toward goal. Gallagher was up to the task however as he tipped the shot over the crossbar to help keep the game even at 1-1.
On the other end, Brian Grand forced Godsey into a save in the final minute of the regulation 90, Godsey made three saves in the contest.
In the extra session, senior defender Pat Sloan (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy) forced Gallagher into a save in the 95th minute after getting forward to find himself in a shooting area. Stevenson, Darbaki and LeSeth each had looks at goal in the second 10 minute overtime period but none of their shots ended up on target and the game ended in a draw.
Northern Illinois will be back in action next Friday, Sept. 14, when they travel to Evanston, Ill., to compete in the Northwestern Lakeside Classic. The Huskies will meet UW Milwaukee at 2 p.m., on Friday before meeting Iona in the Lakeside Classic on Sunday (Sept. 16) at 11:30 a.m.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.