The Northern Illinois men’s soccer team fell to UW Milwaukee, 1-0, on Friday afternoon in the first match of the Northwestern Lakeside Classic.
The match doubled as the annual LeWang Cup contest between the two schools, with the Panthers taking home the cup for the second consecutive season.
Stuart McBain’s 33rd minute goal was all that separated the two teams as Northern Illinois (0-3-2) created a number of chances but were just unable to find the back of the net.
“I think the guys know that wasn’t our best performance,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “Credit to Milwaukee, I think they were steady solid, they didn’t make very many mistakes. That being said, we still created a number of chances that we could have put away.
The Huskies had the first good chance of the match in the 21st minute as junior midfielder Karim Darbaki (Crystal, Minn./Shattuck St. Mary’s) saw his effort turned away by the UW Milwaukee goalkeeper John Shakon. Junior forward James Stevenson (Falkirk, Scotland/St. Mungo’s) sprung Darbaki into a good position inside the penalty area; Darbaki’s shot tested the Panther goalkeeper who pushed it away for a corner.
Milwaukee (4-2-0) broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute on a deflected shot.
The Panthers earned a corner and, following a pair of passes, McBain collected the ball to the left of the six-yard box. McBain played the ball from a tight angle toward goal and his effort deflected off a Huskie defender past a helpless Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) to open the scoring.
Less than five minutes into the second half, freshman midfielder Parker Thornton (Buda, Texas/Hays) earned NIU a free kick just on the edge of the Milwaukee penalty area. Darbaki’s attempt off the free kick was deflected and the second ball fell to senior defender Rocco Taglia (Caledonia, Ill./Boylan) who fired wide of goal.
Godsey made his first save of the second half in the 55th minute when Laurie Bell caught him drifting to his right and took a shot back left. The Ocean Springs, Miss., native recovered to make the save a thwart the Panther chance.
After NIU earned a corner in the 63rd minute, junior midfielder Sean Totsch (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) rose highest to meet the header in the box directing his effort toward goal before it was cleared off the line by a Milwaukee defender.
In the 69th minute, Thornton drew another foul just outside the Milwaukee penalty area.
On the resulting free kick, Darbaki’s shot looked certain to find the net but, at full stretch, Shakon was able to get a hand to the ball and tip it over the crossbar. On the resulting corner kick, Totsch had a chance from a tight angle but his attempt went harmlessly across the box.
Milwaukee responded with its best spell of pressure in the second half.
Kyle Neumann tested Godsey in the 74th minute as Godsey did well to save and hold his attempt to double the Panther advantage. Milwaukee had a flurry of chances in the 78th minute as three attempts were blocked by the NIU defense before the final chance from Robbie Boyd was saved by Godsey.
Godsey finished the match with five saves for the Huskies.
NIU continued to push forward in the final minutes, drawing another free kick just outside the box in the 85th minute. Darbaki once again stepped up to take the free kick, putting his attempt on frame but it was easily held by Shakon.
“Our team is just gripping a bit right now,” Luzzi said. “They know that we are a really good team but we aren’t getting the results that we know we deserve. As I just told the guys, we dug ourselves this hole and we will dig ourselves out. I am disappointed for them, for sure, but that is different than being disappointed in them.”
The Huskies return to action Sunday, Sept. 16, when they conclude play in the Northwestern Lakeside Classic against Iona. Game time is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.
For more information on NIU men’ soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.