Junior midfielder Sean Totsch (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) scored in the 83rd minute and freshman midfielder Gabe Christianson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Kennedy) added an insurance marker in the 90th as the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team claimed a 2-0 victory over Iona on Sunday afternoon in the Northwestern Lakeside Classic.
Senior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) made five saves in the contest to record the 28th shutout of his NIU career, extending his school record.
“I couldn’t be happier for the guys,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “We have been playing too well not to have been getting results. I’m happy for the guys that they finally got their reward because they have played very, very well in every game so far, we have just been unlucky.
“We have played some pretty good teams but I think Iona may be the second-best team, after Creighton, we have played. So the fact that today was the one we got a result in hopefully reinstills the belief that we can play with anybody.”
Following a scoreless first half, Northern Illinois (1-3-2) went right on the attack after the break. The Huskies earned four corners within the first seven minutes of the second half, but the only chance on goal came when Totsch had a go from distance. His shot was held by Iona goalkeeper Borja Barbero in the 49th minute.
The Huskies continued to apply nearly all of the pressure as the half continued. NIU earned three more corners around the 60-minute mark, senior midfielder Mike Mascitti (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South) rose highest for headers on two of those corners, but both headers went high of the Iona goal.
NIU finished the contest with a 9-2 edge in corners, all nine of which came in the second 45 minutes.
Northern Illinois finally broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute. The Iona goalkeeper came to catch a lofted ball in the box but was unable to claim it, allowing the ball to bounce on the edge of the six-yard box. Following a couple of bounces, Totsch hit a tight angle shot on the turn past Barbero into the opposite side-netting to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Iona (1-6-0) pushed numbers forward to try to find an equalizer in the final seven minutes. After earning a free kick in the final minute the Gaels brought everyone, including their goalkeeper, forward. NIU cleared the free kick from danger into the feet of Christianson who dribbled in all alone from midfield, tucking the ball into an empty net with just 18 seconds to play.
In the first half, freshman forward Matt Pritchard (Omaha, Neb./Creighton Prep) had the first chance of the contest in the fifth minute when he got in behind the Iona defense. Pritchard’s shot from just inside the box was turned away by Barbero.
Pritchard was one of three Huskies, along with sophomore midfielder Jabari Danzy (Park Forest, Ill./Marian Catholic) and freshman midfielder Parker Thornton (Buda, Texas/Hays) to earn his first career start.
“The way things had been going, not that anyone had been playing poorly, but I just thought that we needed to mix things up,” said Luzzi. “We made a couple of changes and, from an energy standpoint, it paid off.”
Iona responded with a good spell of possession, the Gaels had a pair of shots from outside the box easily held by Godsey.
Off a corner kick in the 28th minute, Michael Hodgen for the Gaels put a header on frame that was cleared off the line by freshman defender Charlie Oliver (Crystal Lake, Ill./Crystal Lake South). The Gaels also hit the crossbar with a shot from Ignacio Maganto in the 32nd minute.
Oliver was one of two Huskies, along with senior defender Pat Sloan (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy), to be named to the Lakeside Classic All-Tournament Team.
Northern Illinois regained more possession in the waning moments of the first half. Senior defender Rocco Taglia (Caledonia, Ill./Boylan) had NIU’s best opportunity of the half in the 44th minute. After NIU drew a free kick 21 yards from goal, Taglia’s heavy shot was pushed away by the Iona goalkeeper. Mascitti had a follow up opportunity but couldn’t direct his header past Barbero.
The Huskies will return to action next Friday, Sept. 21, when they face Denver in Albuquerque, N.M., in the first game of the Nike Lobo Invitational. Game time against the Pioneers is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.