Oct. 22, 2008
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Amid blustery conditions at Lakeside Field Wednesday evening, the Northwestern and Northern Illinois men's soccer teams combined for only one shot in the first half of play. However, that one shot proved to be enough to give the Wildcats a 1-0 win as senior Brian Usinger's header off a free kick was the difference.
The victory allowed NU, ranked No. 2, to remain undefeated on the season at 11-0-2, while the Huskies fell to 7-3-4. The shutout was the 10th of the year for Northwestern surpassing the previous single-season school record of nine set in 2007.
Most nights of the year, Lakeside Field is one of the best places in the country to play. However, the pitch's proximity to Lake Michigan made things difficult for both offenses. Consistent winds around 25-30 miles per hour throughout the match left quality scoring changes at a minimum.
The Wildcats finally were able to take advantage off a set piece at the 24:44 mark. Northwestern drew a foul approximately 30 yards out and Piero Bellizzi took the ensuing free kick. His service into the box was headed by Usinger who was able beat NIU keeper Joe Zimka for what proved to be the decisive score.
The defenses dominated throughout the first 45 minutes of play as Usinger's goal was the lone shot for either squad.
The Huskies discovered their offense in the second half and managed to put the pressure on Northwestern. But time and time again, Misha Rosenthal proved to be up to the task.
The nation's leader with a 0.24 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage coming into the match, Rosenthal stepped up to make five saves after the intermission, including a pair at point-blank range.
Northern Illinois kept the pressure on until the final horn, earning a corner kick with under 20 seconds remaining but NU was able to turn away the visitors to secure the win.
Each team finished with seven shots in the contest, while NIU had a 5-1 edge in corner kicks.
Northwestern plays its final home game of the regular season Saturday as it takes on 21st-ranked Michigan. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. with the Wildcat seniors being honored in pregame ceremonies.