EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The Northern Illinois men’s soccer team played even with Michigan State for 70 minutes until a pair of goals off corner kicks gave the Spartans a 2-0 victory on Saturday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium.
“I thought for large stretches of the game we had the better of play,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “I thought we created the better of the chances on the whole of the 90 minutes. Michigan State is a really good team, they don’t give away a lot, they are very opportunistic, but at the end of the day there was not an ounce of difference between the two teams for 89:30. We had two moments in the game and that is why we lose 2-0 and don’t have a different result.”
Northern Illinois (3-6-0) had the brighter start, generating a handful of half-chances in the opening 15 minutes. Senior James Stevenson, junior Andrew Palumbo and junior Shawn Vroom each forced a save from Michigan State goalkeeper Zach Bennett in the opening quarter of an hour.
The first good chance of the opening 45 minutes came to the Spartans in the 26th minute. A Spartans cross from the right side came all the way through to the back post where a shot from Ryan Thelen forced a good save from redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Glaeser at full stretch.
Four minutes later Michigan State (5-1-1) had another opportunity as a long throw bounced inside the six-yard box, creating havoc for the NIU defense until the Huskies could finally get the ball clear. The ball ping-ponged between the Spartan attackers and the Huskie defense a number of times before it was cleared.
Freshman Cody Witkowski helped get the Huskies back on the front foot in the 32nd minute as his shot from distance forced a save from Bennett.
The Huskies nearly opened the scoring in the 40th minute as junior Isaac Kannah caught Bennett just a step off his line, chipping and beating the Spartan goalkeeper, but his effort hit the bar. Sophomore Bertrand Gaschot followed up with a header but the Spartans were able to scramble it away.
After the intermission, NIU created the first good chance of the second half as Gaschot was fouled 25 yards from the Michigan State goal. Junior Jayson LeSeth took the resulting free kick, but his effort went high over the goal in the 48th minute.
Michigan State’s first effort of the second 45 minutes also came from a free kick as Sean Conerty had a look at goal from distance in the 55th minute that was well held by Glaeser.
Despite an open game that featured 38 total shots and just 13 total fouls, neither team was able to find the breakthrough until a corner kick in the 71st minute.
From the Michigan State corner, the initial attempt was played off the line by the NIU defense; Glaeser made a save on the second chance before Jay Chapman finally fired home the opening goal
Five minutes later the Spartans doubled their advantage, scoring again from a corner kick. Thelen took the corner for Michigan State and Ryan Keener rose highest at the back post give the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
NIU pushed the game in the final quarter of an hour but were unable to break through the Michigan State defense. Glaeser finished with a career-high 11 saves in the defeat for the Huskies.
Northern Illinois will open Mid-American Conference play next Saturday, Oct. 5, when the Huskies travel to Morgantown, W. Va., to face West Virginia. Game time against the Mountaineers is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT.