A week removed from a brutal loss to Loyola and a heartbreaker against Penn State, the ‘Cats grabbed an elusive conference win in a 2-0 victory over Rutgers with goals from Jose del Valle and Logan Weaver.
Northwestern opened up without defender Julian Zighelboim, suspended after picking up a red card against the Nittany Lions. Midfielder Mattias Tomasino slid in alongside Garret Opperman in the back. Luckily for the ‘Cats, Rutgers posed no immediate threat on offense due to sloppy play. Unable to build out from the back, the Scarlet Knights turned the ball over profusely in the first 20. Matt Moderwell and del Valle combined for Northwestern’s first goal, as Moderwell’s cross found del Valle at the six-yard box, and his glancing header loped over keeper Oren Asher.
Rutgers came alive after the goal, running their play through first-year Jackson Temple, who gave starting right back Andrew Cyrus fits down the line.
“First half we lost it a little bit, they were finding number 10 [Pablo Avila] and number 12 [Temple] over here, but in the second half I thought we did a much better job with them,” Coach Tim Lenahan said.
The Scarlet Knights’ miscues doomed them, however, as defender Thomas Devizio failed to clear a long ball to Weaver. The midfielder stole the ball from the defender’s feet from behind, and calmly slotted past Asher from a tight angle to score.
Lenahan singled out Weaver’s play as epitomizing his performance for the day.
“[He’s] an unheralded freshman from around the corner, but because of his fight and spirit he’s found his way on the field, and made a great hustle play to score a goal,” Lenahan said.
The back four held firm despite Rutgers’ increased pressure as Northwestern went into half unscathed. Overall, the backline of Cyrus, Opperman, Tomasino and Weaver kept Rutgers’ attack at bay despite the roster changes. Sean Lynch had a standout performance off the bench, controlling the midfield in the second half as Rutgers put up a stronger fight. Ultimately, the first-half cushion was enough for the ‘Cats to get their second conference win.
Northwestern returns to Martin Stadium to face Michigan State this Friday at 7:30 p.m.