Ugo Achara, Jr. surveys the field as the ball is in play. Achara, Jr. scored the first goal of the game against Rutgers. Photo by Brandi Simpson/North by Northwestern.

On a day as special as Alumni Day, Northwestern Men’s Soccer (9-0-3, 3-0-1 B1G) looked to expand on their undefeated record for the 2023 season as they faced Rutgers Men’s Soccer (3-6-2, 1-3-1 B1G) at Martin Stadium. And they did just that, beating the Scarlet Knights 2-0 in a Big Ten clash.

The ’Cats entered the game having an impressive season thus far, being ranked No. 12 by the United Soccer Coaches College Rankings. To top that off, their win against Rutgers brought their undefeated streak to 12 games this season, making it the first time since 2008.

While they eventually emerged victorious, it took the ’Cats time to adjust and dominate the game. They started off playing defensively, but as time passed, attacking opportunities began to appear. It wasn’t too long before a first shot was attempted at the eighth minute by fourth-year forward Justin Weiss, who has a tally of six goals thus far in the season. A good try by the team’s top scorer, but it only diverted from the post, rolling out of bounds. Northwestern’s closest shot in the first half came at the 43rd minute, when second-year forward Christopher Thaggard shot at close range, only for it to be saved by Rutgers’ second-year goalkeeper Ciaran Dalton.

Through the first half, the Scarlet Knights were not far behind. Their equal pressure and dangerous shots every now and then, even if they were not precise, made it difficult for Northwestern to find a moment to score during the first 45 minutes of the match. Both teams demonstrated a desire to open the scoring, showcasing breathtaking attacks by offensive players, but they left the field at halftime 0-0 with Northwestern registering seven shots, compared to Rutgers’ 10.

After the halftime break, in which Northwestern Men’s Soccer alumni were welcomed and recognized on the pitch, both teams were determined to score. Rutgers continued their active and effective passes in the attacking zone, but no clear shots came from the visitors. Northwestern started off strong during the second half, with shots by Weiss at the 59th and 65th minute being blocked by Rutgers’ goalkeeper, making Weiss the player with the most shots in this game, registering eight.

The game was winding down to its final 15 minutes when Rutgers’ graduate defender Chris Tiao was shown a red card. This left his team with 10 players on the pitch, giving Northwestern the opportunity to score before it all ended. At the 78th minute, graduate forward Ugo Achara, Jr. opened up the scoring when he kicked the ball to the bottom right of the net, assisted by Weiss and second-year midfielder Jayvin Van Deventer. This would be his third goal of the season.

But that was not all. The ’Cats continued searching for more, and more is what they got when Deventer himself scored into the bottom left of the net, delivering a beautiful kick with only three minutes left to play. This would be the first time in his career in which he provided an assist and scored a goal during the same game.

With this sensational win, Northwestern Men’s Soccer team now sits first in the Big Ten 2023 Men’s Soccer Standings. The ’Cats will continue their Big Ten play when they travel to University Park, PA to face Penn State on Friday evening.

Thumbnail Photo by Brandi Simpson/North by Northwestern.