Coming into Senior Day and a special Family Weekend, Northwestern Men’s Soccer (9-2-3, 3-2-1 B1G) hoped to bring joy to the crowd at Martin Stadium in a game against Michigan State (7-0-6, 3-0-4 B1G). Unfortunately, things did not go their way, as they suffered their second consecutive loss of the season, falling 2-1 to the Spartans.
The ’Cats came into this Big Ten game having been handed their first loss of the season last Friday against Penn State (7-3-3, 3-2-1 B1G) at Jeffrey Field, in which they fell 2-1, snapping their undefeated record. Northwestern also dropped from a No. 12 to a No. 21 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches College Rankings for the week of Oct. 17, just one position below No. 20 Michigan State.
In a first half that did not favor them, the ’Cats started with defensive play, trying to find their rhythm into the game and making a few throw-ins into the rivals half of the field. There was equal pressure by both teams in the beginning minutes, both with the intention of attacking each other. The first 15 minutes of the game came and went with no clear shots by either team, most of the play consisting of long passes and long ineffective shots.
Fourth-year forward Justin Weiss, who has tallied 7 goals this season, made Northwestern’s first shot at the 21st minute, but it was instantly blocked by Michigan State’s second-year goalkeeper Zac Kelly. Weiss had a frustrating first half, as he was quickly substituted at the 24th minute mark.
No real action came from either side until the 31st minute, in which Michigan State was awarded a penalty kick. The Spartans took the lead after third-year midfielder Sean Kerrigan converted the penalty, scoring his 5th goal of the season. While this goal gave Michigan State more confidence, Northwestern was still trying to find its way into the game.
Things only got worse for the home team when 10 minutes later, at the 42nd minute, first-year forward Richie Ludwig took advantage of Northwestern’s distraction, scoring a clear goal at the top right of the net. He was assisted by second-year forward Jake Spadafora, raising the scoring to 2-0 minutes before halftime.
As the ball rolled for the second half of the game, the ’Cats looked to change their fate. They struggled to retain the ball during the first few minutes, with Michigan State proving to have come back on even stronger. Despite that weak start, a response by the ’Cats came early when at the 52nd minute graduate forward Ugo Achara Jr. scored into the bottom left of the net, marking his 4th goal of the season. This hopeful goal gave Northwestern more reasons to try to tie the game with plenty of time left.
However, the Spartans never let their guard down as the minutes went by, continuing to make dangerous attacks on Northwestern’s side of the field. This second half proved to be filled with more effective and controlling passes. To Northwestern’s tough luck, Weiss was taken out of the field at the 69th minute, having only taken one single shot during the game and having played only 38 minutes.
Desperation started to trickle into Northwestern, who could not find a way to tie the game with a clear shot, as Michigan State maintained their firm position. Winding down into the final minutes, the ’Cats had few opportunities to attack, and when it looked like they could pull a miracle at the last second with an intentional shot by Achara Jr., the shot was missed and the whistle was blown. Northwestern registered 14 shots compared to Michigan State’s 13, but it was not enough to change the scoring.
With this loss, Northwestern now falls to the third position in the Big Ten 2023 Men’s Soccer Standings. The ’Cats will look to find a win when they face Indiana on Tuesday evening for their last home game of the regular season.