A pair of second half goals from Kai Phillip gave Evansville a 2-0 victory over the Northern Illinois University men’s soccer team on Saturday night (Sept. 23) at McCutchan Stadium. Phillips found the back of the net in the 53rd and 87th minutes to give the Purple Aces the win.
“I can’t believe we lost that game,” said NIU head coach Ryan Swan. “I thought we dominated every phase up until the final third. We gave the ball away on two counterattack goals, we missed a penalty. I thought we did everything in our buildup, our possession, got ourselves into great positions in the final third and our decision making and execution in that final phase of the game was not where it needs to be.”
NIU made a good start to the contest as Zachariah Thomas (Burnaby, British Columbia/Moscrop Secondary) burst down the left and crossed to Sam Divis (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) racing down the opposite side, but Divis’ shot was saved by Evansville goalkeeper Jacob Madden.
The best spell of the opening 45 minutes for the hosts came just after the midway point of the half as NIU goalkeeper Jakub Rojek (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben) was called into action a couple of times, with the most dangerous chance coming off a deflection from the head of a Huskie defender that Rojek tipped over the crossbar.
In the 33rd minute, Eddie Knight (Frisco, Texas/Lone Star) latched onto a ball from midfield down the left wing and fired a shot across goal just wide of the back post.
Just before halftime, Evansville got in behind the NIU defense down their attacking left and Auden Engen Vik forced a save from Rojek.
Evansville broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second half as Nalu Wagner floated a cross from the left side and Phillip rose up inside the box and nodded a header past Rojek to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Just after the hour mark, Rojek made an excellent save at close range on a shot from Tobias Bak to keep the Huskies within a goal.
In the 76th minute, Thomas dispossessed an Evansville player in midfield and drove down the right side into the box before firing a shot wide. Two minutes later, NIU earned a penalty and Camilo Estrada (Dallas, Texas/Lone Star) stepped up to take it for the Huskies. Estrada’s effort beat Madden but rattled the crossbar as the Purple Aces maintained the lead.
NIU had another opportunity in the 83rd minute as a shot from outside the box by Taisei Arima (Machida, Japan/Seiryo) was fought off by Madden.
In the final minutes with the Huskies pressing for an equalizer, Carlos Barcia split the NIU center backs with a pass that Phillip latched onto 20 yards from goal, slotting a shot past Rojek to seal the victory for Evansville.
“The difference between the two teams today is Evansville has a player that has something like six goals on the season, when he had the opportunity in front of goal, he has taken them tonight,” said Swan. “We have put ourselves in position, we know we have the quality in the team, but when you aren’t winning and aren’t scoring it becomes difficult. I think we are overthinking and a little bit slow in our execution, it probably just takes someone scoring, and taking that responsibility, to relief the pressure on everybody.”
NIU will step back out of conference for its next two games, beginning on Tuesday night, Sept. 26, when the Huskies host Loyola Chicago at 7 p.m. Admission to all NIU home soccer games is free of charge.