Northern Illinois 2, Florida Atlantic 0
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Sophomore Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) and junior James Stevenson (Falkirk, Scotland/St. Mungo’s) each got on the scoresheet as the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team opened Mid-American Conference play with a 2-0 victory over Florida Atlantic on Sunday morning.
Senior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) made seven saves to collect his third shutout of the season, and the 29th of his career, extending his NIU career record.
“I don’t like coming down here because it is always a hard game to play,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “Our guys had gotten used to temperatures in the 60-degree range and when we played this morning it was almost 90 degrees and it was humid. It’s a hard place to play down here for that reason. I thought the guys had a pretty decent approach this week and a relatively professional performance today in doing what we had to do to get the result.
NIU (2-5-2, 1-0-0 MAC) went on the attack from the opening kick as junior Karim Darbaki (Crystal, Minn./Shattuck St. Mary’s) forced Florida Atlantic goalkeeper Jeremy Crumpton into a save inside the opening 30 seconds of the contest. Kannah and junior Gael Rivera (Oslo, Norway/WANG Elite Sports Academy) also had shots that tested the Owl goalkeeper before the quarter-hour mark of the contest.
Florida Atlantic (1-7-1, 0-2-0 MAC) had its first effort at goal in the 23rd minute as Timothy Merrigan forced a save from Godsey.
A minute later the Huskies took the lead as Kannah fired home the opening goal off a cross from Stevenson. Freshman Gabe Christianson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Kennedy) played the ball to Stevenson who crossed in from the left, Kannah collected the cross and beat Crumpton for his first goal of the season, the third of his NIU career.
“Isaac is such a great player, and he works his socks off, so he more than deserved the goal he got today,” said Luzzi. “He cares so much, he puts a lot of pressure on himself and I was happy for him that he got that well-deserved goal.”
Kannah’s goal was the difference at halftime as the Huskies took a 1-0 lead into the intermission. NIU outshot Florida Atlantic 12-2 in the opening 45 minutes.
The Owls had a good spell early in the second half, forcing a pair of saves from Godsey within the first five minutes after the break.
“FAU came out and was pretty good in the second half,” said Luzzi. “We probably had less of the ball in the second half than we would have preferred, but we did get the second goal in the second half and, while they had a little more of the ball, we probably still created the more dangerous chances.”
The second goal came in the 67th minute as freshman Matt Pritchard (Omaha, Neb./Creighton Prep) played Stevenson in alone on goal. Crumpton got a piece of Stevenson’s shot but not enough to keep the ball out of the net as the Falkirk, Scotland native scored his third goal of the season, and 12th of his Huskie career.
Second half shots were even, 9-9, but the Owls were unable to find a way past a Huskie defense that posted its sixth shutout in its last seven matches against conference foes.
Northern Illinois will return home next Saturday, Oct. 6, as the Huskies host Hartwick College at the NIU Soccer Complex. The match with the Hawks is slated to start at 1 p.m.