Published: September 15, 2017
OREM, Utah – Sophomore Jan Maertins (Rheinfelden, Germany/Georg-Buechner Gym) scored the lone goal of the game in the 38th minute as the Northern Illinois University men’s soccer team defeated No. 10 Omaha, 1-0, on Friday evening.
The victory is NIU’s first over a top-10 ranked opponent since defeating No. 2 SMU, 1-0 in overtime, on Sept. 19, 2008. Sophomore Konrad Dziedzic (Schiller Park, Ill./East Leyden) made two saves while recording the shutout and freshman Alex Welch (Carmarthen, Wales/ King’s College Madrid) tallied his first career assist on the goal by Maertins.
“This may have been our best performance of the season,” said first-year NIU head coach Ryan Swan. “Defensively, I thought we were excellent, with the exception of the first 10 minutes, the next 80 were outstanding. We created a lot of chances, so it is tough to find a lot of fault in the game today. I thought the work rate was excellent, we created quality chances and we defended really well.”
Dziedzic was the first of the two goalkeepers called into action as he was forced to make a save in the fifth minute on a shot by Emmanuel Hamzat.
In the 11th minute, Omaha (6-1) had another chance as Elvir Ibisevic found himself all alone near the penalty spot but his shot went high over the crossbar. Ibisevic had another look at goal in the 28th minute as his shot from outside the box comfortably found the hands of Dziedzic as the game remained scoreless.
The Mavericks earned a corner in the 36th minute and Cole Nelson rose highest at the back post but saw his header go just wide. Dziedzic looked to have the post covered had the header been on target.
Just two minutes later, NIU (3-3) went in front on its first shot of the game. Welch collected a loose ball in midfield and played an early ball straight through the heart of the Omaha defense to Maertins who slotted it past Omaha goalkeeper Joseph Ghitis to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead, which they would take into the intermission.
It was the Huskies who were on the front foot for the majority of the second half. In the 53rd minute, Maertins played a ball across the face of goal just in front of junior Kevin Rodriguez (Pasadena, Texas/Deer Park), but Rodriguez was able to collect the ball and lay it off into the path of Welch who fired wide of goal.
Three minutes later, NIU had a free kick in a dangerous position and junior Max Voss (Herten, Germany/ Staedtisches Gymnasium Herten) found the head of senior Luke Read (Ilford, England/Barking Abbey School) but the Huskie centerback couldn’t direct his header on target.
NIU continued to have all of the possession in the second half and in the 62nd minute a free kick from Voss found its way through the wall and Ghitis was just able to keep it out of hit net as the Huskies maintained the 1-0 lead.
Chances to double the lead continued to come for the Huskies as Rodriguez had a shot saved in the 68th minute and Maertins was stopped in the 71st minute.
In the 79th minute, NIU was reduced to 10-men as senior Jerome Roche (Salon-de-Provence, France/ Gardner-Webb) was shown a red card.
Despite the man advantage, the Omaha attack was unable to get past the Huskie backline to test Dziedzic in the final 11 minutes as NIU preserved the shutout and recorded the victory.
“Omaha are a very good team, we knew that going in and we knew it would be a difficult contest,” said Swan. “At the same time, we look at what we want to do here as a work in progress, and we were confident that if we got everyone doing the right thing we could compete with them and hopefully get a result.
“I think the guys felt great about it as they left the field, but at the same time their feet are still on the ground and it won’t mean as much if we don’t get a positive one on Sunday as well.”
NIU will return to action on Sunday, Sept. 17, when the Huskies meet Sacramento State in Orem, game time against the Hornets is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.