staff, October 15, 2012

Is it Halloween already, because I witnessed some freaky stuff on Big Ten pitches over the weekend! Northwestern moved to 3-0-0 in conference play, thanks to a goal that will haunt John Bluem for some time. As a defender, one of the first things you are taught is never, and I mean NEVER, let the ball bounce inside the six-yard box. Central defenders are tall for a reason - it?s their duty to attack crosses with passion and to take responsibility, and that didn?t happen at Lakeside Field.

I must admit, I felt sorry for Alex Wimmer in goal for Ohio State. The big No.1 has been out of the team lately, and when he finally gets the nod ahead of Alex Ivanov, his defense lets him down. Aron Hyde said on the Soccer Report that Wimmer should have saved Weberman?s cross, but it was whipped in with that lakeside wind and he could do little about it.

From a Northwestern standpoint, it will be delighted with another three points and a fifth clean sheet at home this season. But if it is to go from a good team to a great team, it needs to punish teams in a more clinical fashion.

In Joey Calistri, the ?Cats have a goal poacher, a guy who will create when least expected and always find himself in the right place at the right time. He?s not the biggest guy in the world, but he reminds me of Manchester United striker and Mexican sensation Javier Hernandez with his natural instincts. Calistri is a top college player, but Northwestern needs someone else up top to complement him (shame Oliver Kupe has graduated!) and finish the chances the likes of Ritter and Schickel create.

This week?s second freaky goal came from Jeffrey Field, and the head of Spartans winger Ryan Keener.

Unfortunately for Keener, it ended up being the game-winner – for Penn State! But let?s assess why it happened:

  • It was a perfect corner and Penn State striker Mikey Minutillo managed to position himself brilliantly in front of Zach Bennett in the Spartans goal. Minutillo was standing in the six-yard box completely unmarked as Michigan State seemed to adapt zonal marking, but to no affect.
  • Zach Bennett sees that the striker is unmarked, so he makes the decision to come and punch the ball away. He flapped and made no contact with the ball at a time when he needed to be really strong, as he had no support from his defenders.
  • Ryan Keener crouches in preparation for a headed clearance, but in lowering his height he completely obstructs his view and flight path of the ball, allowing for a calamitous own goal.

Michigan State will hope that it doesn't hand out gifts like that again, and maybe it should rethink its marking policy from set plays.

With just a couple of conference matches left for most teams, it looks like it?s all coming down to shootout in Bloomington between Northwestern and Indiana. Northwestern pipped Todd Yeagley?s team last term, so the Hoosiers will be out for revenge on their home turf.

One thing is for sure: If teams are to challenge Northwestern and Indiana, or even strive to play at their level, they need to concentrate for 90 minutes and eliminate costly mistakes. It may have looked like Halloween at the weekend, but it?s not Christmas yet, so no need for any more gifts!

The Big Ten Soccer Report is a weekly online-only show that looks at the last action in Big Ten men's and women's soccer. Follow the show on Twitter @BTNSoccerReport and find previous shows here. Kevin Egan is the host of the BTN Soccer Report, an online-only weekly show spotlighting Big Ten men's and women's soccer. Want to send a note to Egan about Big Ten soccer and the BTN Internet show? Use the form below and subscribe to the Big Ten Soccer Report RSS here.