DePaul grabs Chitown bragging rights, hands Northwestern first loss of season

By Nader Ihmoud

By: Contributing writer, Doug Pitorak

The DePaul Blue Demons men’s soccer team defeated the Northwestern University Wildcats 2-0, Sept. 26, at Lakeside Field. The Blue Demons earned their first victory in four games, and the No. 21 ranked Wildcats suffered their first regular season loss in nearly a year.

The Blue Demons (3-5-1) came into the game on the heels of a 5-0 loss to No. 10-ranked Marquette and had lost five of their last six games overall.

“It’s the turning point,” said Blue Demons Head Coach Craig Blazer about the team’s win. “It’s huge. We [said] to the guys that [our play] had to turn [around]. It’s as good as we’ve played.”

After the Blue Demons beat the Loyola University Ramblers earlier this season, junior midfielder Brian Schultz told the Chronicle that if his team beats Northwestern then DePaul would be the best Division I men’s soccer team in Chicago. Antonio Aguilar, senior midfielder, believes its true.

“We played three teams: UIC, Loyola, Northwestern. We came up with a result in all three games,” he said. “So right now I’d say we’re like one of the top teams in Chicago since we’re undefeated against all the Chicago teams.”

The Wildcats must wait a while before they can challenge DePaul’s claim, but like the Blue Demons, they are focused on the rest of this season.

After the game Wildcats Head Coach Tim Lenahan huddled his team together and told them what he told them after their last season loss, a 4-0 defeat from the Blue Demons on Sept. 28, 2011.

“How your season goes will be determined by the next nine games, not the first,” he said. “Whether we won this game or not, our season’s going to be determined by the next nine games we play.”

Aguilar, the lone goal scorer of the game, said the game’s outcome proved the Blue Demons are ready for any challenge this season. “Northwestern is a ranked team and they came in undefeated to this game, so if our team just puts in the battle we did today we can compete with anyone in the nation.”

Lenahan said the win wasn’t a fluke for the unranked Blue Demons.

“I [give] 100 percent credit to DePaul,” Lenahan said. “They played great. They had a really tough game on Sunday, so they recharged and regrouped and—no ifs, ands or buts—were the better team tonight,” he said.

The Wildcats (6-1-2) looked like a different team than the one that defeated the Michigan University Wolverines 2-0 on Sept. 23, in which Northwestern controlled the pace of the game.

“[DePaul] had a better game plan,” Lenahan said. “They kicked our butts.”

The first half tilted only slightly in DePaul’s favor. The Blue Demons took four shots, compared to the Wildcats’ three. By the end of the game, the Blue Demons had fired 12 shots while the Wildcats totaled six. Just a few days earlier, the Wildcats fired 14 shots against the Wolverines.

“Coach really talked to us this week about high-pressing their midfielders and not giving them space to turn and play the way they want to play,” Schultz said. “So we upped the tempo, and starting with the forwards and the attacking [midfields]. They really set the tone for sending pressure, and that’s what I think slowed down their offense.”

In the 65th minute, Aguilar broke through Northwestern’s defense, scoring the first goal of the game.

The Wildcats turned the ball over to their offensive half, but it didn’t take long for the Blue Demons to build an attack and get the ball to their best player. Aguilar made his way past his defender near the top of the 18, dribbled in just enough to bring the goalie off his line, cut to the right and finessed the ball into the net.

After 75 minutes, the Blue Demons could breathe even easier. Aguilar stole the ball from the defense, headed straight for the goal and scored again. Blazer praised Aguilar’s play, and the opposing coach had some kind words for him, too.

“I’m glad he’s a senior,” Lenahan said.

The Wildcats now go on the road to East Lansing to take on Michigan State University on Sept. 30, while the Blue Demons prepare to play St. John’s University at Wish Field Sept. 29 at 1 p.m.