If there’s such a thing as a moral victory, Northwestern men’s soccer (5-6-2, B1G 2-3-0) earned one on Tuesday night, when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-2-5, ACC 3-1-2) marched into Toyota Park and marched out with a 1-1 draw.
The match featured two teams going in opposite directions. The Irish came in as the No. 5 ranked team in the country, while the unranked 'Cats had dropped their two previous home affairs to SIU-Edwardsville and Rutgers respectively. The contest was billed as Northwestern’s toughest test of the season, and it lived up to its moniker, as the Wildcats and Irish battled for two overtimes before the match concluded in a draw.
The Irish opened the scoring early with a goal from sophomore forward Jon Gallagher in the eighth minute following a three-minute sequence in which Notre Dame generated five shot opportunities. The Irish took 39 shots total, with 13 coming on goal, but were held scoreless for the remaining 102 minutes of the match. This was largely because of the fantastic play of senior goalkeeper Zak Allen, who notched a career high 12 saves. The Wildcats attempted seven total shots, and only tested Notre Dame keeper Chris Hubbard twice with shots on goal.
The ’Cats began to build some momentum and maintain more possession towards the end of the first half, and finally broke through in the 58th minute with a short flick over the keeper by sophomore forward Elo Ozumba on an assist from Joey Calistri. Ozumba’s third goal of the season drew Northwestern level 1-1.
However, Notre Dame generated various flurries of chances over the remainder of the match, as they consistently played the role of the aggressor. The Irish fouled 11 times in the match and had seven chances from corners, while Northwestern was whistled for five fouls, with only one corner opportunity. Notre Dame also dictated much of the pace and possession in the match, constantly keeping the Northwestern’s back line on their heels. The ‘Cats did not concede again after Gallagher’s strike, bending but not breaking throughout.
A resilient performance such as this against a highly touted Notre Dame team is could provide a spark for the Wildcats as they move into the final stretch of their schedule. Northwestern will look to build off this encouraging result when the Michigan State Spartans (7-4-2, 2-1-2) travel to Toyota Park on Saturday, October 24.