Northeastern upsets No. 12 UMass Lowell, draws record crowd

Junior defender Martin Nygaard nets the game-winning goal to sink No. 12 UMass Lowell / Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics
Junior defender Martin Nygaard nets the game-winning goal to sink No. 12 UMass Lowell. / Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics


By Noah Greany, news staff

In front of a record-breaking crowd of 2,017 people at Parsons Field Saturday night, junior defender Martin Nygaard sent his 108th minute penalty kick off the post and into the back of the net, securing a historic victory for Northeastern University (NU) men’s soccer against No. 12 University of Massachusetts Lowell.

In what was described by head coach Chris Gbandi as an “NCAA tournament atmosphere,” the Red and Black fought and clawed, ultimately stunning the River Hawks 2-1 and handing them their first loss of the young season and their first defeat in a non-conference game since Oct. 27, 2015.

After returning from the west coast carrying losses from No. 1 Stanford University and unranked University of California, Berkeley, the Huskies were sitting at an 0-3 record, losing all three opening games by one goal. Returning home to the Northeastern faithful proved fruitful, however, with Parsons Field turning into a type of fortress in Brookline on Saturday night.

The first fifteen minutes of the match saw the nationally-ranked River Hawks control the pace, forcing senior goalkeeper Jonathan Thuresson to make five saves within the opening third of the first half.

“[They were] reaction saves, all about finding yourself in a good spot and then reacting to it,” Thuresson said of his early heroics.

Riding the momentum of their goalkeeper, the Huskies survived the early onslaught from Lowell. In the 20th minute, a good combination play on Lowell’s right flank saw Needham, Mass. native and redshirt junior forward Harry Swartz break free into the River Hawks’ penalty box. Alone and with just enough space, Swartz slid the ball across the face of goal into the path of Adama Kaba, giving the freshman forward the perfect opportunity for his first collegiate goal and the Huskies’ first goal of the 2017 season. Kaba did just that, tapping the ball into the back of the net, past the desperate dive of Lowell goalkeeper Austin Kroll.

The goal settled the Huskies’ defense down for the remaining minutes of the first half, as the River Hawks were not able to garner any more shots on goal before the halftime whistle.

The Huskies continued applying the pressure to Lowell early in the second half, forcing Kroll into a couple of saves within the opening ten minutes of the frame. Just as Northeastern survived Lowell’s early pressure in the first half, eventually converting the momentum into a goal, the River Hawks would return the favor in the second half. Slick play in midfield allowed Dario Jovanovski room to slide Ivan Blaskic through on goal for Lowell, with the Croatian-born Blaskic slotting into the far corner, evening the game at one apiece in the 62nd minute.

The clock wound down on regulation with the Huskies and River Hawks knotted at one heading into the first of two 10-minute, sudden death extra-time periods.

The first half of extra time was dominated by the Huskies, as the home field advantage of the fervent Husky crowd started to bear its teeth. However, the whistle blew on the first ten minute period, with nothing to separate the two sides.

In the 18th minute of extra time and 108th minute overall, a clumsy challenge from Lowell saw the referee award the Huskies a penalty kick. Nygaard stepped up and confidently placed his spot kick past the reach of Kroll. The NU bench rapidly emptied, with a mass celebration ensuing in the corner of the pitch and in front of the bleachers that held the record-breaking Husky crowd.

Despite the win, Thuresson realized that work still needs to be done, and that building on this win is the most important thing his team can do.

“Winning is contagious. But I think we can be a little more patient on the ball in the last third of the field, playing it around a bit and being confident with the ball,” Thuresson said. “But that confidence comes with the confidence of winning the game, which we did here tonight.”

Gbandi praised the effort of his entire team and highlighted the effort of his freshmen, who accounted for five of Northeastern’s 11 starting lineup spots.

“When these guys come in, after they pass their three mile fitness test, there are no more freshmen, no sophomores, no juniors,” Gbandi said. “We go to Stanford, where you think they’ll be a little scared, but they weren’t. So I had no worries with them here tonight.”

The Huskies, now 1-3, will take on crosstown rivals Harvard on Wednesday night at Jordan Field in Cambridge before opening up conference play against Charleston back at Parsons Field on Saturday.

Leave a Reply