Murphy sparks huge comeback win for men’s soccer

Freshman+Liam+Murphy+strikes+the+ball+during+Saturdays+match+against+Charleston.+

Albert Tamura

Freshman Liam Murphy strikes the ball during Saturday’s match against Charleston.

Mike Puzzanghera, editor-in-chief

Going into the half down 2-0, the Huskies needed to put something together to turn the game on its heels. To say they did just that would be an understatement, as the resilient Huskies put four unanswered goals past Charleston Saturday in the second half to take the game by a score of 4-2.

The Huskies (4-2-1, 2-0-1 CAA) created one-way traffic for the opening 20 minutes, as they peppered the Charleston (1-5-1, 0-2-0 CAA) box with crosses. Junior midfielder Dan Munch supplied consistent service into the box and got a few shots away early, though none troubled Charleston freshman keeper Isaac Alstrom too much.

Despite the early pressure, Charleston kept NU off the board and pushed down on the counter to break the deadlock. Junior midfielder Jake Nicholson beat his man off the dribble at the edge of the box and broke through on goal. Nicholson aimed for the far post and bent his effort around the onrushing sophomore Chandler Cree to give Charleston the 1-0 lead.

Off the back of that, the Huskies pushed forward in search of the equalizer. Munch put a delicious ball in at the back post for forward Timothy Ennin to attack, but the redshirt freshman’s header drifted wide of the left post.

It was Charleston who scored the second goal, with junior defender Chris Demartino carving the NU defense apart with an exquisite through ball. Demartino found an angle for a splitting pass to redshirt senior midfielder Tucker Heffron, who tapped his first-time shot past Cree at the right stick.

At the half, something finally clicked for NU. From the whistle their movement both on and off the ball was far superior to the first half, and they created a plethora of chances early on.

“They kind of let themselves down a little bit and they knew it, I think that’s why they were so disappointed coming to halftime,” said head coach Chris Gbandi. “For them, it was just, ‘You know what, let’s just try to get the first goal. The first half is over with and we can’t do anything about it.’”

And get that first goal they did. Sophomore forward Benjamin Klingen got the Huskies on the board in the 56th minute, beating his man and ripping a finish in at the far post. He broke away down the right wing, chopped back to create space then cut toward the endline. With enough space to shoot, Klingen put plenty of power behind his right-footed effort, giving Alstrom no chance to save the drilled shot.

Just a few minutes later, the Huskies scored their second and tied the game, with midfielder Liam Murphy scoring his first goal in a Northeastern shirt. Sophomore forward Ryan Massoud created the chance, collecting a pass at the edge of the box and waiting for Murphy’s overlapping run. Murphy received the ball with time to shoot, and the freshman’s low shot beat Alstrom at the right post to make it 2-2.

“I’ve been so on myself because I haven’t been able to put one away,” Murphy said. “To put that goal in, I finally felt like I was just one of the team. I was able to contribute for the first time, and it felt really good to put that away.”

Murphy again created problems for Charleston down the wing, putting in a beautiful cross that a Charleston defender put into his own net. The freshman found space on the right side of the box to put a ball into the area. His cross made its way to the back post, where the Charleston defender put it past his own keeper with Massoud waiting behind him. After going into the half 2-0 down, the Huskies scored three goals in ten minutes and suddenly found themselves with the lead.

“I was telling the coaches, I don’t think we’ve had a guy like Liam here who can just have the ability to beat guys 1v1,” Gbandi said. “He doesn’t play like a freshman because he’s been playing at a high level for such a long time.”

If anyone thought the Huskies were done, they were soon proven wrong, as freshman forward Jacques Baldwin scored his first career goal to give NU a 4-2 lead. Baldwin received a long through ball down the channel and beat his man straight down the wing. His strike slipped under Alstrom and rolled in.

NU nearly got a fifth shortly after. Murphy, the danger man for much of the half, broke through down the right wing and laid it off for Jacob Marin-Thomson. The sophomore hit his close-range strike with power, but it clanged off the woodwork and was eventually cleared by the Charleston defense.

To add to the misery for Charleston, sophomore defender Steven Cahill received a second yellow card with a minute remaining and was sent off, leaving the Cougars to play the final seconds with 10 men.

“It pays to win, we don’t like to lose,” Murphy said. “We want to win [the] conference, we have high expectations this year, and everybody’s just pushing for themselves. Game after game, we don’t look at what’s at the end of the season, we just look at what’s in front of us.”

The four-goal performance was the most NU has scored under Gbandi, and the most they’ve scored since Sept. 7, 2013 (against Fairfield). Their five-match unbeaten run is their longest since 2012 (12-match).

“I think it’s ultimately about working hard and then executing,” Gbandi said. “In the first half we had some chances, just didn’t execute. In the second half we executed those moments, and once you do that, you get more confident.”

The Huskies improved to 4-2-1 on the year and 2-0-1 in conference play with the win. Next up for NU is a date with local rival Boston University (0-6-1) Tuesday at Parsons Field.