An exclusive interview with Northwestern Junior Matt Eliason.
Matt Eliason scored the game-winning goal on Tuesday against Loyola (Ill.) in the 82nd minute. For almost any other college forward, this would be a monumental occasion. For the Northwestern forward, it was just another game.
Through his three years with the Wildcats, he has scored twenty-eight goals, second all time in Northwestern history, and only two behind leader, Jonathan Hall. Of the twenty-eight goals, sixteen were game winners.
When asked earlier this week during an interview with Goal.com about his incredible goal scoring record he said, “I just try and take advantage of my opportunities.”
Eliason has been a self proclaimed “poacher in front of the goal" for the last three years with Northwestern, and compares his style of play to Raul of Real Madrid. This summer, Eliason plied his trade with the very successful PDL side, Chicago Fire Premier. Among the alums of the side are U.S. internationals Ricardo Clark, and Jonathan Spector, as well as Bundesliga star Vedad Ibisevic. This year, Fire took second place in their conference and advanced to the PDL final before losing to the Ventura County Fusion. Eliason hailed to experience as a great thing for his development.
“I got to practice with some of the top players in the country,” he said.“The competitive nature of the team really improved my speed of play.”
Among the players currently on the squad (besides Eliason) are Harvard forward Andre Akpan, Indiana midfielder Andy Adlard, Kentucky defender Barry Rice, and Northwestern teammate Mark Blades.
When asked if being partnered with one of the NCAA's other top scorers, Akpan, led to any friendly bets, Eliason laughed it off and mentioned that gambling was against NCAA rules. Too bad, Eliason currently leads Akpan eleven goals to nine.
More importantly Eliason has the edge in terms of his team’s success. Last season, Northwestern made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament before succumbing to eventual finalist, North Carolina. He said the experience made the team “believe in ourself and to be confident in our abilities.” That was important in their major upset of the talented Akron side.
“We always believed that we could win no matter what seed or ranking our opponents had," he said.
After that sort of performance, it would be hard to undervalue this Northwestern side (they are the only team in the last twelve months to beat Akron), but this season started off on the wrong foot. Going into the fourth game this season, they were 1-1-1 and facing a ranked Tulsa team. Eliason netted the game winner in overtime. Eliason credit's the win over Tulsa with helping get Northwestern on the right track this season, and sparked a month long stretch without an loss.
“The (Tulsa) win helped jump-start our season and gave us belief that we were a good team.”
Currently, the Wildcats are 8-2-4, and 1-1-1 in Big Ten play. Northwestern fans are hoping that the similar record will lead to another clutch Eliason goal against Indiana on Friday in an important Big Ten clash. Eliason pointed out that “pressuring their backs and midfielders so they don't have too much time on the ball” would be critical for success in the game. And he will “try and take advantage of his opportunities.” Northwestern will need him to do just that to make another post-season run.
J.R. Eskilson writes a weekly NCAA column on Tuesday for Goal.com. Follow the College Soccer Professor at twitter.com/NCAAsoccer