Badgers carry momentum to Chicago

first_imgIn what is a very young season, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team has played in a way best compared to a passage from Ben Barry in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days: “They’ve been up, they’ve been down, they’ve been here, they’ve been there, they’ve been a frickin’ one team circus.”While Matthew McConaughey probably knows little about Wisconsin soccer, the quote he yells to Kate Hudson fits the Badgers season like no other line could.The Badgers started the season with a remarkable victory on the road at Memphis, scoring four goals in the final 14 minutes to top the Tigers by a single goal. They then proceeded to go 0-2-1 in their next three games, including a 3-1 loss to Florida International in front of a vocal McClimon Complex crowd in their home opener. But that weekend wasn’t over, and Wisconsin rallied its spirits to a 1-1 draw against No. 13 Georgetown.And all of this in just five games. Time is on the side of the Badgers. With plenty of season remaining, a strong showing this weekend at the Illinois-Chicago Soccer Classic would do wonders in jumpstarting their momentum.Wisconsin will start the weekend Friday night with a matchup against the Western Illinois Leatherbacks – a team coming off a 3-0 drubbing to No. 20 Marquette. The Leathernecks (2-3) own victories over DePaul and Valparaiso, however, and will be no pushover for the Badgers.Western Illinois is no stranger to Wisconsin, as Friday’s match is its fifth meeting with the Badgers in seven years. The past four bouts between these two teams have all ended with 1-0 scores, with the Badgers triumphing in three of the four affairs.Their shared history is one thing head coach John Trask indicates as a reason for their Friday game to be a battle.“Western Illinois is a well-coached team, with Doc [Eric] Johnson and his staff,” Trask said. “We’ve had some great battles with them over the last couple years. We expect they are going to come out firing and play well above whatever their record may be.”Regardless of how well the Leathernecks play, the Badgers are more concerned with how they will perform. After the disappointing home-opening loss to FIU, Trask elected to use a four-back defensive strategy, and it worked against the nationally-ranked Hoyas.Wisconsin took control with an early goal and relinquished just one in its double overtime effort. The Badgers now plan to use that showing against the Hoyas as momentum heading into the weekend and toward the impending Big Ten schedule.“Our game against Georgetown – obviously it wasn’t a win – but in a large sense, it was a success for us,” freshman goalkeeper Chase Rau said. “It made us realize the true potential we have as a team.”A win Friday will keep the momentum going into Sunday’s game against IUPUI. Their official name – Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis – may seem lengthy, but their season likely has felt even longer.Thus far, the Jaguars are just 2-5 and are eager to add to their win column. With a newly-defined Badger defense gaining speed, the Sunday match may be a defensive battle.Last weekend, IUPUI shut out Northern Kentucky 1-0 behind seven saves from freshman goaltender Eduardo Cortes. Cortes was later named Defensive Player of the Week for the Summit League. If Cortes is on his game, the sometimes-stagnant Badger offense may meet its match.However, Cortes himself may meet his own match standing in the opposite goal. In his first semester on campus, Rau has seized the starting goalie position and run away with it. Although the victories have not been turning his way, Rau is right on pace with his coach’s expectations.“He’s been pretty solid for us,” Trask noted. “We think a lot of the issues have been in front of him.”With an additional defender on the field, the Badgers’ defense should be in its most bolstered state this weekend, making things easier on the young goalie. It should also help draw attention away from a group that has already surrendered 11 goals.Although two opponents linger on the weekend schedule, Wisconsin is focusing on the things it needs to do to get ready for its conference schedule, which begins next Friday against Penn State. The short list includes staying motivated and playing solid defense.“We’re definitely going in more worried about ourselves [than our opponents],” sophomore defender AJ Cochran said. “We are going to play the game that we know how to play, play with confidence and hopefully things will just fall into place from there.”Without a headliner opponent like Georgetown in the UIC tournament, the Badgers’ confidence is on the rise. For players, returning to Madison with any more losses seems out of the question.“I definitely think the expectation is to go 2-0,” Cochran said. “We’re going to go into both games well-prepared and well- coached. … If we don’t come out 2-0, it will probably be a little bit of a disappointment.”last_img

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