Oct. 4, 2012
MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin men’s soccer head coach John Trask is a firm believer in the idea that to be the best, you have to beat the best. Trask and the men’s soccer team will get a chance to do just that when they visit the No. 11/13 Indiana Hoosiers this Saturday night in Bloomington, Ind.
“The Indiana program has historically been the number one program in the Big Ten and I don’t think anyone would argue with that,” said Trask. “Everybody in this conference knows the strength of Indiana. It’s a great program and it’s the one you look to in the Big Ten. If you want to compete to win this conference, Indiana’s going to be the team you have to go against.”
As usual, the best is pretty darn good. Indiana enters the game with a keeper who leads the conference in saves (Luis Soffner), a defense that has let in just five goals all season, good for a Big Ten-leading 0.48 goals-against average and a scoring attack that tops the Big Ten with 16 goals, with seven of them coming off the foot of sophomore Eriq Zavaleta.
However, the Badgers have already played closely-contested games against a pair of highly-ranked teams in Georgetown and Marquette. Though the Badgers couldn’t find a way to win either game, tying Georgetown at home and losing to Marquette in double-overtime in Milwaukee, the experience of almost pulling off an upset should prove to be beneficial come this Saturday.
“If we can take some of the lessons learned in the Marquette and Georgetown games, cut out a few more mistakes and make some plays ourselves, I think we can compete against anyone in the country,” Trask said. “But at the end of the day it’s going to come down to whether our players take this next step in terms of focus and mental toughness, and in terms of expending the physical amount of energy that it takes to win these types of games.”
After allowing more than three goals in three out of their first six games this season, the Badgers have only allowed one team to score two goals in the last six games. Marquette was the only team to score two against the Badgers with the Golden Eagles’ second score coming at the very end of the second overtime.
Stats like that are pleasing to the defensive-minded Trask, who believes that the recently improved defense will mean good things for the UW offense as well.
“Good defense usually allows for good offense. It’s your defense that allows you to win the ball in good spots and take advantage of your opponents in those moments,” Trask said. “It’s that balance of being able to defend and attack. If you can defend properly and strip balls in the right parts of the field, then a lot of times that leads to scoring looks.”
Recent history shows that he may be right, with Wisconsin’s recent victory over Cleveland State providing a stark example. Though the Badgers were outshot 12-10, the defense won the offense the ball in prime positions, allowing the Badger offense to put seven of those 10 shots on goal with two finding the back of the net. For Cleveland State, its shots often came under duress and in tough positions, forcing the Vikings to miss the net on nine of their 12 attempts.
Fundamental defense like the kind they played against Cleveland State, coupled with opportunistic scoring is a blueprint for success against Indiana.
Another advantage for the Badgers is the fact that a majority of the players experienced last year’s upset victory over Indiana, as well as tying the Hoosiers in Bloomington the year before. In an all-time series dominated by the Hoosiers (Wisconsin trails, 4-32-5), having players on its roster that have experienced success against Indiana is a huge bonus to Wisconsin.
“You’d like to think that the guys remember those moments where we’ve had success against Indiana, and you’d hope it would help us this weekend,” said Trask. “I’m hoping for a great performance out of our team.”
With a well-executed game plan and a few fortuitous bounces, the Badgers are hoping to add another great win to their memory bank on Saturday night.