Defense key to success for men’s soccer

first_imgIn sports, different regions pride themselves on different aspects of the game. Out west, speedy offense is the name of the game. In the south, it’s power offense. Wisconsin’s pride and joy is defense.The Wisconsin Men’s Soccer program is no different. Defense is critical to the Badgers and it’s been one of the program’s defining characteristics over the years, which is why nobody was surprised when Wisconsin hired John Trask early in 2010.“The days when, for some reason, you just can’t find two or three goals, if you have solid play in the back, and a belief in team defending you stand a chance to win, you only need one goal to win a game,” head coach Trask said.Trask started his coaching career as an assistant coach under the legendary Indiana coach Jerry Yeagley. Yeagley’s defense-oriented game plan greatly impacted Trask’s thinking of the game, and ultimately made him the coach he is today.“I worked for Jerry Yagley at Indiana University,” Trask said. “There was a big belief there on playing good individual and team defending. It will always give you a shot to win.”After working with multiple MLS teams, Trask made his way to Chicago where he shined as the head coach of the University of Illinois-Chicago. In his five years with the program, he claimed three Horizon League championships and an Elite Eight berth in 2007. UIC was consistently in the top 10 for goals allowed while under Trask. In 2006, they had a 0.36 goals against average, which ranks fourth in NCAA soccer history. His focus on defense propelled UIC into the limelight as it became a NCAA soccer powerhouse.Since moving to Wisconsin, Trask has developed one of the best defenses in Wisconsin history. He has instilled the defensive mindset into the players, and they have bought into the new system.“From the forwards all the way back down the field everyone is willing to put in that work,” Trask said. “We are hard to play against. If we can team that up with some timely goals, we can give ourselves a chance to beat anyone in the country in a given day.”Wisconsin this year is more experienced than ever on defense. Led by junior AJ Cochran and senior Paul Yonga, the defense has maintained a 1.2 goals against average this season and has shut down some of the best offenses they have faced. Wisconsin recorded its first shutout of the year last week against South Florida, a NCAA tournament team from a year ago. The shutout is the first of many to come if the Wisconsin players and coaches have anything to say about it.“One of the really nice things about the goalkeepers and defenders is that they are talking about shutouts,” Trask said. “I think when they are starting to take pride in that as much as we do as a coaching staff, when the players start to say ‘this is how we are going to be critiqued,’ that’s huge.”One of the brightest spots for the Badgers this year is the introduction of redshirt freshman Casey Beyers between the sticks. Some were skeptical when Trask moved away from experienced senior Max Jentsch in the offseason, but the move seems to have paid off. Beyers recorded his first shutout this weekend and eight saves. More than anything, Beyers offers a strong voice of command for Wisconsin’s last line of defense.“Casey has a very good presence on the field,” Trask said. “He seems to command the back of the team nicely. He is making the simple saves, and he has shown the ability to make the big save for us too.”Even with all the good Wisconsin’s back line is doing, Trask still believes there is work to do. A few players have missed time in practice, most notably Cochran, who played with the U-20 national team this summer. The unit is still coming together, and the coaching staff is trying to fill the hole left by the loss of transfer junior JunHo Seok to injury.“Losing JunHo to this injury has changed the dynamics a little bit,” Trask said. “But we feel confident in some of the other options we have and we are still going to look at some other players. We still might change around the defense a bit still but we feel very good about it.”Luckily, if in the process of trying some new things out, the defense has a bad game, the Badger offense can take control. Wisconsin has one of its strongest offenses in program history this year. The Badgers, over the last few years, have averaged about a goal a game; however,  the Badgers have already scored 11 goals in five games this year. Led by redshirt senior Tomislav Zadro and senior Nick Janus, and with the support of a whole host of explosive young players, Wisconsin has the ability to strike at any time.With Wisconsin’s defense strong as ever and an offense full of promise, with Big Ten favorite and defending National Champion Indiana wavering early in the season, Wisconsin has a chance to clinch its first Big Ten title since 1995.last_img

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