Daniels: Men’s soccer gearing up for special season

first_imgSo, I hear the Wisconsin football team has a pair of shutouts in back-to-back games for the first time since 1958?Now I know that statistic is supposed to impress me and, don’t get me wrong, it does. Winning a game is hard enough before you even begin to consider holding your opponent scoreless.Even more promising, two straight shutouts would seem to indicate that there is an end in sight to the past few years of defensive woes that have agitated Badger fans everywhere.Great, now let’s move on.Another team on campus has sky high expectations this fall after seemingly solving its own crisis last season: a lackluster offense.Have you heard of this storyline?Maybe you’ve seen the Youtube video circulating around of a game-tying goal in the last second of the game or the subsequent goal in the first few minutes of overtime to win?It’s the Wisconsin men’s soccer team, and while the football team has been earning shutouts, the soccer team has been scoring goals — lots of them.Offense is a funny thing in soccer. You don’t often need a lot of it to win. Many a college soccer game has been won by a simple 1-0 margin, and for the first three years of head coach John Trask’s tenure at the University of Wisconsin, this idea was a big part of his game plan day in and day out.To him, if you built a team around a strong defense, you should always have a chance to win any game. It just takes one mistake or one lucky break.Unfortunately, Wisconsin never really had the firepower on offense to muster a goal in those tight contests and each of the last three seasons.Until this year, that is.Led by redshirt senior Tomislav Zadro, who has already racked up two goals and two assists of his own, the Wisconsin soccer team has scored seven goals in three games and appears to have finally found the yin to their yang, the offense to match their defense.But beyond that, this team seems to have finally discovered the grit and determination it takes to win and just in time, too.After a revolving door of coaches saw three coaches in three years in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons, Trask took over in 2010 with an unstable team that had suffered from mediocrity. For nearly 18 years (the last time UW went to the NCAA tournament and, consequently, the only time UW finished as National Champions), the win column never reached more than 11 wins in a roughly 20-game season.Enter Trask.Now, three years later, despite all of the hype and his impressive record coaching in MLS and on the US National Team stage, an initial look would seem to indicate nothing has changed. It hasn’t. Trask has one 10-win season sandwiched in between four and six-win seasons.So why am I telling you to follow a team that has consistently been about as average as it gets?Because the story has been building slowly over the last year, and this season is the final chapter.It goes like this:After an initial year of mediocrity, Trask’s team shows vast improvement in 2011, nearly making the NCAA tournament by most accounts. Then in 2012, disaster struck. Zadro tore his ACL and Wisconsin’s offense crumbled, mustering a measly 21 goals the entire season.Now the team moves forward, eyeing redemption. Wisconsin, littered with 13 seniors, takes one last shot at an NCAA tournament appearance. Zadro is back to lead his team one final time after a horrific injury. Meanwhile, Trask seemingly gets one last shot to prove he can take the program to the next level with the first freshman class he brought in when he arrived on campus three years ago.Add that all together and you’d be hard pressed to find a better story in college sports.Only three games in, the team currently stands undefeated, and while it is too soon to anticipate how the season will finish, this team has a lot at stake to not just give in to the mediocrity of its past.Sunday’s overtime miracle is just the first example of that in a season that is building up to be full of special moments.So, when the Wisconsin football team isn’t out trampling its opponents in a mostly weak schedule this season, check out the men’s soccer team.You might just witness something special happening this fall.And if you haven’t checked that Youtube video out yet, check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.Nick is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Think Wisconsin is in for another mediocre soccer season this fall? Let him know on twitter @np_daniels or send him an email at [email protected]last_img

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