They’re building a fortress, one line at a time.
For a team that’s been through a lot of change this season, the four defensive backs have proved to be a strong and solid aspect of the men’s soccer team.
Senior Kyle McCrudden, junior Arnel Zahirovic, and freshmen Blake Succa and Luke Goodnetter team up to give the Badgers a consistent defense that can keep opponents away from the net.
Just last weekend the Badgers only let through one goal in a two-game stretch. It was a rare occurrence on the weekend for the opponent to get as close to the goal as San Diego State was able to.
Even from the beginning head coach John Trask knew he wanted to get the defense right.
“At the beginning of this whole thing we talked about how we have to get the defense right first,” Trask said last weekend. “[Zahirovic, McCrudden, Goodnetter, and Succa] I like that package back there.”
The players seem to agree.
Succa feels they’ve got the right guys in the mix and that they work well together.
“What we try to do most of the time is keep the ball around the back and keep the ball for our team so then we can go forward with it and play it in the midfield and then get them going,” Succa said. “As far as winning the balls in the air that’s more of the center backs — [Zahirovic] and McCrudden do a good job of that.”
“I’d say we’re all pretty big back there. We’re all about 6-foot or so,” McCrudden added.
But for a line that looks so solid and meshes very well, it’s hard to believe three of the four of them are new to the team.
“We definitely played well last weekend together,” Succa said. “When we first started playing together it was a little different. [Zahirovic] is from Australia — he’s been here for awhile in the States — but it was definitely weird playing with him, but as we’ve been playing we’re definitely getting used to each other.”
As far as improvement goes, the defense looks like the main part of the team that has really clicked together, now they feel they need to get to that point where they help senior goalie Ryan Vint get shutouts.
McCrudden, the only returner on the line, believes their solidarity simply comes from knowing the principles of defense.
“It’s just defending,” McCrudden said. “Good principles, we worked on that in the spring — pretty much all spring, everyday, all preseason. As long as we’ve got our principles down. We’re defending well as a unit ( … ) Shut outs every game, that’s what we shoot for.”
After getting the principles down comes the chemistry on the field. In a defense with three newcomers the chemistry surprisingly already be there.
“That’s a definitely a positive,” Zahirovic said. “I still feel like we still have a long way to go getting the chemistry right, but so far so good. I feel like every game we feel like we’re developing more and more. We’re clicking together. That’s a big plus for us so far, and we’re going to need that coming into the season.”
While Trask is looking to build a fortress at home, he’s certainly started to lay the foundations with his defense.
The line showed they’re tough to get past, rarely letting the opponent near the six-yard box, or much less past the 18-yard box.
“I’d say it was a pretty good fortress,” Trask said last weekend. “I didn’t see them get that many chances on our goal. That’s what building that fortress is.”