When the Badgers knocked the ball off the right goalpost with close to 10 seconds left in the second overtime, it was a fitting end to a game full of missed opportunities for the Wisconsin offense.
In a 1-1 tie Wednesday night to the Marquette Golden Eagles, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team looked aggressive from the start and nearly put two balls in the back of the net just minutes after kickoff at the McClimon Complex. While the Badgers were able to put a ball in the back of the net off a header by freshman AJ Cochran, UW came heartbreakingly close to walking away with a victory throughout the second period.
UW’s inability to finish great opportunities in the box may have been part of the problem, but the Golden Eagles’ goaltending and refusal to give up easy goals made scoring a much greater challenge for the Badgers.
“Marquette, they’re a feisty group,” Trask said. “They’ve got guys sliding on their own goal line, and their keeper’s getting a hand on it; it hits the post. They weren’t just going to roll over for us, they didn’t on our goal, in fact. I thought it was a great goal for Cochran to get on it and head it the way he did; it was going to take plays like that.”
Despite putting up 20 shots in the game, nine more than Marquette, the Badgers’ offense failed to make the connections that allowed them to put up two goals in their victory over Loyola Marymount.
Opening the game with two quick shots on goal, including a stellar free kick by midfielder Tomislav Zadro in the opening minutes that was punched out by Marquette’s goalkeeper, the offense looked ready to light up the scoreboard early on. However, the UW attack seemed to lose a step in the latter half of the first period, also allowing Marquette take a lead.
Showing a renewed energy and dangerous attack late in the game and posting an impressive four shots in the second overtime, the Badgers had no shortage of chances to put the game away.
“They’re definitely a real good team, and maybe we didn’t have as much energy as we did last game,” Cochran said. “I thought we did fight. I thought our last 35 minutes we showed a lot of good urgency, but from that 35 minutes maybe we can continue that for the whole 90 and the overtime instead of just the last 35 and the first 15 of the game.”
Refusing to blame the near-goals on luck, Wisconsin players and coaches alike blamed the missed opportunities on their own sloppy play. A theme throughout the year has been the team’s lack of ability to focus and score in the most critical moments of the game, and that issue was more prevalent than ever against a talented Golden Eagles squad.
Despite their offensive struggles, freshman defender AJ Cochran continued to show why teammates and coaches couldn’t wait for him to get back on the field.
Heading in the lone goal for the Badgers, the standout freshman had another shot on goal and displayed just how valuable he can be to this team. In his second game back after returning from a concussion that kept him out for several weeks, Cochran looked more poised than ever, racing around the field and springboarding UW’s offense.
Apart from his work on the offensive end, Cochran anchored the Wisconsin defense, fighting the Golden Eagles in the air as he headed and booted balls away from the Badgers’ goal throughout the contest. Using his physicality to slow Marquette’s offensive attack, the freshman’s play on both sides of the ball was critical to holding the opponent to one goal.
“Any ball that’s going to drop within 20 yards of him, he’s going and he’s planning to win it, and he usually does,” Trask said. “When you’re able to know when that goalkeeper knocks the ball long, that most likely (means) it’s going right back towards their goal. It’s a comforting feeling [for other players].”
Putting up three points in his first two games back, Cochran has had no trouble clicking with his fellow defenders and attacking players such as Zadro, Prince and Tennyson. As UW looks forward to a challenging matchup with No. 6 Indiana Sunday, they will continue to rely on the freshman to help the team on both sides of the ball.
“Since the first day, the guys have been awesome,” Cochran said. “We all work together as a team, and everyone helps out each other; we just got to continue to grow and continue to work for each other throughout the season, and hopefully good things will happen.”