Wednesday night the Wisconsin men’s soccer team was unable to put out the flame started by the University of Illinois-Chicago, as UIC defeated the Badgers 3-1.
The loss drops UW to 6-2-1 overall, with the Flames winning their sixth straight match to improve to 6-3.
The fire started burning when Illinois-Chicago opened up the scoring at the 39:46-minute mark when UIC midfielder Bruno Rasich was able to capitalize on a free kick. UW goalie Moriba Baker was unable to block the shot as the ball sailed into the upper left corner of the net.
Not a minute later, Badger forward Dominic DaPra netted his tenth goal of the season. DaPra was set up by midfielder Nick Van Sicklen, who passed the ball to DaPra through a wall of Flame defenders. UIC goalie Jeff Kusiciel was denied a save when the ball came in on a long cross from the right side.
The lone goal in the first period was all the offense the Badgers were able to muster up, as they out-shot UIC 8-5. Both goalies were credited with two saves apiece, as their defensive efforts proved to set the tone for the rest of the match. Although UW’s defense was able to hold UIC the rest of the first half, the second half was a whole new ball game.
The second half was once again a battle of defenses, as neither offense was able to show up until the 65th minute of the match. UIC scored their second and deciding goal, when Flame forward Patrick Grange kicked a short pass to forward Jake Stasko, who in turn netted the ball into the far corner of the net, just beyond Baker’s reach.
Once the second goal was scored, the Badgers finally picked up the intensity and made a run at the goal. However, Kusiciel was unbeatable at the net as he notched four more saves. Wisconsin had an excellent opportunity to tie the match when UW forward Aaron Lauber kicked a shot that looked to be going in, but was just wide to the left.
Eight minutes later Lauber once again missed a shot on goal after receiving a great pass from DaPra. Following the missed shot, UIC midfielder/forward Ross Felten took advantage of a yellow card assessed to UW goalie Baker. At the 88:17 minute mark, Baker, who knew he was beaten, intentionally tripped up a UIC player to prevent a goal. Less than thirty seconds later, Felten took a pass from Rasich to score the final goal of the evening.
The night was marked by missed opportunities on the Badgers’ part. Head coach Kalekeni Banda spouted off on his team’s inability to close out the match.
“I told [the team] that we made too many mistakes — that’s one — and then we didn’t capitalize on our chances — that’s two,” said Banda. “It’s a game of mistakes and chances — you have good chances and you have poor chances. [UIC] had one or two opportunities to score — and they did. [UIC] didn’t do anything that deserved to win, but we gave them a chance. We shot ourselves in the foot.”
The opportunities arose for the Flames because Wisconsin made mistakes, especially at midfield. In their effort to move the ball forward, the Badgers tried too hard and coughed it up to UIC.
Despite changing the lineup to a 3-5-2 formation, UW was unable to maintain possession consistently and was prone to foul in its attempt to stop the Flames.
The Badgers hoped that with more numbers at the midfield mark, their opponents would be forced to move the ball to the outside, allowing UW to set up on defense in an attempt to prevent an easy scoring opportunity.
In the end, Wisconsin committed 21 fouls, compared to 17 on the UIC side.
“We made a bad pass, they took it,” said Banda. “We just made too many mistakes, and in the end we paid for it. The sense of urgency in the box just wasn’t there. To put the ball in the back of the net is what we missed today, and I don’t know why. We didn’t go to goal with authority.”
When the loss had a chance to settle in, DaPra kept most of the weight on his shoulders. He cited the fact that maybe he and Lauber should have done just a little more to spark the Badger offense.
“I try not to be [unselfish],” said DaPra. “I think especially [Lauber] and I need to be selfish once in awhile — that’s the way you’re going to score goals. You can’t be set up perfectly all the time. You have to take a half-chance; sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t.”
In the end the Badgers missed the chances they had and ended up fanning the fire that eventually burned them out.