For the third time in as many weeks, the Wisconsin men's soccer team will take to the road this weekend for a pair of tough games.
After splitting their series the last two weekends, the Badgers will be tested at the Husky Fever Classic in Seattle, Wash. Wisconsin will take on the University of Washington Friday night and Portland Sunday afternoon.
The Badgers are coming off a 1-0 shutout of Butler last Sunday, accomplishing two of head coach Jeff Rohrman's goals for the year: garner more shutouts — the Badgers had just one all last season — and win more one-goal contests.
Making the win against Butler that much more impressive was the fact that freshman Victor Diaz was saddled with a red card early in the second half. With the game still scoreless, Rohrman's squad had to battle to victory down one player.
The past two Fridays, the Badgers have fallen in one-goal games to high-caliber opponents, but battled back to win Sunday's contests.
"We just have to stay focused," Badger captain Aaron Hohlbein said. "It's our last road weekend for awhile so hopefully we can go in there Friday night, battle it out, and then hopefully get another win on Sunday."
The Huskies are similar to the Badgers with their variety of players who score goals. However, Rohrman knows that, with a large number of veteran players, they will be tough to beat.
"The only thing I'd say is that Washington certainly has more seniors than we do," Rohrman said. "They're going to have a little bit more experience in a few areas and there are a couple of guys on the attack that are capable of doing some very good things."
Complicating matters will be the absence of Diaz, who is serving a one-game suspension due to last weekend's red card.
"I think we're a better team with Victor in the lineup, but at the same time I feel we have some players who are fully capable of stepping in," Rohrman said. "It's just unfortunate that we're not going to have Victor in the lineup because at any given time he can pull a rabbit out of his hat and make something out of nothing."
Diaz has quickly become a target to opposing teams when it comes to fouls and tackles. The talented midfielder will have to become accustomed to aggressive play coming his way.
"Teams are going to know who he is," Rohrman said. "He's got to learn to deal with that a little bit better. I think he has. I know he felt extremely bad about his part in getting the red card."
Portland, although their 1-2-1 record doesn't reflect it, is a talented team which has made the NCAA tournament's second round in each of the last two years.
The Pilots are coming off losses to No. 10 UC-Santa Barbara and UNLV — a team Wisconsin beat in the opening weekend of the season — last weekend in Las Vegas.
While the Badgers have little information on the Huskies, Rohrman said he and the Badgers would take advantage of being able to see Portland play Friday night and then prepare for the Pilots heading into Sunday.
In order to have a successful weekend, Wisconsin will need to continue getting solid play from goalkeeper Jake Settle. The junior has made 28 saves and allowed just seven goals in the first six games this season.
"Jake has been playing really well," Hohlbein said. "He's made some huge saves to keep us in games. He's been in the right place at the right time and is doing the right things."
After winning the battle for the starting job heading into the season, Settle has been very consistent in goal and posted his first career shutout last Sunday."
"He's really stepped up. He earned his spot in the preseason and hasn't disappointed us since then," Rohrman said.
A shutout may be tough to accomplish against perennial successes Washington and Portland, but Settle will need to continue keeping the Badgers in the game and giving them a chance to win.
"The teams this weekend have a great tradition of soccer," Rohrman said. "They've both achieved some great things in the last 10 to 15 years and this year is no different. They're going to be two teams that, at the end of the year, are going to be competing in the NCAA tournament."