It’s time to protect this house.
The Wisconsin men’s soccer team finally opens its home season Friday night against San Diego State in the Wisconsin Soccer Classic.
After spending the last two weekends on the road in California and Florida, new head coach John Trask makes his home debut. While they may only have one win on the season, the Badgers are hoping the return home will help them turn things around.
“The other teams we’ve played on the road weren’t the best teams, but we didn’t really perform too well,” senior Bryan Gerster said. “We’re just hoping that finally that we’re home we’re going to play a lot better, play as a team, and we’re looking to come out with results in both games. We have to win the games.”
With the need to win in mind, Wisconsin is really hoping home-field advantage will help get their season on the right-track.
First they have to face San Diego State.
Last season, Wisconsin faced off against SDSU in California. A controversial call during overtime allowed the Aztecs to get the win on a penalty kick.
“It’s great,” Trask said. “I think the guys are excited. San Diego State is going to be a great challenge for us. The guys played them last year, obviously I wasn’t there, but they felt like they competed very well against them and lost a very close game.
“They’re 3-1, my understanding is they could easily be 4-0. Hopefully being at home and drawing some energy off the crowd will give us some strength and push us through. I know the guys have been working hard this week and I know they’re excited to play at McClimon.”
With two games on the weekend, Wisconsin faces off against Dayton on Sunday, but right now, it’s one game at a time.
“Dayton, we haven’t really thought about too much,” Gerster said. “We just want to take it one game at a time. Right now we’re 1-3 and we’ve got to get a good win our first game at home. We have to make it a win just so we can carry that momentum into our next game at home.”
While the Badgers are finally opening their home season, it means even more for the 14 new freshmen.
“It’s a big deal,” freshman Paul Yonga said. “I’ve been waiting a long time to get down here and finally get a home game. I mean I’ll go out and do my hardest. It’ll be exciting, there will be a lot of nerves with all my family watching, but I’ll do my best.”
Finally opening at home is a big deal for the Badgers – especially since they need to turn their season around – but they’ve been trying to learn from their road trips.
Between playing in the extreme humidity in Florida and against tough opponents in California, Trask feels they’ve learned a lot.
“There is no magical potion,” Trask said. “You’re going to have to look each other in the eye and find some strength. It’s just where you’ve got to reach deep within you. It looks like a disappointing weekend on the face of it, but if we use the lessons learned, we should be a stronger team. We’re really starting to gear up for the Big Ten, that’s where hopefully we’ll start to show people that we’re starting to turn the corner.”
Yonga also noted the preparation in practice this week and the effort that has been put in to make UW stronger.
“We had a couple hard practices this week,” Yonga added. “We’ve been trying to get down our defensive shape. Then, also working on our movement of the ball, getting it quicker and finding a way to get in our attack mode. Right now we’re a little slow on our attack, so we’ve been working on our offensive side a little more so we can score some goals and help [Ryan] Vint in the back and prevent their goals.”
One thing is for sure, though – finally having some games at home is a comforting fact for the team.
“It’s going to be more comfortable playing in front of everybody especially since none of the young guys haven’t gotten a home game yet,” Jon Rzepka said. “For me, I’ll just be able to sleep in my own bed and do my own routine here, eating right, get enough sleep. Just being in my own place is a lot more comforting to me.
“Playing in front of the home crowd is going to be nice.”