Coming off its first NCAA tournament berth since 1995, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team opened the 2014 campaign on a tougher note with a 2-1 loss at the hands of San Francisco in front of 1,117 fans Friday night the McClimon Soccer Complex.

The Dons (2-0-0 overall) jumped out to an early lead with a goal in the 13th minute on a breakaway goal by Davi Ramos, and then scored again right after halftime in the 47th minute on a free kick at the top of the box by Danny Kirkland.

The Badgers (0-1-0) responded well in front of the home crowd, putting pressure on the Don’s defense and rallying over the final 25 minutes. Freshman Tom Barlow keyed the comeback with his first collegiate goal off a corner kick by Anders Kristensen in the 81st minute. However, despite the late chances, Wisconsin could not overcome the two-goal deficit.

Head coach John Trask believed the combination of substitutes and the large, welcoming fan base allowed Wisconsin to wear down San Francisco over the course of 90 minutes and get back into the contest.

“I’m very proud of the effort to fight back and get the one goal,” Trask said. “I thought maybe we’d get that second score, but college soccer can be cruel. The margin for error is very small.”

After losing 14 players last season, Wisconsin brought in 12 freshmen, and tasked four of them with starts, and they were not able to overcome the slow start.

With a bulk of new faces, Wisconsin’s lineup is still being shaped, and the coaching staff is using every opportunity to evaluate the young squad.

“This is experience for our young guys,” freshman goalkeeper Adrian Remeniuk said. “At the same time, we have to become tougher, we have to fight more.”

The Badgers tallied six shots in the second half after recording only two in the first half. Wisconsin also won the corner kick battle 3-2.

Overall, Wisconsin was outshot 11-8 by San Francisco who dominated the game for the majority of the 90 minutes. 

Part of the struggle for Wisconsin early on was their inability to keep possession. The Badgers slowly improved on possession as the game wore on, but it proved to be just too little, too late as time expired before the Badgers could tally their second goal.

With such a young squad this year, the early setback doesn’t have too big of implications, offering an early season learning opportunity for Wisconsin as it progresses toward Big Ten play.

The Badgers host Xavier Sunday night at 7 p.m. at McClimon with a chance to split the pair of weekend games.