The Badger men’s soccer team has been making the most of the early part of their season, delivering two massive two-to-nothing wins in the same week. It’s clear Head Coach John Trask’s Badgers are looking to make up for a disappointing 2-7-1 showing in 2020.
The action started Tuesday with the Badgers sending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers home without a point scored.
The Badgers started the game strong, finding their first goal in just the fourth minute as junior Iñaki Iribarren converted a corner kick from senior Andrew Akindele. Iribarren wasn’t finished scoring though, finding a way through traffic to get the Badgers’ second goal in the 56th minute. The Panthers found the net only once in the match, but that effort was overturned on an offsides ruling from the officials.
By Friday, the squad was on the road to face the previously undefeated Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Despite a strong showing from the Knights, things began to change for them as the Badgers converted a free-kick to find their way onto the scoreboard in the 41 minute mark. Junior defender Aron Eli Saevarsson took the setpiece, and Senior Zach Klancnik headed the ball into the goal.
The scoring continued in the second half as senior Henri Tophoven launched a shot at goal off a midfield turnover, cruising right over the head of the Rutgers goalkeeper during minute 58 of play. The Badgers left New Brunswick up two goals, giving the Scarlet Knights their first defeat of their season.
This Wisconsin team has proven themselves to be a more dangerous squad than pre-season polls predicted. The Badgers found themselves at the bottom of the Big Ten coaches preseason poll — a justified position after the lackluster showing in the spring 2020 abbreviated season where the team brought home only two conference wins.
With the Badgers undefeated in Big Ten play this season, it looks like Coach Trask has already begun to repair the holes in the team’s play. Freshman goalkeeper Adir Raphael started both the Milwaukee and Rutgers matches, recording two clean sheets for his record. Forwards Akindele, Iribarren and Tophoven have also had a great start to their seasons.
Despite the recent wins, there is still room for improvement within the team. Passing has remained a weak point for the Badgers, especially in the midfield. The team has been pushed around a little too much around center field, losing possession of simple passes. There is also room for improvement on goal clearances. Milwaukee found itself with a string of consecutive corner kicks as the Badgers remained unable to fully clear the ball out of their penalty box.
Saving the Badgers was goalkeeper Raphael and the Panther’s inability to convert the set pieces. These issues may not have impacted the ending score in recent matches but strong teams in the conference like Indiana or Maryland will be able to capitalize on these flaws later in the season.
With the first few matches of the season in the books and the team undefeated in conference play, it is looking to be a much better season for the Badger’s men’s team this year. A dominant group of forwards and strong goalkeeping look to be the strengths of the team.