Offense finally coming to life for UW men’s soccer team

first_imgThe offense of the Wisconsin men’s soccer team awoke from a six-game goal-scoring slumber two weeks ago, and it has been thrashing the nets of its opponents ever since.Wisconsin’s mid-season slump began Sept. 23, when the Badgers lost 2-1 to the No. 24 University of Washington Huskies. Following that defeat, Wisconsin lost six consecutive matches, including crucial fixtures with Big Ten opponents Ohio State, Penn State and two-time defending national champions, No. 8 Indiana.The most frustrating feature of the losing streak for the Badgers was the team’s inability to finish balls in the net despite playing well in all other aspects of their game.”It was very difficult because I honestly thought that we were playing good soccer,” head coach Jeff Rohrman said of the losing stretch. “We were possessing [the ball], and we were doing nice things until we got into the final third — then things just started breaking down. Whether it was the final pass or the final shot, we just weren’t clicking in that final third.”While the Badgers didn’t snap their losing streak until last week’s 3-0 victory over Marquette, the team finally found the net in its Oct. 14 loss to Indiana. Though Rohrman’s club allowed five Indiana goals that night, his offense finally managed to manufacture some goals of its own — a first-half penalty by forward Victor Diaz and a second-half strike by forward Reid Johnson.Throughout their six losses before the Indiana match, the Badgers scored just two goals. In four of those matches — against Portland, Northern Illinois, UW-Milwaukee and Penn State — Wisconsin’s offense was shut out.In the Badgers’ first 12 matches this season, the team mustered a paltry 11 goals. In its last three games, however, Rohrman’s squad has tallied seven strikes — two against Indiana, three against Marquette and two in its 4-2 loss to Michigan. Rohrman credits the entire team for the offensive turnaround.”I think it’s been a team effort,” Rohrman said. “We tweaked things going into the Indiana game in that we went back to a 4-4-2 (formation). Just putting another body forward — whether it’s Erik (Ortega) or Victor (Diaz) or whoever — it just naturally gives you more options going forward. … That’s been the biggest thing that has been a positive change for us.”While Rohrman has been pleased with the recent goal surge, he has been a little concerned with the team’s defensive performances as of late — conceding five goals to Indiana and letting four past against Michigan.”On the flip side, if you look at some of the goals that we’ve given up in the past few games, it leaves you scratching your head a little bit,” Rohrman said. “I’d rather win games 2-0 than try to win them 5-4. That’s a tough thing to do. So we’ve just got to shore some things up on the defensive end and hopefully the attacking stuff will continue to happen.”Paving the way for the Badger offense has been freshman striker Victor Diaz. The Spanish sensation leads the team with four goals this season and has scored a goal in each of the team’s last three games. While Diaz has provided the finishing touch, Rohrman maintains that much of his success has been the product of a team effort.”[Victor has] done really well,” Rohrman said, “but, you know, his chances have come from the team playing well — the team creating chances for him. He’s been the recipient of some good play within the group, so it’s nice to see him getting some goals because he’s continued to work so hard.”One of the main ingredients to goal-scoring success has been the recent inclusion of a new tandem of forwards up front — Diaz and sophomore Erik Ortega.”We’ve paired Victor with Erik Ortega,” Rohrman said. “That relationship is still a little bit of a work in progress, but it’s getting better and better. The first time we put them out there together was against Indiana, and I thought they did OK for the first time out. It takes time and it takes working together, and hopefully it’s going to reap some rewards down the end of the stretch here.”The partnership of Diaz and Ortega has been effective because of each striker’s commitment to vocal communication on the field.”We understand each other pretty good,” Diaz said of his relationship with Ortega. “He tries to correct me on some stuff and I try to correct him on some stuff, so we just sort of help each other out.”As the team closes out its season with matches against Michigan State, UW-Green Bay and Northwestern, Rohrman hopes the team’s shots will continue to find the back of the net.last_img

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