Men’s soccer heads south to Florida for matches with USF, FGCU

first_imgSenior midfielder Tomislav Zadro has been special since returning, winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. photo: Claire LarkinsBack-to-back wins against Western Michigan and DePaul set Wisconsin men’s soccer off to its best start since 2008. Wisconsin will now head to Florida to begin its five game road trip with matches against South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast, both NCAA tournament teams from last year.Despite Wisconsin’s reputation as a primarily defense-oriented team, its offense — led by redshirt senior Tomislav Zadro and a whole host of young players — has been explosive as of late. Zadro was awarded Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors by the Big Ten after tallying two goals and two assists in the Badgers’ first home matchups, including a last second goal to force overtime against DePaul on Sunday.However, the Badgers’ streaking offense will face its biggest challenge to date when it travels to Tampa, Fla. to take on South Florida this week.“It’s a different kettle of fish when you go down to Florida,” head coach John Trask said. “We are playing a very good South Florida team, a tournament team. It should be a good challenge for the players.”After exiting the NCAA tournament in the second round last year, the Bulls are prepared to make another postseason run. Their stout defense has given up only three goals in as many games. To make the statistic even more impressive, two of those games were played against NCAA tournament contenders from last year (FGCU and Michigan).USF is coming off of a 1-1 draw with 14th-ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor, a double overtime thriller where USF defenders constantly shut down Michigan’s impressive offense. The performance earned Nikola Paunic of USF the title of Defender of the Week in the Atlantic Athletic Conference, furthering the team’s defensive resume.Zadro will be looking to extend his scoring streak to three games, while Paunic and the USF defense will try to stifle Zadro’s impressive streak. Keep your eyes on the two as they battle for dominance in the Bull’s backfield.“We are just gonna take it game by game,” Zadro said. “Every game we go into we truly believe that we can win, and I think that attitude is important for our success.”If Zadro scores in the matchup with USF, the streak will likely continue when the Badgers take on Florida Gulf Coast. The Badgers should be able to capitalize against Florida Gulf Coast’s stagnant defense that has allowed an average of three goals a game, and 17 shots on goal in their two matchups this season. If the Badger’s offense is able to stay onside against FGCU’s offside trap that resulted in 10 offside calls this season, Wisconsin should be able to attack the Eagles effectively.FGCU hasn’t won two straight Atlantic Sun championships for nothing. Their offense is absolutely electric led by sophomore Felipe DeSousa, who has tallied three goals so far this season.The Brazilian native is already third on the Eagles all-time scoring list after only 16 appearances with the team. The young forward has netted 8 goals in those 16 appearances, making him a large threat for the Badgers’ backline. Coupled with experienced junior forward Xavier Silva, the Eagles are able to create plays and opportunities at any time.Junior AJ Cochran, a Big Ten first team defender and one of the nation’s best, should pose a big threat to FGCU’s dynamic duo.Not only will these games be good matchups to prepare the Badgers for the start of the Big Ten season on Sept. 28, they will also provide them with a door into the NCAA tournament.“If we can stay solid defensively [and] stay healthy we definitely have a chance,” Trask said. “It’s definitely not above this team to make the tournament.”The ultimate goal for the Badgers this year is to make the NCAA tournament. These games will provide the Badgers with an understanding of where they stand in the national spotlight. Solid performances, or even wins, against these top Florida squads will provide the Badgers with confidence and the key wins necessary to clinch an NCAA tournament bid.last_img

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