The Wisconsin men's soccer team continues its stretch of strong opponents tonight as they travel to Chicago for a non-conference matchup with the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The Flames advanced to the Round of 16 in last year's NCAA Tournament and are the fourth consecutive 2008 tournament team that the Badgers have faced. That streak will climb to six when the Badgers face Michigan and Michigan State in the next two weeks, but for now the Badgers attempt to rebound from a tough loss against Indiana in their Big Ten opener.
The Flames (2-3-2) and the Badgers (1-2-4) are off to similar starts this season.
Both teams have been tough to score on despite playing quality opponents. The Flames have allowed just eight goals through their first seven matches. The Badgers, aside from a rough weekend in California, have been formidable on the back-line.
In the last 10 days, Wisconsin has faced two of the most explosive offenses in the country, UC-Santa Barbara and Indiana, and yielded just one goal to each. Senior defender Brian Bultman played a big role in both efforts, but thinks there is still room for improvement.
""We've always been a confident group,"" Bultman said. ""There are still things we can do to get better as a whole. We're looking for shutouts.""
Both UIC and Wisconsin have had some problems generating goals on the offensive end as well. The Flames have scored just seven times so far this season, and have struggled to create scoring opportunities.
For the Badgers, the problem is not finding opportunities, but capitalizing on them.
Although they generate chances, the Wisconsin offense has not found a way to put the ball in the back of the net on a regular basis.
The Badgers moved the ball forward and created several dangerous situations on Friday night against Indiana, yet they only managed two shots on goal. Against a defense as good as UIC, being assertive with the ball will be key for the Wisconsin attack.
""We need to take a few more shots and be aggressive,"" senior midfielder Jon Rzepka said. ""We maybe make the extra pass a little too much.""
This is the first Wednesday night match for the Badgers this season. While the quick turnaround and mid-week road trip is tough on many teams, Bultman said his team felt up for the challenge.
""We're an experienced group,"" he said. ""I'm looking forward to it, especially getting back out on the field sooner rather than later after a tough loss.""
The Badgers return to Big Ten action after playing UIC but remain on the road, visiting Ann Arbor to take on the No. 18 Michigan Wolverines Sunday. The next home game for Wisconsin is Sunday, Oct. 11, against Michigan State.