In one of their last practices before the Wisconsin Badgers men’s soccer team (4-3-1 Big Ten, 8-4-4 overall) travels to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins (5-1-2, 10-4-3) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, it seemed fitting that it was cold and pouring rain.
Last time the Terps and Badgers faced off, the Terps won a sloppy 5-4 thriller in Madison to give the Badgers their only home loss of the season. During a torrential downpour, Maryland’s junior midfielder Eryk Williamson took advantage of the stretched Wisconsin defense, netting a hat trick in 24 minutes to give the Terps the winning goal.
He was the bigger danger of the night, and while head coach John Trask is wary of the threat of the DC United Academy member, he trusts Wisconsin’s defense to make adjustments.
“We have [previously] set up shop very, very deep against this Maryland team and hope they can’t break us down,” Trask said. “We’ve got to be intelligent on the road but we feel like our offense can get some things done.”
Wisconsin’s offense certainly has gotten things done this year. The Badgers have scored 32 goals this season, and the production has come from all across the front line. Senior midfielder Mike Catalano has six and senior forward Tom Barlow has tallied seven, but senior midfielder Chris Mueller has been the star of the show for the Badgers, scoring eight goals and providing a Big Ten-leading 13 assists.
“It’s a unique attacking group,” Trask said.
Both teams have lots of offensive firepower. The aforementioned Williamson was on the USMNT U-20 World Cup squad this summer, and he has shone his stripes for the Terps this year, scoring six goals on the season. He’s not alone for the Terps' potent attack. Junior forward Gordon Wild has chipped in with five goals, and senior midfielder Jake Rozhansky has eight assists, second in the Big Ten to Mueller.
Mueller will be crucial for the Badgers against the Terrapins, especially with his service from set pieces. The midfielder has scored two goals directly from free kicks on the season, and his delivery will be just as crucial against the Terps.
“Those are always massive, especially in away games where it’s tough to score in an environment like Maryland,” Chris Mueller said.
Last time the Badgers and Terrapins played in the Big Ten Tournament, the Terps won 2-1 in the final to claim the Big Ten Championship and NCAA Tournament spot that comes with it. Now the two meet in the quarterfinals, but a NCAA Tournament spot is still on the line. Currently on the bubble, if the fifth-seed Wisconsin beats the fourth-seeded Terps, it would be a big boost to its chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
Maryland had been a top-5 caliber team all season, but after its shootout victory against Wisconsin, it’s fallen off. The Terps have been a shell of themselves, losing four straight games and scoring only one goal during their run. The Badgers may feel they are in the right position to take advantage on Sunday at Ludwig Field, and get some revenge against Maryland.
“It’s gonna be a great soccer match,” Trask said.