The Wisconsin Badgers (1-2-0) let a good performance slip into a heartbreaking overtime loss to the No. 15 Fordham Rams (2-0-0) as the Rams’ junior forward Johannes Pieles scored a golden goal for a 1-0 win for Fordham.
The German forward thumped a header into the back of the net after a brilliant free kick service by senior midfielder Janos Loebe found the danger zone of the Badgers’ box.
“I think we stayed solid throughout the game. [Fordham] didn't have that many shots. It came down to a simple mistake, a simple foul,” junior defender Robin Olofsson said.
That walk-off goal for the Rams is even more frustrating for UW considering the Badgers dominated long stretches of the game, especially the second half. Wisconsin outshot their opponents 8-1 in the second half (13-6 throughout the game).
While the attacking action was limited in the first half, the game was tense and testy, racked with three yellow cards and nose-to-nose confrontations that seemed fitting for a game with two teams that went deep in the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Badgers found an attacking spark through sophomore forward Alex Alfaro. After coming on as a sub, he immediately became a key influencer for the Badgers, creating space and chances after his mazy dribbling.
Alfaro had three shots off the bench, including a curling ball toward the far post that seemed half-cross, half-shot that forced Fordham’s senior goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu into a save.
Junior midfielder Duncan Storey also troubled Nuhu’s goal as he broke into the box thanks to a ball from freshman forward Andrew Akindele, but he lashed his shot wide.
Fordham struck at the other end after senior midfielder Matt Miller hit a looping ball into the box that hit the top of the crossbar. Loebe also found some space at the top of the box but fired his shot wide to the right.
After that bit of pressure from Fordham, it was all Wisconsin and a goal seemed inevitable. Junior midfielder Mitch Guitar picked the pocket of a Fordham midfielder and made a run all the way into the box. With teammates across the goal and a brief advantage, Guitar cut it inside and curled a shot instead, seeing that chance go begging.
Freshmen forwards Chris Bruch and Noah Melick gave the Badgers a better attacking threat with nice interplay, and the pressure was heaped on Fordham. Bruch hit a stinging shot with his left foot that Nuhu saved comfortably in the end.
With 10 minutes left in the second half, Olofsson had a chance of his own, having a header saved off the line after a great corner from junior midfielder Noah Leibold.
Those missed chances cost the Badgers. Fordham seemed energized in the overtime period, and the game almost ended earlier when Loebe lashed a ball in the first minute of overtime that was saved well by junior goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy.
Pieles ended up the hero for Fordham instead, and the Badgers lost their second out-of-conference game of the season. While the loss stings, head coach John Trask wanted that level of competition for UW from a top NCAA team and hopes this could be a learning moment to mentally prepare for the grind of the season.
“You hate to say that there is anything good that comes from a loss, but this type of game is what we need to get ready for the Big Ten,” Trask said to uwbadgers.com.
As a veteran, Olofsson knows what is needed to bounce back after a loss, but Wisconsin won’t have much time to recover from the wounds before their next game on Monday against Valparaiso.
“It hurts. It hurts now, but you gotta recharge,” Olofsson said. “We have a new game Monday and just one day in between [to rest]. You gotta get your body ready, mind ready, all that stuff.”