On Tuesday, Wisconsin Badgers men’s soccer manager John Trask held his first press conference of 2021, to discuss the upcoming season and the first game of the season this Friday:
Coach Trask opened by discussing the changes that the program has had to deal with due to the adjusted schedule:
“Well, we’re normally a fall sport, obviously, and due to the pandemic arrangements were made for us to have a Big Ten-only schedule this spring. In some ways, it was beneficial I think for our guys, because some guys were still returning from injuries, and we had three and a half months with the freshmen, teaching them a little bit about the culture of the program, and what it means to be a Badger athlete. And so I think in some ways that’s been good for us, and I’m sure a lot of coaches around the country feel the same way. We were able to get outdoors at U-Bay at our training facility basically all fall, and now we’re in the McClain facility and are very fortunate to have that on campus. The biggest difference is it’s a little chilly on our way to training every day or antigen testing. But the guys are excited, and once they get their boots on and we’re able to work with them we’re seeing some great growth, which is always exciting for a coaching staff.”
Trask also talked about the excitement level on the team heading into the start of games:
“I think anyone who’s involved in sports at this level, from the players to the coaches, you know, we’ve been looking forward to it. They want to test themselves against someone else- they’ve gone after each other enough in the past five months. They want to compete, and you know, we’ve got a couple of our top front runners finally healthy again. We’ve got some amends to make up for the 2019 season, and we’re looking forward to it. The way the schedule sets up we’ll play everybody once, and then our closest rivals Northwestern and Indiana twice, home and away. And then we’ll move on to the Big Ten tournament and hopefully the national tournament if we can perform at the level we need to.”
Despite having to cross state borders to play games in 2021, Trask expects the new “home” environment to be as good as any:
“Back when we first started talking about the possibility of the season, all the Big Ten coaches worked very hard to come up with alternatives- whether it be on site, in indoor facilities, and then obviously game fields weather permitting. We’re lucky in a way that Rockford, which isn’t too far away, has a beautiful indoor facility, a full size field that both the men’s and the women’s programs will be utilizing. I don’t imagine by the 23rd we’re going to be playing outdoors, but If weather permits they also have a very nice turf facility right across the parking lot from the indoor facility. There’s been a lot of work that’s gone into it, and I compliment the folks down in Rockford for helping the Badgers out. It’s a great group of people, and we think it’s going to be as good an environment as possible without obviously being in our home digs at McClimon and playing on the grass.”
In giving a general overview of his side, the Wisconsin native was impressed by the Badgers’ depth and potential:
“We feel we’ve got a very strong goalkeeping core, which is important for any soccer team. We brought in a transfer, Moritz Kappelsberger, who will help the backline and we should be pretty secure back there. And then I think we’ve got a good attacking group. You know, I’ve said it to a few of the players- the leadership group- that if you show me a soccer team that’s got good goalkeeping, a good backline, and if that team plays some stingy defense, and has some guys that could pull off some plays up the field, that’s been a recipe for success, not just in collegiate soccer, but the history of soccer. We’d love to dominate every category, but at the end of the day wins and losses usually happen because you’ve got good players or not good players in those positions. So I think up the spine we’re strong, if we can play to our strengths and obviously stay away from our perceived weaknesses, and continue to mature this young group, I think the spring sets up very nicely for us.”
On Thursday, the Big Ten released the preseason poll and the Badgers were picked No. 8 out of nine teams, while the season-opening opponent Indiana Hoosiers were a unanimous pick to win the conference. The conference also picked three players from each team as “players to watch” and here are UW’s three selections.
The Big Ten says keep an eye out on these three this season— Wisconsin Soccer (@BadgerMSoccer) February 18, 2021
There will be others
Season kicks off tomorrow pic.twitter.com/14brWWJ8pk
The Badgers will open their 2021 campaign, after 468 days since their last match, at 12 p.m. CST on Friday against Indiana in Westfield, Indiana. There game is not on TV nor any streaming services.