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All about ‘D’: 1st to 1 wins

first_imgEntering the stretch run of its 2006 campaign, the well-rested Wisconsin men’s soccer team seeks to capture a win against the nearly impenetrable Northern Illinois backline Sunday in DeKalb, Ill.No. 19 Northern Illinois (11-3-1, 4-0 MAC) is riding an eight-match unbeaten streak, during which the Huskies have allowed just one goal. Not to be outdone, Wisconsin is on a tier of its own. The Badgers (9-4-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten) have won five of their past six matches and have shut out six of their last seven opponents.With both teams relying so heavily on their dominant defenders, the game will likely feature more cautions from frustrated offensive players than goals scored.”It certainly has the makings of a zero-to-zero game,” Wisconsin head coach Jeff Rohrman said. “I know they’re a very tough team to score on, having played them the last few years. They are very hard to penetrate [and] very hard to get behind.”Although NIU was a sound team at the start of the season, it wasn’t until their head coach Steve Simmons made some personnel moves that they became a stingier defense.Midway through the season, Simmons elected to give seldom-used sophomore Joe Zimka a shot after his No. 1 goalie Matt Corcoran looked awful in a 5-0 shellacking versus Washington. Zimka did not disappoint. In his eight appearances (seven starts) he has allowed zero goals. His shutout streak is standing at an incredible 670:44. More importantly, his team is 6-0-1 in games that he starts.”He has done a great job for them this year,” Rohrman said. “He’s certainly claimed [the starting duties] and made the most of his opportunity. He hasn’t given up a goal yet so there’s something to be said for that. He’s putting together a great season.”While it certainly is a credit to Zimka for his remarkable run, it has been his backline that has truly stepped up.”They’re a very talented team,” Rohrman said. “They’ve got [an] unbelievable work rate and commitment to winning. They never quit, and they’re going to be a very difficult team to score on. They’ve demonstrated that the last few weeks here, so they’re going to be a big challenge for us.”Despite the overwhelming success of Zimka and NIU’s backline, Rohrman and senior goalkeeper Jake Settle both think that if Wisconsin pushes the attack early and remains patient late, they’ll be in good shape.”We have to take the rhythm and flow of the game,” Rohrman said. “I think they’re going to be a team … [that’s] going to be tough to penetrate, but [we have to] be a little patient and find those gaps or those seams that will eventually come.””It helps if we can get out and counter them, and really work to get numbers up in the attacking third because they’ll be a team that quickly gets behind the ball and quickly will be ready to defend as a group like we do,” Settle added. “And it’s so much more difficult to go at 10 guys than go at four or five guys at the back.”If Wisconsin does take an early advantage, it could be smooth sailing for the Badgers. NIU is not known for its offensive abilities, and outside of transfer forward Marcus McCarty — who has eight goals and 20 points — the Huskies lack a potent punch up front. “I know some of their players, and they at least tell me — their scores kind of prove it — that they’re just trying to get a goal and hold onto a 1-0 lead. So we’re looking to come out and score first,” Settle said. “I think if we can do that, then they’ll be in trouble.”This match may ultimately come down to which team capitalizes on their set pieces or catches a lucky break.”We’re looking to definitely [punish] them on set pieces,” Settle said. “That will be the big difference-maker because those are obviously the times when most teams are very dangerous. Just kind of throw it in there and [hope for] a bad bounce or bad hop.”last_img read more

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