2020 Team Reviews

Wisconsin Adds Ten Newcomers. Badgers Set To Rebound In 2020.

Wisconsin entered the 2019 season with high expectations but things didn't go as expected in large part due to an onslaught of injuries that began in preseason. As a result the Badgers dropped from double-digit win seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2018 to a total of three wins in 2019. Uncertaintly exists heading into 2020 but if the Badgers avoid the injury bug they look to be well-positioned to bounce back.   

Departures and Gaps - Losses due to graduation include defenders Elan Koenig (0g, 2a) and Robin Olofsson (1g, 0a) who were three-year starters, midfielder Noah Leibold (2g, 0a) who was a four-year starter, midfielder Duncan Storey (1g, 1a) who was a two-year starter, and goalkeeer Dean Cowdroy who was a two-year starter. 

Opportunities for Improvement - Last year Wisconsin scored a total of eleven goals and allowed twenty-six. The eleven goals may be the fewest that Wisconsin has ever scored in a single season. Upward movement in 2020 is contingent upon improvement across the board but particularly on the offensive side of the ball.  

Coach's Recruiting Class Comment - John Trask stated, "The staff has done an outstanding job of identifying players who will be a big part of Wisconsin Soccer overt the next four years. Big compliments to assistant coaches Keith Tiemeyer, Aaron Hohlbein and Tim Boruff on this year's class." Trask added, "This ten-member class addresses many positional needs and adds depth and quality to our existing team. Each of these young men come from high-level soccer programs, have had memborable successes on the field, and each has a high level of academic background." 

Summary - Adversity in one season sometimes creates conditions that generate success the following season. Whether or not that will be the case at Wisconsin remains to be seen but the potential for improvement and upward movement in the highly competitive Big Ten race appears likely due to three factors.

The first involves the healthly return of the likes of senior midfielder Mitch Guitar, a 2018 All-Big Ten Second Team selection, who missed the entire 2019 campaign due to injury, junior forward Noah Melick, the Badgers top goal scorer in 2018, who missed all but four games due to injury, and junior forward Andrew Akindele, a 2018 All-Big Ten Freshman selection, who missed multiple contests last year due to an ankle injury.

The second pertains to the experience and additional playing time that returning players received in 2019 out of necessity due to the injury situation.

The third relates to the additon of a ten member recruiting class that includes several players with the potential to make a contribution on both sides of the ball.

The productivity of Wisconsin's attack will likely hinge to a large degree on the play of Akindele (0g, 1a) and Melick up-top. Both are playmakers who, if healthy, have the athletic ability, strength, and quickness to be difference makers. Senior Alex Alfaro, who missed the entire 2019 season due to injury, and redshirt freshman Michael Wampler are among other returning players who could add additional punch to the offense up-top. Freshman forward Jack Finnegan, the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year out of Brother Rice High School, is among the newcomers who could add another dimension to the Badger attack.

The graduation of Noah Leibold (2g, 0a), a four-year starter and team captain, and Duncan Storey (1g, 1a), a two-year starter after transferring in from the Air Force Academy, creates a void that must be addressed in the midfield. The return of Guitar, team catalyst and rock solid starter in 2017 and 2018, and sophomore Inaki Iribarren (2g, 1a) who now has a year of starting experience under his belt provide a strong necleus in the center of the park upon which to reload the midfield. Highly regarded sophomore Tim Bielic, who only appeared in three contests last year due to injury, and redshirt senior Michael Russell II (0g, 1a) who started fifteen contests last year are among other returning linkmen who figure to be in the mix in 2020. Junior Jan "Henri" Tophoven who transfers in from Mercyhurst University and freshman Eliot Popkewitz, the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year out of Verona High Schooi, are among several members of the recruiting class who will likely be in the hunt for playing time in the midfield and could add to the attack.   

The graduation of defenders Elan Koenig (0g, 2a) and Robin Olofsson (1g, 0a) who were three year starters leaves an experience and talent gap to fill in the back. Redshirt junior center back and team captain Zach Klancnik (1g, 2a), a starter for the past two seasons, returns to anchor the backline along with senior Patrick Yim, a starter for the past two seasons. Kim, a manistay on the field, played through injuries last year but looks to be fully recovered heading into the 2020 campaign. Senior Ben Leas (0g, 1a), a starter for the past two years, returns to give Wisconsin another experienced and solid defender. Sophomore Justin Bobb who played in ten contests with five starts last year and sophomore Loren Altman who sat out the 2019 campaign due to an injury that occurred prior to the start of the season are among other returning players who will seek to play a greater role in the back in 2020. Junior back Moritz Kappelsberger who transfers in from Duquesne where he was a starter for the past two seasons is a solid addition who should hit the ground running and challenge for a starting job.

A new face will be between the pipes for the Badgers in 2020 due to the graduation of Dean Cowdroy who was the starter in goal in 2018 and 2019. The good news is that Wisconsin has a very solid contingent of netminders who will battle for the starting job. Graduate student Sven Kleinhans who had a very productive tenure in goal before transferring in last year from Bluefield College, junior Beto Spielvogel, sophomore Ben Krongard, and redshirt freshman Carter Abbott are the candidates for the important role in goal.  

No program is completely invulnerable to a down year. It is a plus for the program that Wisconsin continued to play everyone tough last year despite the adversity they faced. The Badgers finished regular season play with a 1-1 tie at Michigan, a 0-0 tie at home with Northwestern, and a 1-0 win over Ohio State. The goals were few and far between for Wisconsin last year. As a result the Badgers appeared to lapse at times into a mindset of playing not to lose rather than to win. Without a more productive attack in 2020, Wisconsin will again have little margin for error in the highly competitive Big Ten Conference where weaknesses are exploited.

The bottom line is that enhanced equilibrium between the offense and the defense and a bounce upward is likely in 2020. The effort, resolve, and toughness needed to win will likely exist at Wisconsin in 2020 but how that translates in terms of wins depends on the degree of improvement on both sides of the ball. 

Newcomers

Liam Bailey - Midfielder - Mission Kansas - Rockhurst High School - All-State selection. Played for Puma FC - Southampton Pro Academy. Played in St. Louis All-High School All-Star game in 2018 and 2019. 

Murat Calkap - Midfielder - Demarest, New Jersey - Met Oval Academy - Scored five goals and contributed seventeen assists his senior season for Met Oval Academy. Played for NYCFC. PLayed for Met Oval Soccer Club in the USDA.  

Ethan Chung - Defender - San Juan Capistrano, California - Played for the Pateadores Soccer Club. Played for Cal South ODP Team. 

Jack Finnegan - Forward - Hometown, Illinois - Brother Rice High School - All-State selection. United Soccer Coaches All-American selection. Southtown Player of the Year. 2019-2020 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year. 

Dawson Gulley - Midfielder - Lee's Summit, Missouri - Lee's Summit West High School - Played for Sporting Kansas City Academy. 

Moritz Kappelsberger - Defender - Rosenheim,Germany - Sebastian Finsterwalder Gymnasium. Junior transfer from Duquesne University where he was a starter in 2019 and 2019. Had three career goals and one assist at Duquesne. Played for Spvgg Unterhaching.  

Dylan McCrary - Defender - Melville, New York - St. Anthony's High School - All-State. All-League at St. Anthony's. Played for Commack Great Danes and Albertson Fury. 

Bennett Pauls - Midfielder - Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin - Hamilton High School - High School All-American. All-State selection. Greater Metro All-Conference First Team. Team captain at Hamilton High. Played for SC Wave. 

Eliot Popkewitz - Midfielder - Verona, Wisconsin - Verona Area High School - Three-time team captain at Verona Area High School. All-Conference selection. All-Area. All-State. United Soccer Coaches Great Lakes All-Region. Had forty career goals at Veroa Area High School. Named Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year. Played for the Madison 56ers. 

Jan "Henri" Tophoven - Midfielder - Bruegeen, Germany - Junior transfer from Mercyhurst University. PSAC Freshman of the Year. All-PSAC Second Team. All-Region Second Team. Played club at 1.FC Monchengladbach.    


 

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