|Conference: Big Ten
|Coach: John Trask (8th Season)
|2016 Record: 11-4-4 Overall – 4-2-2 in Conference
|Final Season Ending National Rank: Number 27 by College Soccer News
Five Year Win Total:
|Key Losses from the 2016 Team: Midfielder Brian Hall (1g, 3a), defender Matej Radonic (2g, 0a), and goalkeeper Casey Beyers due to graduation. Defender Sam Brotherton who elected to enter the professional ranks.
|2016 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed: 30 scored – 15 allowed
|Key 2016 Statistic: Wisconsin was undefeated at home with a 9-0-1 record.
Background A gutsy and talented Wisconsin team was 11-4-4 overall in 2016 with a 4-2-2 mark in conference play. They completed regular season play tied for second place in the Big Ten.
The Badgers then played their way into the Big Ten Tournament Championship game for the first time in twenty-one seasons by advancing past Ohio State 3-0 and Indiana in a contest that was decided by a penalty kick shootout. A very promising 2016 season came to an end at that point when they were topped 2-1 by Maryland.
The Badgers have appeared in the NCAA Tournament a total of six times with the last occurring in 2013 when they were 14-5-2 overall. Wisconsin won the national championship in 1995.
Forward Chris Mueller was named a Third Team All-American in 2016 by both the NSCAA and College Soccer News. He was also an All-Big Ten First Team selection. Midfielders Mark Segbers and Michael Catalano were 2016 All-Big Ten Second Team selections. Midfielder Noah Liebold and defender Elan Koenig were named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Koenig was also named a Second Team All-Freshman selection by College Soccer News.
|Number Starters Returning in 2017: Nine
Offense: Wisconsin's attack showed significant improvement in 2016 scoring eleven more goals than in 2015. The top four goal scorers from the 2016 squad are slated to return led by senior forward Chris Mueller (8g, 11a). Mueller is a playmaker who finished tied for second in the nation in total assists and ranked third in the country in assists per game. Senior Tom Barlow (5g, 4a) returns to partner with Mueller up-top. Barlow hit his stride as the season progressed last year recording a goal or an assist in each of the Badger's last five contests.
Redshirt junior Nikola Atlija (0g,1a) and sophomore Blake Carr (0g, 2a) are among other returning players who will seek to up their minutes and play a greater role in 2017. Redshirt freshman Domenic Mesdjian looks to be among others who could add an additonal dimension to the offense. Freshman Bradan Allen who played for FC Wisconsin is among the newcomers who could make an immediate impact.
The graduation of veteran midfielder Brian Hall (1g, 3a) will leave a void in the middle of the park. Seniors Mike Catalano (4g, 2a) and Mark Segbers (3g, 6a) are among returning midfielders who should play key roles in 2017. Catalano is a powerful box to box midfielder who can create for himself or his teammates. Segbers offers excellent pace on the flank and has the ability to unbalance opponents with his quickness and ability to run with the ball.
Sophomores Mitch Guitar (1g, 2a) and Noah Leibold (0g, 2a) who now have the experience of a season under their belts will be among other returning midfielders who will have the opporutunity to expand their role in 2017. Both were integral parts of the 2016 team. Ditto that for redshirt junior Isaac Schlenker (1g, 2a) has been a reliable assest off the bench on both ends of the field.
Redshirt junior Rahim Omar, redshirt freshmen Jack Shaw and Alejandro Estrelles-Hernanz are among others who look to be in the mix in the midfield.
Freshman Alex Alfaro, Patrick Yim, and David Portugal look to be among the newcomers who will compete immediately for playing time and could add another dimension and depth to what already looks to be a talented group of midfielders.
| Defense: The departure of captain Sam Brotherton (3g, 0a) leaves a hole in the middle of the defense. The New Zealand International signed with the English outfit Sunderland AFC over the winter. Reserve center back Matej Radonic (2g, 0a) who appeared in eleven contests last year and reserve goalkeeper Casey Beyers are among other losses on the defensive side of the ball.
The Wisconsin defense projects to be very good in 2017 with three out of four starting defenders from the 2016 team as well as redshirt senior goalkeeper Phillip Schilling slated to return. Schilling had an excellent season last year notching eight shutouts and compiling a 0.72 goals against average. His maturity and leadership should go a long way in keeping the Badger’s organized.
Back-up netminder senior Adrian Remeniuk also returns with plenty of experience having already appeared in twenty-seven games in goal for Wisconsin.
Returning defenders include senior Alex Masbruch, redshirt junior Enda O’Neil (1g, 0a), and redshirt sophomore Elan Koenig (1g, 1a). The return of gritty Masbruch from a last season injury and the calm presence of O'Neil will help keep the defensive group together and focused.
Robin Olofsson who is a transfer from Central Connecticut, Zach Klancnik out of the Chicago Sockers, Brayden Callipari out of the Chicago Fire, and Ben Leas who played for FC Wisconsin are among the newcomers who could contribute.
Coach Trask stated, "The 2017 soccer recruits are a talented and academically gifted group. With many upperclassmen, these young players will compete and learn from an outstanding group of players and we feel that more than a couple will compete for playing time immediately."
Alex Alfaro – Midfielder – Arlington Heights, Illinois – Buffalo Grove High School – Invited six times to USSF Training camp. Two-time All-Conference selection. All-Area. All-Sectional. Played for FC United.
Bradan Allen – Forward – Indianapolis, Indiana – Middleton High School – Had eight-seven goals and tthirty assists during his high school career. First-Team All-Conference. First-Team All-Area. First Team All-State. Wisconsin Journal Madison Area Player of the Year.
Brayden Callipari – Defender – Batavia, Illinois – Played seven years with the Chicago Fire Academy.
Zach Kiancnik – Defender – Arlington Heights, Illinois – Played for the Chicago Sockers Acamedy. Attended the Sockers FC European Tour in 2014. Strong center back.
Ben Leas – Defender – Elm Grove, Wisconsin – Marquette University HIgh School – Named Wisconsin State Player of the Year. Greater Metro Conference Player of the Year. High School All-American. All-State selection.
Robin Olofsson – Defender – Stockholm, Sweden – Transfer from Central Connecticut. His experience should be a big plus.
David Portugal – Midfielder – Chicago, Illinois – Played for the Chicago Fire Academy. Member of the Generation Adidas MLS Academy All-Star Team.
Patrick Yim – Midfielder – Rolling Meadows, Illinois – Played for Sockers FC. Team
| Prognosis for 2017: The Badgers had one of the more impressive and noteworthy turnarounds last year going from three wins in 2014 and five wins in 2015 to eleven wins in 2016. Two of Wisconsin’s four losses last year were to powerhouse Maryland. Both were by a one goal margin.
The Badgers had ties with Michigan 1-1 and Indiana 0-0 during regular season play but the lack of a victory over a top twenty-five ranked team likely contributed to the fact that the Badgers were not awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2016.
Regardless of the reason, the lack of a spot in the NCAA Tourney last year should serve to motivate Wisconsin in 2017. With nine starters returning Wisconsin has the potential to up their win total in 2017 and to secure the wins over ranked opponents that eluded them last year. However, there’s still work to do on both sides of the ball in order for that to occur.
The presence and productivity of senior forward Chris Mueller (8g, 11a) last year was among the key reasons for the improvement Wisconsin experienced on the offensive side of the ball. With both Mueller and forward Tom Barlow (5g, 4a) back along with a very solid core of midfielders led by seniors Mark Segbers and Michael Catalano (4g, 2a) the offensive should again be productive and balanced.
The departure of Sam Brotherton creates some uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball but with three out of four starting backs slated to return along with Phillip Schilling and Adrian Remeniuk in goal the defense looks to be solid. Transfer Robin Olofsson could prove to be the solution to filling the gap that exists due to the departure of Brotherton in the center of the defense.
The bottom line is that Wisconsin looks to be a team in the national conversation heading into the 2017 campaign. This could be the deepest and most talented team from top to bottom that John Trask has had to date at Wisconsin. However, the competition in the Big Ten will again be unforgiving and the Badgers will need to find a way to win the big games that eluded them last year.
There are plenty of reasons for excitement at Wisconsin heading into the 2017 campaign. However, cautious optimism is warranted.