Coach John Bluem has the No. 19 Ohio State men’s soccer team in the national picture largely because of his squad’s ability to defend and make opponents earn their scoring chances.

The Buckeyes have only given up seven goals in their first 10 games of 2010 and find themselves 6-2-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten.

“We want to make sure that we’re disciplined,” Bluem said. “That’s the key to good defending is to be disciplined and drop back and fulfill your role and function in the team.”

Bluem’s defensive philosophy includes conceding space and being patient. The key is being able to capitalize on counter attacks. He said that being successful on defense requires teamwork more than individual performances.

“If people go … chasing the ball and defending the way they want to, it doesn’t work,” he said. “You have to work collectively together as a unit. Everybody has to understand what each other’s responsibilities are and if you do that, you can cover the spaces effectively and cover the key players effectively.”

Senior midfielder Sam Scales said he has confidence in Bluem’s approach, even if it doesn’t produce the sexiest soccer to watch. When asked about what the team does in practice to be so stout defensively, his answer was simple.

“It’s just listening to our coaches,” he said. “They tell us to stay tight defensively. We know how the system works, we’ve all been playing it, and we’re all used to it.”

With the exception of last week’s wild 2-2 tie against No. 1 Akron, defense has played a major role in OSU’s unbeaten surge over the past four games.

The team tied No. 6 Louisville 0-0, beat Michigan 1-0 and defeated Michigan State 2-1. The Buckeyes are winless in games in which they give up two goals, but they have not given up more than two in any match in 2010.

“We just work on our positioning and formations and stuff,” sophomore midfielder Austin McAnena said. “We just got to keep our shape and keep track of runners. If we track runners and win our individual battles, we’ll win on the defensive side.”

Goalkeeper Matt Lampson has gotten off to a solid start and has played an important role in the Buckeyes’ defense. His 11-save performance at Michigan was key to OSU getting the win. Bluem keyed on Lampson’s importance to the defense and its effectiveness.

“Matt’s a great part of that,” Bluem said. “He manages his box very well, he’s a great shot stopper, has good size and strength, he distributes the ball well. He’s a key figure in our team. He was at his absolute best against Michigan.”