Experiencing an extended losing streak is less than ideal for any team. For the Ohio State men’s soccer team, a trip on the road to take on a top-10 team could make that situation even worse.
OSU (2-3-3, 1-1-0) has dropped three straight games after beginning the season undefeated through its first five. The team is scheduled to travel to Louisville, Ky., to take on the No. 8 Louisville Cardinals (5-1-1) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
A struggle to score goals has been at the forefront for the Buckeyes, who have only scored one goal in their three consecutive losses.
“The ability to score goals has been lacking so far,” redshirt-senior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov said. “We’ve addressed some of the issues and dissected our play from the last few games, and we’re really looking forward to the opportunity (Tuesday night).”
The team has worked in practice and in film studies to reverse the offensive troubles by changing the attacking mindset.
“We’re going to try to possess the ball as much as we can and build up the attack, instead of playing so direct, playing 50-50 balls that we’ll lose and putting so much responsibility on one particular player,” Ivanov said. “Just having everyone have that same collective responsibility going forward so that we can have good chances and capitalize on those chances.”
Despite the losing streak, OSU coach John Bluem said he does not feel like his players are letting the lack of success affect the team’s morale.
“I don’t have any problem at all with the guys’ effort, and I don’t think they were that upset about (Saturday’s loss to Dayton), either,” Bluem said. “I mean, nobody likes to lose, but I think coming out of the last two games we’ve felt good about how we’ve performed.”
Junior midfielder Zach Mason said as one of the team’s co-captains, he has a responsibility to prevent his teammates from beating themselves up over the losses.
“My job is just to keep everyone’s eyes looking forward, staying together and trying to set the right example, just make sure everyone’s on the same page,” Mason said. “I think we have a team full of leaders, so I don’t think it’s difficult to keep this team together, but that’s just what I’m trying to do.”
Though Louisville is probably not the team they want to be facing in the midst of a losing streak, Bluem said he feels his team should not be counted out against the Cardinals.
“When you have the opportunity to play against these top teams, it’s good to go into the game as an underdog,” Bluem said. “It’s good to be on the road, and the expectations aren’t too high for you from the group that’s down there. We should be relaxed, and I think we are. It’s going to be a fun opportunity.
“They have a very, very good program, a highly ranked team, with a great facility and a big crowd there to root against you, it fires you up,” Bluem said. “Hopefully the guys will be fired up.”
The Cardinals have not experienced the same struggle to score goals that the Buckeyes have. In its last four games, Louisville has scored a total of 14 goals. In comparison, OSU has only managed seven goals in eight matches this year and just three in its past four.
“(Louisville has) always been just a really difficult team to break down their pressure,” Bluem said. “You have to pass quickly and accurately, and you have to get out of your end of the field in possession of the ball, and that’s not easy to do against them. Once you break the pressure, though, then they become a team just like anyone else.”
After the matchup with the Cardinals, the Buckeyes are scheduled to return home to face No. 14 Michigan State on Saturday at 7 p.m at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.