UW head coach Jeff Rohrman hopes this year's group will possess a more diversified scoring attack than last season's, and with a seasoned crop of backline players, the Badgers will be looking to build on last year's fourth-place Big Ten finish. Here's a quick rundown of Wisconsin's probable starting 11 for its home fixture with UNLV, as well as the rest of the 2005 season.
Victor Diaz (Redshirt freshman)
Reid Johnson (Junior)
It appears Diaz will start the season up front. However, Rohrman has said that he will slide the Spaniard back behind a pair of forwards at times, similar to how the staff used Van Sicklen tactically a season ago.
"Being a smaller guy, [Diaz] tends to take a beating when his back is to the goal quite often, so it's a way to kind of protect him, maybe in the same way we did with Nick," Rohrman said.
Johnson is the team's leading returning scorer with four goals and two assists, and played well in his role mainly as a reserve in 2004. A solid physical presence, Johnson will need to continue his production this year with Hohlbein gone.
Junior Matt Jelacic and sophomore Chris Ede should see time up front as well.
"I think our forwards have done a great job and we're comfortable with any one of those four or five guys coming in," Rohrman said. "So that's a good thing for us, it gives us good depth and good competition. Certainly when you play Friday/Sunday, physically you need that kind of depth to keep it at a high level come Sunday."
Kenny Dix (Freshman)
B.J. Goodman (Sophomore)
Erik Ortega (Sophomore)
Frank Iaizzo (Junior)
By far the biggest unknown on the club, the Badger midfield will be full of youth this season. Gone is reliable Noah Goerlitz at holding mid, with Iaizzo stepping into his vacated position. Iaizzo will have huge shoes to fill, as the diminutive Goerlitz played rock solid in the back of the UW midfield over the past couple of seasons.
"Certainly we need to play to Frank's strengths, and certainly we've got some people around him that can help as well," Rohrman said. "We can't ask Frank to do too much, but at the same time we've got to get some things out of him in terms of the communication, the organization, connecting people and all of that. For sure he's got to be a guy that's got a high possession ratio for us there."
Dix, recently named to College Soccer News' Top 100 Freshmen list, provides Rohrman with a playmaker in the center midfield, something the team struggled to find last year.
Sophomores Sho Fujita and Dirk Pearson should see time near the top of the midfield in Dix's stead, and will most likely be flanked by the tandem of Goodman and Ortega. Each has seen time on both sides of the field in practice, and showed promise last season as true freshmen.
Aaron Hohlbein (Junior)
Andrew Cardona (Junior)
Andy Miller (Freshman)
Zach Lambo (Freshman)
Rohrman will have a fairly experienced group with which to formulate a backline combination. Sophomore Nick Caronna and junior William Bagayoko started right and left back, respectively, a season ago, but Miller and Lambo appear to have earned the chance to show their mettle right away as true freshmen. However, most likely all four will see plenty of time on the pitch.
"They're right in the mix," Rohrman said of Miller and Lambo. "I think they both have performed quite well. Andy is a tenacious defender. It's almost like he looks forward to those duals. He's one of the toughest guys to go against. Our forwards certainly recognize that and Zach is a player who gives us a great left foot coming off that side. He's very good on set pieces, on corners, and can drive a ball as well as anybody on the team."
Cardona could potentially slide up to a defensive midfield spot if Iaizzo struggles, but either way the junior should be in the lineup. A starter since his freshman year, he is a solid marker and plays very physically for a player of his size (5-foot-11, 155 pounds).
Hohlbein is the team's captain and its rock in defense. Great in the air and in one-on-one situations, the junior central defender ranks among the Big Ten's best in the backline. Along with Diaz, expect Hohlbein to take a decent amount of the team's free kicks.
"My expectation for Aaron is to be a first team all-Big Ten guy these next two years and certainly garner some other national honors as well," Rohrman said. "I think he's certainly a player of that caliber.
Jake Settle (Junior)
Settle will begin the year as the starter in net after beating out redshirt sophomore Mike Hood. True freshman Byron Neal began the fall with a chance to make a push for playing time, but a foot injury set his progress back and should sideline him for the next couple of weeks according to Rohrman.
Settle's season should be an interesting one to view. As a freshman he subbed for an injured Eric Hanson and posted a shutout. However, Hanson stayed healthy last season and played every minute of the year, leaving Settle on the bench. Now, the former Iowa Gatorade State Player of the Year will be looking to build on his play from two seasons ago in his first year as the starting keeper at UW.