Home field advantage is important in every sport. In soccer it is an incredibly important factor. Just ask head coach John Trask and his Wisconsin Men’s Soccer team that has dominated its opponents in Madison the last few years.To find the last time Wisconsin lost at home you have to go back nearly a year to Oct. 10, 2012 when the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee beat the Badgers 1-0.After starting off the year 3-0 at home, the Badgers notched their fourth home win of the season Tuesday against the Drake Bulldogs. The 3-2 victory not only leaves them undefeated at home, but provided them with crucial momentum as they reach the half-way point in their four game home stand.The Badgers started out strong taking a 2-0 lead, but after a late Drake goal brought the lead within one point the game tensed up. A penalty kick after a hand ball once again extended the Badgers lead to two at 3-1. However, the Bulldogs were not done. They notched one more bringing them within striking distance off of a set play with just five minutes to play. Despite some good chances, the Badgers rallied to hold them off and claim a win.“Were 4-0 [at home] this year,” Trask said. “You really want to make your home field a bastion, and I felt it was tonight.”Luckily for Wisconsin, at home they are no stranger to nail biters, and in each of those close home games, the Badgers always seem to come out on top. On Sept. 8, the Badgers were able to rally with a last-second goal from redshirt senior midfielder Tomislav Zadro to take DePaul into overtime where they later won.The Badgers credit a lot of those events to playing on their home turf, in front of their home fans.“Home field advantage in every sport is worth something,” Trask said. “I know our guys love to play here in front of their friends and family, and the other students. Our field is absolutely gorgeous and I know our guys love to play here in this stadium.”Wisconsin has developed a reputation for being a hard-driven defensive team that can occasionally capitalize on offensive opportunities. This season at home, however, Trask’s men have been electric offensively. The Badgers are averaging 2.5 goals a game at home. That includes three 3-goal games, a mark that took previous Wisconsin teams five years to achieve.Wisconsin’s only losses this year were both on the road, at the end of a five game road series that had the Badgers traveling between Wisconsin, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania.“One of our goals this season was to stay undefeated at home,” junior forward Jacob Brindle said. “That is what we are working for right now. It is always good to defend your turf. That is what we set out to do whenever we play at home.”However, staying undefeated at home is going to be a tall order for the Badgers. With Big Ten games against Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State still on the schedule at home, it is going to require some impressive performances and a bit of luck to leave the McClimon Complex unscathed.“Coach likes to emphasis this is our place,” senior forward Nick Janus said. “Our opponents are going to have to come here and take it from us. We want to make this our fort and hold it down. So far this season we have been able to do that. We have a pretty big test later this week against Indiana but I feel that we are prepared.”The last time Indiana came to Madison two years ago the Badgers dealt the top ranked Hoosiers their first loss of the season in a 2-0 decision. When Indiana comes into town for its Friday matchup with the Badgers, it will not only be looking for revenge but also its first win in Madison since 2009. However, the Badgers will be relying on their skill home field advantage as they try to extend their home winning streak to five and take their first Big Ten win of the season.
Cronulla have started the year 2-2 and know they can’t afford a slip up at this stage of the season given the Storm and Roosters have already jumped two wins clear after the first four rounds. While it would be easy to have one eye on the game down in Melbourne, back-rower Wade Graham said that wasn’t the case. “I haven’t even thought about that so it hasn’t been an issue here. We’re just focusing on Newcastle. I haven’t even thought of Melbourne once and I’m sure they haven’t even thought about us once,” Graham said. “It’s important in the early part of the season that you take the most out of each week and get those wins because you look at Melbourne and the Roosters and they’re starting to skip ahead already with their wins. “It’s important for teams like us who have put a couple of losses up to keep grinding and keep getting those wins.”The Knights have shown a lot of improvement in 2017 compared to the side that won just one game last season, although they are coming off an embarrassing 40-0 loss to the Panthers. Graham said it was understandable for a young team like the Knights to have those sorts of performances and expected them to come out hard against the defending premiers on Saturday afternoon. “I think they’ve been playing really well and with lots of energy and lots of enthusiasm,” he said. “They were probably a bit disappointed with their performance against Penrith.”I think they’ve come out with a really good attitude this year and they’re really working hard for each other and they’re playing with a lot of energy so they’re not going to beat themselves. It’s up to us to put in a good performance and match their enthusiasm and energy. “You can tell by the way they’ve come out this pre-season that there have been some adjustments with where they’re taking their footy club. You can see it in their attitude and their energy and the way they’re playing for each other. “Of course with the young squad that they have, there will be games like the Penrith [loss] where things don’t go right and the other team capitalises, but all in all I think it’s been a positive start for Newcastle.”The Sharks thrashed the Knights twice in 2016 to the tune of 98-4 across both games, but experienced prop forward Matt Prior said history would count for little this time around. “There’s not much you can take out of that because that was last year. The Knights are a different team this year and already they’ve won one game and they’re playing a lot better footy than they were last year,” Prior said. He also shared Graham’s view that the grand final replay wouldn’t be discussed until well after the Knights game had finished. “We can’t start thinking about that game. We’re still two weeks away so we’ve got to get the job done against the Knights,” he said. “If we start thinking about that game now then I’m sure the Knights will pull our pants down and beat us. We’ve just got to worry about one week at a time.”