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Louisville upset could be just what the doctor ordered for men's soccer

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Behind Jack Van Arsdale's shutout and a free-kick goal by Matt Lodge, UK defeated Louisville 1-0 on Friday night at Cardinal Park. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Behind Jack Van Arsdale's shutout and a free-kick goal by Matt Lodge, UK defeated Louisville 1-0 on Friday night at Cardinal Park. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
LOUISVILLE -- Dropping one-goal decisions to Dayton, Northwestern, St. John's and Charlotte in the first five games of the season would deflate a lot of team's confidence going forward through the season. Going into Louisville to play the No. 18 Cardinals in front of 5,583 fans in attendance could've spelled disaster to start the season.

Instead, the men's soccer Wildcats put the past behind them, went into Cardinal Park and shocked nationally ranked Louisville, 1-0. It was a much-needed win for the Wildcats after opening up the 2012 season with a 1-4 record.

Kentucky's record was deceiving coming into the game though. The Cats had played three ranked foes through their first five games and competed to the last whistle in every one of them. Louisville showed off its talent and firepower, but in the end it was the team with the heart, belief, confidence and desire to win that came out on top - the Kentucky Wildcats.

UK head coach Johan Cedergren was quoted as saying this was a chance for his team to make a statement. Entering a house that was packed with thousands of U of L screaming fans and in-state pride on the line, the Wildcats played toe to toe with one of the top teams in the country.

"I couldn't be any more excited for the guys, this is a huge game for us," Cedergren said. "I think for Louisville, maybe it's just one game because they have been there and done that. For us we are trying to make little steps every game. We were really good in training this week and overall I thought it was a good defensive performance. We have talked about the back four before and it was good to see them come up and save us. The back four and (goalkeeper) Jack Van Arsdale had a fantastic game."

Senior Matt Lodge got the Cats on the board in the 38th minute on a free kick from about 20 yards out. It gave UK a huge boost going into halftime with a lead and it was extra special coming from a senior who has fought his whole career trying to beat the rivals.

Lodge's kick bent right around the wall formed by U of L defenders and snuck right inside the left post. That feeling basketball players get when the ball leaves their hand and they know it's going in; that's exactly what Lodge felt as he attempted the free kick.

"It felt amazing," Lodge said. "Best feeling I've ever had. The stadium was full and give credit to Louisville and UK fans as they turned out in full force. As soon as I kicked it I knew it was going in and I just wanted to go over to my teammates and celebrate."

Van Arsdale stepped up huge for UK and made sure the lead held up. All game, especially in the second half, the Cardinals kept attacking and wouldn't go away. It seemed like every possession they had in the second half they had a shot at equalizing the match.

Van Arsdale thought differently. He recorded six saves on the night and it seemed like 20. Louisville created multiple, crafty set pieces that probably should have found the back of the net numerous times, but Van Arsdale came up with a big-time save every time.

"It's easy when you are engaged the entire game and that's what I was," Van Arsdale said. "Saves right from the beginning, saves at the end, my teammates helped me out a lot by blocking a lot of shots and winning a lot of headers for me. All around it was a great team effort."

The Wildcats led Northwestern 1-0 going into halftime at the Gamecock Classic before surrendering two goals in the second half to the 25th-ranked Wildcats. At times it looked as though Louisville would eventually tie the game and maybe deja vu would strike.

Kentucky grinded down and stuck together throughout the second half to hold off the Cards. This may have been what the Cats needed to get over the hump and give them that extra boost of confidence heading towards conference play.

It's hard not to think about the previous hiccups in the season and had Cedergren even scoreboard watching at the time.

"For the last 25 minutes, I kept looking back over at the clock and it seemed like it was going so slow," Cedergren said. "It's good and I think it shows what kind of team spirit we have that the guys will not stop fighting. We were 0-3 and 1-4 and its easy for the seniors to say it's not going to happen this year. We were really sharp in training this week and you could just see how much it mattered to them today in the game. They were diving around and doing everything they could to protect the goal. It was a huge effort and huge credit to our team."

Going on the road and defeating a nationally ranked opponent is always a huge boost to a team. Beating your rival puts icing on the cake. The Wildcats can take the momentum from this game and use it towards the rest of the season. The Cats were waiting for a moment like this and this may be the game puts Cedergren's squad on the path to turning the corner for good.

Next up, the Wildcats take on East Tennessee on Wednesday, Sept. 19. UK has to build on this and stay humble. The focus will quickly return to what it has been all season: improving daily.

"Every game and every training we want to become better and we did that tonight," Cedergren said. "But we can't become big-headed because we have a game again in a couple of days. We are training tomorrow and I think tomorrow will be good to maybe knock them down to get them ready again. In general, to be able to play in front of a crowd like this, in front of this quality of a team like Louisville, to be able to come away with a win will serve really big for our confidence moving forward."

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