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Men's soccer looking to make most of opportunity against IU

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Head coach Johan Cedergren has the Wildcats riding a five game unbeaten streak heading into Wednesday's showdown with Indiana. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Head coach Johan Cedergren has the Wildcats riding a five game unbeaten streak heading into Wednesday's showdown with Indiana. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
"Great moments are born from great opportunities."

Those were the opening words Team USA hockey head coach Herb Brooks told his team during his pregame speech before Team USA knocked off the powerhouse Soviet Union squad in the 1980 Olympics.

Wednesday evening, the University of Kentucky men's soccer team has a great opportunity to make a statement this season and knock off another nationally ranked opponent. The Wildcats welcome into town the 11th-ranked Indiana Hoosiers, who around the soccer world have consistently been a prominent team over the years.

"I played against Indiana while I was at Cincinnati," head coach Johan Cedergren said. "They are a powerhouse. They are a good team, they have kids on the national team and with everything they have done over the years."

Indiana comes in with a record of 7-2-1 and is always considered one of the top teams in the Big Ten Conference.

If you take a moment and look back at Kentucky's season, you would notice that a victory against No. 18 Louisville on Sept. 14 seemed to turn the Wildcats' season around. UK stood at 1-4 entering that contest before going into Cardinal Park and stunning its in-state rival, 1-0. Since that match, the Cats have reeled off a five-match unbeaten streak and have improved their record to 5-4-1.

The game on Wednesday will have a lot of similarities to the Louisville game. The Hoosiers are considered another huge rival, and being a nationally ranked foe, UK has another chance to make another statement and make the most of a great opportunity.

Now that the Cats are on a bit of a roll and having already beaten a ranked U of L team, there is no fear in the squad and they are confident they can play with anyone in the country.

"If we can go into Louisville and beat them at Louisville, there is no reason we can't beat Indiana at home," Cedergren said. "That is no disrespect to them but I feel we have enough quality in the squad that we can give any team a good game on a good day for us."

That being said, Cedergren has said his team can't shy away from the moment and they have to make smart decisions on the ball. Plain and simple, the Cats must be very sharp come Wednesday evening.

The Wildcats came out flat in the first half of their conference opener against Memphis before eventually coming away with a draw on Sunday. If UK is going to have any chance against the Hoosiers, they can't afford to get off to a slow start. Cedergren has no worries his squad will be prepared and up for the challenge.

If anything, it may be IU who comes out flat and takes UK a little too lightly.

"It's a midweek game, it's on the road for them, I'm sure they have a Big Ten game coming up Saturday (against Wisconsin) and maybe they will overlook us just a little bit," Cedergren said.

Offensively, the Wildcats are going to face a tough challenge trying to put the ball in the back of the net. IU goalkeeper Luis Soffner won his second Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award last week and has recorded six shutouts on the year.

The Hoosiers have allowed just five goals in 10 matches, while the Wildcats have netted 20 goals through their first 10 contests. Something has to give on Wednesday and Cedergren feels good knowing he has a very talented goal scorer in junior Tyler Riggs up front.

"More than half of the time when (Riggs) gets a chance he's going to score for us," Cedergren said. "We just have to make sure that we feed him the ball and concentrate on set pieces."

Kentucky must respond coming off the Memphis match, in which the Cats surrendered two goals for the first time in seven games.

Goalkeeper Jack Van Arsdale played lights out against Louisville and UK may need a similar effort against the Hoosiers, along with the rest of the back four in order to shut down the IU attack.

There is no doubt in Cedergren's mind that his team has the talent to defend against anyone. The fact that they are college kids raises a question of what they will bring every night, which showed against Memphis. However, the anticipation of Wednesday's contest should give the Cats that extra motivation they were looking for on Sunday.

"Indiana is a much higher profile team than us," Cedergren said. "There are a lot of things that help us get ready and I don't have any doubt that the back four and the goal keeper are going to do a good job and keep Indiana away from our 18."

Following the IU game, the Wildcats go on the road for three straight conference games. SMU (Oct. 6), UAB (Oct. 13) and Marshall (Oct. 17). Not only is it a tough stretch with all of the contests coming on the road, but SMU and UAB are considered contenders in the Conference USA.

The game against the Hoosiers will provide the Cats with a nice tune up before their road trip. UK is definitely going into Wednesday's match with every intention of winning but is also aware of their goal from the beginning of the season - making the conference tournament.

If Kentucky is upended by IU, the Wildcats will suffer no consequences in their league standings and will only gain valuable experience heading into the rest of conference action.

Indiana better be careful though. Kentucky is a dangerous bunch that is all of a sudden playing with a little swagger, and Cedergren believes this may be a game that the Wildcats can pull off another upset.

"I just think that we let a couple slip early in the season against Northwestern and St. Johns and I think it's one of those times where I feel that we are primed and ready for another upset," Cedergren said.

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