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Men's soccer looking to finish strong down final stretch of regular season

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First-year head coach Johan Cedergren has the Wildcats off to a 2-1-1 start halfway through conference play. (UK Athletics) First-year head coach Johan Cedergren has the Wildcats off to a 2-1-1 record halfway through conference play. (UK Athletics)
Coming off of a three-game road swing, the University of Kentucky men's soccer team returns home to Lexington on Sunday, playing host to Conference USA foe Florida International. The Wildcats will be playing in front of their home fans for the first time in nearly three weeks and will be a nice change of pace as UK hosts three of its final four matches of the regular season.

So far this season the Cats have played nine of their matches on the road or at a neutral site. This year has been a pleasant surprise for UK as they are 5-2-0 in road contests after going 0-7-1 last season away from Lexington.

Even with its success on the road, UK will be glad to be back home this weekend in front of what should be a good crowd on homecoming weekend.

"We have one of the best fields in the country," head coach Johan Cedergren said. "If you can't play on that field, you can't play on any field. We love being home, we have a nice crowd that supports us and there will be a lot of events going on for Homecoming."

Following the Wildcats' 1-0 win over Marshall on Wednesday evening, the squad has reached the halfway point of conference play. Through four league matches, the Cats are 2-1-1 and have set the table for themselves to make a run at the conference tournament, which remains one of the team's main goals.

UK opened up C-USA action against Memphis on Sept. 30, which resulted in a 2-2 draw. Cedergren admits the team came out flat against the Tigers and felt like they took a step backward in the match.

Next up for the Cats was a very good SMU squad on Oct. 6 that was ranked No. 25 coming into the contest. UK was defeated 2-0 but Cedergren believes it was one of the best games his team has played all year and had one costly mistake that was the difference in the match.

Kentucky returned to their winning ways on Oct. 13 as they topped the 25th-ranked UAB Blazers 2-1, playing one man down for the majority of the second half.

And then we fast forward to the Wildcats 1-0 win over the NCAA's second best defensive team, Marshall, on Wednesday. UK was without its leading goal scorer, Tyler Riggs, and received a huge boost from junior Dylan Asher, who started up front for the first time in the 2012 season and scored his first career goal.

Kentucky is riding a two-game win streak following Wednesday's match and the Cats have the toughest part of their conference schedule behind them.

"Our schedule has been grueling but I think what it has done is it's prepared us for conference play," Cedergren said. "Whether we are on the road or at home and playing a conference opponent, I think we are ready for it and we know what to expect. We are confident and peaking and getting ready for the home stretch."

The Cats now turn their focus to Florida International on Sunday at the UK Soccer Complex at 5:00 p.m. The Panthers support a 0-3-1 record in conference play but are 7-4-2 overall.

The match has big implications for both teams as UK is in a position to not only make a run at the conference tournament but also an NCAA bid, while FIU will come in hungry for their first C-USA victory.

"FIU is a team that has had some success this year and has a lot of wins," Cedergren said. "They like to play us so I'm expecting it to be a great game, but if we had to pick we always want to play at home because we have one of the best fields in the country."

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