Despite outplaying Michigan State University for the majority of the game, the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team could not find the back of the net, losing 3-0 in their Big Ten home opener. In what was one of the hardest fought battles at the McClimon Soccer Complex in recent memory, the Spartans (6-0-2, 1-0-1 in the Big Ten) were able to light up the Badgers’ stout defense with three goals while stifling UW’s offense. The tough loss dropped the Badgers record to 5-3-2, 0-1-1 in the Big Ten. Much of the Spartans’ offensive success was the result of numerous defensive breakdowns and mental lapses by the Badgers. After 32 minutes of scoreless action, the Spartans drew first blood when Kenzo Webster drilled a shot past UW goalkeeper Alex Horwath after receiving a crossing pass from teammate Kevin Reiman. The Badgers never got a chance to catch their breath after the Spartans’ first score. A mere 35 seconds later, Wisconsin suffered a defensive breakdown and Michigan State’s Doug DeMartin was able to loft the ball over a defenseless Horwath. The Badgers played with a sense of urgency in the second half, taking nine shots on goal to go along with six corner kicks. With 23 minutes remaining, senior midfielder Erik Ortega blasted a shot from the left corner of the box that slid just past the far post. Later, Michigan State’s goalkeeper Chris Austin stymied another UW scoring opportunity after deflecting Bryan Gerster’s shot from in front of the goal. With 11 minutes remaining in the second half, the Spartans were able to quell any thought of a comeback for the Badgers as DeMartin was able to put another shot past Horwath on a pass from teammate Louis Stephens. DeMartin’s score dug the Badgers into a hole they never managed to find their way out of. Although the Spartans dominated on the scoreboard, the Badgers outplayed their opponents for much of the game. UW outshot the Spartans 16-8, and had eight corner kicks to MSU’s two. Despite the Badgers managing to double their opponent’s shot total, only 25 percent (4 of 16) of their shots were on target. The loss to the Spartans left many of the Badgers scratching their heads, especially after playing so well for the majority of the game. “We broke down three times, and they got three goals because of it,” said UW senior midfielder Dirk Pearson. “For 88 minutes of the game, I felt like we were killing them. Then one 2-minute span in the first half, we break down, and they got two goals in 45 seconds. This is the Big Ten, when you make mistakes, you are going to get punished for it.” Pearson took three shots in the game, only one of which was on-goal. “I thought we were putting together a lot of good stuff, but the stuff we did put on goal could have been much better,” Pearson said. “It’s getting towards the end of the season and we can’t have these type of losses anymore. Its unfortunate, but we have to look past it.”Head coach Jeff Rohrman was equally puzzled by the Badgers’ performance. “I thought if you took about five minutes of that game out, we were the better team. Yet we are walking away from a 3-0 game that we lost,” said Rohrman. “[MSU] was a good team, and they are going to punish you for those types of mistakes; that is the nature of the Big Ten. We just have to clean those things up a little bit.”The Badgers’ stifling defense was not up to its usual form Sunday, and allowed three goals for only the third time this season. “We are 10 games in, and we have had six shutouts, so [the defense] certainly [has] shown that they can do it, and they have done it,” said Rohrman. “At the end of the day, it’s a matter of the defense reminding themselves that they have done it, and they can do it.”The loss is especially hard to swallow since the Badgers face a tough Northwestern team next Saturday in Evanston, Ill. “I think we have to get a little sharper going forward, clean things up on the defensive side and gear ourselves for Northwestern,” Rohrman said. “They are a team similar to us in terms of how they play as far as the system. It is going to be a good game; it always is with those guys. There is a reason Northwestern is one of the top five teams in the country.”As the team heads onto the road yet again, it is important for the Badgers to learn from their loss and put the memory behind them. “We have bounced back from losses pretty well already this year,” Pearson said. Both Rohrman and the Badger faithful hope that Pearson’s words prove correct, and a win against Northwestern could be the signature win the team needs to get back on track to securing a Big Ten championship this year.