Oct. 5, 2005

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Coming off a win in its Big Ten opener, Ohio State remains on the road Sunday when the Buckeyes travel to East Lansing, Mich., to face defending Big Ten champion Michigan State. With a 2-1 win in overtime at Wisconsin last Sunday, Ohio State improved to 6-4-1 overall, while the Spartans are 3-2-4 overall and 0-1-1 in the Big Ten.

After a stretch of five games in 10 days, the Buckeyes have a week to prepare for Michigan State, which hosts Oakland Wednesday. Ohio State, ranked No. 7 in the Great Lakes Region, is in the midst of a four consecutive road games, which will conclude next Wednesday night at Louisville.

The Buckeyes have won two of the last three games against the Spartans, including last year by a 2-0 score in Columbus on their way to OSU’s Big Ten regular-season co-championship. Michigan State, meanwhile, went 2-4 in the Big Ten during the regular season, but knocked off Wisconsin, Indiana and Northwestern to win the conference tournament and the Big Ten title.

Ohio State’s 2-1 win in overtime at Wisconsin last Sunday marked the Buckeyes’ 12th-consecutive win in their Big Ten opener. The Badgers have been OSU’s opponent in the last four conference openers, while Northwestern provided the opposition eight years prior to that. A win Sunday at Michigan State would mark the third time in the last four years that the Buckeyes won both of their first two Big Ten games.

Ohio State’s win at Wisconsin last Sunday snapped an 0-3-1 skid in their previous four matches and pushed the Buckeyes overall record up to 6-4-1. OSU won five of its first six matches this season, including a 1-0 win over UCLA, as part of one of the best starts in program history. Ohio State has been ranked as high as No. 11 in the country (Sept. 19, College Soccer News).

In the Big Ten, the Buckeyes rank third in goals scored (13) and sixth in goals allowed (12). OSU averages 13.2 shots per game, while holding their opponents to 9.6. OSU goalkeepers own a 1.03 goals-against average, while opponent keepers own a 1.12 GAA. Ohio State had three shutouts among its first five games, but none since.

Ohio State has eight starters and 17 lettermen back from its 2004 squad that went 12-7-2, won a share of the Big Ten regular season title and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes are coached by John Bluem, OSU’s all-time winningest coach.

Live stats via GameTracker for all Ohio State home games and selected away matches will be available at

Ohio State is receiving votes in College Soccer News national poll. The Buckeyes are unranked in the other three polls but check in at No. 7 this week in the NSCAA Great Lakes Regional poll. The Buckeyes have been ranked as high as No. 11 (Sept. 19, College Soccer News) in the nation this season and No. 3 in the region.

The Buckeyes are coming off the busiest portion of their 2005 schedule, a stretch that included five games in 10 days, with three of those contests going to overtime. Three games in that stretch were on the road, including Sept. 23 at Bowling Green (lost, 3-2, 2 ot), Sept. 30 at Akron (lost 3-0) and the Big Ten opener Oct. 2 at Wisconsin (won 2-1, ot). Two matches were at home, including Sept. 25 vs. Kentucky (tied, 1-1) and Sept. 28 vs. Butler (lost 1-0).

Ohio State owns a statistical advantage over its opponents in nearly every category, including goals scored (13 to 12), shots (145 to 106), shots on goal (56 to 48) and corner kicks (56 to 44). Even during the recent 0-3-1 skid, the Buckeyes out-shot their opponent in all four matches and by a 75-47 total count.

Among Big Ten leaders, Kevin Nugent is tied for third in points (11), tied for fourth in goals (4) and assists (3). Xavier Balc is tied with Nugent in the goals department, while Danny Irizarry is tied with Nugent in the assists category. Balc’s two game-winning goals are tied for most in the league. Ray Burse Jr. ranks second in saves (35), tied for third in shutouts (3) and fifth in goals against average (1.02).

Ohio State is coming off a week in which it played three matches, including two on the road in a span of less than 48 hours. The week began with a 1-0 loss in Columbus to Butler, followed by road games at No. 4-ranked Akron Friday night and at Wisconsin Sunday afternoon. OSU dropped a 3-0 decision to the Zips before heading to Madison, where the Buckeyes took a 2-1 victory in overtime.

The back-to-back shutouts marked the first time the Buckeyes had been shut out in consecutive games since the final three games of the 2003 season. Ohio State out-shot Butler, 20-9, and Akron, 13-10, and had more corner kicks in both games, as well, but it was not until Sunday’s match that OSU found the back of the net. Against the Badgers, Kevin Nugent scored the equalizer and Brent Rohrer put away the game-winner in overtime.

Michigan State head coach Joe Baum is in his 28th year with the program and holds a 278-204-41 overall record. MSU is coming off a 12-7-1 overall record in 2004 that included the Big Ten championship and a NCAA tournament first-round appearance. The Spartans return 18 letterwinners, including eight starters. Ryan McMahen is the leading scorer for MSU this season with four goals and five assists. He leads the Big Ten in shots, points and goals. The Spartans hold a 3-2-4 overall record and are 0-1-1 in the Big Ten after losing 2-0 Sunday to Northwestern. The Spartans host Oakland Wednesday to kick off a six-game home stand, their first such home stretch since 1990.

Ohio State owns a 10-20-2 all-time record against Michigan State, but is 2-2 in the last four years. In 2004, the Buckeyes defeated the Spartans 2-0 at home (see later note). Ohio State is 6-3-1 against MSU in Columbus, but the Buckeyes are 2-11-1 in East Lansing and 2-6-0 against the Spartans at neutral sites.

Ohio State sophomore goalkeeper Casey Latchem is from Perrysburg, Ohio, located about 15 miles south of the Michigan border. He played club soccer for the Michigan Wolves and was teammates on that team with Michigan State players Chris Austin, Kenzo Webster, and David Hertel. MSU’s John Pizanis and Jason Tillman played for the Wolves but on an older team, and Louis Stephens was on a younger Wolves team. In addition, Latchem was teammates with Ryan Gochneaur on the Cleveland Force Y League Juniors.

In addition to their Big Ten ties, Ohio State and Michigan State share four other common opponents. The Spartans tied Kentucky, 1-1, in an exhibition match Aug. 19, while OSU tied UK, 1-1, in the regular season Sept. 25. MSU lost to Louisville Sept. 11, while the Buckeyes travel to Louisville Oct. 12. The Spartans host Oakland Wednesday, while the Buckeyes host Oakland Oct. 19. And finally, Michigan State beat Bowling Green, 3-1, Sept. 29 in East Lansing, while BGSU hosted and beat Ohio State, 3-2, in double-overtime Sept. 23.

Ohio State shut out Michigan State in Columbus 2-0 Oct. 10, 2004, to improve its record to 5-4-1 and 2-0 in the Big Ten. Goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. had a career-high nine saves and the shutout, and goals were scored by Kyle Veris and Justin Cook.

“Today we played great for the entire 90 minutes,” Bluem said after the game. “Our consistency and intensity was with us all game. It feels great to shut out a solid Big Ten team in Michigan State – they are a very dangerous team. Our guys should be proud of what they did today.”

Ray Burse Jr. is 6-4-0 in goal for the Buckeyes with a 1.02 goals-against average and 35 saves. He has three shutouts on the season, those coming in his first give games. Casey Latchem has seen action in two games, including a scoreless 65 minutes against Kentucky last Sunday.

The Defense
Ohio State has allowed 12 goals in 11 games this season. Three Buckeyes have started all eight matches in the defense for Ohio State and lead the team in minutes played, including Jim Fisher (1,047 min.), Dustin Kirby (1,037 min.) and Eric Brunner (953 min.). Three others have made multiple starts in the back and have contributed in every game, including Kyle Veris (5 starts, 544 min.), Rob Strachan (7 starts, 750 min.) and Tim Gabel (5 starts, 466 min.). Veris has also started once at forward, while Strachan has started four times in midfield. Brunner (5 pts.) and Veris (3 pts.) rank third and fourth, respectively, on the team in scoring.

The Midfield
As expected, the depth and versatility of Ohio State’s midfield has proven to be one of the strengths of the team this season. In the central midfield, Taylor Korpieski and Brent Rohrer are the mainstays, with Ryan Kustos, Danny Irizarry, Rob Strachan and Geoff Marsh manning the flanks. Rohrer’s 812 minutes leads the group, while Irizarry’s three assists are tied with Nugent for the team-lead.

Kevin Nugent and Xavier Balc rank first and second on the team in scoring with 11 points and 10 points, respectively. Both have scored four goals and own five assists between them. Chief backups have included Reid Traeger, David Bauer, Eric Edwards, and Kyle Veris up from his normal spot in the defense.

Five different Buckeyes have netted game-winning goals this season. Sophomore Xavier Balc has two of them, those coming Sept. 9 as part of his hat trick vs. Coastal Carolina and Sept. 18 vs. UCLA. Senior Kevin Nugent had Ohio State’s first game-winner of the season, that coming against Marquette Sept. 2, while sophomore Eric Brunner had the golden goal in overtime at Furman Sept. 11. Brent Rohrer rounds out the list after scoring the game-winner in overtime against Wisconsin last Sunday.

Ohio State junior defender Dustin Kirby has started all 52 games for the Buckeyes since his arrival at OSU. That total includes all 20 games as a freshman, 21 as a sophomore and the 11 games so far in 2005. Junior defender Jim Fisher owns the next-most consecutive starts with 30. Junior midfielder Brent Rohrer has played in all 52 games since his arrival, but was not in the starting lineup once as a freshman and once as a sophomore.

The Buckeyes are 5-0-0 when they score first … of OSU’s 11 games so far this season, six have gone to overtime … the combined record of OSU’s opponents this season is 80-63-23, which supports OSU’s strong strength of schedule component … Xavier Balc has at least one point in four games this season and OSU is 4-0 in those games … Eric Brunner has at least one point in three games and OSU is 2-0-1 in those games … OSU is 2-0-0 when Jim Fisher has an assist … the Buckeyes have played both of the nation’s two remaining undefeated and untied teams, including No. 1 New Mexico (lost 1-0, ot) and No. 4 Akron (lost 3-0) … OSU played five consecutive road games from Sept. 9-23, and went 4-1-0 in those games … after road games at Michigan State and Louisville (Oct. 12), the Buckeyes play four of their remaining five regular season matches at home.

Ohio State knocked off then-No. 17 UCLA Sept. 18 to win the Penn State/Nike Classic and continue to build on one of its bests starts in program history (see later note). The win over the four-time national champions was the Buckeyes’ fifth victory over a ranked team since the middle of last October when Ohio State began its run to the NCAA `Sweet 16.’

Following the Michigan State match Sunday, the Buckeyes will travel to Louisville Wednesday for a 7 p.m. match-up and will return home to host Big Ten foe Penn State Sunday at 2 p.m.

On the Wisconsin game
“We went into that game 5-4-1, and we told the players that those 10 games are all in the past and that they don’t affect the Big Ten. We try to set as a goal to do well in the Big Ten and set our conference games as the priority. To get a win in your first conference game is big, but to do it on the road and after a tough match Friday night at Akron was fantastic.”

“It was a really gutty performance by our guys. They were so tired and beat up. The game wasn’t an attractive soccer game. It was sort of, `who is going to last the longest.’ It was a hard-fought battle with a lot of hard tackling, like all Big Ten games are. To get a win and end that five-game stretch in 10 days was very important.”

On the rest of the regular season
“We have seven games left, five of which are in the conference. We realize that we are all about doing well in the Big Ten, but it’s critical to do well in your non-conference games, too, in order to get a bid to the NCAA tournament. Our strength of schedule is good, but we have already lost a couple games that we shouldn’t have, so doing well down the stretch is critical. If we finish with 10 wins, with our strength of schedule, that’s going to put us close (to a bid). 11 wins is even better, that’s certainly a goal.”

On the Big Ten
“The conference seems to be very tight this year, especially with Indiana already having a loss and a tie. I’ve seen Penn State play several times and they are a great team even though their record is under .500. They beat Maryland and Indiana. All the teams in the Big Ten are really good teams and Penn State is deservedly getting talked about as a potential NCAA at-large team, and if their record is under .500 it would be the first time that has ever happened.”

On Michigan State
“Michigan State traditionally plays a 3-5-2, but I don’t know much about their personnel, but I do know that it’s always a tough game at Michigan State. We have always had difficulty getting a result at Michigan State and we will need to be at our very best at finishing our chances up there, which plagued us against Bowling Green, Kentucky and Akron.”

Junior midfielder Rob Strachan
On the win against Wisconsin last weekend
“I thought the game went well. We went down a goal but were able to make a come back and played together even though we were tired.”

On facing Michigan State Sunday
“It would be a big win for us this weekend if we can beat Michigan State. It would improve our Big Ten record to 2-0-0 and our overall record to 7-4-1. It would also keep us on the right track to winning the Big Ten.”

Junior defender Dustin Kirby
On capturing their first win in four games (at UW)
“Sunday night was a big win for us. We had lost the past four games, so hopefully this will put us on a winning streak and we will be able to keep our momentum going.”

On the game Sunday
“If we are able to beat Michigan State, it would keep us first in the conference. We need to win the rest of our games to be able to make an NCAA appearance.”

### Go Bucks! ###