Club soccer treats games as must-wins

By Kyle Betts

As the postseason draws near, the Illinois men’s soccer club (9-1-3) is taking a must-win attitude into their final regular season games this weekend.

“These are two must-win games for us,” outside midfielder and senior captain Rickie Partyka said.

“Some good things have happened in the standings for us and we can put ourselves ahead of other teams in the power rankings if we win these games,” he said.

Illinois looks to pass Michigan State and Northwestern in the rankings.

Both teams will be coming to Champaign this weekend to face off with the Illini.

The Spartans upset regional powerhouse Michigan last week, and Illinois can put itself near the top of the standings in the league with a pair of wins Saturday.

“It’s going to be tough games against quality opponents this weekend,” senior midfielder Allen Barton said.

“These games carry a lot of importance for all the teams involved for both league and power rankings,” he said.

Although Partyka said he thinks his team has enough points to guarantee a spot at the regional tournament later this month, Illinois can still get an automatic bid to the national tournament by winning the power rankings.

“We have a chance to win it outright and get an automatic bid to Nationals,” Partyka said. “That’s always our number one goal.”

The team also looks to use these games as an opportunity to improve the club as a whole and focus in on the things that will help the Illini go deep into the postseason.

“We need to improve on dictating the tempo. We can’t afford to come out flat,” Barton said.

“We also need to play as a team with each person knowing and fulfilling their role,” he said.

Playing Michigan State and Northwestern will also prepare the team for the type of soccer they are going to see at the regional tournament.

“The caliber of play is going to be similar to what we’ll see at regional,” Barton said.

“In games like these, the decision-making has to be faster, the margin for error becomes less, and the overall play just becomes quicker,” he said.

The Illini will face Michigan State at 9:00 a.m. and Northwestern at 4:00 p.m. Saturday at the Complex Fields by PAR/FAR.