Men’s soccer relies on experience


The men’s soccer team has holes to fill, there’s no question about that.

But there’s enough talent coming back to expect the Cats to avoid a drop-off following their 13-6 (5-3 Conference USA) season.

UK returns sophomore midfielder Matt Lodge, who was selected to the preseason All-Conference USA team after a standout rookie campaign. An attack-minded player, he led the team with six goals last year and also had two assists.

Lodge, who was named to multiple Freshmen All-American teams after the conclusion of last season, scored three game-winning goals last year and will be counted on to find the back of the net just as often this year.

“We think he can be a special player,” UK head coach Ian Collins said. “We’re going to count on him to be a pivotal player on the attacking end. We think he will score a lot of goals.”

The UK offense has proven pieces coming back, but the defense has questions surrounding it. UK will have to find a goalie to take the place of Dan Williams, who started four consecutive years and played every minute of every game for the Cats last year.

Tyler Beadle, Kevin Corby, Joey Peglow and Jonathan Guadarrama are vying to be the new goalkeeper. In UK’s first exhibition match against Dayton on Monday, all four received playing time. Beadle started the game and allowed one goal in 30 minutes and is expected to continue as starter.

“Beadle looks like, at this point, to be the goalkeeper on opening day,” Collins said. “It’s a bit of a question mark, but these guys have been around the program. Even though none of them played in the regular season (last year), we feel comfortable with who we have.”

Junior defender Brad Walker started all 19 games in 2009 and will anchor a defensive line that will be counted on to ease the burden on the untested goalies. The back four also has to replace a departing standout in Barry Rice, who was the first back-to-back All-American in school history and now plays for Major League Soccer club D.C. United.

“Brad’s established himself as one of the best defenders in the country,” Collins said. “He’s very experienced, a good organizer and understands the game very well.”

The conference coaches agreed with Collins, naming Walker to the preseason All-Conference USA team, making UK one of two teams with multiple selections.

“It was a shock to be honest,” Walker said. “I didn’t expect it at all. It’s a great honor to have, and I like knowing that the coaches appreciate what I do.”

The 6-foot-2 Walker is adept at both winning balls in the air with his head and playing with the ball at his feet.

“He’s very technical,” Collins said. “Brad’s good with his feet, and unlike lots of big guys he’s not slow with the ball.”

Despite the loss of two of the most accomplished players in the program’s history, the soccer team expects other players to step in and assume larger roles. Walker said it was important for the young players to not feel the pressure of trying to follow in anyone’s footsteps.

The first exhibition game was an example of that, as two freshmen, Ellis Vienne and Tyler Riggs, scored both of UK’s goals.

“We lost a lot of players, and people think we have a lot of holes,” Collins said. “But I think we quietly will have a lot of good players, especially young guys. I’m looking forward to it.”