Soccer star returns to field after ACL injury in 2012
When Tomislav Zadro tore his ACL in the spring of 2012, there was no guarantee that he would ever see the soccer field again. But, after missing the entire 2012 season, he’s slated to return to the Badgers’ regular season lineup this fall with a love and admiration for the game unmatched by any other point in his career.“[My injury] definitely motivated me more to work harder,” Zadro told The Badger Herald. “It made me want to be so much better and my drive has never been this high so I’m really excited to be back.”“While you hate to see anyone get injured, I’ve seen that injuries have forced players to think about what the game means to them and who they could become,” head coach John Trask said. “I think [Tomo] realized, ‘Wow, my career could be over here pretty quickly unless I’m willing to do X, Y and Z’ for himself personally, and that just enhances our overall team.”Zadro, who transferred to Wisconsin for his junior year after playing two seasons at Illinois Central College, started all 20 of Wisconsin’s regular season games in 2011 and led the team in goals, scoring six, and points, earning 20.“Whenever we needed to go on the attack, we tried to find Zadro,” junior defenseman AJ Cochran said. “Zadro would make things happen for us.”Going on the attack was a major problem for the Badgers last year without the 6-foot-3-inch Toronto native roaming the field. Wisconsin recorded the fewest shots, points, goals, assists and corner kicks in the Big Ten last season.“When I was watching games last year, I would get the feeling that we just weren’t going to score,” Zadro said.“Some of the games we lost by just one goal and we really could have used Tomo in the second halves when we needed someone to score a goal or set up a teammate,” Cochran said. “We needed Tomo.”“We have good attacking players, but what’s a good wide receiver without a quarterback”? Trask asked, putting things in perspective. “I think that all of the players would agree that some of the things that he did [in 2011] for the rest of the players made the overall team function at a way higher level.”How does he make the overall team function at a “way higher lever?” The answer is simple: He demands attention.“[Opposing teams’] tactics have to vary, and all of a sudden the Chris Princes, the Nick Januses and all of our other great players – because people have to key on Tomoslav – become much better,” Trask said.Trask then gave Tomo one of the greatest compliments that any athlete could receive: comparison to the best. “It’s one thing to have Dwyane Wade and LeBron, but then a team has to focus on a Bosh,” Trask said. “We think we had Wade and Bosh [last season] but honestly, Tomo is our LeBron.”The benefits of having Zadro on the pitch have already begun to emerge. In the spring, Zadro returned alongside his teammates, and one could tell that his presence changed the entire culture of this Badgers group.“Everyone brought a different attitude,” Cochran said. “It was almost as if everyone’s confidence just boosted and we ended up going 4-0-2 while not giving up a goal.”“We didn’t play the likes of Indiana in the spring in all honesty,” Trask said. “But we still played some good teams and that helped the guys realize that maybe when we talk about doing something special this year that it isn’t that far-fetched.”All of this high praise and even higher expectations would normally cause an athlete to crumble under the pressure. But, as is the case with his recovery from ACL, Zadro is up to the challenge.“Honestly, I welcome the pressure because it shows that people think well of me,” Zadro said. “It feels great that people expect so much. The most pressure I feel actually comes from myself and the pressure within me. The pressure that I put on myself is sometimes the only thing that I feel.”The beauty with this 2013 Badgers’ squad is that Zadro is not going to be the only player with something to prove. The team is loaded with a 13-man senior class looking to finish careers on a high note.“It definitely is our goal to finish at the top of the Big Ten for season and then hopefully win the Big Ten Tournament,” senior forward Chris Prince said. “With all of these pieces around us, it sets up for a very special fall.”Having 13 seniors on the roster doesn’t just make things better between teammates but also makes the coaching staff’s job a little easier.“As you spend more time together, they understand my quirks and my expectations – I understand their quirks and expectations as well,” Trask said. “When you mesh the two, that’s when you have a chance to do something better than the 11 individuals or the 28 individuals by name. That’s when a team takes on new life.”As for goals for this fall, the NCAA tournament is on his radar, but a deeper run is his real goal. “I’m not guaranteeing anything, but we’re going to have an awesome team this year. I have no doubt about it,” Trask said.As for Zadro’s personal goals for this upcoming season, it’s clear the midfielder isn’t holding back.“I want to become an all-American because why not? It’s my last season so why not try and go out with a bang, right”?