Indiana men’s soccer has seemingly always been defined by excellence.
With eight National Championships to the program’s name, it’s hard to expect anything different. Nearly since the program’s inception, there has been elite talent at every position on the pitch in Bloomington. With that comes unsurprisingly highly regarded recruiting classes year after year.
That influx of talent season after season is what makes the journey of one of the most electric players in the nation so intriguing.
According to TopDrawerSoccer, Indiana winger Griffin Dorsey was the 18th best player in his recruiting class, Indiana forward Justin Rennicks was 30th, and Indiana forward Thomas Warr was 58th. On the Hoosiers roster, eight players have had some form of Youth USMNT experience.
Among all of that, the most heralded player on the Hoosier roster is the one without any of that.
“Sometimes they just get lost in the shuffle,” the Director of Content for TopDrawerSoccer, Travis Clark said.
According to TopDrawerSoccer, the same player that got lost in shuffle four years ago with only three schools expressing any form of interest in him, is now regarded as the second-best player in the nation.
“I was in the academy, so I played with guys on the national team. I would go on bus trips and they would show me emails from 10 different schools,” Indiana defender Andrew Gutman said. “It’s a little weird seeing high level recruits coming from a guy who had three schools email him.”
The closest connection Gutman ever really had to top-level division one soccer program was his family history. His older brother, father, grandfather, grandmother, and four of his aunts and uncles all attended Indiana. So, when the time came to visit his brother, Phillip, at school, his mother presented him with the idea to reach out to the Indiana coaching staff.
The idea was simple in nature, but Andrew was hesitant to pull the trigger because he didn’t think he was a big enough recruit. That’s at least what he was told.
“A lot of people coming out of high school said I wasn’t going to play at a top division one school,” Gutman said.
Luckily for head coach Todd Yeagley and the Indiana coaching staff, Gutman eventually pushed beyond the hesitancy.
“I actually reached out to them,” said Gutman. “My brother is a year older than me. He was a freshman in college at the time. I actually emailed coach Yeagley and I was like ‘Hey I’m coming down to hang out with my brother. You think we can meet up and talk?’ And I just thought it was going to be a meet and greet. Then he emails me back ‘Here’s the itinerary for your recruiting visit.’ I still have it hung up in my room at home. Gave me a whole recruiting visit. Stayed for two days and then that Sunday night I committed to Indiana.”
Even after the considerably abridged recruiting process, there were no guarantees that Gutman would ever even play for Indiana. Sitting on the bench was a status that Gutman already knew well. It was also a status that he knew how to break free of.
Gutman grew up a natural forward. His eyes were always destined for goal until the first true wakeup call of his career. That came in the form of academy soccer and the Chicago Fire academy program.
“When I first joined the academy, I didn’t really play that much,” Gutman said. “I just rode the bench. So, I decided to put my head down and work.”
When Gutman first joined the Chicago Fire, there was only one position with an opening on the pitch. If he wanted to ever play, he had to completely change his game and move to the defensive side of the field as a left back.
What stood in front of him was a year of learning an entirely new position. A year of never playing, just learning. A transition fueled by difficulty that eventually would come to explain why Gutman is now one of the most versatile players in the nation.
“Now it makes perfect sense,” said Gutman’s former teammate and current New England Revolution forward Femi Hollinger-Janzen after being told about Gutman’s history at the top of the pitch.
In order to learn the craft of playing left back, Gutman sought out the best in the business, and he did it the only way a kid his age knew how.
Gutman modeled his game after Brazilian left back Marcelo.
“When I was a kid I used to watch hours of him on YouTube just dribbling…and a little bit of defending,” joked Gutman.
It was that work and dedication to his craft that propelled him to do what many couldn’t have expected when he arrived at Indiana.
IU men's soccer left back Andrew Gutman tallied a goal and an assist in the 3-0 win over Dartmouth and picked up a standing ovation while exiting the game.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 1, 2018
“He came in and took over for Patrick Doody and I just remember Patrick Doody saying he was excited that he was leaving because he didn’t want Gutman to take his place,” Indiana Assistant Coach Kevin Robson said. “Doody knew someone was coming hard behind him.”
Not only did Gutman take over for Doody, but he excelled according to his teammates.
“He was a pretty exciting player,” Hollinger-Janzen said. “He was someone you could tell as a freshman could make an impact. He was physically able to keep up as a freshman which is a good sign. Skillfully he was there. He obviously had things to work on, but he was an impressive freshman.”
Even with his impressive play to start, the under-recruited freshman still showed signs of being that natural forward at heart.
“He was very aggressive going forward,” Hollinger-Janzen said. “Defensive end wasn’t quite as sound, but you could tell he had those components to become a good defender.”
With those components in mind after his freshman year, Gutman did what he had to in order to become one of the best in college soccer.
“I was a natural forward so I naturally wanted to attack,” Gutman said. “So when I learned how to defend and attack, that was what made me different from everyone else.”
The progress in Gutman’s game that separated him from the rest came as a result of a work ethic that is not only unquestioned, but greatly appreciated by his coaching staff.
“I don’t know if we all thought he could do what he has done,” Yeagley said. “We knew he’d be a really good player for us, but he has been a great example of someone who has just worked really hard and made improvements…We just saw an unbelievable thirst and zest of competitive spirit and great athletic quality…I’d say no one has worked harder at their craft than him and getting him to where he is now as an elite college player…It’s a good example for the rest of the guys.”
“He just looks different physically,” Robson said. “His preparation. His work-rate. Every day in practice it’s great when you have your hardest worker as your best player and that makes your job easier.”
GOAL: In the 21st minute of the match, Andrew Gutman, the 2nd best player in the nation, headed in his first goal of the season and put the Hoosiers in front 1-0. #iums #Q49 pic.twitter.com/BP4MT81MzA
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 1, 2018
Even though Gutman has the ability to make a coach’s job easier, that doesn’t mean Gutman always listens.
“You know when we do passing activities in practice you can tell the weight of his pass, the detail he puts more into what he’s doing in training is second to none,” Robson said. “And he knows, he has gotten some reps with Chicago Fire and he knows the level and how hard it is to make it in MLS, but you can tell that this summer he really focused in. You can just tell he’s fit. Even yesterday we wanted to hold him out of one activity and he wouldn’t let us…We love that. You want your best guys doing that and he’s a great model for the young guys to look at.”
Robson’s assertion about the Chicago Fire may be the most vital piece to the entire puzzle. Along Gutman’s entire journey at Indiana, he has never lost his connection to the academy that fueled his flame.
Gutman spends every summer training with the club that resides only 10 minutes away from his childhood home. That means playing alongside one of the best to ever play the game, Bastian Schweinsteiger.
When asked about it, Gutman acknowledged that during the summer he has no choice other than to raise his game in order to earn the respect of athletes, such as Schweinsteiger.
Now as a senior, Gutman has put it all together. He has rounded out his defensive game and become lethal as a goal scorer with seven goals this past season and three so far in 2018. Ultimately, he has become a player that can do it all, at a position where many can’t.
“Well I tell him he doesn’t need to get goals and assists every game,” Yeagley said. “He doesn’t listen to me sometimes. But no, I always say he’s a defender first. He knows that…he has become an excellent defender…What he brings to us offensively is a weapon.”
Gutman’s versatility as a defender, who leads his team on offense, has facilitated the Hoosiers in turning heads on a national scale.
“It’s very unique,” Clark said. “I wouldn’t say weird. I think that’s part of the reason why he stands out, right. I can’t think of many colleges that I’ve followed over the last 7-8 years, where yeah you know they had Mason Toye, you have Rennicks, you have Griffin Dorsey on the squad, but I feel like if you take Andrew Gutman out, not only does the team suffer defensively, but they probably wouldn’t score or create as many goals which yeah I guess that is weird…and that goes beyond even what shows up on the score sheet. Maybe he doesn’t score a ton of goals, doesn’t influence the game all the time, but you still see how he stretches the field, how he gets forward in space with his off the ball movement.”
Gutman himself, the “offensive defender,” reiterated that weird sentiment.
“Yeah it’s a little weird, but I like it,” Gutman said. “I like playing offense more than defense. I don’t know if coach likes it that much.”
"Right now he looks like a total product."
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 6, 2018
Yeagley may clearly have a preference for defense, but Gutman’s ability to do it all has still earned him praise from the man at the top of the program and many more around him.
“He clearly is one of the best players in college soccer,” Clark said. “Part of it is his ability to, as lame and cliché as it is to boil it down to, it’s his ability to score goals whether that’s from set pieces, the run of play, or creative. He definitely has a good shot at being our player of the year, especially if IU continues to do so well.”
Gutman’s drive on and off the pitch has also earned him praise from teammates from the present and the past.
“Every single year you think, how can that kid get better?” Indiana midfielder Francesco Moore said. “And then he just comes in always ready, always fit, always just improving in some area and right now he looks like a total product.”
“He’s finishing opportunities that maybe he was missing last year,” Gutman’s former teammate and current striker for Louisville FC, Richard Ballard said. “He’s completing the runs that he used to make with maybe a missed pass in the final third or a missed shot in the final third…I think it’s all starting to come together. He’s been a lot more dangerous on set pieces. He’s using that athleticism more than he was to get on balls in the area…He’s perfecting that cut in from the left side onto his right.”
Gutman has done well beyond what anyone has asked of him in his time at Indiana. He has pushed the boundaries of his own abilities and earned all of the praise and attention that has come his way.
Gutman has developed from the kid without much interest, to the bell of the ball. The only question that really remains is why is he still here?
“From a professional perspective, Andrew could have signed pro right away after last year’s college cup and joined the Fire,” Clark said. “There isn’t much left for him to prove unless he goes out and wins a national title.”
When Andrew decided to join Indiana on that special Sunday four years ago, he made a commitment to a program that believed in him when no one else did. Gutman committed to four years of college soccer and committed to becoming a champion. Falling minutes short of that commitment in last year’s College Cup is what fuels the left back now.
“If we won all three championships I think we would have been one of the best IU teams ever,” Gutman said. “Everyone wants to be on one of those teams that is remembered forever. In team meetings sometimes, we will talk about teams from the 80s, teams from the 90s. We will be remembered for the 18 shutouts and the undefeated season, but everyone wants to be remembered for titles. I think about our three championship losses every single day.”
Gutman is the type of player to always wear his heart on his sleeve. With every touch of the ball, you can sense the doubt that surrounded his development, you can sense the work that went into every dribble and every tackle of his career, and you can sense the motivation that drives him to do more than just be a player.
He wants to be special, even if that once seemed impossible, and that is what has led to the soccer player that Indiana fans know today.
“How can you not love Andrew if you come here and watch these games?” Yeagley said. “He’s so fun to watch. He leaves it out there. He loves IU. His family is all IU. And, it means a lot to him. Obviously, he had an opportunity to leave last year, and he wanted to come back and help us win a title…He knows he’ll have the pro opportunities coming to him, he just wants to have a great last year with his teammates.”