Whether it is at right back or in the midfield, IU senior Rece Buckmaster can fill many roles. It’s what makes him irreplaceable.
He doesn’t get on the scoresheet much — he’s only scored twice in his career at IU — but he’s one of the most praised individuals every week.
Indiana has only given up four goals through seven games this season. It’s in part due to Indiana’s back line which returned three of four starters from last year’s squad. For the past three years, Buckmaster has played alongside those same teammates. Every year they seem to get better.
Consistency comes with continuity, and for Buckmaster, it’s what helps him thrive along the right side of the field. Attackers hardly ever get past IU’s senior right back because of the chemistry and comfortability that Buckmaster has grown accustom to during his time at IU.
He doesn’t score a lot of goals, and he doesn’t record many assists. Yet, he’s one of the most important players for an Indiana team that has only fallen once so far this season.
“I always remember when I first saw him play two years ago,” Assistant Coach Danny O’Rourke said. “He was one of the more dynamic players on the team, very versatile. It kind of reminded me of when I played back in my younger days. Rico has all the talent in the world, and he can play in a bunch of different positions. He always has a smile on his face and is probably our most steady player all year long.”
That’s high praise from someone who won the MAC Hermann Trophy in 2004 and led the Hoosiers to national championships in 2003 and 2004. Across the board, there’s nothing but positive comments regarding Buckmaster as a player and person.
On the right side, Buckmaster likes to match up with opposing players in one-on-one situations. When an attacker makes a run along Buckmaster’s side of the pitch, there’s a good chance nothing will come out of it.
Yeagley says I’m one of the best attacking right backs in the country
Defending and putting balls in the box were key elements of Buckmaster’s game that he wanted to improve over the summer with the Chicago Fire academy. It was an opportunity for Buckmaster to gain Major League Soccer experience while focusing on how he could get better.
“I have to work on my crossing,” Buckmaster said. “That’s one of the things the coaches really want me to work on. Just beating guys on the in-line, and taking people on a lot more, especially in one-on-ones. Yeagley says I’m one of the best attacking right backs in the country. He wants me to take on defenders one-on-one so I can cross the ball.”
It was at the beginning of his junior season when others started to notice the level of his game elevate. No one was getting by him in training and he had a different demeanor when he arrived.
Senior midfielder Trevor Swartz was one of the few players to first notice the change in Buckmaster’s game. Swartz said it was the start of his rise to dominance.
“I think it started before last season when he came in for preseason training,” Swartz said. “You could tell he was playing at a different level. He started last year and was lock down at right back for us, and we all knew he was capable of doing that. It’s just the right place right time for him to jump into that position, and he’s probably one of the best defenders in the country.”
The rest of the 2017 season spoke for itself. An undefeated season was led by the best statistical defense in the country that holds the longest shutout streak in program history. It’s a program which has won eight national titles and has an endless list of decorated players.
Buckmaster was a main component to IU’s defensive success. He, along with the rest of the back line, cemented their names in Indiana soccer history.
Buckmaster is one of eight seniors on Indiana’s roster, so leadership hasn’t been an issue. However, his leadership style is a tad different.
His personality fits his profile on the pitch in a way. He’s a man of few words, but when he speaks, he makes them count. His leadership style is similar as well, even if his coaches want him to talk more.
“He’s one of those kids who doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s really funny,” Swartz said. “For leadership, he doesn’t say much, but you can tell every time he comes to training — every time he’s in a game — he’s locked in. I think he leads by example in that sense, he’s not very vocal.”
Communication has and will be heavily emphasized for Buckmaster moving forward, but O’Rourke admits Buckmaster was constantly yelling at his teammates against VCU and Wisconsin. IU only gave up one goal combined in both of those games.
“I was really excited to see Rico get a goal, in particular.”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 8, 2018
Buckmaster credits his time in Chicago over the summer for his improvement with communication with his teammates. And it’s tough to get any better experience than at a MLS academy.
He’s one of those kids who doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s really funny
Communication is vital for a team to be successful, let alone a back line that always has to be in sync. One of the biggest reasons senior defender Andrew Gutman can play far up the pitch and score goals is because Buckmaster fills the vacancy in his spot. When Gutman veers up the field, Buckmaster rotates to the right side of the pitch to cover for his teammate in case of an opposing counter attack.
Gutman is able to run free when he needs to because of the cover Buckmaster gives him. Without that cover, IU is vulnerable. But since the defense is able to rotate at will with seamless transitions, not many teams create solid chances when the opportunity is presented to them.
Buckmaster is to thank for that. It’s one of the reasons why he’s praised so much by his teammates.
There’s not many other players who get praised consistently throughout the season than Buckmaster. Whenever credit is due, it’s given to him.
His name isn’t repeated constantly by Indiana’s public address announcer because he doesn’t score a lot of goals. Off the pitch, though, his name plays like a broken record.
“He’s definitely the best right back in the country, I would say,” Gutman said. “I trained in Chicago with him this summer. He’s a lock down defender, he can get forward. The one or two times Rico does get forward, he creates a lot of chances for us.”
Three years separated his first and second career goals for the Hoosiers. His first came in a game against Butler in 2015, and the second came against VCU just days ago.
“Probably the top right back in the country”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 6, 2018
After the game, both head coach Todd Yeagley and other players had nothing but smiles on their faces when asked about Buckmaster’s goal.
“When we can get around the edge on the left side and get [Buckmaster] in the box, too, both backs are in dangerous positions,” Yeagley said. “He’s so quick and does so much for us defensively, to get rewarded, the guys love him.”
The goal was a sigh of relief for Buckmaster. It had been so long since his last goal, especially since his role includes covering for other teammates.
Getting back on the scoresheet was really nice even though it was 5-0 and it didn’t really matter
He said scoring a goal gives him a different feeling, even to someone who hardly ever gets those opportunities.
“It was special, honestly,” Buckmaster said. “I haven’t scored since freshman year at Butler, so getting back on the scoresheet was really nice even though it was 5-0 and it didn’t really matter. But just getting back and getting that confidence going again will hopefully help me get a couple more goals this season.”
10 regular season games remain on IU’s schedule, which will give Buckmaster more chances to score this season. That also means 10 more chances for Buckmaster to lock down attackers on his side of the field.
Either way, O’Rourke and the Hoosiers know they have a special talent roaming along the right sideline.
“We’re just excited he’s on our team and not a different one.”