Every practice is the same for Indiana midfielder Trevor Swartz.
He goes through the normal practice drills with everyone else. He scrimmages with everyone else. He does whatever anyone else on the team would be expected to do until the conclusion of practice. Then, he gets his own time.
After every practice, Swartz sets himself up with as many balls as he can find and a corner flag. From there, he puts in the extra work. But how much work?
“I don’t know 20 minutes every day, however that multiplies by,” Swartz said.
Swartz’s 20-minute estimation has been a difference maker for Indiana. And most importantly, it’s also just an estimation. An estimation that may be a little too modest.
Week after week, Swartz has set up his routine right in front of the media at practice. Nearly every time he was at that corner flag for much longer than 20 minutes.
At media availability prior to Indiana’s match against VCU, Swartz was sending crosses to defenders Andrew Gutman and Timmy Mehl for nearly 50 minutes after practice. All you could really hear during the entire process were phrases such as, “give me a few more,” and “I can’t end on that one I need one more.”
“It’s funny, just coming over here to talk to you he was wondering if he could get five or six more in and of course we usually let him, but sometimes we have to kick him out of here,” assistant coach Kevin Robson said. “He wants to make a difference and a difference in the score sheet and that’s what separates him.”
Swartz’s work ethic and precision has helped to establish one of Indiana’s biggest keys all season.
Seven of Indiana’s 31 goals this season have come off set pieces. With 23 percent of the team’s goals coming off restarts, the Hoosiers have established a pace that blows away anything seen in the top leagues in the world. Last season in the Premier League, Manchester City remarkably scored 106 goals as the club went on to win the league. Of those 106 goals in 38 games, only 11 percent (12 goals) of them were off set pieces.
GOAL: Andrew Gutman heads in his second goal of the season off a beautiful corner kick from Trevor Swartz in the 41st minute.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 3, 2018
Indiana’s impressive start off restarts has fueled the program all year. But it’s hard to find it surprising with the way in which Swartz and the Hoosiers finished off last season.
On December 1, 2017, Indiana found itself in a place it never had before. After flying through the regular season completely unblemished in regulation, the Hoosiers faced their first deficit of the season against Michigan State in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
With the season on the line in a situation that felt like an eerie unknown, Indiana found comfort in the left foot of Swartz.
In the 60th minute, Swartz subbed into the game. He then sprinted to the opposite side of the field and lined up for a corner. Moments later, Swartz delivered a ball to the near post, and found the back of the net without contact from a single player on either team.
The set piece lifted Indiana out of a foreign place and also established a precedent for what has become so vital for Indiana’s offense.
A week later in the College Cup, Swartz repeated himself. When his team needed him most, he delivered a fizzing cross that was just inches out of the reach of the Tar Heel goalkeeper. The ball landed at the foot of a darting Indiana defender, Andrew Gutman, and the rest was history.
“He’s special on them,” Robson said.
Now with a new man in charge of restarts after the departure of assistant coach Brian Maisonneuve, it’s clear that Indiana has built off of the success of last year’s set pieces.
“Roby took it over this year,” Swartz said. “We have a set play for each set piece whether it’s an attacking wide service, attacking wide corner kick whatever it is. But he draws it up after scouting the opponent and then basically just tells me where to put the ball.”
Prior to every match, Robson spends his time diving into film on the Hoosiers’ upcoming opponent and how they defensively handle set pieces. The objective is always the same, as Robson looks for the tendencies that make every team different. From there he finds the hole to attack.
“We call it a short blanket,” Robson said. “You can’t cover everything on corners and obviously it’s a really dangerous piece of soccer so kinda gotta give to get sometimes. You want to pick up their best strengths as much as you can and take your chance.”
From there Robson’s work isn’t done, as the Hoosiers have effectively made a living on the changes made in-game.
“Going into the game, [Swartz] knows the spot that we want to hit… We like to label them in numbers,” Robson said. “Each spot in the six has a number, a label to it. He knows heading into the game, like ‘Hey we want to hit the two spot or the four spot,’ and that’s what we want to hit in that part of the game. We might call a variation if we maybe want do a short corner, he’ll see and we kinda give him a little signal.”
Part of what has made the Hoosiers so successful in utilizing Robson’s plans all year has been the team’s ability to do it all. Unlike other teams that may be hampered with only one option in the box or by a set piece taker that only has one strong suit, Indiana is filled with players that can execute anything Robson can really think of.
“We can go near post, far post, or in the middle of the zone depending on the matchup,” Swartz said. “Really it can go anywhere, and then you can also play short. I think the most effective is driving the ball near post, but it just depends on the matchups.”
In addition to the location options Robson has in his arsenal, the Hoosiers have found success with multiple different players in the box along with different players sending a ball into the box.
Throughout the season, Indiana set piece takers have looked to Gutman, AJ Palazzolo, Timmy Mehl, and even Jack Maher to get a head or a foot on their services.
The Hoosiers have also pushed every possible button when it comes to who provides that service into the box. Swartz isn’t the only set piece expert on the team as Indiana has confidently utilized midfielders Spencer Glass, Austin Panchot, Jeremiah Gutjar, and defender Timmy Mehl on set pieces.
“Anytime we have Trevor and Spencer, and Jeremiah hitting balls, I feel good that we can make something happen,” head coach Todd Yeagley said.
Robson’s ability to think creatively and treat each set piece differently has put opponents in a nearly impossible position to defend and there is no better example of this than the approach Robson and the Hoosiers took against Maryland.
Indiana took 13 total corners in the match, with each being as unpredictable as the last.
Every Corner vs. Maryland:
- First corner taken by Gutjahr was an in-swinger to the back post. Jack Maher then headed it to the top of the box to Francesco Moore who crossed it to the far post for Gutman. Gutman put in the back of the net, but the goal was called off due to a foul in the box
- Gutjahr sent an in-swinger to the near post for Gutman
- Cory Thomas took a corner immediately and passed it short to Swartz who then crossed it to the near post for Griffin Dorsey
- Gutjahr sent a near post in-swinger to Dorsey
- Swartz passed the corner short to Justin Rennicks who passed it right back. Swartz then crossed it to the middle of the box.
- Swartz sent an in-swinger to the middle of box with everyone crowding keeper
- Panchot sent an in-swinger to near post for Gutman which scored through a dummy by Thomas
- Glass took a quick corner and passed it directly to Thomas at the top of the box for a shot.
- Glass sent an in-swinger to the near post for Palazzolo
- Glass quickly passed it short on the corner to Dorsey. Dorsey gave it right back and Glass sent a ball to Thomas at the top of the box for a shot.
- Swartz sent an in-swinger to the near post for multiple options.
- Panchot sent an in-swinger to the middle of the box for Swartz
- Swartz delivered an out-swinger to the near post for Palazzolo
- Gutjahr took three corners, Swartz took four, Glass took three, Panchot took two, and even Thomas technically had a corner that realistically was more of a pass
- There were eight in-swingers and one out-swinger
- One corner went to the back post, six to the near post, two to the middle of the box, three were taken short, and one went directly to the top of the box
Over the season, Indiana has worked hard to have every option available to them on restarts. The reasoning behind that effort is simple.
“Obviously they win games,” Robson said. “You know we focus on them, we train them, it’s a big part of soccer. You look at the World Cup, upwards of 40 percent of the goals were scored on restarts.”
Thanks to that extra effort, IU is currently riding its best start to Big Ten play since 2002. The only real potential hold back on continued success on restarts would be complacency, but if the end of my conversation with Swartz could tell you anything, that doesn’t seem very likely.
“Are you going to go practice set pieces now?”
“I have to, yeah,” Swartz said with a smile.