The last time the Michigan State Spartans descended on Bloomington, there was a College Cup spot on the line. As it goes, the Hoosiers came away victorious in a match that took penalty kicks to decide.
This time around, there is a little bit less on the line. Indiana has already wrapped up the Big Ten regular season title and the top seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. That doesn’t mean Sunday’s match won’t be another classic between two programs towards the top of the College Soccer landscape.
Last year’s two meetings were both considered draws, while the Hoosiers last beat the Spartans in 2016 in Bloomington by a late goal from Tanner Thompson.
Without further adieu, here’s the tale of the tape on the No. 12 Spartans.
What have you done for me lately?
Michigan State comes into Sunday’s match ranked 12th in the country. However, the month of October has been a bit of a mixed bag for the Spartans. They are 2-2-2 in their last six games and have settled for draws in their last two matches against Michigan and Northwestern.
The month did start off with an impressive 2-0 win at Maryland, but it was followed up with a loss at home vs. Akron and a win, in which they struggled to get, at last-place Ohio State. On the last day of September, Michigan State also lost to Wisconsin. Things definitely won’t get easier for the coach Damon Rensing’s team when they face the No. 2 Hoosiers on the road.
Much like Indiana, the Spartans spread out their goal scoring. They enter Sunday’s match with 11 different goal scorers, including nine who have multiple goals. One of the best attacking duos in the country in Ryan Sierakowski and DeJuan Jones spearhead the Spartans attack. Each has five goals while Sierakowski just edges out Jones with four assists to three.
While it’s Sierakowski and Jones putting the ball in the back of the net, there is a good chance Guiseppe Barone is assisting on those goals. He leads the team with nine assists, good for second in the Big Ten. Barone has also contributed with three goals for himself. Farai Mutatu is the only other player with three or more goals, while the other seven goal scorers all have two or less.
Senior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague has established himself as one of the best keepers in College Soccer. The Walled Lake, Michigan native has a co-defensive Big Ten player of the week honor to his name this season and has been stellar between the pipes for the Spartans. He’s coming off a match vs. Michigan in which he made eight saves, putting him at 51 for the entire season.
Hague sits behind a backline that has allowed just 13 goals in 16 matches this season. Patrick Nielsen, a transfer from Cincinnati, has been a big part for Michigan State’s defense in his first season with the program. He also was a co-defensive Big Ten player of the week this season. Hague, Nielsen and the rest of the Michigan State backline will have their hands full with the Indiana attack on Sunday.
Matchup to Watch
The midfield: The matchup I’m looking at Sunday afternoon will be in the midfield. Who will be able to control the game and dictate the style of play? Both teams have very strong midfields. Indiana and the likes of Frankie Moore and Jeremiah Gutjahr going up against guys like Barone, Michael Miller and Robbie Cort will be very interesting to watch.
Both teams will want to be on the ball often. The past few matches have been gritty affairs in cold weather. The Big Ten always is one of the more physical conferences in the country and that notion should live up to its billing Sunday.
Redemption will absolutely be on Michigan State’s mind Sunday in Bloomington. It’s the first matchup between these two sides since last year’s Elite Eight thriller. The great thing about this year’s matchup is that both sides return many of the same players, which should make for a thrilling affair.
The Hoosiers are playing for an undefeated regular season in the Big Ten while Michigan State is still alive for the two-seed, but could drop all the way down to the five-seed if tiebreakers come into play. It will be interesting to see the lineup’s coach Todd Yeagley institutes for IU. Will he play it conservative with injury risks in mind? We’ll find out Sunday at 4:00p.m.