Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley entered this season needing to fill the void of former Hoosier striker Mason Toye.
Toye left the team to join Minnesota United after scoring 10 goals in his freshman season. With that in mind, Yeagley expected to replace that production with various individuals. He didn’t expect there to be another 10-goal scorer on his roster, while also not ruling out the possibility.
“We always say it would be great to have a 10-goal scorer…” Yeagley said before the Hoosiers first game of the season. “It’s not out of the question. It might come down more realistically to a lot of five to eights.”
That sentiment came with assertions about the potential of forwards Justin Rennicks and Cory Thomas, who could have come close to that 10-goal mark.
The name that was never mentioned, was Indiana’s eventual leading scorer.
With 11 goals so far this season, Indiana left back Andrew Gutman is doing the unprecedented.
Gutman has reimagined what it means to be a defender, and ultimately proved game after game that he is deserving of the Mac Hermann Trophy.
“To me, he’s the best player in college soccer,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski told The Diamondback after Gutman scored twice against Maryland in October. “He plays left back, but he’s very dangerous going forward. [Indiana] needed him, and he came through.”
Gutman’s 11 goals have only served as a piece to the entire puzzle.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) October 13, 2018
“His movement off the ball is unreal,” Maryland forward Paul Bin told The Diamondback after facing Gutman in October. “I’ve never played a player in the Big Ten as good as him moving off the ball, creating space for other players…He’s just so energetic and it was a tough challenge for me. He really is one of the best college players I’ve seen.”
Gutman’s talent on the ball has not only put him in front of net, but it has also helped him as a facilitator. The senior has tallied together eight assists this season with crosses into the box and low balls down the flanks.
His production puts him at the top in goals, assists, and points, among defenders. Among those that play on the offensive side of the ball, Gutman’s greatest differentiator has been the importance of those stats.
“In my opinion, and I know the kid from Denver (Andre Shinyashiki) is really good he has scored a lot goals, but you know he didn’t score against Maryland, he didn’t score against Virginia,” Big Ten Network Broadcaster Dean Linke said. “Andrew Gutman scores against everybody, and from the left back position. I think he should win the MAC Hermann Trophy. I hope the coaches hang on to their ballots until the quarterfinals. To me, that kid is the best soccer player in the country.”
Seven of Gutman’s 11 goals this season have been game winners, including his nearly “walk-off” winner against Maryland with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.
“Right now he looks like a total product.”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 6, 2018
In addition, seven times this year, Gutman has been the Hoosiers’ first goal scorer of the game, and five times this season Gutman has scored or assisted on the Hoosiers only goal of the match.
Indiana’s left back has been there for the Hoosiers when they have needed him most against some of the toughest competition in the nation.
“If Gutman doesn’t win National Player of the Year I’ll be stunned,” Former Indiana goalkeeper and current Northern Arizona head coach Andre Luciano said via Twitter. “11 goals by a LEFT BACK against the toughest schedule in the country.”
And that truly is the absurdity of it all. Gutman has been the leader for Indiana. He has been the individual the Hoosiers have looked to when they have needed goals all season. And yet, he is a defender first.
“His contributions on both sides of the ball are what help him standout because he is able to help a team that has been one of the best defensive groups in the country in the past four years,” TopDrawerSoccer’s Travis Clark said.
Throughout the season, unlike others in contention for the MAC Hermann Trophy, Gutman has found a way to push forward in the attack while also focusing on his defense. It’s a nearly impossible task that hasn’t seemed to affect him.
“A lot of times when you’ve got a left back that’s going up that much you need cover, and yeah you’ll see every once and a while someone will slide over, but a lot of times you won’t because he has the ability to cover that entire field…and the kid never looks tired,” Linke said.
That is the reason Gutman wasn’t named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He was too busy being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
“We were talking about ‘is Gutman going to offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year or is he somehow going to win midfielder of the year?,’” Indiana midfielder Francesco Moore said. “It seemed like there should just be an award for MVP in general. He won defensive player of the year. He could have easily won offensive player of the year. Just speaks to the talent that guy has.”
That trend continued when Gutman locked down the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Jack Hallahan in the Big Ten Tournament Championship match. It was a performance resulting in Gutman being named the defender of the Tournament.
“Why do I keep winning defensive awards?,” Gutman said.
Gutman’s efforts all season have helped to propel the Hoosiers to the second seed in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a level of team success that almost seems required for any National Player of the Year.
“Team success is a big part of any of those awards,” Yeagley said. “Andrew wants to win first and his accolades are second. He knows if the team does well, he has a better chance. That’s the truth. Most winners of that award have been on teams that made deep runs or have been really consistent throughout their time which Andrew has been.”
Andre Shinyashiki (Denver)
Shinyashiki has put together truly an incredible season. With 28 goals on the season, he leads the nation by a large margin. With that said, he lacks some of the key qualifiers for the award.
-No. 15-seeded Denver was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament; a 2-1 loss to Air Force.
-Shinyashiki was neutralized by some of Denver’s toughest opponents including Maryland and Virginia.
-The highest RPI team in Denver’s conference (Summit League) was Omaha. Omaha finished the season a 75th in the nation with a 7-8-1 record.
Santiago Patino (FIU)
With 12 goals and two assists, Patino showed why he was one of the best in the country, but FIU didn’t make the tournament.
Siad Haji (VCU)
Haji played a vital role for VCU with various contributors leaving the program. He put up five goals 10 assists on the season, but VCU didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.
Tanner Beason (Stanford)
Beason is the best defender on the reining national champion and the Pac-12 defender of the year, but with four goals and three assists so far this season, his numbers don’t match Gutman’s.
Omir Fernandez (Wake Forest)
Fernandez has been the best player on the top ranked team in the nation. With 12 goals and six assists, his numbers are impressive, but also similar to Gutman’s. That comes with knowing that Fernandez plays up top, and Gutman is a defender.
JJ Williams (Kentucky)
Williams has all of the qualifications to win the award. With 18 goals and eight assists, he has carried Kentucky to the three seed in the tournament. It could ultimately come down to him and the Hoosiers’ leading scorer.
In comparison to previous winners of the Mac Hermann Trophy, Gutman matches up in nearly every way. He has had a similar impact, against similar competition, for just as successful of a team as Jon Bakero, Ian Harkes, Jordan Morris, and Leo Stolz.
Gutman has done it all for Indiana and the most underappreciated part of it all has been his impact off the field. That’s what warrants past teammates such as Femi Hollinger-Janzen believing that Gutman is deserving of the award.
“From freshman to senior year, he has turned into a great player and an even better leader,” Hollinger-Janzen said.
It’s a mentality that makes sense knowing Gutman’s development. Gutman has gone from being under recruited to the top of college soccer, and the only thing he cares about is his team.
“My mom talks about it a lot to me…,” Gutman said. “Yeah it would be a great award to win, but I mean, I would rather raise another national championship trophy.”