In 2018, the Indiana midfield was one of the most experienced units on the field.
In the season-ending loss to Maryland, IU Head Coach Todd Yeagley started three senior midfielders, Austin Panchot, Jeremiah Gutjahr and Francesco Moore. All three players appeared in at least 23 games while combining to score 21 points on the season.
Those three have since moved on and Indiana’s midfield will undergo a complete overhaul this season, but the experience and production is still there.
If redshirt junior Spencer Glass starts the season on the backline, IU will have just two returning midfielders that saw the pitch for the Hoosiers last year.
Redshirt junior A.J. Palazzolo is a wild card piece for Indiana this season. He’s a natural defender but has been used all over the pitch by Yeagley during the two previous years he has seen action.
All he does is score big goals!
— Indiana Men’s Soccer (@IndianaMSOC) September 12, 2018
Both Palazzolo and Glass can be interchanged but Palazzolo slots perfectly as a central defensive midfielder and a holding mid. Last season, he had a number of shining moments including a game winner against North Carolina and a massive equalizer against Notre Dame.
He’s the most experienced of the midfielder group and allows IU to play an attacking style while also being able to get back on defense.
During the spring, Indiana had a chance to experiment with a handful of lineups. For the first time ever, the same group that will take the field together this fall got to compete together. Surprising to some, one of the players who thrived in that setting was redshirt sophomore Joe Schmidt. Last season, he appeared in 15 games but played sparingly behind the seniors in front of him.
“It was a great learning experience.”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) April 5, 2019
Schmidt netted two goals in the spring and played well down the flanks, showing a balance of both attack and defense. In IU’s match against Lipscomb, Schmidt’s corner kick set up a header opportunity for junior forward Thomas Warr, who finished the day with a hat trick.
He will likely feature at one of the outside midfield positions, and his speed and athleticism should allow him to cover a lot of the pitch, having a strong effect on matches. Schmidt doesn’t have a ton of time in the big moments but has proved that he should get a chance to start in midfield alongside Palazzolo, with so much of Indiana’s talent from a year ago departed.
After losing all three starters in midfield, Yeagley addressed the position by adding a wealth of young talent. IU added five true freshman midfielders to the roster to go along with two redshirt freshmen that didn’t feature in any matches last season.
Several of those seven players won’t likely get playing time this season, but two players in particular could see early action.
Outside of Palazzolo and Schmidt, IU’s midfield contingent is very young. Redshirt freshman Ben Yeagley and freshman Aidan Morris could both factor into a rotation of midfielders that see the pitch early in the season.
Ben Yeagley, the son of Head Coach Todd Yeagley, is the next in line of the family synonymous with IU glory. Ben redshirted last season, but showed flashes of potential during the spring. While he’s not the biggest player on the field, he’s an incredibly alert player in the midfield who knows how to move in and take advantage of loose balls. He can tackle well and, if nothing else, the last name means something. Success runs in his blood. He’s been around the Indiana soccer program since birth and has the ability to pick the brains of two of the best coaches to ever coach collegiate soccer.
Morris, an incoming freshman, was ranked a four-star recruit coming out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the Columbus Crew Academy. He played with the United States Men’s National Team U-18 team and has trained frequently with the Columbus Crew first team. Last season, Morris was named to 2019 United States Development Academy Central Conference Best XI. He didn’t enroll early, so he’ll get his first taste of IU soccer when fall practice opens. If he impresses, Morris may get the chance to feature in the starting squad when the season opens.
With all three midfield spots open, fall practice and the opening three scrimmages could be telling of who will get the chance to start early in the season.
The midfield was an area where Todd Yeagley experimented a lot in the spring. There is a lot of versatility on the roster which bodes well for a team replacing a lot of productivity.
There’s a strong possibility that Indiana could start with one midfield to begin the year and then rotate as it sees fit. As of now, it seems like Palazzolo will be fit to play the holding midfielder and central defensive midfielder position. If senior Joris Ahlinvi plays forward as projected, then Morris, Ben Yeagley or Schmidt could fill in the remaining two positions.
IU will likely have a pool of four to five players to choose from to fill an expected three midfield spots. Schmidt and Palazzolo have the most collegiate experience, but Ben Yeagley and Morris are both very talented and could surprise.
For a position group where Todd Yeagley has to replace all three starters from last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a rotation of players that feature all four. There will be new faces regardless of who starts for IU, but the production will likely begin to pick up as the season progresses, as Indiana will regardless be expected to compete among the best from opening kick this fall.