Classes are underway and soccer is officially back in season for Indiana come Friday night.
The Hoosiers kick off their 2019 campaign against Pittsburgh on the new turf at Bill Armstrong Stadium in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. IU has won four straight home openers and will look to make it five in a row as it faces Pittsburgh for the first time ever in men’s soccer.
Here’s the first installment of The HN’s Tale of the Tape for the 2019 season. Meet the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The Past Year
Five-time ACC Coach of The Year Jay Vidovich enters his fourth year in charge, coming to Pitt after a successful tenure with Wake Forest. His Pittsburgh teams are never strangers to playing tough competition. Last season, Pittsburgh faced ten ranked opponents including a 2-0 victory over No. 7 Virginia in the ACC Tournament. The Panthers went 8-10-1 last year, meaning over half of its matches were against ranked squads. Opening the season in Bloomington is always very difficult. IU last dropped points in the home opener in 2014 when it played Georgetown to a 1-1 draw.
Pittsburgh ended the season with competitive matches against Duke, Virginia and Notre Dame. The program returns a lot of talent from a year ago and will once again have to go through the gauntlet that is the ACC. Make no mistake — Pittsburgh will make this a competitive match.
A lot of the success for Pittsburgh this season will ride on the shoulders of junior forward Edward Kizza. After his 15-goal campaign a year ago, he was recently named to the ACC Preseason Watch List, as well as the College Soccer News Preseason Third-Team, alongside IU sophomore defender Jack Maher.
? The Winning Moment ?
— Pitt Men’s Soccer (@Pitt_MSOC) October 6, 2018
Kizza is one of the more dominant players in collegiate soccer, but Pittsburgh relied a lot on him last year — maybe a bit too much. The only returning player that scored more than one goal for the Panthers last year is junior forward Alexander Dexter (13 starts, two goals, five assists in ’18). IU will have to keep a close eye on No. 9 for Pittsburgh as it opens the 2019 campaign.
Pittsburgh rotated between two freshman goalies last season before settling on Johan Penaranda (41 saves, 1.25 GAA in ’18) as the featured keeper between the sticks. Both Penaranda and Alexander Steinbach are back for their sophomore campaigns and both figure to have productive seasons.
Penaranda featured in 17 matches last season and only allowed 21 goals, including back-to-back clean sheets in the ACC Tournament. Steinbach lost the job last season but was still a solid option in the three games he featured. No matter if Penaranda retains the starting gig, or if Steinbach takes it over, Pittsburgh will have a solid keeper when it faces Indiana Friday.
Matchup to Watch
The IU central defense up against Edward Kizza will be a tremendous matchup on opening night. Pittsburgh’s top player and goal scorer will try and break a stout defense led by redshirt junior A.J. Palazzolo, senior Jordan Kleyn and Maher. This is one of IU’s strongest areas on the field. Palazzolo at the holding mid position allows him to use his versatility to track Kizza through the midfield position. Maher and Kleyn as the center-backs is a tough draw for Kizza in the opener.
Pittsburgh is very top heavy on its talent and lacks the depth that Indiana, on the other hand, possesses. It’s the beginning of the season, so it’s of course expected to see to both sides work out some kinks. IU is still trying to get some players worked back in from some injuries in the preseason.
Indiana’s lineup against DePaul in its final exhibition gave us a closer look at how IU head coach Todd Yeagley will align his squad on Friday, but how he moves around players and uses substitutions will also be something to watch as the 2019 season gets underway.