For the first time this fall, No. 2 Indiana gets on the road this weekend, heading to South Bend. After picking up two major wins at home with golden goals against Pittsburgh and UCLA, IU heads north to play matches against Denver (0-1-1) and Seattle (1-0-1) in the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament. Indiana opens the tournament Friday afternoon against a Denver team which is receiving votes in the most recent coaches poll. Let’s meet the Pioneers.
Denver enjoyed a wildly successful season last year and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, mainly behind the foot of star forward and MAC Hermann trophy finalist Andre Shinyashiki. Shinyashiki finished last season with 28 goals (the remaining roster accounted for just 14) and 51 for his career. He then went on to be picked No. 5 overall by the Colorado Rapids in the MLS SuperDraft. Denver’s top returning goal scorer is sophomore midfielder Stefan DeLeone. During his freshman campaign last season, he netted three goals. The bulk of the Pioneers’ goal scoring is obviously gone and through one weekend, it appears evident that they’re still trying to figure out who’s going to pick up the reins. Denver scored just one goal in its opening weekend with a goal by junior forward Josh Drack less than a minute into the season opener. The Pios wouldn’t score the rest of the weekend, leaving plenty of questions going into matchups with quality opponents in IU and No. 11 Notre Dame.
Although it has struggled to score goals in the early portion of the schedule, Denver’s defense has allowed the Pioneers to stay in games early on. Led by junior goalkeeper Will Palmquist, who faced 32 shots and made eight saves in the opening weekend, Denver has a stout backline with plenty of experience. Included in that group is 6-foot-4-inch sophomore defender Callum Stretch, whose size poises threats on the set pieces that IU likes to execute on. Along with Lucas Russo and Bailey Heller, Denver has a defense that plays tough and physical, and won’t allow you to bully them around. Indiana has struggled early in the season finishing with attacking chances. Todd Yeagley’s group will likely get a lot of shots off, but will need to execute off both open field runs and set pieces.
— Denver MSoccer (@DU_MSoccer) September 3, 2019
A tough schedule continued
Denver is no stranger to playing tough competition and of course, this weekend is no different. The Pioneers opened the season with games in Seattle against hometown squads in Washington and Seattle University, losing 2-1 to the Huskies and drawing level with Seattle after two overtime periods. Besides this weekend’s tough competition, Denver still has away matches against Stanford, Duke and Pittsburgh on top of its Summit League schedule. Although Denver didn’t get the results it wanted in the opening weekend, the squad has been tested and won’t shy away from anyone. IU will have to play on its toes this weekend and take advantage of all the chances the Hoosiers get.
This weekend gives Indiana two more chances for high-quality non-conference wins to add to its resume. After the departure of its top talent, Denver as a program is still figuring out how to attack the year, but still presents a different and equally difficult challenge for IU. This is the first weekend away for a handful of Indiana’s players, including the multitude of freshmen who stood out in the first two matches of the year. It’s an adjustment, but if IU can handle business this weekend, it will go a long way in proving that the Hoosiers still belong at the top of the nation’s rankings.