How does one respond after finding out they’ve won 150 matches in their coaching career? Well if you’re Todd Yeagley, you simply respond “Hey!” followed by a slight grin, as he did in a press conference following IU’s match against Northwestern.
For a head collegiate soccer coach that has seemingly experienced it all — one National Championship, three College Cup appearances, six Big Ten Regular Season and Tournament titles — Tuesday night’s milestone win over Northwestern might just serve as another day at the office; one step closer to Indiana’s ultimate goal of Big Ten and National championships.
But to those on the outside looking in, IU’s 3-0 thrashing of Northwestern was perhaps poetic in more ways than one. A dominant win for a dominant program headed by what many consider one of the most dominant head coaches in college soccer history.
“Whistle to whistle I thought we were in control,” Yeagley said.
No matter the amount of congratulatory messages that Yeagley will likely brush past in the coming days — his way of remaining humble and grounded — there’s no sugar-coating the manner in which Yeagley’s 150th win came. In true IU and Yeagley fashion, the Hoosiers used a stifling defensive effort and an opportunistic offense to cruise past the Wildcats and avenge their lone loss of the season.
Ironically, if you were to compare the box scores from IU’s 1-0 loss at Northwestern on Feb. 27 and IU’s win on Tuesday night, they’d look nearly identical — significantly more shots, corner kicks and restarts than the Wildcats. The only difference was Indiana refused to wait around, instead throwing punch after punch after punch from the opening whistle until Northwestern eventually succumbed.
“We just make it hard for teams to get comfortable,” Yeagley said. “… Some of those games I didn’t feel really great after, a couple of the early ones; this one felt good. We played well and deserved the goals we scored, and I thought it was a deserving score at the end of the day.”
IU’s shutout win, which maintained its solo lead atop the Big Ten standings, was only possible because of a complete team effort. Sophomore forward Maouloune Goumballe led the way with an assist and a goal, both coming in the first half, while freshman Nate Ward tallied his first-career goal in the 11th minute and sophomore Herbert Endeley sealed the game shut with a goal in the 51st minute.
From the opening whistle, Indiana’s strategy was clear: attack, attack, attack. And the Hoosiers responded in earnest, firing seven shots and earning four corner kicks in the first 25 minutes of the match.
Unlike the last time IU and Northwestern met, though, the pressure was too much for Northwestern’s backline to alleviate. A cross from Goumballe to Ward allowed the Hoosiers to strike first at 10:49, a header to the far post by Ward that Northwestern goalkeeper Miha Miskovic’s diving body had no chance of blocking.
“Coach told us to get in line, be aggressive, so I was just looking to spin a defender, pick my head up, and I saw Nate in [the box],” Goumballe said. “I was happy to give him a good ball, and I was happy to see Nate get his first goal as well.”
Ward’s goal signaled a Hoosier onslaught that was only just beginning.
Less than 10 minutes later, Goumballe struck again, this time the beneficiary of a well-placed ball inside Northwestern’s goal box. After redshirt senior A.J. Palazzolo’s shot was swatted away by Miskovic, the ball caromed back to Goumballe who tapped the ball past Miskovic to give IU an early, commanding 2-0 lead.
By halftime, Indiana had a stranglehold of any momentum that Northwestern was clinging on to. A 10-1 shot advantage and 7-0 corner-kick advantage for the Hoosiers heading into the break had the Wildcats waist-deep in dangerous waters.
Endeley’s goal just six minutes into the second half eventually submerged the Wildcats for good. The Minnesota native bobbed and weaved his way down the left flank using a combination of dribbles before burying IU’s third and final dagger from just inside the 18-yard box.
“We know if we let Northwestern hang around too long, they would get back in the game” Goumballe said. “So our game plan to put the game away early, and getting the goals early was crucial and holding onto that lead through the end.”
In some ways, IU’s victory didn’t do Yeagley’s accomplishment justice. No ‘Hoosier Army’ to bang on the sideline boards as IU dealt blow after blow to Northwestern. No marching band to belt IU’s fight song into the night sky. And, perhaps the biggest disappointment to some, no spectators to congratulate Yeagley.
In other ways, however, it almost felt right. Yeagley has never been about accolades, and he has reiterated that time and again throughout his coaching career. All the pomp and circumstance that comes with such an indelible feat, Yeagley’s laid-back personality likely doesn’t lend itself to such self-adoration.
But once fans are able to return to Armstrong Stadium and cheer on one of college soccer’s most storied programs, an applause will likely be in order for Yeagley.
Until then, Yeagley field will have to do without the roar of its home crowd. Just Indiana, its opponent, and a historic coach roaming the sidelines.
“It’s definitely different playing with fans,” Yeagley said. “Tonight was the closest I felt it did feel like a fall game, and obviously there was family there, but just playing under the lights, it’s a different feeling.
“We’re making the best of it. The guys love playing and we love competing.”