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IU men’s soccer falls to Michigan as Big Ten margins continue to ‘get smaller’

Indiana head men’s soccer coach Todd Yeagley made his way up to the press box in seemingly record time on Friday night. Though IU fell 2-1 in overtime to Michigan — the Hoosiers’ third home loss of the season — Yeagley’s demeanor and words painted a much different picture.

Maybe he had places to be or obligations to fulfill. Or perhaps his mind was wandering, and rather than linger around the locker room or inside IU’s soccer complex, Yeagley just wanted to get away and clear his head as quickly as possible.

For a program whose external expectations this fall teetered on College Cup or bust, a 5-3-1 overall record is seemingly trending toward the latter. Case and point, a squandered 1-0 lead against the Wolverines when all the Hoosiers had to do was just hang on for 23 more minutes.

But in Yeagley’s eyes, he can live with a loss if the effort and performance indicate positive momentum forward.

“We played well today in most phases, honestly,” Yeagley said. “It was a good performance in a lot of ways.”

Maybe that’s the reason he was so eager to march up to the press box for the post-match press conference.

After all, what else is there for a head coach to say when he feels his team left it all out on the field and displayed one of their best all-around performances of the season?

The answer: well, not much.

“If we perform like that, continue to create chances, we’ll be fine,” Yeagley said. “The margins get smaller as we go forward.”

And there’s a case to be made that Indiana’s match-to-match improvement this season is something worth hanging its hat on. Take Friday night, for example.

Sure, the result wasn’t in IU’s favor, but when all was said and done, Indiana outclassed Michigan in nearly every statistical category — shots (IU 14, Michigan 10); shots on goal (IU 8, Michigan 5), fouls (IU 8, Michigan 16), corner kicks (IU 7, Michigan 6).

Perhaps even more important and encouraging, All-American forward Victor Bezerra finally opened his scoring account after being held scoreless for nine-straight matches to begin the season.

The tally came in the 68th minute following a hard tackle on junior forward Herbert Endeley inside the 18-yard box, which prompted a whistle and a penalty-kick signal. Anyone could’ve stepped up to take the shot, but Yeagley only had one person in mind: Bezerra.

“Whether it’s a penalty or a free kick or a great play, it’s important for him to get a goal,” Yeagley said. “We didn’t hesitate, obviously, to put him on that (penalty kick).”

And the decision paid off, for both IU and Bezerra, as he tucked a shot past the outstretched arms of Michigan goalkeeper Hayden Evans and buried the go-ahead goal just inside the left goal post.

The 1-nil lead likely should’ve been the talk of the match after 90 minutes had passed. Ditto, IU’s end-to-end advantage over Michigan.

But the Wolverines had other ideas in mind, namely an 81st-minute goal off a free kick from Evan Rasmussen to the the game, and the golden-goal winner in the 93rd minute from Derick Broche off a throw-in.

All that good work done by the Hoosiers over 80 minutes — poof, gone.

“Our sport can be tough and cruel,” Yeagley said. “It’s tough margins, like I said, and it’s one play that changes the complexion (of the match).”

Even beyond the performance, the result or the final box score, though, Yeagley said leaving the fans with a sense of disappointment is what bothers him most.

“We have such a great fanbase, the students have been awesome, the fans have been great,” Yeagley said. “So you want to reward them, you want them to leave excited… I feel for the fans because they usually leave Armstrong (Stadium) smiling, as we all do, and it’s not easy to drop one.”

But it hasn’t been just one. It’s now three home losses this season, with a conference schedule that isn’t getting any easier moving forward.

Is it a foreshadow of just how large the parity within the Big Ten has gotten? An omen of a league that’s finally catching up to Indiana’s once-dominant ways?

Perhaps it’s still too early to tell, but as Indiana sits following its most recent loss, there’s significant work to be done if the Hoosiers want to make win a fourth-straight Big Ten Double.

However, Yeagley isn’t thinking that far ahead. He’s thinking about the present, and the present dictates that positive results need to come — immediately.

“We’ve gotta get results, we all know that,” Yeagley said. “But if we continue to perform on and off like we’ve been at times this year, we’re not gonna get where we want to go, so we’ve gotta get that piece.”

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