Todd Yeagley felt it building. Tick, Tick, Tick.
Spencer Glass felt it coming. Tick, Tick, Tick.
Victor Bezerra felt it happening. Tick, Tick, Tick.
The 1,511 fans at Armstrong Stadium that braved intermittent storms for over two hours felt it dragging. Tick, Tick, Tick.
Late Wednesday night in rain-soaked Bloomington, it was a matter of when, not if.
Surely it was coming late in the first half, right? No? Definitely early in the second half, then? Fine, but there’s no way it doesn’t happen in the first overtime time period, huh?
Tick, Tick, Tick. After 109 minutes, still nothing. Tick, Tick, Tick.
Then, with just 23 seconds remaining: pandemonium. No more ticking, just the screams from crimson-colored jerseys as they dashed across the field toward the opposite sideline to tackle the Hoosier hero.
All Bezerra could do was stand there and wait for the crimson-clad mob to trample him and pile on. All Omaha players could do was crumble to the ground in exhaustion and disappointment, a sea of white jerseys strewn across the field.
It was a scene befitting the occasion as Bezerra and the Hoosiers pulled off a last-second heist, scoring a golden goal in the 110th minute to topple Omaha, 1-0, in double overtime.
“I felt all day that it was coming,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “I felt that the group maybe could smell it a little bit, that there was a sense of urgency but not panic throughout the game.”
For more reasons than one, Indiana’s win was perhaps as crucial as any this season.
While, sure, a draw or loss to a struggling non-conference foe at home would’ve been disastrous, a poor performance leading to a draw or a loss might’ve been the final dagger to sink IU’s confidence to unforeseen levels.
But it didn’t play out that way. Bezerra wouldn’t let it. Glass wouldn’t let it. And the Hoosiers, for nearly two hours worth of match time, surviving missed chance after missed chance, wouldn’t let it.
The end result was sweet for Indiana and its fans, but the circumstances in which it happened, not even Yeagley could’ve scripted it more eloquently.
“It’s the perfect scenario in the end, winning in overtime,” Yeagley said. “I don’t like going to overtime many times, but I felt like this one was really good for our group.”
The perfect scenario was certainly just that — perfect.
It started with the Hoosiers mounting one last attack as time dwindled down and the final whistle was all but ready to be blown.
Glass, the All-American left-back, danced with the ball briefly on the left flank. His neon green cleats flashed under the bright lights of Jerry Yeagley Field with every decisive touch. His head remaining upright as he surveyed his options.
Then, in instant, the ball was gone, floating through the night sky, darting around a sliding Omaha defender, and landing at the feet of the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
All it took was two touches from Bezerra: one to settle down the ball, a second to uncork a laser past the outstretched mitts of Omaha goalkeeper Nathanael Sallah and into the top left corner. Cue the pandemonium.
“That situation I’ve been in so many times that it’s kind of second nature,” Bezerra said. “I know what to do with the ball, I know what the first touch is in order to finish, so [I was] definitely more composed more than anything else.”
— Indiana Men’s Soccer (@IndianaMSOC) October 7, 2021
The slugfest necessary to get to that 110th minute of jubilation, though, took its toll.
Indiana fired off 14 shots throughout the night — four on frame — but had nothing to show for it after 109 minutes.
No matter how many promising balls Glass, Nyk Sessock or Maouloune Goumballe sent into the box, no matter how many well-executed corner kicks and set pieces Indiana took, no matter how many well-timed runs the Hoosiers strung together, it was as if IU couldn’t buy a goal even if they tried.
Perhaps it just wasn’t Indiana’s night, despite possessing the heavy upper-hand across all major statistical categories. From whistle to whistle, heavy downpour or not, the Hoosiers passed the eye test, too.
By all accounts, anything less than a win likely would’ve felt like letdown, given the performance and the perseverance shown.
“I felt our attackers tonight had some better connections,” Yeagley said. “I thought we were more dangerous throughout the game. I felt our backline was connected, I thought our entry balls were good. I thought were was a lot of good elements tonight.”
Now, the good elements have to transfer into the second half of the season for the Hoosiers, because for a team whose struggles have been covered ad nauseum thus far, ending a night with smiling faces, dogpiles and pure elation can go a long way.
Last season, all but two of Indiana’s matches — loss at Northwestern and loss against Marshall in the National Championship — ended with some concoction of the aforementioned.
This season, there’s been far less of that. The celebrating, the flag waving, the roar of Armstrong Stadium.
The opportunity to buck that trend is as good as ever.
“We’re in a good spot, we’re fine,” Yeagley said. “It’s not like we’re starting the season with seven losses and we’ve got to win every game for a chance at something. So, yeah, we’re in a good spot.”
In order to remain in a good spot, though, it’s likely going to take the consistent efforts of Bezerra. Case in point: his rabid, goal-hunting, play-making performance against Omaha.
That’s the Bezerra that Indiana needs.
That’s the Bezerra that the Big Ten fears.
And that’s the Bezerra that college soccer might not have an answer for — not even the final 30 seconds of a double overtime match that many thought was all but over.
“Everybody expects a ton of goals right off the bat, as they should,” Bezerra said. “I’m somebody that brings goals to the table, but this year my goals are very team oriented. I see the crown jewel, the national championship, that’s our focus.”