IU head coach Todd Yeagley gathered his squad in the locker-room at halftime of its match Friday with Pittsburgh for a heart-to-heart conversation.
The message was clear: this isn’t Indiana soccer.
IU was simply dominated in the first half by Pittsburgh’s All-American striker Edward Kizza. His first goal put IU senior defender Jordan Kleyn on the ground. His second came seven seconds later off a corner kick, exposing IU’s backline.
But something clicked during the halftime break. The nerves began to go away and IU bought into the system that Yeagley instituted.
When the second half began, a different Indiana team took the pitch.
“You have to have a shorter memory and we have to have our guys that were playing, play at a higher level from the get-go,” Yeagley said.
IU needed just four minutes to change the entire complexion of the game.
Junior forward Ian Black found freshman forward Josh Penn at the edge of the box and Penn finished in the bottom right corner in the 49th minute. Seven minutes later, Black found the back of the net himself with a header off an assist from sophomore defender Jack Maher.
“Goals change games,” Yeagley said. “As soon as we got that goal, we could sense it. I felt like we were going to get back into this.”
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This game went anything but according to script for Yeagley. He was forced to make lineup adjustments with key players. A yellow card to freshman midfielder Aidan Morris in the first half meant that he had to calm the intensity of his team.
Both teams combined for 33 fouls and four yellow cards in a match that looked more like football than soccer.
But for as unpredictable as the game was, it almost always seemed like Indiana was destined to finish off the comeback it had started at the beginning of the second half. IU had plenty of chances to win it in regulation thanks in part to some amazing crosses from Morris. However, the Hoosiers settled for 20 minutes of extra soccer.
They only needed 13.
Herbert Endeley made sure to thank junior defender A.J. Palazzolo after Endeley’s goal ended Friday night’s game in dramatic fashion.
The only thing that could upscale the freshman forward’s run in the 103rd minute was the ball that Palazzolo played through, leading to a golden goal winner and the final stamp in IU’s 3-2 comeback victory over Pittsburgh.
“There are not many better opportunities to score your first goal for IU then a golden goal winner,” Endeley said. “It was one of the best moments of my life.”
The final 58 minutes of play closely resembled true Indiana soccer. IU played physical and fast. The team made changes to solidify a backline that showed vulnerability in the first half and rotated in fresh legs to keep the ball moving in the midfield.
If anything, it gave IU the sense that nothing is different this year without 10 of its 11 starters from last season. It’s still Indiana soccer.
“Tonight we showed what this program is all about,” Endeley said. “It’s about winning and fighting for each other. It was a great night for all of us.”