Indiana had perhaps its most productive week of the season with a pair of 3-1 wins over Northwestern and Penn State to preserve its undefeated start to the conference slate.
The Hoosiers will step out of Big Ten play Wednesday night when Kentucky comes to Bloomington in a rematch of IU’s worst loss from a season ago.
IU still lacks a ranked win this season, and Kentucky presents them the final chance to do it in the non-conference.
Let’s see how the Kentucky Wildcats stack up in this edition of “Tale of the Tape”.
A strong start
Kentucky is coming off one of its most successful seasons in program history. The Wildcats finished 19-2-1 last season before falling to Maryland in the quarterfinals of last year's NCAA tournament.
Even after losing star forward J.J. Williams, Kentucky has found its stride at the beginning of the season. Kentucky has only lost once this season, a 3-0 defeat at the hands of in-state rival Louisville. To begin conference play, Kentucky drew No. 12 Charlotte away and handled Florida Atlantic at home.
Kentucky, ranked No. 16 in this week's United Soccer Coaches poll, presents IU potentially its strongest challenge of the season. Besides a match against a defensive minded Notre Dame squad, IU hasn’t played a ranked squad the rest of the season.
In its last match against a formidable opponent, IU struggled against the offensive-minded attack from Butler in a 2-1 loss. Kentucky brings the same style of play to Bloomington, but as IU gets back in form with a healthy lineup, IU should be ready for what Kentucky brings at them in Wednesday’s bout.
Powerful offensive attack
Last season, Kentucky was a heavy scoring team, and that has held the same so far this season. In nine matches, Kentucky has netted 15 goals from a number of different sources.
Midfielder Kalil ElMedkhar paces the Wildcats with four goals and three assists for an 11-point tally during the 2019 campaign. Last year he had an 11-goal and 10-assist season playing Robin to J.J. Williams’ Batman.
? Kalil ElMedkhar's third goal of his junior campaign comes off a perfectly placed assist from Jason Reyes, his first of the season. pic.twitter.com/r0vYRXEbIw
— Kentucky Men’s Soccer (@UKMensSoccer) September 25, 2019
He was named to the MAC Hermann trophy watch list at the beginning of the season alongside his teammates, goalkeeper Enrique Facusse and defender Aime Mabika.
The success of ElMedkhar has been no surprise but the breakout of forward Daniel Evans. After a two-goal season as a freshman, Evans has netted three goals and three assists for a nine-point campaign so far this season.
Kentucky likes to net goals in bunches, the equivalent of a strikeout or home run team in baseball. But with Evans and ElMedkhar, the Kentucky offensive attack is as formidable as any in collegiate soccer.
A brief history
IU has simply been dominant over the history of the Indiana-Kentucky rivalry. The Hoosiers have lost just twice, 3-0 last season and again back in 1995.
Other than that, IU has won 25 matches and drawn three with the Wildcats. The dynamic of the two teams has changed over the past years. IU has remained a power inside the college soccer universe whereas Kentucky has turned the tide of its program into a consistent contender.
No matter the sport, Indiana-Kentucky always turns in a great rendition of a rivalry that’s been shaped in basketball but spread to the likes of volleyball and men’s soccer. And nothing different should be expected come Wednesday night at Armstrong Stadium.