Indiana men’s soccer opened its season with a marquee matchup at the top-ranked team and defending national champion, Clemson. The match lived up to its hype, with five goals total and nonstop action as the Tigers came from behind to beat No. 13 Indiana 3-2 in the battle of men’s soccer bluebloods.
The box score says Indiana had enough offense to win the game considering that the team scored twice and had 13 total shots, but that’s where the cliché quote “don't judge a book by its cover” comes into play.
There were four fortunate breaks for Indiana in this game, two of them coming on the two Hoosier goals and an additional two that could have seen Indiana down to nine men. Here they are, in chronological order:
1’: Just 23 seconds into the match, before everyone can even take their seats, redshirt senior Ben Yeagley takes a gamble and receives a yellow card for a very late challenge. The son of head coach Todd Yeagley caught Clemson’s Hamady Diop on the ankle with his studs up. It could have very well have been a red card, but maybe the fact that it was so early into the match allowed the referee to have some mercy on Yeagley.
“That was tough, that rattled Ben a little bit,” Todd said after the game. Yeagley was unwilling to risk getting sent off in the buildup of Clemson’s second goal, when Mohamed Saye brushed him aside and scored a top-class goal off the outside of his left boot.
6’: Indiana gets its first goal courtesy of sophomore forward Sam Sarver, but a major assist had to be credited to Clemson goalkeeper Trevor Manion, who received a backpass and took a heavy first touch, eventually kicking the ball right to the slide tackling Sarver, who got up and tapped the ball into the empty net. Credit Sarver for the pressure, but Manion gifted Indiana the opening goal of the game.
52’: Entering the break trailing 2-1, the Hoosiers start the second half just as well as they started the first, and get a goal from the penalty spot courtesy of redshirt senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink. Moments prior, sophomore forward Tommy Mihalic was taken down by Ben Erkens, and after a few replays, it seemed the contact was while Mihalic was in the air, inferring that the forward was trying to sell a penalty. While there was doubt about the penalty call, Wittenbrink left no doubt with his spot kick, placing it into the top right corner to tie the game at two.
57’: Moments after the Hoosiers nearly took a 3-2 lead on a free kick, Clemson hits Indiana with another devastating counter-attack, as the ball goes from Manion’s foot to the final third in a flash. Nathan Richmond looks like he is in behind the Indiana back line, but redshirt senior defender Daniel Munie uses his body to win the positioning over Richmond. No foul is called, but if the referee deemed Munie was in the wrong, it would have most likely been an automatic red card for denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity.
Needless to say, Indiana may have been lucky to contend that closely with Clemson. It doesn’t mean, however, that the Hoosiers didn’t have other chances to score. As a matter of fact, they couldn’t put away their best chances and had to rely on the ball bouncing their way to get on the scoreboard. Near the half hour mark, Wittenbrink nearly had a goal in open play as he tried to bend a ball with his right foot toward the corner, but Manion came up big with his left hand. Sarver had two good looks as well in the second half, one being a header and another a shot from just inside the box, but Manion came up with two big saves and did well to collect the ball knowing that there were forwards on the doorstep ready to tap it home.
It’s not the first time Indiana has gotten lucky against an ACC opponent to open its season, as IU trailed twice against Notre Dame late in the 2021 opener before Mihalic scored on the rebound of a missed penalty late in the second half before Yeagley scored a screamer in extra time to beat the Fighting Irish 3-2 via golden goal style — something we will no longer see this season. Yeagley did say the team’s performance Friday is way ahead of where the team was last season.
“This was a much more complete performance on both sides of the ball,” Yeagley said, comparing this season’s opener to last. Yeagley complimented the team on its ability to adapt systematically, given the team played a new 3-4-3 formation in the preseason.
Yeagley also mentioned the team is already looking ahead to Tuesday’s home opener against Portland, and the team morale isn’t too low at all, considering they lost the final two exhibition matches. Don’t worry, the Hoosiers will have plenty more opportunities to knock off ranked opponents this season. Maybe they just weren’t as close to beating Clemson as the box score shows.