For the second time in as many weeks, Indiana competed in a spring exhibition match less than three months removed from the Hoosiers’ crushing College Cup Championship defeat to Syracuse.
After defeating Butler 2-0 last weekend, Indiana traveled to Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana to play Louisville, a team that beat them 3-1 in a preseason exhibition back in August. The Cardinals and Hoosiers shared eight common opponents in the 2022 season, with Louisville beating the likes of Clemson and Evansville, two schools Indiana did not win against.
Indiana dominated 4-0, scoring twice in succession in both halves. But as with any match with no real significance, the scoreline, and the performance as a whole, must be taken with a grain of salt.
Here are my three quick takeaways from Saturday:
Jansen Miller can fill Daniel Munie’s cleats (to a certain extent)
It’s nearly impossible to replace a back-to-back conference defensive player of the year and someone who was drafted 10th overall in the MLS SuperDraft, but Jansen Miller has the size and poise to do it. Munie will go down as one of the best defenders in program history, but he and Miller share similar traits: both big, strong defenders who have the ability to be a threat toward the goal. Miller scored once during the regular season, a header following a corner to tie up the match against Butler, a game Indiana came from behind to win.
Saturday, he scored off a corner, this time on the volley with the right foot. It was by no means a thunderous strike, but with the help of a small deflection or two, he tucked it into the bottom right corner. As a rising senior, Miller has watched and learned from Munie and got ample playing time when the captain was sidelined with a lower-body injury at the beginning of last season. That experience and the presence of Joey Maher next to him will help next season. Maher has not appeared in either spring exhibition.
Sensational set pieces
So much of Indiana’s attack last season was on the counter, with speedy wingers such as Herbert Endeley and Ryan Wittenbrink being able to win free kicks and corners with their pace. Although they don’t have Wittenbrink or Nyk Sessock for those deliveries, IU was able to convert twice on set pieces in the first half. The first was an in-swinger from Tommy Mihalic that saw fellow sophomore Patrick McDonald poke the ball past the goalkeeper’s near post, and the second was the Miller volley off a Seth Stewart cross from the far corner flag.
No Wittenbrink, no Sessock, no problem, for now.
Looking back at last season, there were a number of matches Indiana played well enough to win but instead fell short because it couldn’t convert its “Grade A” chances. While the second half for the most part lacked attempts on goal for either side, in the last five minutes Indiana was gifted two really good opportunities courtesy of mistakes from the Louisville backline.
The first was a bad pass from the goalkeeper which ended up at the feet of Karsen Henderlong just outside the box. The Xavier transfer who was quiet last season buried it into the bottom right corner for IU’s third goal. About two minutes later, McDonald intercepted a pass from the opposing center-back and played Mihalic through. Mihalic took a touch around the goalkeeper, and from a sharp angle slotted it into the empty net to put the icing on the cake. It was somewhat similar to the goal he scored in the waning seconds in the College Cup semifinals against Creighton in terms of the angle, but the degree of difficulty wasn’t as steep.
For what it’s worth, Indiana played well against a team that had five very competitive matches against ranked opponents last season. The scoreline depicted Indiana as much more dominant than it really was, but it’s better to be on the winning side of a 4-0 final score no matter how meaningful the match is.
The Hoosiers next play on April Fools Day against St. Louis in a rematch of the NCAA Tournament Second Round match which saw Indiana come away victorious at Bill Armstrong with a 1-0 scoreline.