On a sticky Thursday night in South Bend, No. 2 Indiana men’s soccer squared off against Notre Dame to begin its 2023 season. The Hoosiers and the Irish played 90 minutes of physical soccer, with both teams trying mightily but failing to grab an edge. Both goals were scored within three minutes of each other in the 1-1 tie at Notre Dame’s Alumni Stadium.
“(These were) some of the most difficult weather conditions I’ve seen,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said after the match. “It’s hot this time of year, but this was about as muggy as (we) could possibly play in.”
At kick-off, the relative humidity was near 70%. When combined with air temperatures near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the conditions bordered on dangerous. Condensation formed on press box windows, the teams took water breaks and substitutes entered the pitch in spades.
The first-half water break, taken in the 24th minute, was a catalyst for both offenses. Fresh out of the stoppage, Notre Dame took a free kick in its attacking half, with the Irish looking to convert after earlier set piece opportunities went awry.
Kumasi, Ghana native KK Baffour sent the ball forward, and Paddy Burns was waiting just shy of the six-yard box. The Irishman’s header leapt over JT Harms and dribbled into the back of the net, punishing Indiana’s keeper for being a bit overeager.
The Hoosiers were quick to respond — just three minutes later, Sam Sarver gained possession of the ball on Indiana’s side of midfield, executing a perfect pass to Bibani, Ghana’s Collins Oduro. The freshman, who made waves and garnered Yeagley’s praise in the preseason, showed why his arrival in Bloomington was so anticipated.
Oduro unleashed a powerful shot from the penalty arc, striking with such force that the ball’s mass and acceleration cared not for the outstretched hand of Notre Dame keeper Bryan Dowd. Much like Burns’ header just moments prior, Oduro’s shot nestled itself softly over the goal line, equalizing the match.
Indiana’s Karsen Henderlong was one of many substitutes to appear in the match, and he had a real chance to give the Hoosiers a 2-1 lead as the first half came to a close. Henderlong had a couple of scoring opportunities, and his shot in the 42nd minute was destined for the back of the net before the veteran keeper, Dowd, made an athletic save while diving to his right.
The second half was much more physical than the first, with Notre Dame’s Kyle Genenbacher picking up the game’s lone yellow card in the 53rd minute after fouling Oduro. Baffour and Brett Bebej also exchanged pleasantries, with Bebej being a bit fortunate to escape with nothing more than a warning after leaping over the back of the Notre Dame midfielder.
The second and final hydration break breathed life into Notre Dame’s attack — the Fighting Irish had multiple shots that threatened Harms in goal, but the veteran netminder took charge after a pair of corner kicks went for naught. The physicality of the match continued to ramp up as the minutes ticked away.
Preseason standout defender Hugo Bacharach was substituted out at the second-half water break and his absence was felt in short order. Fellow senior Jansen Miller took Bacharach’s place, but the Irish offense pressed on approaching the 80th minute, only to be stopped after a foul flipped possession back to Indiana. Try as they might, the Hoosiers could not consistently maintain possession in the closing stages.
If the weather had not already taken it there, the match reached a boiling point in the final two minutes. Notre Dame’s Eno Nto sent Patrick McDonald into the South Bend sod, but as Harms strode forward to take the free kick near his own net, Tommy Mihalic was called for a foul as he tried to gain a positional advantage.
Notre Dame was left with a last-gasp chance at a golden goal. The ball was played to the right of Harms, who made the initial save but left his opposite flank unattended. If not for a pair of well-placed Indiana defenders, the Irish would have taken the lead. Instead, the second-chance shot was blocked out of bounds for a corner kick with less than 30 seconds remaining.
As the near-post corner kick came into play, Nto offered a valiant header, aiming to tuck the ball into the upper corner on Harms’ left. While he may have had the positional advantage, Nto’s attempt missed wide to the right, ending the match in dramatic fashion.
When the dust settled, the two men largely responsible for the final score both came from over 5,000 miles away to deliver key performances for their teams. Baffour and Oduro, both from Ghana, grew up just two hours apart from each other and spoke on the field after the game.
Indiana out-shot Notre Dame 17-9, and perhaps more crucially the Hoosiers’ shots on goal outnumbered the Irish, 5-2. Notre Dame fouled 17 times to Indiana’s 10, but the teams were deadlocked in the “goals” department.
If not for a recent rule change that made regular-season overtime obsolete, Indiana and Notre Dame would have gone into overtime for the second consecutive time in South Bend. For Indiana, this match marks just one chapter in a demanding non-conference slate that includes multiple top-10 opponents.
“On the road, given the result, this will help us,” Yeagley said. “That’s what’s positive. The guys like it. They want the big games. We’ve got to get some wins, which we will, (but) this a good start for this group. We’ll keep moving.”
The Hoosiers’ record after the season opener is 0-0-1. Next on the docket for Indiana is its home opener versus DePaul, which is scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff on Tuesday at Bill Armstrong Stadium, with No. 6 Washington to follow when the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. The DePaul match will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus, and the Washington match will be televised on the Big Ten Network.