On a warm and humid night in South Bend for Indiana men’s soccer’s first match of the season, the Hoosiers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish played to a 1-1 draw.
Notre Dame scored the first goal of the match off of a free kick that was sent into the 18-yard box that found the head of Paddy Burns in the 25th minute. That scoreline would be quickly evened as freshman Collins Oduro connected a few passes on a give-and-go with Sam Sarver that led to a Hoosiers goal in the 28th minute. Both teams had good chances the rest of the way but none fell through.
Here are my three takeaways from Thursday’s draw, where Indiana extended its unbeaten streak against Notre Dame to seven straight matches:
Freshmen Collins Oduro and Alex Barger are going to be game changers this season
With the loss of their leading goal scorer in Ryan Wittenbrink and defender Daniel Munie last season, the Hoosiers had some positions to fill. Talented freshman Collins Oduro out of Bibiani, Ghana, has picked up right where Wittenbrink left off.
Oduro, in just his first collegiate game, was able to get on the score sheet after some nice combination play with Sam Sarver in the midfield that led to a 1-on-1 with Notre Dame keeper Bryan Dowd as he squeezed it past him. His ability to create opportunities and be dynamic with the ball stood out. Whenever he gets hold of the ball, opposing defenses might want to hold their breath as he can get shifty and make defenders miss.
Now shifting to the defensive side of things, Indiana had two big spots to fill on the back line after the departure of Munie and Nyk Sessock. It is safe to say that Barger is gonna fit in pretty well with the backline after he had an incredible performance in his freshman debut. Head coach Todd Yeagley took notice.
“That was one of the better freshman debuts I’ve seen… he was our bright spot,” Yeagley said.
These two freshmen are bound for breakout seasons and they are only one game in.
The game is not over until the final whistle blows
Indiana controlled the majority of the possession early and managed to get some shots off to test the keeper. It was a match that felt like the Hoosiers were out to control, as they were putting in good crosses and getting plenty of opportunities.
At the end of the first half, Indiana outshot the Irish 9-4 with four of those shots being on goal. Switching to the second half, with about 18 minutes to play, Notre Dame began to amp up the pressure on the Hoosiers’ backline which helped the Irish create chances from corner kicks and long throw-ins into the box.
This momentum swing almost allowed Notre Dame to take the lead on a few occasions, including the final play of the game, where the ball was delivered into the box and bounced around for a moment until it was knocked out for a corner. Last season Indiana had a few second half lapses, but on Thursday, the match ended in a draw.
The depth on this team is very underrated
In a match where the weather was humid and in the high 80s it is important to utilize key players on the bench. During this match, Indiana wasn't afraid to use its bench depth against Notre Dame.
Players such as Karsen Henderlong, Luka Bezerra and Quinten Helmer all got their fair share of field time and played a big role. After subbing in for Maouloune Goumballe in the 28th minute, Henderlong wasn't afraid to take defenders one-on-one and show his flashy abilities. The Xavier transfer received a beautiful long ball from Oduro and spun to get it to his dominant right foot in the box to take a shot that just went wide of the target. This is nothing new for Henderlong, as he has shown how talented he can be off the bench when he scored the only goal in the preseason exhibition match against Wright State.
Other players that stood out were senior defender Jansen Miller and freshman midfielder Clay Murador. Murador, getting his first minutes as a Hoosier, helped battle on the wing as he subbed out Sarver. The depth on the bench will play a huge role as the Hoosiers continue on their quest for their ninth national championship.
Indiana will look for its first win of the season on Tuesday, coming back in Bloomington to take on DePaul. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. from Bill Armstrong Stadium.