It was another day in the office for the Indiana men’s soccer team where once again the defense was the highlight and the offense was not able to capitalize. As a result, IU drew to the Michigan Wolverines 0-0.
This is the fourth time this season that Indiana has been shut out and through nine games IU has only been able to post six goals.
There were not all negatives to look at from the Hoosiers draw, but with some consistent trends of the season and a 3-3-3 record, some have to be mentioned.
The service improvement is slow
Whether it is a ball whipped in from the wing, a free kick or a corner, the services into the box have been one of the weakest points on the season and a keystone reason for the lack of scoring that the Hoosiers have been facing all season long.
“The set pieces were not good enough,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said. “The second half did get better though.”
What Yeagley said rang true throughout the game as the Hoosiers had a handful of chances in the first half that did not even touch an attacker.
In the sixth minute Hugo Bacharach came off his center back line and got knocked down to draw a foul for Indiana in the attacking third. The ball played by junior Sam Sarver went straight into the Michigan back line and set the tone for the game.
In the 32nd minute the Hoosiers had their second corner kick of the half and had been knocking on the door for the past 10, as the ball was in the box multiple times during that stretch. The corner by Sarver was low and near-post where Michigan was easily able to clear it from harm's way.
Even when the ball was played to perfection, the moment was ruined by an untimely offsides with 15 seconds remaining in the first half that negated a would-be goal by Bacharach.
“Hugo just needed to have discipline there…that was really good technique from us,” said Yeagley.
Quality shots (and woodwork)
When the moment was not relying on balls whipped in or set-pieces, Indiana had a tendency to utilize its central midfielders a lot more than in recent games which led to plenty of shots — just none that made a true difference.
“Patty (McDonald) and Jack (Wagoner) were finding their space and moving well to create for us all game,” Yeagley said on behalf of his center-mid tandem which have started every game up to this point.
There were no shortage of chances for Indiana as 19 total shots led to seven that were on goal. Karsen Henderlong (five) and Tommy Mihalic (four) were the frontrunners in strikes as Indiana once again dominated in the shooting category.
“Yeah, we need to finish better,” Yeagley said.
The woodwork certainly came into play, especially in some crucial moments in the second half.
At around the 60th minute Henderlong received a quick ball in the box near the penalty spot on the right side and ripped one toward the net where Michigan keeper Isaiah Goldson made a great save to parry the ball off the post where his defense played cleanup crew to get the ball out of there.
Overall Goldson had a great outing yielding a shutout and saving seven Hoosier shots.
The other chance off frame was Mihalic who was working down the left wing directly after the sequence with Henderlong. The junior winger cut in near the right side of the box and zipped a ball off his right foot which curled and slammed off the top of the cross bar as a flood of groans ran through Bill Armstrong Stadium. Once again a chance had come just short.
Dilemma in the defense
This is a good dilemma to have as for the first time all season Joey Maher, Bacharach and Jansen Miller were on the pitch together and they did not disappoint. With Brett Bebej sidelined with an injury the past two games, IU used a new look for the backline where all four played the full 90 minutes.
“Jansen has been a really big piece for this team, especially his work in the offseason and it’s contagious,” Indiana goalkeeper JT Harms said.
“Yes his preferred position is center back…but he’s hot right now and when you have someone like that who’s in form you can mold them into different positions,” Yeagley said of putting Miller in the right back position as compared to his usual spot in the center.
Alongside Miller, Bacharach played in his second game back from a two-game hiatus of not playing. He picked up right where he left off. The senior transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson once again displayed a tremendous ability to track balls in the air and possess an on-ball skill that very few center backs have.
To reiterate, had he been one step back he would have had the lone goal for the Hoosiers.
“My defenders make it easy for me…that’s the luxury of playing for Indiana,” Harms, who recorded four saves in the draw, said.
Along with Miller and Bacharach, Maher has been arguably the most consistent player on the defense, let alone the team, and freshman Alex Barger continues to impress in his full-back role.
“I thought he defended really well tonight,” Yeagley said.
Overall the Hoosiers dominated possession and controlled the majority of the attack. It was just the final result that will resonate more of a sting moving forward.
It will certainly be a tough challenge in Indiana’s next game as the Hoosiers pack their bags and head to Lexington, Kentucky to take on the Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday, Oct. 3.