Indiana men’s soccer changed its starting lineup for the first time all season prior to Friday’s match, the first conference tilt of the year. Sam Sarver and Collins Oduro swapped places on the attack, and perhaps more notably, Jansen Miller started in place of Hugo Bacharach at the center back position.
Quinten Helmer, Karsen Henderlong and Clay Murador all saw substantial time off the bench, but Indiana’s attack faltered, repeatedly failing to capitalize on attacking chances. Miller had two headers miss the net altogether, Oduro had a well-timed shot sail over the crossbar, and numerous passes were deflected out of harm’s way by the visiting Wisconsin Badgers.
“(We were) trying to find some combinations to get goals,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said after Friday’s 0-0 tie versus Wisconsin.
IU shuffled positions and personnel throughout the contest, but errant shots and timely goalkeeping from Wisconsin's Nate Crockford ensured Indiana did not find the back of the net.
The Hoosiers and Badgers combined for just three shots on goal, with Indiana outshooting the visitors. Crockford was only tested twice, largely because eight of Indiana’s shots completely missed the net.
Indiana may have had more scoring chances if its set pieces were more threatening, but restarts once again proved problematic for the Hoosiers. Numerous players have rotated to take free kicks and corners this season, but Sarver and Helmer largely split the duties on Friday.
“We haven’t been very good on (set pieces),” Yeagley said. “On an out-swinger, you can hit it out of bounds — you have to be careful. I thought that was a little careless on (Sarver’s) part. It was a wasted opportunity.”
Sarver’s squandered chance came in the 61st minute. Indiana intercepted the ensuing goal kick, and the Hoosiers ended up with a corner kick just one minute later. Helmer took it from the near side, playing it short to Sarver, who dribbled along the end line and lost possession of the ball.
It embodied much of how the night had gone: Indiana maintains possession in the attacking third, but either fails to find a crossing chance or has its cross intercepted and cleared away.
Henderlong was fouled near the edge of the 18-yard box later in the second half, leading to a free kick that he opted to shoot directly. Wisconsin sent five players to form a wall halfway between the keeper Crockford and Henderlong, and Henderlong’s free kick went directly into the wall of Badgers, not threatening Crockford whatsoever.
While Henderlong, Sarver and Helmer were unsuccessful on numerous set piece opportunities, the latter created Indiana’s best scoring chances of the game in the final six minutes.
In the 84th minute, Helmer dribbled into the final third with an anxious crowd cheering him on. He crossed to Oduro, who waited comfortably on the left side of the box. Oduro unleashed a curling shot from his right foot which found its way past a leaping Crockford and over the crossbar.
One minute later, Indiana was back on the attack — this time, Helmer had a chance at his second goal of the season. He tried a header from nearly 15 yards out, but Crockford was up to the task, sprawling out to make a diving save that frustrated Indiana players and fans alike.
All hope was not yet lost, though: Indiana had a corner kick on account of Crockford’s save ricocheting out of bounds. Helmer played it in again, and Crockford leapt to snatch the ball out of the air, culling the threat for good.
One final opportunity arose in the last 60 seconds of the match: An Indiana throw-in near the corner was cleared away by the Badgers, and Indiana’s Jack Wagoner was fouled chasing the clearance near midfield. With 30 seconds remaining, the referee signaled for an Indiana free kick.
Patrick McDonald spent a considerable amount of time directing traffic, trying to set up a buzzer-beater with time winding down. As the final 10 seconds ticked away, McDonald’s free kick curled towards the sideline rather than the box, and Indiana was unable to get a shot on goal.
As the horn sounded, all McDonald could do was stand in disbelief.
“We’ve been below average on restarts,” Yeagley said. “If we’re getting the chances and not converting, then OK. Now, we’re not even getting the ball there enough. We had a great opportunity tonight that we couldn’t convert. We’ve got to be able to convert on some of these.”
Six matches in, Indiana has not found a true finisher.
“Ryan Wittenbrink was the guy that just made plays for us last year,” Yeagley said. “Now we’re searching for that player.”
Indiana has been shut out in back-to-back matches, scoring just once in the first two weeks of September. They are now 2-2-2 this season and 0-for-31 on corner kicks.
A non-conference matchup awaits Indiana early next week: In-state foe Butler comes to Bill Armstrong Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. match on Tuesday, with Big Ten play resuming next Friday when the Hoosiers take on Michigan State at 7 p.m. in East Lansing.