Two hundred and eighty-eight days ago, after Indiana’s heartbreaking loss to Syracuse in the national championship, Indiana men’s soccer head coach Todd Yeagley said, “There’s not much you can really say or do right now for these guys.”
Agonizing losses have become all too familiar as of late with college soccer’s premier program. In 2023, Indiana being unable to win matches it dominates has become a common trend, and that continued Tuesday night in Indiana’s 0-0 draw against Michigan.
Although the two results are completely different, Yeagley’s message Tuesday was quite similar.
“You play like that you'll win games,” Yeagley said. “I mean, there's not much more you can say because it's the truth.”
Indiana hoped to snap a two-match winless streak against the Wolverines, and after waiting an extra half hour due to a rain delay, the Hoosiers will have to wait at least another few months before potentially getting another shot at Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.
The torrential downpour put the match in doubt, but there was no denying Indiana was the better team once the match kicked off. Indiana outshot Michigan 19-5, including 13-1 in the second half. But for the fourth time in nine games, the Hoosiers failed to put the ball in the back of the net.
A reason for that was Indiana’s subpar set pieces, a massive difference from last season.
“We missed our targets for all four [second-half] corners,” Yeagley said. “So that was disappointing. We've been working hard on that.”
Indiana’s best chance on a corner came just before the half-hour mark, when Sam Sarver swung a ball in that found the head of Joey Maher but just went over the crossbar.
Although the restarts couldn’t kickstart the offense, Indiana still had golden opportunities to put multiple goals past Michigan goalkeeper Isaiah Goldson.
The Hoosiers hit the woodwork twice in quick succession at the hour mark as Karsen Henderlong’s shot from inside the box was deflected onto the post and then Tommy Mihalic curled a ball that was guided by Goldson onto the crossbar. Both left the crowd stunned as neither Indiana forward was able to notch his first goal of the campaign.
“I mean, we're right there, right there and it's the times you almost got to take a step back and laugh and think you know, it's a game of inches and if it falls the other way, it's a completely different season so far,” goalkeeper JT Harms said of the encounter.
While the offense was yet again unable to come up with a goal, the defense continued to impress, beginning with Harms. The Duke transfer was nothing short of stellar again in the four shots on goal he faced, brushing aside all of them. The defenders in front of him may have looked different with Brett Bebej injured, but the combination of Jansen Miller, Hugo Bacharach, Maher and Alex Barger made his job look easy, per usual.
“It's 11 guys who defend on the field so we're pretty confident that we could put anyone in the backline and they know what is expected from them,” Harms said. “As you see, someone picks up a knock or we need a different look, guys are ready to come in when their name is called.”
Now nine matches into the season, Indiana has only scored six times, has just three different goal scorers and even with all its set pieces hasn’t capitalized on one. The advanced metrics would tell you Indiana might be in deep trouble to extend its lengthy NCAA Tournament streak.
But Yeagley made it clear he is not worried, does not look at the RPI and knows if Indiana continues to play at the level it did Tuesday, the results will turn in the right direction. Indiana will travel to Lexington next Tuesday to take on Kentucky, another team that has disappointed so far this season. The Wildcats beat Indiana 3-0 at Bill Armstrong Stadium in 2022, although just like Tuesday, Yeagley emphasized the scoreboard did not tell the entire story that night.
Next week, Indiana hopes the scoreboard can tell a winning story when the Hoosiers and Wildcats kick off at 7 p.m. from Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex.