After a top-25 loss Friday night to Washington, Indiana went back to work on Labor Day Monday to finish off the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic against Seton Hall. Similar to the home opener last Tuesday against fellow Big East opponent DePaul, Indiana dominated but couldn’t find the breakthrough until the second half, when Sam Sarver’s left-footed strike found the back of the net to secure the 1-0 Indiana victory.
Here are my three takeaways:
Indiana was the more mature team
It’s not the first time Indiana’s opposition has been the more aggressive team, but the Hoosiers did not lose their cool, even with questionable officiating at times. Late challenges, knocks to the head, and even elbows being flung were all seen Monday, leading to multiple VAR reviews and eventually a red card being handed out late on.
It would have been very easy for Indiana to let external factors play a factor considering how frustrating Friday’s loss was, but the Hoosiers kept their noses to the grindstone to pull out their second win of the season. Of the 20 fouls, 12 were against Seton Hall, and despite two yellow cards being issued to Indiana players in the first half, the second 45 was all business, as only one foul was called against the hosts. Teams have frustrated Indiana at times by fouling to slow them down, especially at the beginning of the season, but the Hoosiers were undeterred and found a way through just past the hour mark.
Collins Oduro is Indiana’s chess piece
Chess is all about controlling the middle of the board. For Indiana’s opponents, it’s all about controlling and keeping eyes on freshman Collins Oduro. It’s incredibly rare that a newcomer can play so many positions with his speed, but Oduro can act as a true No. 9 and a winger, showing his versatility.
Head coach Todd Yeagley expressed his pleasant surprise for Oduro’s ability to finish, which allows him to play basically anywhere, keeping opposing backlines on their toes at all times. It allows other dangerous forwards and midfielders to play their own positions while giving Oduro the ability to go 1v1 at any time on the wing, or try and score near the top of the box. Which brings me to my next point…
The lack of quality in the final third has hindered the Hoosiers
Indiana was spoiled last year with the prowess of Ryan Wittenbrink in the final third. Every time he got the ball on his right foot, there was a mutual feeling between both teams that he was going to at least put in on target if it wasn’t blocked. With the departure of his 10 goals and nine assists, Indiana has been looking for that flourishing finisher that can bury chances within the final third.
Although Tommy Mihalic showed signs of that in the preseason with two goals and two assists, nobody else who gets significant playing minutes has flashed their finishing touch. Indiana has been known for its speed with Sarver, Oduro and Maouloune Goumballe to name a few, but other than Sarver’s moment Monday, there hasn’t been a moment that someone has been able to score while finding space around the 18-yard box.
If Indiana wants to contend again for a Big Ten and National Championship, it needs to get other guys the ball. Yeagley has said he feels Mihalic or even someone like Patrick McDonald hasn’t gotten the ball as much as he hoped in the final third, which relates to the fact that Indiana’s deliveries on set pieces have been lacking, something Yeagley knows needs to change. Regardless, the ratio between the amount of chances and entries in the final third and the number of goals scored needs to improve with conference play beginning in less than two weeks.
Indiana has traditionally played its best after losing a match, as was once again able to avoid losing two straight, a streak that goes back to 2013. Indiana will have the week off before traveling out of state for the first time on Friday when the Hoosiers will take on South Florida, looking to build off Monday’s win. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.