IU Coach Todd Yeagley labeled it as the game that put IU junior defender Timmy Mehl on the map.
IU senior defender Grant Lillard was unable to play against the Maryland Terrapins in 2016. Lillard picked up a red card in the previous match against the Stanford Cardinal. Yeagley needed someone to fill the void Lillard left.
Mehl happened to be that next man up, even though he had only played in six previous matches at that point. Against the No. 5 team in the country happened to be his time to step up.
“That was his moment to show that all the things we’ve been seeing in training could translate to the game,” Yeagley said. “In a big game — I thought he was very good in that game. That gave us the confidence to bring him into the lineup as the year went on.”
From there, Mehl started to get more time on the pitch. He played as a substitute in various other matches, but moved into the starting lineup Oct. 21, 2016, a 0-0 draw at Wisconsin.
Mehl replaced a captain in former IU defender Derek Creviston. But credit Mehl — he had an opportunity and ran with it.
Mehl was forced into his first start because of Lillard’s absence. He got to play with him at the end of last season and now into 2017. Yeagley said he has liked how the backline has played with the new addition at right back of sophomore Jordan Kleyn. Mehl and Lillard are forming a formidable test for any attack that comes their way, and Mehl had nothing but praise for his center back counterpart.
“Grant is a very good player," Mehl said. "He carries himself very well, and he can lead our team very well. I learned a lot in the defensive back position, and going forward, he’s a great player to play with.”
The Terrapins are a team that Yeagley says are one of a few programs that can reload each and every year. They can bring guys in and use them right away, or develop them and use them when their time comes. Mehl falls into a bit of the latter of that argument at IU. He redshirted his first year, played six matches in his freshman year and played in 17 matches a season ago with 10 starts.
Now, Mehl is a junior with plenty of starts under his belt.
“With the two of them together, it’s really nice,” Yeagley said. “Timmy’s been playing well and that game we’ll remember as Timmy’s game that stamped him on the map for us.”
Mehl can lock down on defense with the best of them. But there is another part of his game that might set him apart from the rest of the pack. When the Hoosiers line up for a free kick, you could see a few different players standing over it. It could be the left foot of junior midfielder Trevor Swartz, or it could be the right foot of Mehl.
In the 5-1 win on Sept. 1 over the San Francisco Dons, the right-footer got a chance for a set piece. It was set 25 yards out just a bit left of the center of the goal. Mehl stepped up and buried it. A curler right over the wall and off the hand of the goalkeeper.
“I like to score, and they put me on free kicks finally,” Mehl said. “It’s an opportunity to score a goal, so I got to do my best.”
That’s one facet.
Another came in the 3-0 win over the South Florida Bulls on Sept. 3. IU junior Andrew Gutman went streaking down the left flank and called for the ball. Mehl recognized it with the ball at his feet about 60 yards away. He let it rip and landed it in stride right on Gutman’s left foot. Gutman called it a “60-yard ping.”
There’s another facet.
And of course his day job is being a defender. There are some traits of Mehl’s game that Yeagley says can be next level and continued by saying it can open teams up with how dynamic of a player he can be.
“Timmy has always been one of the better guys that can strike a ball on our team,” Yeagley said. “Partly with him, his first two years much of his evaluation was done on the offensive side, and he’s turned that to where he knows that defensively he needs to be really good and accountable in all areas. I just like that he’s able to switch his gears and know defensively is where he needs to be most accountable.”
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