After taking another hard dip against a ranked opponent on the road, the IU men’s soccer team looks to get back on track against No. 17 Northwestern at 4 p.m. Sunday.
“Pretty much whether it’s a conference game or non-conference game, everything is of the utmost importance to us right now,” senior midfielder Lee Hagedorn said. “Our season hasn’t gone quite as well as we want it to. Everything that we’re playing right now is a must-win game. It’s do-or-die time for us, especially in the Big Ten.”
The Hoosiers (7-6-1, 2-1) search for answers coming off a 4-0 loss to No. 8 Louisville, IU’s worst defeat of the season.
“Honestly, I don’t think we’re looking at Northwestern right now,” senior back Ofori Sarkodie said. “I think we’re looking at ourselves and what we need to do better as a team and individually. Northwestern is a hard team to beat. They’re an organized team. They always have been. Right now, the focus is on Indiana and what we need to do.”
IU’s focus now turns to its record. For the first time since the Sept. 18 loss to No. 1 Akron, the Hoosiers will have to fight to stay above .500 – and they will be without their leading scorer.
Because of a red card against Louisville for dissent, sophomore forward Will Bruin is disqualified for Sunday’s game. Bruin has six goals on the year.
IU coach Mike Freitag said Bruin’s absence is of bigger concern than whatever Northwestern throws at IU.
“Northwestern – they’re rated above us,” Freitag said. “They’ve got a better record than us. Yeah, I’ve got plenty of concerns. Going into the game without your leading scorer is an even bigger concern.”
The Hoosiers dropped out of the national rankings for the first time all year after their loss to Louisville. Of IU’s six losses, four have been shutouts.
Despite being ranked lower than the Wildcats and having a worse record, Freitag agreed with Sarkodie by saying the only way to repair their problems is for the Hoosiers to worry only about themselves.
“I don’t think that’s as big of a concern as finding ourselves as a team and playing consistently,” he said. “I mean, that’s the No. 1 concern of this team right now – consistency in our play and our effort.”
Although IU currently stands on its second multi-game losing streak of the season, Hagedorn stressed the importance of focusing on the bright spots of what the Hoosiers can do as a collective unit.
“At times when we come out hard and we’re ready to play the game, we really can get some nice patterns of play going,” Hagedorn said. “We get some really good opportunities. That’s one of the positive things we’ve had going on for us. Every once in a while, there will be setbacks.
“We realize we are a good team, but we also have to play together and play hard.”