A goal 41 seconds past kickoff gave the Mexican U-17 National Team an early lead on IU, and the visitors spent the remaining 89 minutes attempting an elaborate game of keep-away. The tactic worked for most of the first half, but IU turned up its physicality and won, 2-1.
Mexico’s Ivan Gutiérez López scored the opening goal with a smooth left-footed finish. The goal was created entirely by pace — López took possession just past midfield and immediately dashed past two IU defenders on his way to the net.
It almost happened too quickly for López’s own good. A still-settling in stats crew originally credited the goal to a teammate, but video review fixed the error by halftime.
The slow start could be attributed to the age gap between the sides. Mexico’s oldest player is 15 months younger than IU’s youngest. Junior midfielder Matt Foldesy said the Hoosiers might have been fooled by their opposition’s youth.
“But once they start passing around you, you’ve got to start playing,” Foldesy said. “A little bit, but they’re definitely worthy opponents.”
IU Coach Todd Yeagley didn’t buy it. In his view, Mexico made up for its youth with experience in professional academies and technical excellence. He said the early goal was a result of a lack of focus, nothing more.
“Yes, we have two or three years older than some of these kids out here, but the equalizer is their technical ability,” Yeagley said. “There’s a couple kids out there tonight that I think are potentially going to be big-time players for the national team.”
IU leveled with a 29th-minute goal from Foldesy and controlled the opening spell of the second half but couldn’t create any real opportunities for a second goal. The next 30 minutes consisted of the two sides trading possession in the midfield without threatening to score.
Then Femi Hollinger-Janzen gave the Hoosiers their winner. The junior forward chested a cross from junior defender Phil Fives off the bottom of the crossbar in the 80th minute.
It was a resilient performance from a team that looked overmatched in the opening minutes. Mexico’s technical and passing ability pulled IU out of its team shape and created spacing problems, but the Hoosiers adjusted and were able to close down more effectively after halftime.
“They’re very technical,” Yeagley said. “If you give them any window, they’re going to get out of it. That’s where the second half was great because they were kicking balls out of bounds. They were kind of panicky.”
The win sees IU close its spring season at 4-1. The Hoosiers have the better part of four months before they’ll take the field again for a competitive match.
Yeagley said he was pleased with his team’s second-half performance, even if the first half wasn’t up to his usual standards. From halftime on, he said, his team’s structure beat Mexico’s individual talent.
“I thought we were the team in control, and that’s against a national team,” Yeagley said. “So there’s a lot of positives.”