It’s the home stretch for the Hoosiers, and IU men’s soccer faces yet another top-10 opponent Tuesday night when it faces No. 8 Louisville on the road.
The matchup against Louisville, in the ACC, marks the first of three consecutive road games for IU, which will also travel to Ohio State and Wisconsin. It also continues the play of two different season, as the Hoosiers like to say, with conference games along with big time opponents from the non-conference.
Although the match against the Cardinals won’t matter in the Big Ten standings, IU Coach Todd Yeagley said everyone in the Big Ten will be pulling for the Hoosiers to get a win Tuesday night. When one conference team puts up a positive result, every other team in the conference benefits from it.
“Louisville is playing great, and obviously it’s a school rival but has become more of a soccer rival over the last five to seven years,” Yeagley said. “A lot of respect for what they’ve done down there. They built a beautiful stadium, and the last couple of years have been really good games, and I expect this year to be another fabulous game.”
Last season, the Hoosiers were able to use an early second half goal against the Cardinals to win at home, 2-1. However, in that game, Louisville didn’t have prolific goal-scoring junior forward Mohamed Thiaw.
Thiaw transferred to Louisville this season after playing his first two seasons at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and leads his club with nine goals. The next best is five different players tied with two goals.
The junior forward has scored six goals in his last six games and is the eighth player with seven or more goals that the Hoosiers have faced this season.
On the offensive side, Yeagley said he was excited for senior forward Richard Ballard to return to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Ballard is tied for the team lead with four goals after tallying just one goal in his first three seasons at IU.
IU received a key starter back Saturday against Penn State when senior defender Billy McConnell earned his first start since going out with an injury against Michigan on Sept. 14.
The return of McConnell now allows sophomore midfielder Rece Buckmaster, who replaced McConnell at right back while injured, to be used off the bench and in his natural position pushing up on the wings instead of having to sit back on defense.
“Billy is as competitive as any player on our team,” Yeagley said. “Defensively, his ability to be effective one v. one, his heading ability, his size, strength and toughness is one of the keys to our team.”
With IU consistently scheduling tough nonconference teams throughout the season, sophomore midfielder Cory Thomas said the high level of competition keeps the Hoosiers on edge.
Knowing that every game reflects IU’s RPI and its position heading into the postseason, the team recognizes the importance of every game.
“I came here to play the best teams,” Thomas said. “Every game you slip up you’re going to lose here, so you always have to bring your A game.”
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