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Continuing the legacy: The story of IU men's soccer's 2004 National Championship


IU sophomore Jacob Peterson shields the ball from two University of California at Santa Barbara players during the 2004 NCAA College Cup Final at the StubHub Center, then known as the Home Depot Center, in Carson, California. The Hoosiers defeated UCSB in penalty kicks to win the program's seventh national title. IDS file photo Buy Photos

The IU men's soccer program is one of the most successful in collegiate soccer.

Entering the 2017 season, the Hoosiers have earned eight stars on their badge for eight national championships.

It was former Coach Jerry Yeagley who started the program and got IU to varsity status in 1973. Since then, IU has won more national championships than any other men's college program.

After the Hoosiers won their seventh national championship in 2003, Yeagley stepped down. It was planned before the season and IU's players knew it was coming.

Assistant Coach Mike Freitag was promoted to head coach for the 2004 season and the post-Yeagley era commenced. The Hoosiers returned a lot of players who played integral parts in the previous title, but they still lost important pieces from a season ago.

Despite the turnover on the pitch and on the sideline, IU was able to secure back-to-back national championships with a penalty-shootout win in the title game against the University of California-Santa Barbara. 

Here, in the words of those who played for the Hoosiers, as well as those who coached for them and against them, is the story of the 2004 IU men's soccer season.

Danny O’Rourke, 2004 senior defensive midfielder: “You can’t replace Jerry Yeagley. Everyone nicknames him "The Godfather" and that’s for a reason because he pretty much built the program from scratch and made a dynasty there. I think everything he did spoke for himself, but unless you really, truly met him or was part of the organization, you didn’t understand why they were successful until you met him and then you were like ‘oh, that’s why.’”

Jacob Peterson, Atlanta United forward and 2004 sophomore forward: “We all knew it going in, even when I was recruited in 2002, that Coach Yeagley would be there for one year and then Freitag would take over. At the same time, we had a great coaching staff too, it wasn’t just Freitag.”

Todd Yeagley, current IU head coach and 2004 assistant coach: “It was obviously a team that won it (in 2003), so they were confident going into the year. We lost a few important players, but had a lot coming back. We felt confident. In the regular season, we went mostly on trajectory. There were no major bumps."

Caleb Porter, 2004 IU assistant coach and current Portland Timbers head coach: “I knew following that season losing Coach Yeagley and losing some good players, Ned Grabavoy, it was going to be a challenge, 2004. I think it was a young team, they really came together in the end. We didn’t maybe have the individual stars like some of the teams we had in the past, but that team just had a way finding a way to win games. It says a lot about the culture, the culture of excellence."

The Hoosiers played UCSB twice in 2004. The first match came in mid-September in New Mexico at the Adidas/Crescent Financial Solutions Classic. The Hoosiers lost the game 1-0 in overtime.

Peterson: “I joke around with some of the guys that went to Santa Barbara that I’ve ran into here in the league in MLS, that we dominated them in that first game. We absolutely destroyed them. It was shocking that we lost 1-0.”

Porter: “I remember that we thought we deserved to win, that we were better than them on the day. I remember Coach Freitag making a statement to the media that they will win by ‘hook or crook’ and I know for a fact that they (Santa Barbara) put that up on their billboard.”

O’Rourke: “I fondly remember it because I was watching it from the stands because I had gotten a red card against Santa Barbara.”

Tim Vom Steeg, UCSB head coach (1999-present): “I think they (IU) had a winning streak of 23 or twenty-some games. Very mature team, very experienced team and to be fair, we got our butts kicked in that game. Late in the second half, we took a red card. I think we defended in all fairness probably 80 percent of that game. Coming out of overtime I said ‘you know what, lets take one stab at winning this game.’ I changed our shape. I threw three forwards up the field, and I said ‘lets see if we have one chance to beat them.’ We won and I think Indiana – if you look at that game I think we had no business winning in terms of what was on the field and that’s what really set up the championship game.”

Yeagley: “They were super physical. There were a couple of cards in that game, it got a little out of hand in the regular season. It was out in New Mexico, and we knew they were a good team. I think when we left there we weren’t going, ‘boy, a team you’d expect back in a final.'”

O’Rourke: “We knew they were a physical team and we knew it wasn’t going to be pretty and it wasn’t. I think they probably out-fouled us 100 to 1 that game. It was my role on that team to kind of be the enforcer. I took it upon myself, and I may have been a little too physical, but we knew that’s how their coaching staff was and that’s how the players were and it was effective. The way they played and the way they beat us kind of left a bitter taste in our mouth.”

Kevin Robson, current IU assistant coach and 2004 sophomore midfielder: “Soccer is a funny game sometimes, but the end of it, I’m glad it reversed with us winning in the championship game and them beating us earlier in the year.”

After that match in September, the Hoosiers would lose three more times the rest of the season. In the NCAA Tournament, IU defeated Michigan, Boston College and Tulsa. This earned the Hoosiers a spot in the College Cup in Carson, California. They were joined by UCSB, Duke and Maryland.

UCSB easily defeated Duke 5-0 in one national semifinal, while it took overtime in the other semifinal for IU to defeat Maryland and earn a rematch with UCSB with a national title on the line.

O’Rourke: “We made it to the final four, and you could ask anyone who’s been on an Indiana team in that situation, that we call the final four the ‘Indiana invitational’ because we were there so often. I don’t think there are too many arrogant people that go in there, it’s just kind of the expectation Coach Yeagley and [Freitag] and Caleb and Todd made and we expected to be there every year because we put the hard work in.”

Yeagley: “Early games in the tournament are always tough and we fought through those and kind of rolled the last couple of games heading into the College Cup. Then we ran into a really good Maryland team in the semi and that was a battle. We left everything on the field. Santa Barbara was kind of cruising 3-0 up at half and had their main guys out after 65, 70 minutes.”

O’Rourke: “We went through the ringer on Friday against Maryland. Not to take anything away from Santa Barbara, they got there for a reason, and I think their coach did a fantastic job getting them there. But, the real championship game was against Maryland in that semifinal.”

Peterson: “If you can’t get up for the national championship, then there is something wrong with you. Everybody just knew that regardless of who we were playing, we were able to recover well and quickly. At the end of the day, we had some revenge. We had that added factor that we lost to them earlier in the year. It was something that we outplayed them, we were confident going in, we knew that we were the better team.”

O’Rourke: “Once we got to the final four in California, even though there was another California team that ended up playing, we still were the favorites based upon experience. When you walk into the room and the Hoosiers are there, everyone kind of knows that they are underdogs, at least that’s how we felt.”

Vom Steeg: “I went into that championship game knowing full well we had to play the game differently. That we had to approach it differently, that we had to change our tactics, in order for us to beat Indiana in the final. All of that came off of that first game.”

IU junior Michael Ambersley dribbles past a Maryland player during a 2004 NCAA College Cup semifinal match at the StubHub Center, then known as the Home Depot Center, in Carson, California. The Hoosiers defeated Maryland in overtime to advance to the National Championship match against the University of California at Santa Barbara. IDS file photo Buy Photos

The national championship game was played on Dec. 12, two days after the semifinals. Nearly 13,000 people attended the championship match. With UCSB located just 116 miles from Carson, the Hoosiers faced a pro-UCSB crowd in the title game.

Yeagley: “It was a Gaucho galore down there. So we were very much the away team, which made it a cool atmosphere, but it was Gauchos everywhere.”

Porter: “We scored early, so we got off to a good start, and they (UCSB) came at us in the second half. To win championships, it’s the defense a lot of times and that was certainly the case in that game. We hung on, and we didn’t have much in the tank and they were fresh and that’s a big reason why they came at us.”

Jay Nolly, 2004 IU senior goalkeeper: “They scored late and then we hung on during extra time. They put a lot of pressure on us, but defensively as a team we worked really hard and kept them off the score sheet.”

Yeagley: “Danny O’Rourke had to come out of that game and he’s one of the toughest, fittest guys I’ve ever coached. When those guys have to come off the field, you know how tired everyone else is. That was probably the most physically exhausted I’ve ever seen a team in a final that I’ve been a part of.”

O’Rourke: “No one wanted to go to PK’s, it’s not the most ideal way to end a final, but it may have been the best thing for us because as the game went longer, it was going to be more difficult for us to score because guy’s legs were dead from the previous game. It was surreal.”

IU senior midfielder Danny O’Rourke prepares to make a challenge against a University of California at Santa Barbara player during the 2004 NCAA College Cup Final played at the StubHub Center, then known as the Home Depot Center, in Carson, California. O'Rourke was named an assistant coach for the IU soccer team on Wednesday. IDS file photo Buy Photos

Peterson scored for IU in the 27th minute. UCSB equalized in the 82nd minute. It was a stalemate through overtime, and the game reached penalty kicks to decide the 2004 National Championship.

Before the penalty shootout began, UCSB replaced All-American goalkeeper Dan Kennedy with the taller Kyle Reynish to try and gain an advantage against IU.

Robson: “It was a weird change, and we were a little shocked, but the first penalty, he (Reynish) saved. He did do a nice job, but Jay Nolly was a little bit better. That’s what you need in penalties.”

Peterson: “Kyle and I talk about it. It’s one of those things that, when you’re in the moment, you’re really not thinking about anything else. I know everyone takes penalty kicks differently, but they brought in someone who they felt gave them the best chance to win. It’s not uncommon.”

(Peterson and Reynish are teammates at Atlanta United)

Nolly: “Going back to it, I remember everything very vividly, and I never felt like it was a championship game, it’s just another game that I was playing in. I knew what I had to do."

Entering the fifth round of penalties, the score was tied 2-2. IU converted its penalty kick, while Nolly made the save on UCSB's attempt to win the National Championship for IU.

Nolly: “Then the last one, I think it was their captain just opened it up really easy for me. I read his hips early, so I was going that way the whole time. I remember seeing the ball in the air and I was like ‘we just won the championship.’ I didn’t bother trying to catch it, we were going to win.”

Peterson: “If you see a picture of us running to Jay, we’re all going crazy. I think everyone says that’s the fastest they’ve ever run before. It’s such a good feeling and it’s just amplified when you get to do it with your closest friends and guys that you’ve struggled with and battled through everything all through the season. At the end of the day, we won the game that mattered."

IU senior midfielder Danny O'Rourke hugs former IU Coach Jerry Yeagley after IU defeated the University of California at Santa Barbara in the 2004 NCAA College Cup Final at the StubHub Center, then known as the Home Depot Center, in Carson, California. It was the first time IU won a national title without Yeagley as head coach.                         IDS file photo Buy Photos

Yeagley: “You just see those guys celebrate, there’s nothing like it. Just the pure joy you have and there’s this feeling of complete, and you’ve done something that’s so hard to do. After the dust settles, I remember being in the locker room and just having time to myself and that’s when it hit me like, ‘this is hard to do.’”

Porter: “What’s crazy about it is I look back now and think about it and reflect and think about how amazing it is, when I was in that moment it was, like, expected. I remember actually being upset after the game because I didn’t think we played well. We just found a way to win. I don’t think it was one of the most talented IU teams in history. Obviously, Coach Yeagley will tell you some of the best teams and most talented teams never won championships. Ones that did were really hard and tough and found ways to win games, and it wasn’t always because they had the most talent. I think this team in 2004 was kind of the epitome of that.”

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