It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but IU men's soccer's "Quest for Nine" resumed Sunday evening in Bloomington as IU played Xavier at Bill Armstrong Stadium to open the Hoosiers' exhibition schedule.
The two teams first played a private, 45-minute scrimmage that saw Xavier outscore IU 2-0. According to the IU men's soccer Twitter account, the Hoosiers fielded 10 true or redshirt freshmen, a sophomore and a redshirt sophomore during this period.
Then, in the main exhibition game that was open to the public and featured two 45-minute periods, IU used a late goal from freshman midfielder Joe Schmidt to pick up a 1-0 victory.
Due to the first segment, Xavier officially won the match 2-1.
Here are a few key takeaways from the first exhibition game of the season.
1. The defense picked up from where it ended last season
Last season featured arguably the greatest defensive team in IU history, and that defense still looked strong against Xavier. Neither team could find much of an offensive attack in the first 45 minutes, but the Hoosiers kept the Musketeers without a single shot in the first half. Xavier had a handful of corners, but IU’s defense came through every time.
The Musketeers had an opportunity in the 60th minute to take the lead with a breakaway, but junior goalkeeper Sean Caulfield made a fantastic save to keep the match scoreless. There were a lot of different Hoosiers who saw playing time in the match, but the defense remained consistent throughout the match, regardless of who was on the field for IU.
2. A.J. Palazzolo will be a wild card for the Hoosiers
Coming off a season-ending knee injury, Palazzolo couldn’t wait to get back on the field with his team. He played in 10 matches during his freshman season, but redshirted the 2017 season due to the injury. Against Xavier, Palazzolo proved how crucial he’ll be to the Hoosiers' success this season. He started at center back and moved all over the field to fill different positions. There’s a Grant Lillard-sized hole in the lineup this season for IU, and Palazzolo could very well fit it.
“A.J is going to play a lot this year, whether he’s starting at center back or we use him up the field,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “He’s so smart, he makes plays, you can play through him. I thought defensively he was good in the second segment.”
3. Despite a slow start on offense, there are signs of promise
With a different lineup than usual to start the game, the IU offense looked stagnant at times. IU had three shots in the first half of the public scrimmage, but never found a great opportunity to score. The Hoosiers had a chance in the 34th minute to break through, but a header from sophomore forward Thomas Warr went sailing over the goal.
Once the second half of the public scrimmage arrived, the Hoosiers became more aggressive on offense and it paid off. IU had six shots within the next 27 minutes, before Schmidt broke the stalemate with a long-range strike from just outside the penalty box.
“The second segment I thought we were flat, it looked like a preseason body, which was disappointing, but understandable,” Yeagley said. “Just went in and challenged them, corrected a few things that we addressed before the game that we were a little surprised an experienced team didn’t solve, then the third segment we were in full control.”
What's next for the Hoosiers?
IU will be back in action Wednesday night when the Hoosiers travel to Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana, to play No. 6 Louisville for IU's second exhibition game.
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