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COLUMN: Men's soccer is dangerous on set-pieces this season



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Then-junior, now senior midfielder Trevor Swartz takes a free kick against Michigan during the 2017 season at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Swartz assisted senior defender Andrew Gutman in IU's 1-0 victory over No. 18 UConn on Sunday.  Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

Senior midfielder Trevor Swartz set the ball on the corner arc touching the goal line.

The No. 6 Hoosiers had just been awarded a corner kick in the 40th minute against No. 18 UConn. 

Swartz, the in-swinger because of his left-footed bend from the right side, raises his right hand and sends the corner kick to the near post about four yards out from the goal. 

In comes the flying senior defender Andrew Gutman, who powerfully heads the ball into the back of the candy-striped net at Bill Armstrong Stadium. 

The Hoosiers grabbed the 1-0 lead right before the half, and eventually went on to take the match with the same score. 

The corner kick, set-piece scenario was the difference — just as it has been for half of the Hoosiers’ goals this season.

All three have been assisted from the left foot of Trevor Swartz. All three have resulted in IU's three wins in four games. 

August 26 — Cary, North Carolina: IU had a free kick in the 87th minute. Swartz sent it in and the ball found the head of sophomore A.J. Palazzolo to score and knock off the No. 3-ranked Tar Heels, 1-0. 

August 31 — Bloomington: Swartz has a free kick from a few yards outside the box and it finds Gutman’s shoulder, which redirects it into the net. IU defeated No. 22 Dartmouth 1-0. 

September 2 — Bloomington: Well, we all know what happens. 

Anyone who watched the World Cup this summer likely noticed how the crowd seems to get louder and anxious when any team is rewarded a corner kick or free kick somewhat close to the goal. 

It is, in some cases, the best opportunity to score a goal. Teams send eight to 10 players into the box, put the ball into the crowd of players and hope for the best. 

A lot of the times nothing can come of it, but this season IU is dangerous when it comes to these set-piece opportunities.

“Restarts win games,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “We always say that.”

It’s hard to deny that. It's been the constant game-winner in the last three matches. 

Even though Swartz has been the sender in the three goals, IU has more options that are just as capable of putting the ball in the right spot. Sophomore midfielders Jeremiah Gutjahr and Spencer Glass, in addition to Swartz, make up the three players who will most likely be taking the free kicks throughout the season, Yeagley said. 

Palazzolo and Gutman have been the two on the receiving ends of the goals, but bodies like Justin Rennicks, Jack Maher and Timmy Mehl are also big threats to opponents when they make runs into the box. 

Even if there isn’t an instant goal from the set-piece, it can create chaos to lead to a goal, or simply just create momentum for the team. 

In the 80th minute against UConn, IU had three-straight corner kicks that all looked threatening. Despite no goals being scored from the three, it made things difficult for the Huskies to try and mount a late comeback. 

The Hoosiers had nine corner kicks to UConn’s three on Sunday night, which played a big role in IU out-shooting them 10-4. 

Through the first four games, IU has had 22 total corner kicks to its opponents' 13. For fouls, which are the cause of most free kicks, IU has committed just 31 compared to its opponents 60. 

“Our ending spots on our runs have been perfect,” Swartz said. “I’ve been working all summer to put the balls in good spots, and when you practice it a lot it usually works in the game.”

That plays into the many reasons why IU is 3-1 on the season. Mix that with its stiff defense that now has three-straight shutouts, and this could make for another historic year. 

The scouting report for the Hoosiers' offense should read: don’t foul them near the box, and don’t be the last one to touch the ball before it goes out of bounds on your goal line. 

With the pressure IU puts on its opponents … good luck with that.

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