Indiana men’s soccer kicked off its highly anticipated first game of Big Ten Conference play Friday night against undefeated Rutgers, backed by crowded stands and a beautiful Bloomington sunset.
But as dusk set in and the game continued, the Hoosiers’ offense on the pitch revealed more problems than head coach Todd Yeagley expected.
Indiana couldn’t create enough chances against Rutgers to pull off the win, and subsequently, lost its conference opener 2-1. Indiana had eight shots, but only three were on goal.
“We’re not playing as free as we need to play,” Yeagley said. “We’re certainly not playing as together. Our ideas were a little bit disjointed.”
The Scarlet Knights entered the match with a 5-0-1 record and 10 goals on the season. They started the game with a chance early, but a header in the fourth minute was saved to keep the game scoreless.
Play continued without much action from either offense until the 23rd minute, when junior defender Daniel Munie struck a shot past Rutgers junior goalkeeper Oren Asher to put Indiana up 1-0. Munie’s shot marked Indiana’s second shot of the game and its first on goal.
Munie was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following a similar performance against Akron last Friday, where he scored Indiana’s lone goal in the 1-1 draw. Through six games, Indiana defenders have three of the team’s seven goals.
While one factor isn’t holding back good performances, Yeagley said the team has to assess what they do in training and if they have the best partnerships on the field to maximize their attack.
“Personnel-wise, it’s tight in some positions,” he said. “We’re always assessing that — we want good competition. We also want guys to feel good about their role.”
Freshman forward Samuel Sarver’s charges down the field throughout the half were not enough to set up any more shots on goal in the half for Indiana.
Junior forward Victor Bezerra tried to jump start the Indiana attack with a shot on net in the 53rd minute, but Asher’s diving save kept Bezerra from scoring. He has yet to score a goal in four games this season after scoring 12 last year.
Bezerra sent a corner kick close to the net and, later in the game, sent a header off the goal post. The Scarlet Knights defense blocked both.
In the 58th minute, Rutgers freshman forward Nico Rosamilia, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, trickled the ball past Celentano for an equalizer to tie the game 1-1.
Indiana’s offense appeared to lose its momentum following Rutgers’ game-tying goal as the Rutgers defense silenced any more promising attacks.
Junior midfielder Jackson Temple then scored to give the Scarlet Knights a 2-1 lead in the 70th minute, putting more pressure on the Hoosier offense to rebound against the strong Scarlet Knight defense.
Indiana was able to keep some control over play with three shots and one shot on goal in the second half, but Rutgers’s defense drove away Indiana’s chances.
“We’re still a young attack,” Yeagley said. “Victor’s just getting back, and there’s a lot of ‘it’s getting there’. We haven’t had them all together enough and I think once we’re able to do that we’ll get them to have some success.”
Yeagley said his team looked tight during the game, but the personalities of the players may still need to develop for them to really be successful.
With the 2-1 loss, Indiana loses its first conference game of the season while Rutgers remains undefeated.
Indiana will head on the road for its next match to play Northwestern at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Evanston, Illinois.