Despite riding a streak of good form over the last couple of weeks, Indiana men’s soccer picked up its second loss of the season Sunday against now-No. 13 Ohio State to conclude a short two-match road trip.
Unlike their season-opening loss against then-No. 1 Clemson University, the Hoosiers failed to match their ranked opponent’s energy and quality in possession. The 2-1 score line against the Buckeyes was somewhat deceitful, as the Hoosiers generally struggled to move the ball up the field as a unit but found a second wind in the final 15 minutes.
“I don’t think they did anything we couldn’t handle,” head coach Todd Yeagley said Thursday. “We were physically and mentally not locked in, simple as that. A lot of decisions, principles --- things we pride ourselves on and do really well — they just weren’t there.”
After a week of split results against top-25 opponents — Indiana beat then-No. 20 Butler University days before the loss to the Buckeyes — the United Soccer Coaches Poll dropped the Hoosiers just one spot from No. 15 to 16.
Back at home, Indiana is undefeated thus far this season with a 2-0-1 record at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The Hoosiers are looking to extend their 12-match home unbeaten streak, which spans all the way back to last season, when the Michigan State Spartans come to Bloomington for a matchup at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Hoosiers’ Big Ten home opener presents a promising opportunity to bounce back from their recent loss. The Spartans, whose first Big Ten matchup is Friday, didn’t fare as well in nonconference play, going 2-4-1.
Michigan State has played three ranked opponents through its first seven matches. In those contests, the Spartans were outscored 7-3. They also haven’t recorded a single shutout.
Recent struggles aside, it’s been a rarity for the Spartans to get the better of their cream and crimson foes. All-time, the Hoosiers boast a record of 43-8-5 against them. Last season, the Hoosiers extended their current six-match unbeaten streak against the Spartans with a gritty 1-0 victory in East Lansing, Michigan, despite putting together an offensive performance Yeagley said had similarities to that against Ohio State.
“We found a goal after the restart and still won the game, and yet we looked at the game and said, ‘That can’t happen guys,’” Yeagley said about last season’s 1-0 win. “Every year I’ve had one or two games like that, so that’s why I don’t hit the alarm. If you have four, five or six of those games that’s a different issue.”
Though Yeagley said he isn’t concerned about the one outlier, the group must understand what went wrong against the Buckeyes and keep each other accountable to prevent it from becoming commonplace.
“Guys have to recognize and change the pattern,” Yeagley said. “Nobody was bringing their strengths to the table (against Ohio State). You start challenging the group internally. If that’s not changing anything, then you go to the bench.”
Thankfully for the Hoosiers, the bench has stepped up when called upon more often than not. Yeagley alluded to the fact that the team is structured with a stronger sense of depth than in years past. He mentioned that in recent history, the Hoosiers relied on the plentiful goal scoring contributions of legendary alumni such as forwards Victor Bezerra and Will Bruin to guide the way.
“You can’t stop one piece of this team and shut us down,” Yeagley said. “The strength of this team is our balanced ability to find different ways to score. All of our attackers have had much better days than off days.”
Through six matches, Yeagley has been proven right. Seven players have combined for Indiana’s 11 total goals, and six of those goals have come from players who weren’t in the starting lineup in those respective matches.
As far as injuries go, Yeagley said both redshirt senior defender Daniel Munie and redshirt senior goalkeeper Bryant Pratt are day-to-day in their recovery processes. He said both should be available against the Spartans, but may not be needed depending on how the match plays out.
Friday’s matchup will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.