David met Goliath on Thursday night at Bill Armstrong Stadium when D-III Trine University came to Bloomington to attempt an upset against Indiana men’s soccer. There would be no biblical ending, however, as the Hoosiers coasted past the Thunder 3-0.
The two sides clashed for the first time last season, a match in which Indiana notched eight goals in the first half en route to a 9-0 victory. The Hoosiers started much slower on Thursday night, seemingly surprised by the visitors’ pace and physicality.
Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley started the match without the bulk of his regular starters, instead opting to give the reserves some extended playing time. It appeared to take some time for the largely young and inexperienced lineup to settle in.
The Thunder imposed itself early on, nearly breaking the deadlock in the ninth minute. After some quick build-up, Trine freshman midfielder Francesco Mazzei fired a low blast that forced a diving stop from Indiana redshirt junior goalkeeper Bryant Pratt.
Despite the relatively unassuming score line, head coach Yeagley wasn’t concerned with a lack of goals.
“Tonight, I thought it was really good that it was actually a bit tighter,” Yeagley said after the match. “Script-wise, it was actually just fine. We didn’t need six, seven goals. When you’re six, seven up, you can kind of let loose a little bit, and they couldn’t tonight.”
Shortly after the scare, the Hoosiers took control. Freshman forward Luka Bezerra — younger brother of former Indiana star and current Chicago Fire FC forward Victor Bezerra — was heavily involved in the attacking action early on, looking very comfortable in his first collegiate start.
In the 21st minute, after a cross from Indiana junior defender Lukas Hummel took a deflection, Bezerra found himself nearly all alone as he trotted toward the bouncing ball. He struck a half-volley with impressive power and slotted the ball directly into the top corner for his first goal in an Indiana uniform.
“He’s been playing well in training in the last month. We did say to him a couple games ago ‘be ready,’” Yeagley said. “You can see he’s a gamer. When the lights go on some guys elevate, some get a little tight and timid — he rose to it.”
A little over 10 minutes later, Bezerra was a threat yet again. After a through ball from Indiana redshirt sophomore midfielder Emerson Nieto placed Bezerra in a wide-open one-on-one opportunity with Trine junior goalkeeper Aidan McGonagle, it appeared the young forward was well on his way to a brace.
Instead, Bezerra unselfishly passed it off to redshirt junior midfielder Alex McGill, who buried the opportunity for his first career goal, as well.
“That’s a great team-building moment,” Yeagley said of the goal. “Any time you can give a teammate a tap-in, that’s a good thing.”
After a quick goal from senior forward Karsen Henderlong in the opening minutes of the second half, the Hoosiers elected to slow down and hold possession. The backline had a few shaky moments, but holding Trine to two shots on goal is far from a disappointment.
Yeagley emphasized the importance of some of Thursday’s starters seeing the field. Most of the reserves normally serve the role of challenging the traditional starters in training, and Yeagley was excited to see them in action.
“We say it all the time as a team: ‘You guys are key for us to continue to perform and get results,” Yeagley said. “For them to have the moment under the lights, it shows the younger guys that if they’re in that role later, how to handle it and how to be a really good teammate.”
Now, the Hoosiers turn to a much more daunting challenge. Indiana will host No. 8 Maryland in the regular season finale 1 p.m. on Sunday. A win will be the potential difference between a No. 1 or No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.