Following a disappointing draw with Michigan, Indiana men’s soccer is set to visit the University of Kentucky on Tuesday.
The Hoosiers return to non-conference play after facing back-to-back Big Ten opponents in Michigan State and Michigan.
The Hoosiers will head into Kentucky with a 3-3-3 record that leaves room for improvement.
One of Indiana’s struggles this season has been the inability to be clinical in front of the opposing goal. The Hoosiers have created plenty of goal-scoring opportunities but have only managed to score six goals in nine matches despite averaging 16 shots per game and taking 144 total shots this season. Only 52 of the 144 shots Indiana has taken have been on target.
“We’re just off on the final touch,” head coach Todd Yeagley said following the draw against Michigan.
Yeagley also said he believed the Hoosiers have been unlucky not to score in some of these matches and thinks their persistence will eventually pay off.
“You keep being aggressive in and around the box good things will happen,” Yeagley said. “That break hasn’t come for us.”
The Hoosiers have taken control of most matches and to constantly threatened the opposing net. These opportunities will need to become goals soon as their failure to finish these chances has led to some disappointing results this season.
Due to its offensive struggles, Indiana has been forced to rely on its back line to keep them in games as well as maintain narrow leads.
The Hoosiers’ defense has been a bright spot for the team this season as their most consistent facet of play. They’ve earned five clean sheets in nine matches and have conceded five goals this season, limiting opponents to seven shots per game.
The center back partnership of senior defenders Joey Maher and Hugo Bacharach has been key in limiting opposing teams from getting shots off. Both Maher and Bacharach have used their experience to position themselves to clear danger and are both physical, neutralizing attackers with strength and aggression.
The pair has also shown the ability to progress the ball with line-breaking passes or carries. Senior defender Jansen Miller filled in for Bacharach for two matches and also showed his ability on the ball, as well as the ability to keep opposing forwards quiet.
This defensive stability has often left junior goalkeeper JT Harms with little work to do in matches, although he has stepped up when needed.
“My defenders make it so easy for me,” Harms said following the draw against Michigan. “I’m very fortunate with a great back line and they limit teams to shots that I should deal with.”
Harms also said defensive effort is a must when playing for the Hoosiers.
“We have great defending principles and it’s something that’s trained to our players from the first day,” Harms said. “It’s in the culture of IU, it’s eleven guys who defend.”
Indiana has only lost three times to Kentucky, with one of those losses coming last season. The Wildcats defeated the Hoosiers 3-0 at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
Indiana hopes for a different result this time around as Kentucky comes into this match on a four-game losing streak and a 3-6-0 record. The Wildcats haven’t won since Sept. 8 when they defeated Lipscomb University 3-2 at home.
Despite Kentucky’s struggles this season, Yeagley said his team will have to be at the top of their game this match. He explained Kentucky lost some key players from last season but are a team that can easily turn it around.
“When you lose that much talent you’re going to drop a little bit,” Yeagley said. “They’re better than their record”.
Kentucky’s defensive struggles have played a big factor in their disappointing season so far. It allows an average of 13 shots per game and have conceded six goals in their four-game losing streak heading into the match. The Hoosiers have an opportunity to take advantage of the Wildcat’s defensive woes and could have the offensive explosion they’ve been waiting for.
The match is set to kick off at 7 p.m. at the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. The game will be available to stream on ESPN+.