The Hoosiers dominated the first 45 minutes of play against Northwestern. And it wasn’t just on paper— you could sense it in the air Sunday afternoon at Jerry Yeagley Field. IU edged out the Wildcats three goal attempts to none within first five minutes of the game. The Hoosiers pushed into the Wildcats’ territory with strength and purpose. IU controlled the possession, and the Wildcats’ counter attack was easily beaten out by IU’s flat-four defensive line, led by freshman Grant Lillard. The young Hoosiers created chances, and really, the only thing that was lacking was a goal.
The halftime talk worked for the Wildcats. Whatever Coach Tim Lenahan told his boys during that 20 minute break made a significant difference for his team. Northwestern started to push into IU territory and try to get the control by spreading out the field. The Wildcats were significantly more aggressive after switching from zone defense to one-on-one. This move successfully interrupted IU’s momentum, and cost the Hoosiers a lot of stamina in the process.
IU broke the deadlock on a penalty kick by the sophomore midfielder Tanner Thompson at the 72 minute mark. For the last 10 minutes, the Hoosiers squeezed back the formation to the defensive side of the field to protect their 1-0 lead. Nonetheless, Northwestern tied the game by keeping five players in Indiana’s end—combined with just a bit of luck. The Wildcats’ goal came at the 88 minute mark. IU’s penalty box was packed with players from both sides, and amidst the chaos, Northwestern snuck the ball into IU’s net. The score stayed knotted after two 10-minute overtimes, and the game ended in a draw.
Heading into this match-up with Northwestern, IU was fresh off a 4-2 victory against UCF. It gave the Hoosiers confidence, and they came out with strong determination. On both sides of the field, the Hoosiers showed a marked improvement on their One-Two-One-Two quick passing. It shows that the team chemistry is building up as the time goes by, in addition to the players’ confidence. Earning only one point in a game they clearly should have won, I think most of the spectators would agree that IU should have come away with three points and the victory against the Wildcats. Thus, it was two points lost for the Hoosiers.
The fact is, IU’s late penalty changed the game’s balance, and Northwestern decided to take a risk by playing up the field and go for the tie. Some people may question the Hoosier’s focus, or argue that Coach Yeagley should have strategized to keep the ball as far from 18 yard box as possible. For any soccer coach, the field is like a gigantic chess board, but there are a lot of uncertainties on both sides. I agree with Coach Todd Yeagley’s strategy to keep his players on the defensive end during the last 10 minutes of the game. On the other hand, Northwestern deserves credit for not giving up at the end of the game. The Wildcats pushed hard, and in earned their share of the tie. With a little bit of luck, they managed to come away with a point from a very tough game.
The Hoosiers will play tonight against Saint Louis at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The game is going to kick off at 7:30pm. Students would have free admission, so remember to bring your student id card when you head off for the game.
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