Well, I guessed there would be adjustments and certainly a few more goals let in this year with the new faces on defense. Still, I didn't expect the Hoosiers to be anywhere near two games under .500 at this point in the year. What has happened to the defending national champs? They did bring back 8 starters, a veteran bench, and quite a bit of new talent. Everyone was going to be giving the Hoosiers their best shot this year, so some bumps were to be expected. Before the season I was thinking IU would probably be somewhere around 7-3-1 at this point.: losses to UCLA and Notre Dame could be expected, and an upset loss somewhere (Butler seemed like a good bet) and a random tie.
But this.... this is terrible. Don't get me wrong, Penn State isn't terrible... they're okay. They've got momentum with this win and can angle for an at-large bid to the NCAAs. But the Hoosiers are in serious danger of not making the NCAA tournament in.... I don't even know when the last time they didn't make it was... probably more recently, but it seems like the 1980's. And IU came out on their home field, and let PSU jump up 2-0 in the first 25 minutes, and blew another PK today (freshman Tommy Thompson drew the foul and took the shot, which was saved), and couldn't break through despite notching 18 shots. This loss also meant that the Hoosiers are now outscored in overall goals for the first time this season, despite outshooting their foes 183-130, with a 72-57 shot-on-goal advantage. The Hoosiers have also dominated the corner kick count (74-45) and drawn many more fouls than their foes (105-160). So, what's happening? Is it bad luck, or a team just not finishing?
I think it's a bit of both. There's certainly a bit of bad luck going on, with PKs not called and offsides nullifying game-winners in multiple games that wound up being OT losses. And some of that is to be expected, as the wheel of fortune was bound to spin against IU after such a thrilling darkhorse run in last year's tourney. However, there's also been a very notable drop-off in goalkeeping. I remember openly calling for Luis Soffner to be benched at the end of his first two years, with his mediocre 73% save rate dropping to a damaging 68%. Of course, he turned it around, posting a percentage of 80.6% in his final season. Michael Soderlund is posting a 69.6% save rate, which is a big drop-off, and lower than I hoped, but definitely in the neighborhood of what I expected. Frosh Colin Webb had a truly terrible game when he tried to fill in for Soderlund against West Virginia, and let in 5 goals. Webb's save rate is currently at 50%, which is not good enough. He's a true freshman, so let's not worry about his abilities just yet or one bad game when it's the overall picture that is concerning.
Three things have concerned me throughout the season: first, the Hoosiers have allowed a higher shot-on-goal percentage than at any point in Todd Yeagley's tenure (by quite a bit, currently 43.8% when the previous high was 41.2%), and second, the amount of shots on goal in OT periods, let alone the goals, are overwhelmingly in favor of IU's foes(2-7). This goes a long way towards explaining the Hoosiers' four OT losses. And finally, it's tough base anything off a series of random tweets from young men who are little more than teenagers, and I won't call anybody out specifically, but let's just say that the attitude hasn't impressed me. When you've dropped three games in a row at the start of the season, that should be a clue that there's going to be a lot of hard work ahead. I've seen a lot more evidence of overconfidence than I have of hunger.
This club is talented, no doubt. But I would guess the Hoosiers have to win 6 of their last 7 games to snag an at-large spot, and tough road trips to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Northwestern remain. I'm rooting for the Hoosiers, and I think the future is really bright, but I'm a bit worried about this club right now.