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IU Men's Soccer Preview, 2011

Disclaimer: At my very first IU soccer game, Ken Snow notched a hat-trick in about 15 minutes. That team went on to win a national championship, clinching the title at Bill Armstrong stadium, so yeah, maybe I got spoiled at a young age. Indiana soccer has been excellent for decades, and consistently attracts the top collegiate talent.Tonight at 7:30pm, a new season kicks off under second-year coach Todd Yeagley, with the #17 ranked Hoosiers visiting #12 Notre Dame.

 2010 Record (Conference): 10-8-2 (4-1-1)
Postseason: Lost to Akron 2-1 in NCAA tourney round of 16.

On the one hand, Todd Yeagley's first year saw him capture the regular season Big Ten title and win Conference Coach of the Year while sending multiple players to the professional league (MLS). On the other, this season didn't look a lot different than the last couple of Mike Freitag squads, sliding into the NCAA's with an unimpressive win-loss record. By the way, long-time company man Freitag got fired for repeatedly achieving these same results. Still, more than anything the 2010 season recalled the 1990 campaign to this old fan, as last year's Hoosiers were a solid team who could go toe-to-toe with anyone. However, simple lack of composure led to bad breaks (and too often, breakaways) that doomed what should have been a stellar defense, time and time again. It was incredibly irritating to see last season's club -which could play with anyone in the country- just cough up what should have been preventable goals in game after game. However, their dominance in the Big Ten was unquestionable. I foresee a similar transition this year as happened in 1991: the return of a solid core ('91 -Wane Lobring, Blake Rodgers) plus a good recruiting class (of which coaches Brian Maisonneuve & Yeagley were themselves a key pieces) looks to move the the program forward. Look for talented sophs Harrison Petts, Nikita Kotlov, and Jacob Bushue to combine neatly with the transfers and freshmen to show notable progress over the course of the season.
While the loss of Will Bruin and his 18 goals (& role as a Brian McBride-type target forward) cannot be overstated, I do think too much concern could easily be placed on the loss of Rich Balchan and Daniel Kelly. Both were quite talented, but I saw a lot of Balchan & Kelly being inconsistent with ball possession, and that too often keyed successful counterattacks by opponents. I really do think that their, along with Andy Adlard and Cam Jordan's, overall contributions will be missed, but it is only Bruin's talents that are truly irreplaceable. In fact, Bruin's 41 points was the highest season total in a decade! Petts, Kotlov, Alec Purdie, and Joe Tolen are all going to have to score more goals if IU is to not suffer a substantial decline in offensive output.

I don't think these Hoosiers will get the sort of early statement win that they had in 2010 with the 5-1 beatdown of UCLA, but they should get a better overall win-loss record, get back to NCAA tournament, and make a decent run there to build momentum going into the next season. Although Michigan (#9), Penn State (#18), and Michigan State (#19) are all ranked in the preseason, IMHO the real B1G team to beat for the Hoosiers in the Big Ten is Ohio State (#15), who is (along with last-place Wisconsin) the only team not to lose 5+ starters. The Buckeyes lose a couple of good pieces from their less-than-stellar offense, but return the best B1G keeper in Matt Lampson. I'll still bet on my Hoosiers to win it, but at worse they should be no lower than second in the conference, which should lock them a place in the NCAA tournament. It's really difficult to call it this far out, but I'd like to believe that IU will overcome thepersonnel losses and play at a top-10 level by the end of the year.

2010 vital statistics (overall)
Goals: 37
Goals Against: 28
Shot (Goal)%: .12
Shots: 309
Shots Against: 226
Shot Against (Goal)%: .124
Shots on Goal (SOG): 137
SOG%: .443
SOG Against: 93
SOGA%: .412
Save%: 69.9

Up next: I'm working on a roster review and Big Ten Teams preview to post before the Hoosiers' home opener next weekend.