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Hoosier Soccer splits opening weekend games, drop to #8

Indiana opened with a nice comeback victory over SMU, but dropped the closing game to UCLA in OT, despite a record home crowd.

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The Indiana Hoosiers' soccer team has been a second half-squad in the first two games of the season, but the record and goal differential stand even thus far. The opening game against Southern Methodist started with a quick opening flurry, as true freshman Tommy Thompson danced through three defenders before unleashing a shot that Mustang Goalie Jaime Ibarra managed to save. But SMU countered, catching IU off-guard with a quick cross in the 10th minute to Alfred Koroma, who made no mistake in giving SMU the 1-0 lead. The Hoosiers managed to tie it up when Femi Hollinger-Janzen came off the bench (and I have to wonder why he is still coming off the bench) and squared it up when he headed home a shot from Matt McKain that rebounded off the bar. The second half was all Hoosiers, as many chances were foiled by Ibarra's excellent play, but a free kick from AJ Corrado found a somehow-open Patrick Doody, who nailed home the game winner.

The UCLA game, in which the #fillthebill effort was a true success with a record-breaking 7,720 fans on hand, was another matter. I was there in 2007 in the last record-setting effort, in which the Hoosiers upset then #1  UCLA 1-0. This time, the #1 team lost again, 1-0, but as you know, that was bad news for the Hoosiers. UCLA played hungry and hard for the whole game, and notched three yellow cards and a red card for the effort, but were frankly a little lucky to get away with a mere single Penalty Kick awarded against them. UCLA was evidently not happy with the red card they received, but it was in the box and a hard foul on Tommy Thompson, who had an open path to the goal. The "open path" rule was plenty reason for a red card, especially the way the Bruins had already been getting booked. Honestly, I'm not sure why it this was even talked about in the post-game conference. However, Dylan Mares had decent (if predictable) placement on his PK attempt, but not enough pace, and the UCLA goalie was able to corral the attempt.

After a back-and-forth affair, the Hoosiers had a man advantage for the last 15 minutes of the game. Their best chance might have come in the 81st minute, when AJ Corrado found Nikita Kotlov in the box, but Kotlov couldn't get settled and lost an opportunity to get an open shot off. Once the match went to OT, they came out a little flat and UCLA snuck through a pass to Victor Chavez going full speed towards goal. Michael Soderlund correctly came out and knocked the ball loose, but it unfortunately spilled just off Chavez's path, and he was able to adjust, collect the ball, and fire home the golden goal.

Big surprises: The freshmen. Tommy Thompson is living up to the hype and serving as a Lionel Messi-type forward. Thompson drew a ton of fouls, including the PK attempt, and nearly had the game-winner in the UCLA game if not for a save by a UCLA back clearing his header off the line. Also, Billy McConnell is getting starts in the backline, although he was victimized early on the SMU goal.

Indiana looks to be struggling a little bit with getting their shots on goal, but that's not surprising given the early stage in the season, and that a true freshman is the lone striker up front. The tough early schedule continues on Friday night with a trip to #18 Alabama-Birmingham, and we'll likely have a better sense of what this team is made of after the road trip. There's nothing really to panic about yet, as it early. And nationally, the other top contenders had rough starts too, as Georgetown also split their opening games and Maryland started their season with a loss and a tie. North Carolina seized the top spot in the rankings with a pair of wins (and the exhibition victory over IU probably didn't hurt, either).