Tonight the Indiana University soccer team travels north to face Notre Dame, who are not only a prime in-state rival but also the #2 team in the nation. Obviously this looks to be a major test for the #6 Hoosiers, but for anyone who’s followed the team in 2016, it’s clearly one they’re well-prepared for.
Looking at IU’s schedule so far makes this clear. Based on rankings at the time of the game, the Hoosiers have faced four ranked teams so far this season, winning twice and drawing twice. Eight games into the season they remain undefeated (4-4-0) and have conceded only four goals (which for those of you who don’t watch a lot of soccer is really #^%$^ good).
The one difference-maker, though, could be the support. All four games against ranked teams so far this season have come at Armstrong Stadium; tonight the Hoosiers go to South Bend. IU’s only played two road games this season, so we’ll see how they handle the hostile environment.
Things to Watch For
- How do the Hoosiers handle Jon Gallagher? The Notre Dame forward is extremely good – he’s tied for 9th nationally in goals scored, with eight goals in the Fighting Irish’s nine games. That’s Good. If IU’s to win this game, they’ll need to shut him down (and do it in such a way that doesn’t allow the rest of their forwards to create havoc).
- Can the IU defense stand up? The Hoosiers have defended well all year (the nearly 70 minutes with ten men against Stanford stand out), and while Notre Dame won’t be their toughest offensive opponent thus far, they’re close. The aforementioned Gallagher leads an Irish attack that’s averaging 2.33 goals a game, good for 7th nationally. On the one hand, IU faced a stronger offense last week against Butler: 2.70 goals per game, which is second nationally, led by David Goldsmith’s 10 goals. On the other hand, the Hoosiers conceded twice against Butler and needed a late comeback (and overtime) to win that match.
- Actually, will anyone score? That being said, this could end up being a real defensive matchup. IU and Notre Dame are the 7th and 6th stingiest defenses nationally, respectively. The Hoosiers concede an average of .46 goals a game; the Irish average is essentially the same at .43 goals a game. If one team or the other can nick a goal, this could turn into a bus parking demonstration. If so, let’s hope it’s the Hoosiers protecting that lead – if not, there may be no comeback this time.
- A familiar opponent: Being soccer powers in the same state, this is of course not the first time that Indiana and Notre Dame have faced one another. In fact they played last year, with the Hoosiers losing in overtime. IU won the year before, but personally my favorite IU-ND match came in 2012, when the 16th ranked Hoosiers went into South Bend and beat the #1 Irish in overtime in the third round of the regional. That IU team, of course, went on to win the national championship. I’m sure you can see why that win holds some sentimental value, no?