Indiana Men’s Soccer can very realistically win a National Championship this year.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that. Indiana University has the most historically accomplished soccer program in the country, one of the most tactically intelligent coaches in the nation, and now they have the top ranking in the Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Poll.
A five year old child with an affinity for the movie “Ratatouille” could tell you that Indiana can win a National Championship. That’s like going out on a limb about Alabama making the College Football Playoff. It’s seems obvious and unnecessary.
With that said, sometimes it’s important to acknowledge the obvious, just to make sure others don’t get complacent and forget about it.
Indiana can win its ninth National Championship this year, and that’s something anyone could have realized after the team’s first game of the season. Nobody said anything of course, because throwing massive expectations on a college soccer team usually isn’t the hill most people want to die on.
Of course, I’m not most people. I’ve been yelling on twitter about it for weeks now, because this soccer team is genuinely that talented.
Now thanks to TopDrawerSoccer and the United Soccer Coaches Poll, it’s kind of difficult to avoid that hill. Everyone is taking notice of this program, so, it seems like an appropriate time to state my two cents on why my clear and obvious assertion about Indiana being capable of a National Champion is so viable.
Indiana is quite simply stacked in every facet of the game. There are no glaring weaknesses to point to. There is no hole. Nothing...Nada...Zilch!
The reason for that points directly to Head Coach Todd Yeagley taking every issue that faced this team last year, and plugging them up with arguably the best recruiting class in the nation.
So, let’s take a look at what plagued Indiana Men’s Soccer last season.
Last season, Indiana had one of the best defenses in the nation, giving up only 16 goals all season long. The back-line also led the Big Ten in shutouts with 11.
Last season, Indiana also had an evident leader in senior Tanner Thompson who will go down as one the greatest to ever don the cream and crimson.
Last season, Indiana also led the entire nation in shots per game at 17.38.
So, what went wrong? Why didn’t Indiana win another Big Ten title, and why were the Hoosiers bounced out of the NCAA Tournament in the round of 16 against Virginia Tech?
The answer you’ll find to that question is oddly reminiscent of my love life.
Just because shooters shoot, doesn’t mean they score.
Indiana led the nation in shots but only scored 30 goals in 21 games. Indiana executed in every facet of the game, except they couldn’t finish.
So what did Coach Yeagley do? He brought in a recruiting class flooded with goal scoring options. A class defined by players that can achieve the most difficult task on the pitch. A class that can score goals in bunches.
Indiana added Griffin Dorsey, Mason Toye, Thomas Warr and Justin Rennicks.
Dorsey, an U18 U.S. Men’s National Team member, has already made his impact by scoring the game winning goal in extra-time against San Diego and being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week in his first week in college soccer. After only a few games, Dorsey has already become a player that defenses key in on due to his incredible speed while cutting inside.
Toye, an U19 U.S. Men’s National Team member, already has two goals in six games and leads the team in shots with 12.
Warr, already leads the team in assists with two in six games.
Rennicks, an U18 U.S. Men’s National Team member, hasn’t even touched the pitch due to injury, yet he is considered one of most talented in the recruiting class. Rennicks is considered the ninth best freshman forward according to TopDrawerSoccer.
These are the names that have and will continue to push Indiana over the edge.
With very little time on campus, these freshman have already made their impact not only in the score sheet, but stylistically. The Hoosiers now play with a level of excitement and flair that their previously pragmatic ways couldn’t have predicted.
After adding that skill in the final third, everything else really falls into place for Indiana.
Indiana returns a midfield secured by the experience of Jeremiah Gutjahr and Francesco Moore, who is arguably the most underrated soccer player in America because of how difficult it is to track his value using stats.
Indiana returns a back-line with a Pre-season All-American in Grant Lillard and one of the most offensively skilled fullbacks in the nation in Andrew Gutman. A back-line that didn’t offer a single shot on net at Maryland. A back-line that went 330 minutes without giving up a goal before giving up a goal to Michigan last night.
It’s all there for Indiana now. It genuinely just comes down to execution.
In Indiana’s first match since being named the top team in the nation, the Hoosiers drew #18 Michigan 1-1 at home last night. To some, that would seem like a major letdown, but the finer details of the game are indicative of something greater. In a wet and sloppy match, Indiana created chances that they never would have had last year. Players such as Griffin Dorsey and Andrew Gutman found spaces on the pitch that weren’t available last year.
Indiana showed something that a drier playing surface would have made more clear.
Indiana can win a National Championship this year.