As the fall sports season opens plenty of eyes will be on the gridiron in Bloomington, hoping to see Tom Allen guide the program back to the postseason, but there’s another team just a couple of blocks down the street that could be competing for a national title this season.
The IU Men’s Soccer team is among the elite in the country, sitting at number two in a recent preseason poll thanks to a host of returning players from a team that barely missed winning the program’s ninth national championship last season, losing on a golden goal to Stanford in the national championship game.
If you’re just jumping into the world of IU soccer and need to get caught up to speed, we’ve got you covered.
The Hoosiers were an elite defensive squad in 2017 the man between the posts was a big part of that. Trey Muse is back for his sophomore year and has received multiple preseason All-American honors after tying the NCAA single season record with 18 shutouts in 2017. After much success as a freshman, the keeper faces a new challenge. Gone is Grant Lillard, the MAC Hermann Award finalist who played in front of Muse as a center back, as he’s now a member of the Chicago Fire of the MLS. It’s uncertain as to who will replace Lillard and the current squad features plenty of solid options, but it’s hard to replace that caliber of player no matter who you have waiting in the wings. It’ll be up to Muse and then rest of the defense to help pick up the slack. The Louisville native said that he hopes to develop as a leader and communicate better this season, those two things could be crucial for the Hoosiers if they hope to make a deep postseason run.
Another defensive player that will be a key for the Hoosiers in 2018 is Andrew Gutman. Coach Todd Yeagley recently called Gutman “one of the premier players in college soccer” and it seems that he isn’t the only one that holds him in high regard. The left back has received multiple preseason All-American honors and Top Drawer Soccer recently ranked him as the second-best player in the nation behind only Santiago Patino from Florida International. He also had been named to the MAC Hermann Award watch list. In 2017 Gutman scored seven goals, including the game winner in the College Cup semifinals against North Carolina, and assisted on four others. His ability to attack from the back will be a key cog in IU’s attempts to create attacking chances.
The Hoosiers lost one captain from last year’s team when Grant Lillard graduated, but they kept the other. Francesco Moore will lead IU once again in 2018. The midfielder served as the engine of last year’s Hoosier squad, playing as a central defensive midfielder. He’s not a player that makes it on the score sheet very often, he scored three goals last season and assisted on two, but he still plays a large role and could be compared to a quarterback or a point guard.
Gone is Mason Toye, IU’s leading goal scorer from 2017 who was selected with the seventh overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft by Minnesota United FC. It’ll be a team effort to replace Toye, but one key contributor could be Justin Rennicks. Rennicks missed most of the 2017 season with a leg injury, but was ranked higher than Toye coming out of high school. He was ranked 30th in Top Drawer Soccer’s Top 150, compared to Toye’s ranking of number 100. Rennicks could play up top as a striker for the Hoosiers in 2018 and could play well in that role, but he may perform better if he were dropped back to play more of a number 10 role as a central attacking midfielder, which would give him a bit more space to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Rennicks plays with a lot of pace, which should certainly be fun to watch if nothing else.
Another member of last year’s freshman class, Griffin Dorsey will be a key for the Hoosier attack once again. The winger brings US Youth National Team to Bloomington as do Rennicks and Muse. Dorsey was ranked as the 57th best player in the country by Top Drawer Soccer earlier this month after scoring a trio of goals, including a golden goal to defeat San Diego, and assisting on six more as a freshman. Dorsey is another player that will provide pace and playmaking in attack.
Projected Starting XI
This is just one of many possible configurations the Hoosiers could go with to start. This team has loads of depth. With the group on the field above, players such as Austin Panchot, Cory Thomas, Spencer Glass and others on the bench, so if which should get significant playing time this season.
This particular lineup has a few advantages. Playing Rennicks in the midfield allows him more space to dribble and be creative. Placing Palazzolo next to Moore allows him to go box-to-box, which would allow him to embrace his versatility and also allow Moore to focus more on defense.
The Hoosiers play a strong schedule, and they may face their toughest test on opening weekend. They play Wake Forest on the road on Friday and then travel to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina on Sunday, both are top five teams nationally.
Other than those two games, the Hoosiers will also face ranked opponents in Dartmouth, Notre Dame, and Butler in their non-conference slate.
They’ll have plenty of competition in the Big Ten as well, as Michigan State, Michigan, and Wisconsin are all ranked as well.
This team has everything it needs to make a deep run: a star goalkeeper, a MAC Hermann watch list member, a head coach with postseason experience, and loads of depth.
2017 was a special year for the Hoosiers, but it lacked one thing — trophies. This season fans should expect IU to be in the hunt for a Big Ten championship and a return trip to the College Cup as they try to finally end the quest for the ninth national championship in program history.