On Monday, the No. 22 Notre Dame men’s soccer team bounced back from a surprising season-opening defeat against Seattle with a much-needed 3-2 win at Michigan State. The Irish will look to make it two consecutive road victories against Big Ten opponents as they match up with Indiana on Saturday night in Bloomington. The Hoosiers, ranked No. 21, will be seeking their first win of the new season. Indiana is 0-1-1 with a 3-2 loss at the hands of Clemson and a 3-3 draw with Portland.
After an up-and-down first week of the season that resulted in a precipitous 18-spot drop in the national rankings, the Irish will welcome the opportunity to win an important road game and reestablish themselves among the nation’s elite. Against Seattle, an inability to convert on scoring opportunities doomed Notre Dame. A scoreless first half from both sides quickly turned into a three-goal deficit that ultimately proved too much to overcome. Sophomore defender Kyle Genenbacher tallied the first goal of his career off a pass from sophomore forward Eno Nto in the final minutes. But it ultimately proved to be a case of too little, too late.
Those scoring woes were nowhere to be found Monday. The Irish picked up their first win of the season on the back of a huge offensive outburst in the first half. This time, the Irish were the ones jumping out to a 3-0 advantage. First-half goals from junior defender Paddy Burns and freshman midfielder Sebastian Green began the charge, with further help coming from a Spartan own goal after the break. Notre Dame ceded a pair of goals in the final 20 minutes but did enough to hold on for the victory.
Regardless of result, a trend for the Irish at this early stage in the season has been their ability to consistently create shots offensively, as well as to prevent their opponents from doing the same. Even in a losing effort, Notre Dame outshot Seattle 19-10, and the Irish outshot Michigan State 22-15. A massive 14-3 shot advantage in the opening half in partiuclar saw them take firm control of the game.
They will want to stay aggressive and keep their attacking mindset against an Indiana team, that, like the Irish, has been susceptible to giving up goals in bunches thus far in the season, having allowed three in each of its games. Indiana holds aspirations of advancing to the College Cup, having been tabbed to finish second in a strong Big Ten during the preseason.
The Hoosiers finished last season with a 15-6-1 record, one of those wins being a 3-2 season-opening overtime triumph over in South Bend. Indiana advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national finalist Washington in overtime. Indiana returns an experienced and motivated lineup made up almost entirely of upperclassmen and led by defender Daniel Munie, a preseason first-team All-American.
Like the Irish, Indiana will be looking to shake off a few disappointing results to start the season. Their schedule began with about as difficult a test as could possibly be drawn up: on the road against No. 1 Clemson, the defending national champions. While the Hoosiers fought admirably, taking a 1-0 lead and later converting a penalty to level the score at 2-2, a late Clemson goal sealed the Tiger victory.
Then came a battle with another strong opponent, Portland, a team that received votes in this week’s coaches’ poll and ranks just outside of the top 25 nationally. Indiana came out of the gates hot, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. Just as in the game against Clemson, though, they were unable to get the desired result, this time allowing consecutive goals and being forced to settle for a draw.
The biggest test for Indiana against the Irish will be whether they are able to finish strong and maintain their high level of play deep into the second half. The Hoosiers have played well for much of the season but late-game woes and an inability to properly close out their opponents have led to disappointment.
Neither team has started the year the way they hoped to. But Saturday’s game will provide an opportunity for one side to pick up a critical win over a likely NCAA Tournament-bound opponent. If the teams’ performances so far in the season are any indication, expect an exciting, high-scoring duel.
The Irish will face off against Indiana at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Bloomington’s Bill Armstrong Stadium.