With the preseason No. 1 and defending NCAA champion Indiana men’s soccer team taking the field for a pair of exhibitions this week — Thursday night at 7 against No. 12 Marquette and Saturday night at 7 against No. 4 North Carolina — here’s a breakdown on the Hoosiers’ personnel this season.
Projected starter: Tommy Thompson, Fr., 5-7.
Also in the mix: Femi Hollinger-Janzen, So., 6-0; Andrew Oliver, So., 5-8; Richard Ballard, So., 5-8; Kyle Sparks, So., 5-8; Sean Cowdrey, Fr., 6-0.
Outlook: Replacing Eriq Zavaleta (10th pick of MLS SuperDraft by Seattle Sounders) is no easy task, but it appears that task will largely fall on the shoulders of freshman Tommy Thompson, a small and shifty type of forward that differs from the Hoosiers’ recent target forwards of Zavaleta and Will Bruin.
Coach Todd Yeagley says: “The fluidity, ability to play behind defenses earlier will be a new piece to our attack, because we used to get that from our second underneath or wide player. Initially, even from central locations, our looks will be trying to find him in behind early to soften up a team. That’s a little different. … We lose some size, so the balls we play in to Tommy have to be ones we can combine on. I like right now how it looks.”
Projected starters: Harrison Petts, Sr., 5-11; Jacob Bushue, Sr., 6-1; A.J. Corrado, Sr., 5-10; Nikita Kotlov, Sr., 5-9; Dylan Mares, Jr., 5-9.
Also in the mix: Hollinger-Janzen; Ballard; Sparks; Dylan Lax, Jr., 6-0; Tanner Thompson, Fr., 5-7; Jamie Vollmer, Jr., 5-7.
Outlook: This is where the bulk of the Hoosiers’ depth and experience lies with four seniors likely to start, and plenty of talent to back them up in IU’s 4-5-1 formation. Mares, the Louisville transfer, adds another layer of explosiveness to this group to go with Kotlov and Hollinger-Janzen. And with guys like Petts, Bushue and Corrado willing to grind out a game if necessary, it’s not just one-dimensional. Mares was high school teammates with Petts and Corrado, and chemistry is not a problem.
Yeagley says: “His combination play with a few of the guys there is very nice, so Dylan (Mares) is in a good place. I like his goal creation ability, whether through assists or goals. He can unbalance different than we’ve had in that position specifically, kind of as our second striker in a central location. A.J.’s stepping up in that regard too, playing as well as I’ve seen him. I like our ability to create dangerous opportunities, but you’ve got to score. That’s the bottom line.”
Projected starters: Kerel Bradford, Jr., 5-8; Patrick Doody, Jr., 6-0; Matt McKain, Sr., 5-10; Billy McConnell, Fr., 5-10.
Also in the mix: Lax; Bushue; Drew Schall, Jr., 5-9.
Outlook: Three-fourths of this group returns intact from the title run, but replacing the communication and leadership of Caleb Konstanski won’t be easy. Lax did a nice job in that role during the spring, but freshman Billy McConnell has made an impression in a hurry, giving IU two viable options there. Plus Bushue saw some time there in the spring as well, and could adequately fill in. McKain and Doody are not only stout defenders but were strong in joining the attack on the outside last year, while Bradford proved himself invaluable in the middle.
Yeagley says: “Center back, we have a few internal things we did in the spring that certainly did well. We have a young player in Billy McConnell, who’s doing very well. We’ll see how he does this weekend, we’ll give him reps. … Dylan (Lax) can be very comfortable if we suit him up at center back next to Kerel. (Lax) played very well in the spring there in limited time, similar to Kerel (last year), when we experimented in the spring knowing we could need that, and (Kerel) wound up playing a big role in our championship run.”
Projected starter: Michael Soderlund, So., 6-2.
In the mix: Sean Weidman, So., 6-0; Colin Webb, Fr., 6-1.
Outlook: Soderlund ascended to the top of the depth chart after the departure of Luis Soffner (No. 36 pick in MLS SuperDraft New England Revolution). He showed his mettle against the Mexico youth national team in the spring finale, and has been holding on to the job since. Once again, replacing the communication and leadership necessary in the final third will be critical for Soderlund and his back line.
Yeagley says: “Colin and Sean are fighting. Michael’s doing really well in goal, the whole group is, but it’s a new piece, so that will be important.”