Hoosier Soccer leads off against SMU

With the end of August approaching, it's time for the men's soccer team to begin defense of its 2012 national title. The first opponent on the slate is the SMU Mustangs Friday night at Bill Armstrong Stadium.

The Indiana men's soccer team opens its season with a match against SMU in what will be the eighth meeting all time between the two schools. The first seven have been as close as you can get with the teams battling to a 3-3-1 record.

It has also been seven years since the two teams have played. The last time was in 2006 when the Mustangs came away with a 1-0 victory.

This matchup should be different. In 2006, both teams were ranked, with SMU at No. 3 and Indiana rounding out the top 10 in the nation. This year, with the Hoosiers being the defending national champions, IU is ranked No. 1 while the Mustangs are not ranked.

The biggest aspect of this match will be which team replaces its leading scorer more effectively. SMU lost Tyler Engel, who scored eight goals and assisted with seven others last season. IU will be looking to see who steps into the role left by star Eriq Zavaleta, who put in 18 goals and assisted with four more. One of those assists was on the goal that sealed the program's eighth national title.

Indiana is at a loss in the forward position for the first time in a while, as the past five years the Cream and Crimson have had a strong, physical forward to play through, whether it was Will Bruin or Zavaleta. The new face looks to be freshman Tommy Thompson. Thompson, who comes in at 5-7, 145 pounds, plays a much more tactical game than his predecessors, relying on his speed and ball control to slip past defenders as he does not have the brute strength to just muscle by.

Playing behind Thompson will be the strength of this Indiana team. A majority of the returning starters come from the midfield, and will need to be a goal-minded support system in order to ease their rookie forward into the college game. Fortunately for head coach Todd Yeagley, that should not be too much of a problem, as Nikita Kotlov, A.J. Corrado, Harrison Petts, Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Jacob Bushue, and Dylan Mares will all be looking for opportunities to put shots on goal.

For the Mustangs, the goal production seems to not have had too much of a drop off in their preseason tests against Oral Roberts and Houston Baptist as they scored a total of five goals in the two matches. With returning goal scorers Andrew Morales and Juan Castillo, along with adding in freshman Stanton Garcia, SMU looks on paper to be prepared enough to put away games. However, this may just be a testament to the level of competition they were playing, along with the fact that both matches were played on their home turf. When they make the trip up to Bill Armstrong Stadium, they may find it harder to concentrate.

The adidas/IU Credit Union classic will be played on Friday, Aug. 30 and Sunday, Sept. 1. Indiana will play SMU Friday at approximately 7:30 pm, following the match between UCLA and Notre Dame at 5 pm.

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