Analysis: Indiana heads to Butler

Seven games into the season, the 3-3-1 Hoosiers are staying focused and beginning to get results. The question is, can they keep it up?

The Hoosiers may have lost more than just goal production in Eriq Zavaleta. They may have also lost the only forward on the team with a semi-selfish bone in his body.

When Zavaleta opted to forgo his junior and senior seasons and declare for the MLS Superdraft, Indiana fans were worried about a drop in offensive production. Having a player who netted 18 goals last season leave for the professional ranks is a justifiable reason to have such concerns.

So far this season, the Hoosiers have taken 109 shots through seven games, putting 43 of those on frame, and 14 past the keeper for scores. While this averages out to be exactly two goals per game, the numbers don't tell of the missed opportunities the team has had.

Several (and maybe too many) times this season, an IU midfielder or forward has been in position to attempt a shot on goal, which instead of taking, will try and create a better chance for someone else, only to have the ball cleared from the final third. While this team has the ability play this style and try to "pass" the ball into the net, it definitely hasn't shown to be a strength at this stage of the game.

Taking too much time on the ball allows defenders to get back into position, or even just bring more bodies into the box, making it more difficult to try and shoot the ball around them. It is crucial in the run of play to take chances when you have them, because you never know when you might get another.

What the Hoosiers need to realize is that it there is never a bad chance to take a shot. The two players this year who have embraced that are Harrison Petts and Dylan Mares. Between the two, they have two goals and two assists while taking 35 shots. Mares has been a larger part of the attack, and is second on the team in the shot category. While his lone goal came in the last match against Brown off of a free kick, he has never been afraid to rip a shot towards goal, just to get the keeper thinking. And according to coach Todd Yeagley, more goals are coming for the transfer from Louisville.

Petts has been the same way, but slightly different. While a majority of Mares' shots have come from inside the penalty box, Petts is more apt to take shots from beyond the 18-yard line, as his role this year has been more of a defensive midfielder. The positive about this is Petts hasn't been afraid to take what the defense has given him; if they leave him alone anywhere in the final third, you can bet the house Petts will have at it. This is a quality even some of those in the professional leagues can't seem to get through their heads.

These two may not get the most shots on frame, but that isn't the point. It's the fact that they aren't afraid to take the chance they have to at least try and score. While the defense is still sorting out the kinks, the Hoosiers need all of the offensive production they can get, especially with the next game being an hour north with a very talented Butler side.

The Bulldogs come into the match sporting a 5-1-1 record, with wins at Louisville and most recently over the last opponent the Hoosiers had, Brown. The interesting fact is that Butler shut out the Bears 3-0, while Indiana was on edge the final 15 minutes in a 2-1 victory.

One should expect a great atmosphere, not just because the Butler team is off to a great start, but also because eight of the players listed on the Indiana roster are from the Indianapolis area, so their family and friends will be looking to boost up the number of Hoosier fans in attendance. Add that into the Hoosier Army taking it's annual road trip to this match as well, and the crowd might provide a home atmosphere in what will be Indiana's second match away from Bill Armstrong stadium.

This game won't have the same "must win" feel as the last match against Brown, but don't think the pressure is void, either. This Indiana team knows what it takes to reach the College Cup, and if the Hoosiers want a shot at their fourth back-to-back national title set, getting on a winning streak entering Big Ten play is a great way to start.


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