Indiana cruises past Lipscomb in spring home scrimmage

A new Indiana team hit the field at Bill Armstrong Stadium for the first time in 2022 on Saturday afternoon, comfortably dispatching Lipscomb 3-1.

The win was Indiana’s first in regulation in the spring, following a 2-2 draw with Butler, a 2-2 draw with St. Louis (4-2 penalty shootout win), and a 2-0 loss. against Kentucky in the previous three spring games.

New rosters, faces and roles have defined the game, making it an interesting launching point for Todd Yeagley and company as Indiana nears a fall. Here are the takeaways from Saturday’s encounter:

Two transfers seek to fill the boots of Victor Bezerra and Roman Celentano

Indiana’s offseason saw many moves to the pro level, including some to the USL and MLS Next Pro, including experienced captains Spencer Glass and Joe Schmidt. Arguably Indiana’s two best players of 2021, Roman Celentano and Victor Bezerra have already reached the highest level of American football in MLS.

The two Indiana transfers that were featured in the game were direct replacements for Celentano and Bezerra. Duke transfer JT Harms started the game in goal, while Xavier transfer Karsen Henderlong started the game on the bench, but donned Bezerra’s number ‘7’ on his back.

Harms was called into action to make numerous saves throughout the game, including an impressive double save in the first half when the game was still 0-0. His distribution with his hands was impressive and he was error free when distributing with his feet. Replacing the only goalie in Big Ten history to win the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year twice will always prove difficult, but Harms has proven reliable.

After the match, Yeagley praised Harms’ play and stressed how important the minutes he played were to his confidence and pace. He also noted that Bryant Pratt, the starter from previous spring games, will be out for the next six weeks after an injury suffered against Saint Louis. Where the No.1 kit falls next season will be a battle all summer.

At the other end of the field, Henderlong put in a solid performance, constantly using his 6ft 2in frame to hold off defenders, and bonded well with fellow forwards, notably Herbert Endeley in the first half.

Solid Lipscomb’s defense kept him from getting a solid scoring chance, and he had to make his own chance. In the final five minutes, a bad back pass from Lipscomb opened up an opportunity. Bison goaltender Alex Brown was forced to stretch for his clearance and couldn’t pass the ball past Henderlong, who blocked the ball in the net.

He did not register a shot on target, but scored his first goal at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Henderlong is still finding himself and his role on the Indiana team, and his performance on Saturday will help accelerate that development.

New year, new training

Before the game, one of my battered fellow reporters, Ta Lao, mentioned that he had heard that IU was playing a 5-2-3 formation. Knowing Indiana and Yeagley’s confidence in the 4-2-4 formation they’ve played much of 2021, I doubted my friend’s scoop.

However, I was proven wrong, as Indiana lined up with three center backs, two fullbacks, two center midfielders and three forwards leading the offense.

Call it a 3-4-3 or 5-2-3, but Indiana’s overall form was drastically different than it was in the fall. Patrick McDonald (a midfielder) and Maouloune Goumballe (a striker/midfielder) lined up as full-backs, giving them the freedom to move from box to box in the wide channels.

The formation provided plenty of freedom for Tommy Mihalic and Endeley as wide forwards, able to receive and dribble with more room due to Indiana’s increased width with fullbacks. There was constant communication between wide forward and fullback on both sides to ensure Indiana always had a player who could receive a change of play.

Indiana’s second goal was a prime example. Daniel Munie received the ball unhurried in the center of defense and sprayed a pass to the left for Ryan Wittenbrink. He was then isolated one-on-one with the defender due to the width of Indiana’s offense. He drove to the left of the defender and threw a cross towards Nate Ward for a header.

Yeagley after the game was hesitant to commit to long-term training, but positive signs were there to see.

Versatility is Indiana’s new theme

Building on the roster and how different it was from the fall, Indiana showed how versatile it is in terms of personnel, the roles they can play, as well as the attributes available to use. Indiana’s center backs that day included Munie, Joey Maher, Nyk Sessock, Lawson Redmon and Brett Bebej.

This group includes players who regularly operate as full-backs (Sessock, Redmon and Bebej) as well as Munie, an athletic and varied centre-back who can drive the ball forward.

At the back, IU played Wittenbrink, Goumballe, McDonald and Lukas Hummel, all players with different styles and strengths. In midfield, Ben Yeagley has limited things, increasing his involvement as a potential starting central midfielder when the drop returns.

The Hoosiers have been able to move away from their comfortable roster as they have players who can play in many positions, with different styles and points of emphasis. After the match, Yeagley mentioned he played the roster and players with the incoming freshmen (including a four-star midfielder already signed to an MLS Next Pro team and Victor Bezerra’s younger brother Luka ) and transfer defender Jansen Miller in mind.

The UI side played on Saturday will look very different in the fall, but the building blocks are in place for an interesting and competitive side down the road.

Final Thoughts

Indiana getting a first spring regulation victory in front of home fans will be a boost, especially after the early season struggles at home in the fall. Nothing amazing was expected to happen on Saturday, but it was efficient, controlled and a reason for optimism.

Indiana’s attention turns to next Friday’s scrimmage, the last of the spring, against Notre Dame. The stadium focuses on the Little 500, with the 34th edition of the Little 500 women and the 71st edition of the Little 500 men in less than a week.

Yeagley said he probably won’t be able to attend either race. He will recruit.

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