Another great article from Tex. He is making this off-season exciting for us with his insight…
80 years. It’s been 80 years since any Pitt sports team has reached a Final Four. Well the long wait is finally over. Pitt’s men’s soccer has reached the College Cup with is soccer’s equivalent of the Final Four.
Pitt’s opponent this Friday is Indiana. Indiana is to soccer what UCLA is to basketball. Indiana is a storied program claiming eight national championships, 21 College Cup appearances, 45 playoff appearances and 13 Big Ten titles since 1991. Indiana won the Big Ten title this year by beating Penn State.
Coach Jay actually played one year at Indiana in 1978 before transferring after his freshman year. “I was Jerry Yeagley’s East Coast experiment,” said Vidovich, who was born in Detroit but played his high school soccer in Connecticut. “… Coach Jay admitted he wasn’t good enough as a player for the program. I think he’s being modest. He still keeps in touch with Coach Jerry Yeagley.
Todd Yeagley, son of legendary Indiana Coach Jerry Yeagley, has been Indiana coach since 2010. His 2012 team won the national title as a 16 seed. Yeagley played for Indiana under his father and then played seven years for the Columbus Crew as a defender.
Indiana’s path to meet Pitt started with a win against Saint Francis Brooklyn. They won during a penalty kick shootout after the game ended tied. Indiana beat Marquette 2-1 and then beat Seton Hall 2-0 in the quarterfinals.
Indiana is ranked the number two team in the country but are seeded as a three in the playoffs. They sport a 11-1-2 record. Many of Indiana’s wins over the season have typically been 2 to nil shutouts. Indiana’s goalkeeper has eight shutouts, has an excellent 90% save percentage and a goals against of 0.35. They have never allowed more than one goal in a game this season although many of their wins have only been by a goal.
On offense, Indiana is led by sophomore forward Victor Bezerra. He has 12 goals and 4 assists on the year including four game winning goals. He was the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year. Bezerra contributes over a third of Indiana’s offense. He is a very explosive and talented player having trained with some of the very best professional clubs. He’s obviously very technically sound given his elite level of training.
Keys to the Game
1) Score First. I thought that was the key in the Pitt vs Washington game. It’s key in this one as well. By scoring first, Indiana can focus on playing lock down defense and impose their will with ball possession. Indiana’s strength is the center of the field. Those players are your best ball handlers and can play a game of keep away.
2) Get Bezerra involved early and often. He’s their dynamic forward responsible for scoring. He is their offense. As he goes so goes Indiana’s offense.
3) Come up with big saves. Pitt will get quality shots particularly from set pieces or free kicks. Indiana’s goalkeeper must have a excellent performance and might be asked to steal this game. There’s a good chance this game goes to a penalty kick shootout.
1) Contain Bezerra. Pitt needs to find a way to shut this guy down. He’s probably the best player on the pitch from both teams. Sorry Noel. But how can Pitt do it? Hard fouls. I would tell him he’s been marked and noticed with a hard fouls around minute 15. And then I’d foul again at the 40 minute mark before half. It’s risky because these fouls might draw yellow cards but Pitt needs to make Bezerra tentative and get into his head mentally.
2) Attack from the outside and wings. Indiana will try to clog the middle. Their strength is the spine. I would use Pitt’s speed on the outside and go wide. Do some long balls and crossing into the box. Use an air game against the Hoosiers.
3) Get two goals. Pitt has the ability to score in so many ways from so many players. It has to win this game in regulation and not have it go to overtime and penalty kicks. Find a way to get two goals, preferably by scoring the games first one, and Pitt will be in control. I’d attack Indiana aggressively from the start.
Indiana is Pitt’s most difficult team faced all season. Indiana prides itself on defense and forcing teams to play conservatively. Pitt can’t afford to fall into this trap. A trip to the national title game awaits the winner.
HAIL TO PITT!