Every spring, it’s become a tradition for a youth national team from Mexico to pay a visit to Indiana.
The cornerstone of Indiana's spring campaign, the Hoosiers wrapped up their exhibition schedule with a 2-0 win this past Sunday against a Mexican U20 team.
“The event has really been taking off over the years,” Indiana Head Coach Todd Yeagley told TopDrawerSoccer. “It’s one of the more exciting events for all of Bloomington quite honestly. It’s always a great, entertaining game.”
Depending on where Mexico is in its cycle, sometimes a U17, U18 or U20 side is sent to Bloomington. This year, it was the U20s that the Big Ten side vanquished.
The matchup serves as a significant challenge for IU, as it provides what could be the most difficult test of the year – even if the result isn’t taken into consideration.
“Having this game at the end of the spring in particular really allows them to push forward, and we move through the spring working on certain aspects of our game, trying some new players, this final test for us really tells us who we are,” Yeagley said. “Some years we’re out-played, and yet we can really see where we are, because we won’t play a team player-for-player with that talent in the fall. Certainly there are some talented college players, but more often that not, that team is going to have a skillset that’s pretty darn high, they’re all pros.”
In terms of competition, IU also faced college programs like Xavier, Valparaiso, SIU Edwardsville, Notre Dame, and a late February clash against Indy Eleven.
Finding positional depth is always a core part of spring slate for the Hoosiers, and this year was no different.
“We like to tinker and maybe try a player that’s been a player in the front half and experiment with that player,” Yeagley said. “We often convert wingers to wide backs because we attack pretty aggressively from our wing backs. That takes some time, and fall when practices are coming quick and games are around the corner, you just don’t have time to do that tinkering.”
One of those experiments involved Rece Buckmaster, part of the 2015 recruiting class. Having played as a central midfielder for most of his career, Buckmaster earned a long look as an attacking wing back, passing that test with flying colors.
The goalkeeping battle also took forefront, as incumbent starter Colin Webb (a rising senior) trained hard to keep his starting spot with fellow senior-to-be Christian Lomeli.
Terps tussle with pro opposition
Priding itself as one of the premier college programs in the nation, Head Coach Sasho Cirovski lined up a trio of pro opponents for his Maryland side this spring.
The Terps lined up a schedule that included exhibition matches against NYRB II, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United.
Cirovski was pleased by what he saw.
“We had a very challenging and productive spring,” he said. “I think we improved this spring. I really wanted to challenge our guys and push them a little bit. We return a very good squad from last year and I think we set the bar high and we made some progress.”
The caliber of opposition put the college players in an environment that forced them to make quicker decisions and deal with a step up in physical demands.
“When you play the pro teams, you’re really pushing your guys to solve some problems on the speed of play and the physicality of the games,” Cirovski said. “To the credit of all the teams we played against, they took our game quite seriously and the games were played at high tempo and they were quite physical. I think that also shows a lot of our aspiring pros what the level is firsthand. That was a big positive from an individual development standpoint.”
Along with the pro opponents, Maryland took on Georgetown, Army and Temple. That, combined with a relatively large group of players available, made it a very valuable stretch for Cirovski.
“We had a good mix of some really good college competition with the pro competition,” he said. “We had the ability to really improve at both the technical and tactical level because we had a good sized squad this year. Some years you have a small squad and it’s very difficult to work on your tactics in training. We had 21 players available and we were able to do a lot of technical work a lot of small group work but also open it up in training and work on solving some problems and dealing with different types of things.”
Another bonus to the spring season came with the presence of Jake Rozhansky. The local talent, who transferred to the Terps from Virginia, took no time in adjusting to his new team.
“Jake progressed every week,” Cirovski said. “He came with a lot of humility and really worked hard and assimilated beautifully with the guys. It was good that he was here and I think he’s in a good place with us going into the summer and next fall.”