P.J.'s Picks - Men's Soccer Week 6

Indiana Men's College Soccer

P.J.'s Picks - Men's Soccer Week 6

As a sports writer, you don’t always get the chance to cover the games or teams you want. This past Sunday, however, I was fortunate enough to go to one of the games I have been looking forward to since the beginning of the season, Indiana and Ohio State. Since I live in the heart of Buckeye country, literally a few miles from Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium where the Bucks’ control the pitch, I have been drawn to follow them and all of the Big Ten. It was the Big Ten opener for both teams and the weather was perfect on the Sunday afternoon, clear and sunny skies with a slight chill in the air, just enough to let you know that fall and conference battles are here.

No.15/12 Indiana did what they have been doing this season, they won. They took OSU only by two unimpressive goals. The first came when IU forward Andrew Oliver, late in the first half, took a one-on-one against an OSU defender and made the goal by letting the ball just trickle by the keeper from the top of the box to the back of the net. Early in the second half Indiana’s Eriq Zavaleta poked in a penalty kick for the second point of the match. The goals weren’t impressive but the rest of the game was a true match against two very tough teams. Indiana played as a ranked team, as everyone expected, but it was unranked OSU that impressed the crowd more by putting on a top rated performance. It was like watching a preview of the conference tournament championship game, which may still happen. Even though Indiana took home the win I still felt OSU played a better game. OSU’s defense was able to box out Eriq Zavaleta and the offensive front while the OSU offense fought aggressively and put a lot of pressure on Luis Soffner, Indiana’s keeper, and their defense. Soffner dominated the air by just plucking the ball away as the players reached with their heads like a bunch of fish going after bait just above the waters surface. The Buckeye defense did a good job keeping the ball away from Zavaleta throughout the match but forward Andrew Oliver was able step up and played hard offense, netting his first goal for the season. OSU head coach John Bluem said after the game that he was happy with the performance of the team, which he should be taking on a ranked team and being able to compete like they have in the past.

This was my first time getting a chance to watch Zavaleta play in person and now I know why he is a Hermann trophy hopeful. He dominates the field. He takes pressure off of head coach Todd Yeagley by coaching the players on the field. Even when he doesn’t have the ball you see him telling his fellow players where to get to and where to be. After the ball switches sides he continues his communications with everyone helping the defense. For an outsider it would seem he was being a bit arrogant and taking over but he isn’t, he is simply keeping their winning streak alive in hopes of a national championship and quite possibly a Hermann Trophy. Indiana battles ranked Notre Dame and then moves on to Penn State while Ohio State faces off with Butler followed by Big Ten rival Michigan.

Zavaleta is at the top of both the Hermann trophy list and draft prospect list, so keep an eye on him not just this week but the rest of the season as well. But also watch out for Cornell’s leading forward Daniel Haber, who tops the NCAA with 11 goals. Haber and the Big Red take on Penn this week in a conference match. Other games to watch this week are Madness ranked No.14 and NSCAA No.11 Old Dominion taking on NSCAA No. 20 George Mason while No.7/3 UCSB match up against NSCAA ranked No.19 UC Riverside in a Big West matchup on Friday. Saturday will bring  a Big East battle between No. 1/2 UConn and on No.11/4 Notre Dame that could change both national and conference rankings.