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Illini Soccer is on a three-match losing streak

Another listless offensive performance leads to a 1-0 victory for Indiana.

After two bad performances on the road at Iowa and Nebraska, the Illini came home to Demerjian Park looking to steady the ship. However, their attacking woes continued, putting their postseason dreams on even more shaky ground.

The game started with 10 minutes of Hoosier pressure, resulting in 3 IU corner kicks, but they were unable to convert. The next 20 minutes were uneventful, but the match started picking up around the 30 minute mark.

In the 33rd minute, Indiana’s Avery Lockwood got a good look at goal and tested Illini keeper Jaelyn Cunningham, but Cunningham got down quickly to make a good save.

That would be the last chance Indiana would have for the half, as the Illini controlled the last 10 minutes. Midfielder Kendra Pasquale decided to launch a shot for around 30 yards out in the 35th minute, but Indiana’s Bethany Kopel tipped the missile over the bar. The Hoosiers were unable to clear the resulting corner very well, and the ball bounced around until it found the feet of Illinois’ Maggie Hillman, whose shot was put directly at Kopel.

The Illini would get one final opportunity in the 45th minute, as Hope Breslin found herself in some space at the top of the 18. However, her shot would sting the palms of Kopel. The teams would go the half scoreless.

The second half followed the same stupid pattern over and over again. Illinois would control the ball for long stretches but they would gift it to Indiana before doing anything dangerous, leading to a counter going the other way. This would finally pay off in the 80th minute as Avery Lockwood put a wicked shot that snuck past Cunningham to give the Hoosiers the lead.

Indiana fully parked the bus for the final 10 minutes, which was probably unnecessary since the Illini only had 1 shot in the previous 35 (a long-range effort from Breslin that sailed onto St. Mary’s Road). Despite pushing forward, the Illini were unable to produce a shot, let alone a dangerous chance. Indiana went back to Bloomington with all 3 points, winning 1-0.

A couple things:

1) I’m not sure if I made this clear, but the Illini offense is having issues, and it wasn’t just this match. In their 3 game losing streak, the Illini have scored a mighty 1 goal. I don’t think there’s just one issue with it all. There’s miscommunication, there’s probably some underlying tactical issues that a pleb like me can’t decipher, and when things are going wrong, the bounces just seem to go against you. So I’ll spend a good chunk of these couple things identifying problems and maybe offering solutions to fix them.

2) Somehow, when an Illini winger is out wide looking to cross, they decide against it because they don’t have anywhere near enough teammates crashing the box. So that makes it seem like the Illini aren’t getting enough numbers forward, but somehow they get caught on the break. Both of those things shouldn’t be true at the same time.

3) The starting strikers for the Illini had 0 shots. Some credit goes to the Hoosier defense, but also, Silber and Maday need to be more aggressive, and the Illini midfield needs to feed them the ball better. Is this just me saying that their problems would be fixed if they played better? Yes, and I’m not wrong.

4) The Illini strategy of long throws but short corners is a little baffling. I like the long throws, but do more long corners. Cause some chaos in the box instead of pinging it around the outside. The one time the short corner found its way into the box, it led to an excellent opportunity that Hillman just wasn’t able to capitalize on. Dial it back on the cuteness a bit. Just lump it in on corners every so often and see what happens.

5) Hope Breslin’s technical skill is off the charts, but she often uses it to go backwards and keep possession. Just once, I’d like to see her spin and dice her way forward until either she’s free in the box for a shot or defender hacks her down. Those are the only two options, because I don’t think anyone can take the ball off her cleanly.

6) I love having to go to the opponent’s Twitter account to find highlights. Just absolutely love it.

7) God bless Alicia Barker. She’s the reason Indiana only had one goal on the night. The amount of Hoosier counters she single-handedly shut down was scarily high, particularly in the second half, but she handled it with aplomb. She’s irreplaceable on this squad, which doesn’t bode well for next year since she’s a senior.

8) The Illini (7-4-0 overall, 1-3-0 in Big Ten play) are on the road at Maryland on Sunday. The Terrapins sit at 6-4-2 overall and 2-2-0 in B1G play. They’re also coming off a 1-0 defeat on Thursday, with theirs at the hands of Ohio State in Columbus. The livestream starts at noon on BTN+.