Butler men’s soccer vs. No. 5 Indiana: Beyond the box score

Brandon Guhl celebrates following his 24th-minute goal in Butler’s 2-1 upset victory over No. 5 Indiana on Sept. 24. Photo by Xan Korman / Butler Collegian.

DREW FAVAKEH | STAFF REPORTER | dfavakeh@butler.edu

The Butler men’s soccer team defeated Indiana University 2-1 on Sept. 25. Playing in front of a Sellick Bowl crowd of 4,312, the Bulldogs upset the fifth-ranked Hoosiers. Butler is now 5-23-4 all-time against Indiana. Butler is 4-3 overall on the season while Indiana drops to 4-1-2. Here’s how it happened:

1. Gabriel Gjergji was Butler’s key factor

Gabriel Gjergji pointed to his throat.

“I lost my voice, as you can see,” Butler’s sophomore goalkeeper said.

Gjergji did nothing short of everything for Butler. There were moments where Butler’s defense was out of position, especially on corners.

One of his five saves came on a penalty in the 18th minute, where he dove left to block the shot from Indiana freshman Victor Berrera. In the aftermath, he finger-wagged at the Indiana freshman, then high-fived a teammate.

“The PK was my fault, so I had to give it up,” Gjergji said.

Butler went on a counter-attack and never looked back.

“The game can change quickly, a momentum with a penalty save and to get a goal, you can’t have a bigger swing in our sport,” Indiana coach Todd Yeagley said.

2. Butler’s offensive strategy

For years, Butler has had an aggressive offensive attack. The forwards fly on the flanks, the midfield sends them the ball. But facing Indiana, a team second in the Big Ten through Sept. 17 in goals-against average, could have demanded a change. Not so fast.

“Listen, we wouldn’t have been good if we’d have sat back,” Butler coach Paul Snape said. “They would have been all over us all game.”

In the 24th minute of the first half, Butler senior forward Brandon Guhl scored on a breakaway on a booming pass from sophomore midfielder Jack Haywood. Snape said he would like to “applaud their quality.”

“Jack Haywood’s an incredible passer,” Snape said. “And Guhl knows what he does: scores goals.” 

As a result of Butler’s first goal, Indiana started pressing more. With Indiana’s defense positioned higher up, Butler capitalized. Midfielder Alex Lehtinen, in the 52nd minute, saw the Hoosiers’ line, “dropping and dropping” off him. From roughly 25 yards out, Lehtinen scored a goal with his left foot. The ball bounced twice, and past the goalie.

“Honestly, it’s not about the power, it’s more about the placement,” Lehtinen said. “Somehow, I managed to put in the corner.”

Butler’s two goals came from four shots on goal, while Indiana’s one goal came from six shots on frame. Indiana senior defender Simon Waever said Indiana did “a lot of film.” So, Butler’s assertive offensive attack was something Indiana’s defense expected.

“They understand that whenever putting the ball behind and getting us turned, that’s something we’ll continue to work on,” Waever said.

Alex Maher took accountability for Indiana’s defensive lapses.

“I take a lot of that on myself,” Maher said. “My responsibility that I should have as a captain, the way the team should respond to those key moments.”

3. “Springboard”

After the game, Butler did something they do every game: they huddled up while the coaches gave them a speech. However, this time, the huddle moved towards some players who were holding figure-four stretches. 

“I mean, everyone left everything on the field today,” Guhl said. “And that’s what it was going to take to win. And to have everyone put in that performance was special.”

In the huddle, Snape said he challenged his players. Butler had lost two in a row, to Georgetown and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, by a margin of 1-5. He asked Butler’s players if they could use the game as a “springboard.”

Butler’s next game against ninth-ranked St. John’s on Sept. 28 in the Sellick Bowl at 7 p.m.

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