Commentary: Iowa preps for final home stretch

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 23, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa soccer team is coming home.

For the past month, the Hawkeyes have spent the majority of their time playing on fields other than the Iowa Soccer Complex. Of Iowa’s last seven matches, six of them have been on the road. The Hawkeyes posted a record of 3-3-1 in these games.

Other than their record, we have learned a lot about the Hawkeyes and the possibility of their fulfilling postseason aspirations.

In the beginning of the season, the general consensus from the team was that play in the Big Ten was going to be competitive in just about every game. With just three games remaining in the season, this couldn’t be any truer.

The Hawkeyes currently stand in the middle of the Big Ten standings with a conference record of 3-4-1. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, half of the teams have either three or four wins. Iowa has proven that in any given match, it can compete with any team in the Big Ten.

During Iowa’s road-intensive portion of its schedule, it faced two ranked teams — Nebraska and Minnesota. In those games, the Hawks lost to Nebraska, 2-1, in what was one of their best games played all season, and they forced a draw with Minnesota.

This is promising for an Iowa team that is looking to make some noise in not only the Big Ten Tournament but also the NCAA Tournament.

Another thing was confirmed in the Hawkeyes’ latest road trip — they will live and die by their defense.

The Hawks have yet to win a Big Ten game in which their opponent has scored more than 2 goals.

For most teams, this would be seen as a major problem. But for the Hawkeyes, this has been the philosophy of the program ever since head coach Ron Rainey took the helm.

The Hawks have allowed the third fewest goals among Big Ten teams with an average of 0.94 given up per game — a total of 15 goals given up in 16 games.

On the other side, the Hawks are only scoring 1.62 goals per game — 26 goals in 16 games. This may be cause to worry. In this aspect the Hawks rank 10th among Big Ten teams. What this does is put a lot of pressure on the defense to be almost perfect in every game.

What the Hawkeyes do well and have proven on this road trip is that their offense continues to be extremely balanced. The Hawks have six legitimate scorers on the field at any given time.

Four Hawkeyes have scored four times on the season, and two have scored three times.

Interestingly enough, the Hawks problem isn’t shooting on target — 47.8 percent of their shots are on goal. Instead, the Hawks have a hard time getting their shots past the opponent’s goalkeeper.

Just one instance of this came when Iowa tied with No. 24 Minnesota —a match that had no business of being close. The Hawks launched 29 shots compared with Minnesota’s 10. The only thing keeping the game close was Gopher goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs’ 16 saves.

With upcoming games against No. 4 Penn State, Ohio State, and Purdue, coming up with wins in games similar to the Minnesota contest may be the difference between Iowa’s season ending early or continuing into the NCAA Tournament.

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