By Terry Jacoby, FUEL Soccer Contributor
Andrew Gutman enjoyed an outstanding junior season as the standout defender helped lead the Indiana Hoosiers to the NCAA national championship game and earned Second Team All-America honors by the United Soccer Coaches Association and College Soccer News.
The Hoosiers lost to Stanford 1-0 in double overtime.
Gutman had a career-high six goals and four assists and, along with teammate and fellow All-American Grant Lillard, helped anchor an Indiana back line that led the NCAA in shutouts (18) and goals allowed (7).
Lillard, a Hinsdale, Ill., native, was named Top Drawer Soccer Third-Team Best XI; First-Team All-Big Ten; First-Team United Soccer Coaches All-Midwest Region; and College Cup All-Tournament Team.
What were the challenges in your first year at Indiana?
“The biggest thing was learning how to live on your own. Every decision is now up to you and not your parents. You have to get yourself to class and to practice and balance your schedule and eat right. It’s learning how to be independent.”
As a senior coming up in the fall do you see yourself now as a team leader?
“I have more experience and seen more than a lot of the younger guys so I try to be there when they look for guidance. We have a pretty mature team so there really no need for me to overdue the leadership role but I definitely try to set a good example for my teammates.”
You seem to be more of an attacking defender. Is that a fair assessment of your style?
“Yeah, I grew up playing forward but when I got to the academy I started playing outside back because it was the only position open. But I never lost that attacking ability or mindset. I always joke with my coach that I’m an attacker first and a defender second…he doesn’t like that description very much. But I try to be different and not the typical outside back. I want to be more of a game-changer.”
What was it like getting all the way to the NCAA championship game only to lose in double overtime?
“Heartbreak. Total heartbreak. They scored on a moment of lapse on our defense that rarely ever happened and it cost us. Stanford is one of the better teams I ever played in college and they took the one opportunity we gave them and won it.”
How does this coming year’s team look?
“We have an even stronger team coming back and we can use that loss to Stanford as motivation and try to get rid of the sour taste we have in our mouths.”
Indiana soccer really has only one goal, right?
“Yeah, we talk all the time about getting that ninth star on our jersey. That’s the No. 1 goal and if we don’t get it then it’s almost like a letdown on the season.
What are your goals after Indiana?
“I definitely want to keep playing soccer. Chicago owns my rights and I have a really good relationship with them. I signed a home-grown contract with them when I was 15. Hopefully if I continue to progress and get stronger and get better I can play with them after college.”
Would you consider playing overseas?
“I think it’s everyone’s dream to play overseas but I live like 10 minutes from the Fire’s stadium. And I grew up watching the Fire so my biggest dream would be to put on that Chicago Fire uniform and play for them.”
The prevailing wisdom is to play as many sports as you can growing up. Give them all a try and see which one sticks, which one grabs your attention, which one you find a real passion for – and that’s oftentimes the one you master the fastest.
Gutman did exactly that. He played the big three – baseball, basketball and football – but none of them reached out and grabbed him like soccer.
“I always liked soccer right from the start,” he said. “I would always just hang out in the back yard kicking the soccer ball around until I got tired. I liked the other sports but not on the same level as soccer.”
Playing other sports even after you have found your passion sport isn’t a bad idea. It helps develop other muscles and helps off the field by building those teammate bonds that are so important in any sport.
But at some point most players take their passion full-time.
“Yeah, my freshman year of high school I quit the other sports and started focusing only on soccer,” Gutman said.