A recent Indy Eleven signing may be a familiar name for many soccer fans in Indiana. After two seasons with the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer, Jeremiah Gutjahr has brought his talents to the Eleven before the kickoff of the USL Championship season in early May. The Bloomington native and former Indiana University standout is ecstatic to continue his professional career in the Hoosier state.
If you were to map out Gutjahr’s soccer timeline you would find quite a few impressive stopping points. From making 61 career starts with the nationally renowned Indiana Hoosiers to assisting the U.S. U-20 National Team to a Concacaf Championship, Gutjahr has left a notable trail. The path began at a YMCA in Bloomington, and Gutjahr fondly remembers every step of the way.
Alongside some local recreational play, Gutjahr traces his early development stages back to Cutters Soccer Club.
“Cutters was a pretty massive place for my growth,” said Gutjahr. “It was the first place I was put into a center mid role. Before that, I was playing forward and goalie like any seven- or eight-year-old.”
While with Cutters, Jeremiah was able to begin his participation in Indiana’s Olympic Development Program (ODP). While recalling trips to places like Wabash College and DePauw University, Gutjahr enjoyed the trip down memory lane as he stated how exciting it was to play with different kids from all over Indiana.
When speaking with Jeremiah, it is clear that the relationships developed throughout his time with ODP and all of the teams he has been a part of are highly important to him. Chuckling as he recalls the experience, Gutjahr vividly remembers the beginning of one of these relationships.
“We were going to a tournament in Memphis I think,” said Gutjahr, speaking of a time with ODP. “This kid was walking down the aisle in Carmel gear and I was thinking ‘I’m not going to like him,’ because they were the big dogs at the time.”
Little did Jeremiah know the kid walking towards him would go on to become one of his closest friends.
“His name is Derek Sutton and he has become one of my best friends through ODP and our time in club together,” added Gutjahr. Sutton went on to be a key player for the Butler Bulldogs for four years.
While in eighth grade, Gutjahr made the move to what was then known as Carmel United Soccer Club. With the 2014 merger of Carmel United and Westfield Youth Soccer Club, Indiana
Fire Juniors was born. Gutjahr then progressed his way through the Indiana Fire Academy, captaining both the U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams along the way.
In the fall of 2015, Gutjahr made the jump to the collegiate game after graduating from Bloomington High School North a year early. Despite both of his parents being Stanford graduates, Gutjahr had little doubt on where he would end up.
“I was a local kid from Bloomington, Indiana so it was pretty natural for me to go to IU if the opportunity was there,” said Gutjahr.
It did not take long for Jeremiah to find more success once a member of the Indiana program. While making 17 appearances for the Hoosiers as a freshman, Gutjahr was also called up to the U.S. Under-20 National Team in the fall of 2015. In a whirlwind 24 hours, Jeremiah found himself going from the rolling hills of Bloomington to Stuttgart, Germany where he appeared in matches against other national sides such as Scotland and Mexico.
The spring of 2017 marked one of Gutjahr’s most memorable experiences. The CONCACAF Under-20 Championships, held in Costa Rica, saw the US team claim the title with a win over Honduras in the final.
Citing it as an eye-opening experience, Gutjahr noted that playing with the likes of Tyler Adams, Justen Glad, and other well-known players gave him the opportunity to learn.
“Watching guys like that play gave me ideas and furthered my growth,” added Gutjahr.
On the back of a strong sophomore season and a highly successful time with the under the 20s, Gutjahr earned a starting place in the Hoosier lineup for the first 10 matches of his junior year. Adversity then struck as Gutjahr faced a season-ending torn ACL.
“It was probably the biggest obstacle I’ve faced in my whole career,” said Gutjahr. “From there I fought back, rehabbed, and worked really hard to come back for my senior year of college.”
The hard work of Gutjahr and the Hoosiers paid off with a strong season in 2018. As a member of the NCAA leading team in shutouts, he and his IU teammates pushed to a 20-3-1 overall record and claimed a Big Ten Tournament Championship along the way.
Jeremiah ultimately wrapped up his collegiate career in the NCAA Final Four as the Hoosiers fell to Big Ten foe Maryland. For many players, the collegiate level is the peak of their soccer story. For Gutjahr, there were many chapters still to be written.
In January of 2019, Gutjahr was named as the 11th Homegrown Player in Chicago Fire history. With roots spanning all the way back to local rec soccer in southern Indiana, Gutjahr now found himself lining up next to Bastian Schweinsteiger in the backline.
Between a meniscus injury and a COVID-shortened MLS season, Gutjahr faced challenges while in Chicago. Despite that, the Bloomington native tallied over 500 minutes for the Fire as a rookie.
In early March, Jeremiah took the most recent step of his career. One that brought back home to the Hoosier state.
“It’s something I couldn’t even dream up,” said Gutjahr of his recent signing with Indy Eleven. “To be able to contribute to a truly local team just gives me chills. Indy keeps growing as a team, club, and community and I feel very close to the roots of it all.”
Through all of the memorable moments, and those not so memorable, Gutjahr has taken away some lessons that are useful both on and off the field.
“Don’t compare yourself to other teams and players,” said Gutjahr. “There were plenty of teams I didn’t make over the years and still I’ve been able to experience a lot of awesome moments.”
The joy playing the beautiful game has brought Jeremiah is obvious. He hopes that future generations take the time to soak up their own experiences while still working hard toward their dreams.
“Set goals for yourself but enjoy it. At the end of the day if you make it to the top but didn’t enjoy it, what was the point,” he concluded.
Gutjahr will look to make an impact on an Indy Eleven side that kicks off the season on Saturday, May 1 in Birmingham. The Boys in Blue will then make their way back to Carroll stadium as they return home on May 8.
For more information on Indy Eleven, or to see the season’s full schedule, visit indyeleven.com