Sunday, March 26, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Detroit City FC - 10.02

Summary

- Opponent: Detroit City FC
- Location: Keyworth Stadium
- Attendance: 6,893
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Oettl, Boudadi, Diz Pe, Vazquez, Rebellon, Lindley, Blake, Quinn, Martinez, Asante, Guenzatti

- Substitution:  Tejada 80' (Martinez); Robledo 87' (Quinn); Jerome 90'+8' (Asante)

- Unused: Trilk, Fjeldberg, Rissi, Torres

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Rebellon 62' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND - Boudadi 14' (Yellow)
DET - Ballard 16' (Yellow)
IND - Asante 21' (Yellow)
IND - Martinez 33' (Yellow)
DET - Matthews 39' (Yellow)
DET - Williams 48' (Yellow)
DET - Matthews 74' (Yellow - RED)
DET - Carroll 90'+6' (Yellow)
DET - Lehland 90'+9' (Yellow) 

- Referee: Jervis Atagana
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

In Indy Eleven's previous 9 seasons, they have started with positive results in the first two games (all away games each season) 5 times, only one of which culminated in a trip to the NASL or USL playoffs. So, Indy's four points out of their first two games is no guarantee of season success. However, Saturday night's match in Detroit looked like an Indy team that was in control of the game for the majority of the game. Despite the blustery conditions in Keyworth Stadium where the cold and the 30+ mph winds consistently pushed the ball everywhere, Indy was able to hold onto the ball, move it around the field, and set up good chances.

Indy had a 2 to 1 possession advantage, and were much more effective at controlling the tempo of the game. They struggled to translate that to a significant number of shots, but executed a short corner style set piece in the 62nd minute to perfection, which Rebellon blasted through so much traffic that Steinwascher could do nothing about it but watch it go past him as he was rooted to his spot. 

As I watched the game, every Tactical Tuesday that the team has released recently, came flooding back to me as Coach Lowry has explained the tactics of this team. When to high press. How to high press. Playing against a direct team. Why to high press. Exploiting wide areas. Lowry's explanation of Indy's system was in full display on Saturday afternoon against Detroit. 

The only deviation from his lessons on "when to high press" was a few moments when I thought the forwards were exerting a bit too much energy chasing the ball when Steinwascher had the ball. He's pretty good with the ball at his feet, which goes against Lowry's Tactical Tuesday lesson. Detroit certainly met the "playing against a direct team," though with more than 30% of their passes being of the "long ball" variety with a less than 60% accuracy (42% in Indy's half of the field). Many of Detroit's unsuccessful passes came from the back as the defense was forced to relieve some of the pressure. 



Detroit did manage to keep Indy to a 28% accuracy rate on their shots, and a paltry 17% on successful crosses, so those are some definite points the team would like to improve upon moving forward. It was also clear that Indy also felt that the team had an advantage attacking Detroit's left side of the field. There were many moments were Rebellon, on the left, was staying as close to the sideline as possible and was without any pressure, but the ball would swing back to the right side of the attack. I'm not sure what it was that Indy thought they could exploit, but it happened frequently enough that Rebellon's raised arms in the air caught my attention each time as he begged to have the ball swung his way from the center backs.

This was a good win, in a difficult place to play, during miserable weather conditions (despite what you might believe from the streaker that ran onto the field late in the game). Once Indy took the lead, and then had the man advantage after Matthews' 74th minute second yellow card sent him to the locker rooms to warm up early, Indy very professionally saw the game out. This felt like a different result than what last year's team would have accomplished.

There are still a lot of games to be played, but this felt like a different team from even last week's team, despite its positive result last week in Tampa Bay. Indy returns home to play their home opening next Saturday against Las Vegas Lights, and former players Justin Ingram and Andrew Carleton. I suspect the two players will receive different welcomes from the BYB, but maybe I'm wrong. It should be a win for Indy, but to this point in the season, Las Vegas is also undefeated, having played to a couple of draws against Rio Grande Valley and Orange County.  

My final thought on the game is that at some point during this season, Oettl is going to allow a goal from 40+ yards out when a player chips him after a bad giveaway from a player in front of him. He definitely played the "sweeper-keeper" role in this game (in line with the tactics laid out by Lowry in the Tactical Tuesdays), and it nearly cost him twice in this game. The first time, Detroit did find the goal after a giveaway by Lindley, but there was an offside call to negate it. The second time, it took all of Oettl's 6'-2" frame to stop the ball from going over his head. The play was ultimately stopped for another offside call, but my worry that this will eventually happen this season increased. I won't go so far as to say I guarantee it, but after watching it happen twice against Detroit, it seems highly likely.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Other the Rebellon's goal, this felt like a solid team win, so awarding the GBGB feels difficult to do. As a result, Rebellon gets it for putting his shot low, hard, and through traffic in a spot away from the keeper. With the amount of traffic in the box and the weather conditions, it's a shot that could have gone somewhere else, but his strike found the back of the net, giving Indy their first win of the season.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Tampa Bay Rowdies - 10.01

Summary

- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Al Lang Stadium
- Attendance: 6,893
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Oettl, Rissi, Diz Pe, Vazquez, Boudadi, Lindley, Quinn, Blake, Fjeldberg, Asante, Guenzatti

- Substitution:  Rebellon 59' (Rissi); Tejada 68' (Fjeldberg); Robledo 84' (Lindley)

- Unused: Trilk, Jerome, Torres, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:
TBR – Areman 57’ (assist Dalgaard)
IND - Quinn 90'+6' (Penalty Kick)

- Bookings:
TBR – Dennis 2' (Yellow)
TBR - Guillen 27' (Yellow)
TBR - Dalgaard 38' (Yellow)
IND - Blake 63' (Yellow)
IND - Tejada 89' (Yellow)
TBR - Lasso 90'+4' (Yellow)

- Referee: Elvis Osmanovic
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

It's been 130 days since I have written anything at all on this site related to soccer or Indy Eleven, taking the full amount of opportunity available to me during the off-season to do other things, including using my writing chops to work on a novel that I've been trying to write for a couple of years. I was unable to make it to any of the preseason games, so my first look at this Indy Eleven team came tonight when they stepped on the field to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies. 

While I may have spent the team's offseason doing other things, Indy have been busy. There were only three starters that were on last year's roster, two of which weren't on the team at the beginning of 2022 (Asante and Vazquez), and the other (Fjeldberg) finished 2022 with a different team. Throw in the fact that Indy debuted their brand new red away jerseys, and to say that this is a "new look" Indy Eleven would be an understatement. Even the coaching staff has a slightly different look with the addition of Ayoze as an assistant coach, as he transitions from being a player. 

New goalkeeper. Vazquez was the only holdover for the back four. A new midfield. A new forward up top. This team has been rebuilt entirely with players that Coach Lowry feels fit ideally into his preferred 4-4-2 diamond/4-3-3 possession heavy, high-pressing lineup. Indy took that new lineup into a tough environment to play a perennial powerhouse in the Eastern Conference and came away with a 1-1 draw.

With all that being said, Indy stole this point from Tampa Bay. I know Coach thinks that the Indy deserved the point, and while there is some validity to that statement, Indy were fortunate to get a penalty kick in the dying minutes of the game. Yes, Guenzatti was fouled, but it occurred outside the box and shouldn't have been awarded the penalty kick. Not sure why it had it, but the game's Match Center after the game indicated a VAR review and a penalty not awarded. That has since disappeared, but it's like somebody in the league HQ disagreed with the call. Also makes me wonder if the league is considering the use of VAR, and testing it behind the scenes.



So, the team heads back to Indy with a fortunate point on the road due to some good fortune and some less than clinical finishing by Indy. Indy finished with 3 shots on target and 8 shots, but the late game drama should have never occurred if Fjeldberg had put away a point blank rebound shot in the 32nd minute off of a Blake shot from outside the box. Fjeldberg was active, but wasn't as clinical as he should be in front of the goal. 

We can chalk that up to this being the first game of the season, as both teams had moments where they looked disjointed and didn't know where their teammate was going to be or where they should be. Both teams are going to improve, but this game definitely had moments where it looked like they were playing a step up in competition from their preseason opponents.

During one of Coach Lowry's Tactical Tuesdays segments, he discussed a teams ability and need to not always win the first ball, but always win the second ball. If Indy is going to continue to win aerial duels at the rate they did against Tampa Bay, they better work hard to get to the second ball. Indy won just 18% of the aerial duels in the first half, and managed to get that to just 22% for the game. With the aerial presence we've seen out of past Indy teams, I can't remember ever seeing a discrepancy that large.




The Game Beckons Game Ball
Oettl's save of Cal Jennings' 20th minute penalty kick attempt kept Indy in the game early as both teams settled into the game. He looked confident with the ball at his feet. As the team works to settle into their press and attacking, having his presence in goal certainly helped in this game.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The Soccer Life - Robyn McCarthy

Photo Credit: Robbie Mehling for SocTakes
Robyn McCarthy becomes just the fourth woman to participate in this series, but I'm trying to change that. She follows Gwendolyn Oxenham (author, and where the name of this blog originated); Tammy Haley (one of my coaches from Ben Davis High School); and current BYB President Katherine Reed. Each woman is distinct in their own way, and each is making their mark on soccer; three of whom made or are making that mark in Indianapolis. I had the pleasure of interviewing and talking to Robyn during the inaugural USL W-League season, and then again after the season following an Indy Eleven men's game because she has decided, at least for now, to stay in Indianapolis. I still hope that she finds a professional team (maybe that will be here...) and is able to terrorize opposing teams' forwards with her defending for a living. Until that happens, Indy gets to know that we made enough of an impression on yet another player to keep them hanging around here for a bit. 

Without further ado, here is Robyn McCarthy telling you about her Soccer Life.


1. Name:
- Robyn McCarthy

2. Role (Player, Parent, Coach, Referee, General Spectator, All of the Above, None of the Above, Other):
- Player, Coach, Referee
(Editor's note: Robyn indicates she did some refereeing and some coaching a little bit later, and I know she's a spectator...  We'll chalk it up to a few too many defensive headers...)

3. Soccer-specific Nickname (and any story behind it):
- “Omaha” - Related to having a very long throw in. Started in high school soccer.
That feels like a Peyton Manning reference. For a site dedicated to Indy sports, Robyn knows how to further endear herself to the fans. šŸ˜€

4. Age started playing:
- 3 years old. Started playing with my older sister while having my dad coach us at a young age. Having a very big soccer family where everyone played soccer, it was easy to want to love playing it. 
Robyn has four siblings and nearly all of them played soccer at a high level; Timmy (went into the Army), Rebekah (played for BYU-Hawaii before transferring to Grambling State University), Rachel (we all know Rachel as she played with Robyn for Indy Eleven and is currently back at BYU), and Tyler (yet to graduate high school, but has committed to play in college).

5. First recollection of the game:
- Playing recreational soccer with my dad being the coach.

6. Highest level of play achieved:
- Pre-Professional 
(Indy Eleven USL W-League)

7. Last competitive match – Date (if known) & Level of Play:
- Indy Eleven vs Minnesota (First round playoffs USL W-League)
By my records, Robyn was one of just 3 Indy Eleven players to play in every single game in the inaugural season (Rogers and Williams were the others), one of 4 Indy Eleven players to start 12 of the 13 games (Bahr, Rogers, and Williams were the others), and was the team's leader in minutes, outpacing Rogers. 

8. Position:
- Center Back or Right/Left Back

9. Jersey number:
  • Indy Eleven
    • #23 
  • Fresno State
    • #22
10. Most memorable moment(s):
Robyn & Rachel after Rachel's last game
with Indy Eleven (vs Kalamazoo)
Photo Credit: Matt Edwards
- Getting to play with both of my sisters in high school and my younger sister at a pre-professional level
- First [Conference] Championship for the first season of USL W-League

11. Least memorable moment(s):
- Losing first round of USL W-League playoffs by a PK

12. Favorite team:


13. Favorite player:
-  

14. Indoor vs Outdoor:
- Outdoor 

15. Grass vs Turf:
- Grass

16. Coaching experience:
  • 2011-2017 - Ajax East Bay Assistant Coach
  • 2020 - Cencal Cosmos Assistant Coach
  • 2022 - Fresno State Volunteer Assistant Coach
17. Refereeing experience:
- 5 years in California

18. Favorite World Cup moment(s):
- Carli Lloyd scoring from half field

19. Honors/Awards:
  • Indy Eleven 
    • W-League First Team of the Year (2022)
  • D1 College
    • Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year (2021)
    • All-Pacific Region Team (2021)
    • MW First Team of the Year (2020, 2021)
Robyn also won two North Coast Section Division I championships with Liberty High School in California. 

20. Other sports played (and to what level):
- Track - Hurdles (High school) 

21. Other Comments:

I found an article about Robyn that was interesting part of her (soccer) life story and wanted to share an excerpt of it here:
Leading up to her freshman year of college, McCarthy’s biological family decided to relocate to Utah. McCarthy — a talented soccer player out of Liberty High School in Brentwood— was gearing up to start her collegiate career at Fresno State. 

Instead of her family just two and a half hours away, they were now a couple of states over. While McCarthy remains very close with her family, she depended on the help of her friends when it came to living arrangements, but there wasn’t always a guaranteed place for her to stay.

That’s when Karla and her husband, Jorge VillaseƱor, stepped in. Along with their children, Jorge Jr., 15, and Eliana, 10, the VillaseƱors opened their door for McCarthy to stay with them whenever she needed.

The family said it was an easy decision to make.

“She really needed the stability of a home,” Karla VillaseƱor said. “This is her home. If she needed to come home for the weekend or take some time off, she was more than welcome to. I’m glad she took us up on that.”

McCarthy said she felt comfortable and relieved knowing she had somewhere to stay.

“It was hard, because I didn’t want to go back to Brentwood often…I didn’t want to be a burden,” McCarthy said. “It was such a relief when they said I could stay with them.

... 

Having McCarthy in the family has been described as a blessing by Karla VillaseƱor, as she said she went through a rough phase of depression over a year ago, struggling to get out of bed and live life. But knowing McCarthy was coming over kept her spirit up because of the positivity she always brings with her.

“She’s just such a good-hearted happy person,” Karla VillaseƱor said. “She’s never mad or upset. She’s just one joyful human being that always finds the good in everything.”

McCarthy said her relationship with the VillaseƱor family has provided her with fond memories and life lessons she’ll forever hold on to, but there will always be one that she finds the most valuable.

“Family doesn’t always have to be about blood,” McCarthy said.  

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Indy Eleven 2022 Recap & 2023 Off-Season Outlook

In 2019, Indy Eleven made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to Louisville City in extra time. Indy hasn't made the playoffs since that game. The 2019 El Paso team rode a 6th place finish in the table to a Conference Final. The 2020 El Paso team rode a 4th place finish in the table to a Conference Final. The 2021 El Paso team rode a 2nd place finish in the table to a Conference Quarterfinal. In November of 2021, Indy Eleven announced El Paso's only coach to date was to be the new coach of Indy Eleven. In Coach Lowry's first season in Indianapolis, neither Indy Eleven nor El Paso Locomotive advanced to the USL Championship playoffs. Both teams had long-term players announce they wouldn't be returning for another year. To say that 2022 didn't meet either team's expectations and goals for the year is an understatement. 

So as the playoffs get underway and Indy sits at home as spectators, my yearly recap and off-season outlook for Indy Eleven can get started.

When your season timeline looks like Indy's, the fact that Indy is sitting at home for the playoffs isn't too difficult to comprehend. A Mariana Trench of defeats and draws in the middle of the season doomed Indy's early and late successes. Back-to-back wins against the top two teams in the league proved that the latter half of the season roster could compete with nearly anybody. A 5-0 thrashing to Monterey Bay just two games later proved that they could still lose to anybody as well. A work in progress is just that; in progress. Make no mistake, Indy Eleven expected that the introduction of a coach of Mark Lowry's caliber would provide more immediate positive results, but a number of factors went against them this year. 

I have long been a fan of teams where the refrain, "there's always next year" is a common refrain, so this year is no different for Indy Eleven. I renew my season tickets every year thinking that I'm going to see more success from Indy Eleven next year. This mindset hasn't changed and I might, maybe, have even more optimism than in the past. Coach Lowry said multiple times in end-of-season interviews that he "guarantees" Indy will be a playoff team, and hopefully a top playoff team next year. Obviously, that's coach-speak, but I've watched too many El Paso games over the past few years to know that he is capable of changing this team to be at that level. Keeping guys healthy is another issue that he won't be able to control, and that was a factor this year, but I just can't foresee a 12-game winless streak happening next year.  

Regardless of who is on the squad next year (more on that later), having guys healthy and available will be key. What would this season have looked like if Ayoze was healthy at the beginning of the year and in the form he was in at the end of the season? What if Arteaga had played more than 21 games, and he and Pinho could have played off of each other more? What if the goalkeeper position hadn't been a revolving door, with the longest consecutive run of games being 10 by Panicco to start the season? After his departure, Trilk, Meredith, and Lewis (who Indy traded from Tulsa for Noah Powder) traded time, with Academy players making the bench at times due to the senior guys' injuries. The success of a team is highly contingent upon having guys healthy, knowing who they will predominantly be playing with, and getting consistent minutes next to each other. Among other issues, that didn't happen this year. With the midseason roster adjustments (Powder/Lewis described above, Law to Tampa Bay for Tejada, Fjeldberg to RGV for Vazquez, etc.), there were still moments at the end of the season where guys didn't seem to be on the same page. I lost count of how many times I observed Dambrot shake his head in frustration as teammates didn't make the run that he wanted or thought they should make. 

A lot of how Indy does next season will depend on the relationships that were started this season and the players that get added to fill in the areas where they struggled this year. Coach Lowry has indicated that he has already had players training with the team in preparation for next year, and that he has already started evaluating players to be added for next season (again, more on that later). Another thing that will help Indy next year is that the horrible turf at Carroll Stadium was replaced in June. Unfortunately, the month of away games in June also coincided with the start of the wheels falling off for Indy, but the new turf is, without a doubt, much better than the old turf that was replaced; even I could tell the difference. Coach Lowry repeatedly said that the team couldn't play their preferred style on Carroll Stadium at the beginning of the season, and so "they didn't try." After the turf change, he felt much better about the turf and the team's ability to play the way they want to play on it. It's such an obvious question that I'm not sure why I never asked it at any point during this season, but Coach Lowry had 3 successful seasons at El Paso playing on a BASEBALL FIELD. How was Carroll so much worse than that? It's an answer to a question that no longer applies as Carroll Stadium's new turf will work fine until Indy move into the new stadium, scheduled for 2025. With that...

Looking to 2023

Stadium

An ongoing theme in this stadium discussion is that there are large gaps in when information is released from the team to the public. Indy finally announced a location for Eleven Park, and some of the expanded details of how that development will look. That was in June. It's been nearly 4 months and there hasn't been a single word mentioned about the stadium and the development since they "put a pin in the map." That pin resides at the site formally known as the Diamond Chain Company site, located just west of Lucas Oil Stadium. From the club's official press release:

As per the conceptualization of the development project outlined in 2019, today’s news confirmed the Eleven Park development will include hotel, office, apartments, retail and public spaces – all anchored by a 20,000-seat multipurpose stadium built with soccer at its core. Eleven Park will be constructed on the plot of land previously owned by The Diamond Chain Company, bordered by West Street, Kentucky Avenue, and the White River – an area that was recently acquired and is now 100% owned by Keystone Group.
...
Keystone and Indy Eleven are continuing their ongoing discussions with the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana to finalize project terms this year, which would allow for tear down of existing buildings and additional site work to begin in Spring 2023. After approximately two years of construction, Indy Eleven expects to begin play at its new Eleven Park stadium home in Spring 2025.

Due to a myriad of factors, including the rise in construction costs, inflation, and an increase in the scale and scope of the project, Eleven Park is expected to exceed a $1 billion investment in the largest piece of property in an under-developed area of downtown Indianapolis. All facets outside the stadium project – retail, restaurants, hotel, apartments, and office space – will be developed by Keystone Group. As per the State legislation that was passed and signed into law in 2019 , the City of Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board (CIB) would own the Eleven Park stadium, while Indy Eleven would lease and operate the venue.
...
Indy Eleven and Keystone also announced three key additional partners for the Eleven Park project as part of today’s announcement. Populous, the global industry leader in soccer/multipurpose stadium design, will serve as the stadium project’s lead architecture and design firm, partnering with Indianapolis-based Browning Day Architects. In addition, D3i, a Baltimore-based international design firm with award-winning mixed-use projects that span five continents, has been hired as the master planner for the project.

My rough sketch of a Scottish style stadium for Indy Eleven

To date, no new renderings have been released, though based on my previous evaluation/discussions (1, 2, 3) of the site, I don't expect it to look like the last renderings that fans were shown. I just don't think it will fit on the site any longer. If I'm being honest, the graphic that the team released that is shown above makes me think of something else I wrote about the stadiums in the Scottish Professional Football League, which I'll reiterate here: 

I have to say that having watched this YouTube video highlighting Tynecastle, and doing my research on so many of the other stadiums around the SPFL, I really wish that Indy would consider going with this style stadium design. For me, it's just a classic look that the new American stadiums don't do. The supporters are on top of the action, nearly all of the seats have some level of protection directly above them, and the sound from them should just bounce directly out onto the field, giving you the environment that Nick and Nicky appreciated.

I like the Scottish stadiums that I've looked at so far. There's a similar look to many of them, but they just have a look that appeals to me. In comparison to the sports cathedrals that we build in America, they have a very utilitarian feel to them, particularly knowing that they are stadiums associated with the top tier of Scottish football. This is not intended to denigrate the Scottish stadiums, they're just a different style than we build here. Some Indy supporters have dubbed Carroll Stadium, "American Soccer's Greatest Dive Bar," and I think a Scottish style stadium would be a way to lean into that part of Indy's history. As I said, there's a utilitarian appearance to the stadiums that fits nicely into the idea that I mentioned in my "Indy Eleven and its place in the American Lower Division Soccer Landscape" article about Indy "punching their weight." I like the idea of building a stadium that reflects Indy. Maybe many in Indy strive to consider Indy a "high class" city, but are we, really? Don't get me wrong, we have some really nice things, but deep down we're a tenderloin, root beer (or beer), and a day at the track kind of people. Let's be honest, a utilitarian stadium fits us well. Field, seats, a little protection from the Indiana weather, a place to be safe from the more extreme Indiana weather, and corn dogs and nachos in the concession stand. All that fits nicely into a Scottish style stadium. Yet I know architects and I know the architects that typically get hired to design American stadiums (e.g. Populous [Editor's note: I got that one correct]) and they would look at one of the Scottish stadiums and cringe. Either way, I suspect an architect is either already under contract to design the next iteration of Eleven Park and it won't be anywhere close to this style. 

As has been the trend of the Indy Eleven stadium discussions, Indy jumps to the next lily pad and then pauses. Maybe we'll see some renderings this off-season before the demolition crews start their work on the Diamond Chain site that is listed in the project schedule of happening in the spring of 2023. 

Coach

Coach Lowry was announced in November 2021. Despite some midseason questions from fans about whether he should be let go or was the right guy for the job, I believe that he was always going to be around for the 2023 season unless he catastrophically lost the locker room this season. 

I'll reiterate what I stated in my above linked article, "For now, I still have faith in Mark Lowry. From my discussions with him, he is fully aware that the entire squad, from coach to assistant to starters to bench players, are at risk and are responsible when things are going poorly. That includes him and he has said as much to me. He has said exactly what Sommer told that team after the Tampa Bay Rowdies game in 2014. Everybody's job is on the line, including his. I don't see him "pulling a Rennie," and exiting the club during a post-game interview with Rakestraw and Hauter, but I have waited on the field for him to come back from the locker room after enough games recently to know that he is not enjoying this stretch of games any more than we're enjoying watching them."

This team had a historically bad stretch of games under his watch. However, as players became healthy, other players were added that better fit his system, better turf was installed at Carroll, and guys had more time together in Lowry's preferred style of play, the team began to find success at the end of the year. I don't think Indy sees a repeat of this season next season.

Players

The 2022 season was the first season under Coach Lowry. As I've discussed over the years in these season end reviews, it seems like the majority of the player contracts for Indy Eleven have the appearance of 2 year contracts or 1 year contracts with a 2nd year option. The existing contracts, loans, trades, and retirements that happened this year make it another year where it could be difficult to accurately determine who will be returning next year. However, before I give my thoughts on which players from this year's roster might be returning, there are a couple other things I want to note. After the last home game, I asked Coach Lowry about when he started thinking about the roster for 2023:

"It started a few weeks ago. Soon as we weren't making the playoffs, my head turned to next year, I'm not going to lie. ... But I don't want to miss out on prime targets for next year. I know who we got to get, I know who we want here. I want to go make it happen, because that's the only way we're successful. The players play the game. ... Ultimately, it's the players that got to connect passes, the players win 1 v 1, the players got to hit the target, and the players have to provide that final ball quality. That's just how it is. It's a player's game. We know who we need here next year from around the league that will be successful in this system. Players that are proven in this league. It's our job to try and make that happen because I think we put a decent platform out there. We understand things a little bit more now in terms of the club, the conference, playing at home, playing away, all those things. If we get the right players, which I believe we will, we'll be very successful. ... We want to try and keep it as local as possible in terms of Eastern Conference, very much in the mold of Bayern Munich taking Borussia Dortmund's best players. You get better, but they get worse. Who from your competitors got game? Who from them would do well here, and we'll try to get them. You're getting better, and they're getting worse. ... We definitely want to keep it as much Eastern Conference as possible. Guys that are familiar with the league, the temperatures, the weather, the climates, all those things, the travel. We get better, other teams get worse. That's the goal."

As I write this, El Paso has announced a few different players as not returning next year. If he hadn't announced "retirement," I would have almost banked on Richie Ryan being Indy's #6 next year. Could he still find his way here? Maybe. ELP also announced Andrew Fox as not returning. He's another player that I could see find his way here. Similarly for long-time Indy fan favorite Dylan Mares. Mares is exactly the kind of #10 that works well in Lowry's system. Earlier this year, I asked John Morrissey for help with Dylan's stats compared to last year (see on the right). Dylan has improved from last year in a very similar role this year as he played last year under Coach Lowry. I wouldn't hate it if Dylan came home next year. [Editor's note: While I was doing my final proofread of this article, El Paso officially announced that Dylan will not be returning to ELP next year... Do I dare dream?]. From the Eastern Conference, "we get better, they get worse" scenario, what players from Louisville, Tampa Bay, Pittsburg, Detroit, and Memphis fit in here? For me, the focuses are #10s to feed the ball to Arteaga and Pinho (spoiler...) and a defensive midfielder. Could Tyler Gibson find his way back to Indy from Louisville? 

I honestly don't know who Lowry might add, but as I stated above, I do know that there were some players training with the team before the season even finished. So Lowry was good to his word about getting started on next season's roster as soon as the club didn't make this year's playoffs.

Based on my own opinions, here are what players from this year's roster that I can envision being somewhere else and who might be returning (not including the Academy players as they seem to fall under an even larger variable than the 1st team players):

Gone or Probably Gone:

  1. Ayoze - Already announced he would not be returning to Indy. That doesn't mean that he will be "retiring." Don't be surprised if you see him announce that he will be joining another team as a player/assistant coach, someone who isn't expected to play a ton of minutes but could still affect a game.
  2.  Ouimette - Loaned to Detroit in May having played in just 2 games for a total of 91 minutes. I don't think Lowry recalls the loan and brings Karl back to Indy for next season. "Beans" is near the top of the club's minutes (2nd), games started (2nd), and games played (3rd), but I don't think he will be back to add to those totals. 
  3. Law - Traded to Tampa Bay for Tejada. A player that I'm disappointed that he didn't seem to fit into Lowry's plan, but I wish him nothing but the best. His new team has a chance to win the playoffs, so the trade seems to be working okay for him.
  4. Powder - Traded to Tulsa midseason. Another player that I don't think works his way into Lowry's future plans.
  5. McQueen - Played sparingly over the last part of the season. History indicates those players rarely return for another year.
  6. Michael - Totaled just over 100 minutes of action across the entire season. Same as with McQueen, history indicates those players rarely return for another year.

Possibly Gone:

  1. Briggs - I think Briggs could go either way. He was good, and effective, depth, but his injury just limited his time on the field. Unless Lowry saw something from him in training to keep him around, I think Tejada's introduction to the squad likely bumps Briggs off the roster.
  2. Brown - I could go either way with Brown, but I think Lowry wants a more solid #6. Depending on salary, Brown might be around for depth. 
  3. Hackshaw - I know. I just feel like Lowry could never quite figure out where Hackshaw works best in his system with the other players. Hackshaw worked well in Rennie's 3-back system because his focus was defense. In Lowry's 4-back system, pushing Hackshaw forward in attack often meant that he wasn't able to get back in time for his defensive responsibilities. Hackshaw did reasonably well at times as the holding midfielder, but I don't think Lowry was convinced of having Hackshaw in that role. I could be wrong, but I think Hackshaw will be elsewhere next year.
  4. Timmer - Feels weird to say that the team's leader in minutes and games played for the season doesn't return, but I don't think he does. I just don't think Lowry sees Timmer on the roster if he can find other players who don't have the issues that Lowry feels Timmer has. He is likely in the 2nd year of a two-year deal, but I don't think he gets an extension.
  5. Torres - Loaned to Forward Madison FC early in the season. This will depend on whether the club saw enough growth from Alann's time in Madison to bring him back.

Possibly Returning:

  1. Aguilera - For the right amount, Aguilera remains in Indy as good depth, energy, and effort.
  2. Asante - Lowry brought him in midseason to fit a need. Successful in doing what Lowry wanted and so he will return.
  3. Arteaga - An injury free Arteaga makes for a dynamic pairing up top in Lowry's 4-4-2 diamond system. He is likely in the 2nd year of a two-year deal, but I think he gets an extension.
  4. Cochran - Strong defender and good in the air. Given the height of the other defenders that I think will be returning, Cochran's physical nature helps keep him in Indy. He is also likely in the 2nd year of a two-year deal, but I think he gets an extension.
  5. Dambrot - Lowry brought him in midseason to fit a need. Successful in doing what Lowry wanted and so I think he will return.
  6. Fjeldberg - Loaned to RGV to be able to get Vazquez to Indy. Had to give up something to get Vazquez, but Lowry knew that he wanted Fjeldberg as part of next year's plan. 
  7. Ingram - Ingram was a bright spot for me this season. For the right amount, Ingram remains in Indy as good depth, energy, and effort, but other teams had to notice him too. He might find another team willing to offer more money. Staying close to home, the Pike graduate might sway him enough to stay in Indy and play in front of family and friends.
  8. Jerome - A "Lowry guy". Despite a few more uncharacteristic errors than I'm used to seeing from Jerome in my time watching ELP, I suspect he will be a cornerstone of any Lowry team until he just can't play any longer.
  9. Pinho - Lowry took a chance on Pinho, hoping he would be the goal scorer that Pinho had been in the past. With 13 goals on the season, Pinho did exactly what Lowry had hoped he would do, and so he'll be back. With more regular crosses, and just a bit more clinical finishing, Pinho could be a 20-goal scorer.
  10. Rebellon - Another "Lowry guy." At one point in the season, Coach Lowry, in essence, said to me that a guy like Rebellon will always be a part of his team because of his effort and the way he plays. Lowry knows Rebellon will make some mistakes, and is willing to accept those mistakes, because of Rebellon's mentality to try and make something happen. His injuries this year are concerning, but at a minimum, he will be back for depth.
  11. Revolorio & Rivera - young guys with a ton of promise. Revolorio will likely be back. Much like with Torres, but in the other direction, Rivera will depend on whether Inter Miami saw enough to recall his loan. If not, it wouldn't surprise me if Indy attempts to extend the loan. 
  12. Tejada - Lowry brought him in midseason to fit a need. Successful in doing what Lowry wanted and so I think he will return.
  13. Vazquez - Lowry brought him in midseason to fit a need. Successful in doing what Lowry wanted and so I think he will return. 

Goalkeeper Discussion:

  1. I think the club goes out and finds a seasoned #1 goalkeeper that can't be pulled back on a loan deal like they had happen this year with Panicco. The team needs more stability at the goalkeeper position and the loan deal backfired, causing more goalkeepers to be used this year than in any previous year. 
  2. Trilk & Lewis - both showed they can be a #1 goalkeeper, but who returns will likely hinge on who Lowry finds for the #1 position, their salaries, and who Lowry trusts more as the #2.
  3. Meredith - Was on a loan deal with Nashville and I don't think he comes back.

Final Thoughts

Indy have now gone three seasons without making the playoffs. A fourth missed playoff will likely mean that Lowry will be released since the 2023 squad could be composed of players he has brought to the team. Arteaga being the notable exception if my above expectations are close to being correct. With an improved Carroll Stadium turf and a few months to start to learn how to play on it, the excuse that Rennie and Lowry have been using about not being able to play their preferred style has to no longer be something that can be used. Whether it stays that way or not, Indy's announced attendance has again grown to be close to 9k to 10k per game, meaning that The Mike is once again reaching max capacity. Therefore, success or failure in 2023 will be because of tactics, players, and staying healthy.

Indy fans should expect some kind of renderings related to Eleven Park in the off-season. When that might happen is beyond anybody's guess. When I know something that I can share, I'll pass it along

As of right now, this should be a much different off-season than last. The team has a coach, a solid core of players that should be returning, and a settled stadium location (now and in the future). Given that the playoffs are just starting, and that Lowry wants to plunder from the top teams, I wouldn't expect any player announcements soon, but I wouldn't expect it to take long as teams start their own off-seasons. Whether Lowry can convince the players to leave current playoff teams to come to one that hasn't made the playoffs in three seasons will be seen. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Brad Hauter - The Exit & Entrance Interview

2022 - Brad at game against Grinnell (Page Cotton on far left)
Photo Credit: Striggo Photography
In the fall of 1993, I received a letter from Page Cotton, the coach of DePauw University's men's soccer team asking me to consider the university, and to consider trying out for the team. While I did, ultimately, attend the university, I did not play for Coach Cotton; at least not for the university's varsity team. I did, however, take a health class with Coach Cotton where I received credit for playing soccer. I mean, I had to pay tuition for the class, but as someone who played soccer nearly their entire life, it was the easiest class I took that semester. Plus, I was able to be "coached" by Coach Cotton. 

I tell that story because the list of DePauw men's soccer coaches is a very short list. In 1966, Charles P. Erdmann started the program and coached for three years. The DePauw natatorium now bears his name as he was the swimming coach, as well as the baseball and tennis coach during his tenure. So he was an important figure in the University. In 1969, a 22-year old Page Cotton served as head coach while Mr. Erdmann was on sabbatical and proceeded to stay in the position (among others) for the next 39 years. When Coach Cotton retired in 2008, one of his former players took over the reigns. 

In the nearly 30 years since I first received that letter from Coach Cotton, I have known just two head coaches at my alma mater. Later this month, the University will begin the process of hiring just their fourth men's soccer coach as Brad Hauter steps down from his role that was passed down to him from Coach Cotton as DPU head coach and begins a new role as Vice President of Marketing & Club Growth at Indy Eleven. Brad has always been very helpful to me in learning the game from an on-field and off-field perspective, and has also been free with his time on this site, having participated in both my Soccer Life series and the Top 5 series. After he was announced as leaving DePauw and joining the Indy Eleven front office staff, I asked Coach Hauter if we could reflect on his transition from DePauw to Indy Eleven. The below questions and article serves as the Game Beckons' Exit & Entrance Interview of Brad Hauter. 

You Say Goodbye

Game Beckons: What is your memory of your first game as a player at DePauw University? 
Brad Hauter: It was against nationally ranked OWU [Ohio Wesleyan University] at their place. I was the back up for opening weekend to a Junior. He missed the bus and I started the next weekend and held the spot until I graduated. Humbling to get your first start because someone missed the bus, and you can't pick your opportunities, but you can make the most of them. 

Brad would take that opportunity and would become:
"a four-year starting goalkeeper and two-time MVP. The Tigers compiled a 44W-16L-4D record in his four seasons including a 15-1-1 mark in 1986 for a school-record .912 winning percentage. That season, Hauter finished with a 0.61 goals against average and allowed just 10 goals and recorded a school-record 12 shutouts. He totaled 33 shutouts in his career." 

GB: What is your memory of your first game as a coach at DPU?
BH: Excitement. [It] was an amazing honor to take over after Page. A 2-0 win [against Holy Cross]. We did not have a natural scorer and just had to grind out goals, so a 2-0 win was a surprise.  

Brad and Page Cotton in 2010
Photo Credit: Striggo Photography
Not counting this season, which is ongoing, Brad rode that first win to a 15-year career and a 154W-62L-35D record (entering this season). During his tenure, his teams have never had a losing record or a negative goal differential, with the closest to either of those things happening was the 2017 season, when the team finished 6-6-4 and a +1 GD. The two seasons prior to that anomaly, DPU made it to the NCAA Division III Championship, where the 2015 squad made it to the round of 16. 

When you have that kind of success, even at a Division III level, players can and will get noticed by professional teams. Indy Eleven fans know about Adrian Ables, who was a 2016 DPU graduate and a 4-year letter winner; as well as Nate Sprenkel who was a 2012 DPU graduate and a 3-year letter winner, and was the 2nd player announced (or 3rd player if your Baba Omosegbon's family) in Indy Eleven club history. However, they aren't the only ones. 

"Tony Halterman, Keagan Angevin, and Jay Klein were others that played pro. Keagan and Jay played in NISA for New Jersey, and Keagan also played for Napa Valley in NISA and was on the first USL Two team in Fort Wayne. We had a couple guys get small offers to play PDL Pro, but the job [offer] out of DePauw was too good." 

That will sometimes happen with a good education.

GB: What do you hope your players have learned from you?
BH: There are a few things I am unbending on: character, work ethic, and accountability. Hopefully they lived that as part of the program and will carry it forward. 

Work ethic. From a guy that has what seems like 20 jobs. Makes sense.

GB: What was it like being able to coach, and coach with, your son Christian Hauter (DPU class of 2020, 3-year letter winner, and spent time as an assistant coach under Brad)?
BH: It was a great experience and incredible opportunity to continue to be involved in his development as a player and a man. Plus we survived it and have a great relationship. 

GB: What do you think you are going to miss most about coaching at DPU?
BH: Working with the players on and off the field. This is a unique time, and this generation has more challenges than any generation prior. The ability to listen and be a sounding board for players will be the thing I will miss the most. 

Photo Credit: Striggo Photography
GB: As just the third head coach in DPU's program history, after taking the reigns from Page Cotton, what do you hope the university finds in the fourth head coach in program history? Have you offered advice on your potential successor?
BH: Good question. I hope the next individual can elevate the program another notch, be in the role for a number of years, and be a good fit for the players. DePauw does a great job in their searches and this will be a highly sought after job. I am confident they will find the best fit and they do not need any guidance from me.

GB:As an alum and soon-to-be former coach of DPU, how involved do you see yourself in the future?
BH: I will be a fan for life and a massive cheerleader. 

As a fellow DPU alum, it makes me happy that the men's soccer program has been able to have such consistency in that role for the past 53 years. The soccer program has been coached by good men who led by example and only wanted the best for their players, on and off the field. As Coach Hauter stated, I'm sure that the University will hire someone who will do a great job, but they have some very large shoes to fill.

And I Say Hello 

Over the years, there have been DePauw connections to Indy Eleven. Obviously, there were the players Sprenkel and Ables. There's my personal connection. There are, and have been, others who are graduates or had a connection to DePauw, like Senior Director of Ticket Sales Mike Henn, Drew Donovan, who was the Corporate Partnerships Manager, Guy-Jo Gordon who had worked at DePauw prior to his time with Indy Eleven, and Nipun Chopra who is now an assistant professor at DePauw, but was an early grassroots media contributor of Indy Eleven. Just to name a few. DePauw isn't a very big school, but its alumni are continuing to find ways to put their stamp on the World's Game and Indiana's Team. Brad will officially take over his role with Indy Eleven once his season with DePauw comes to an end. If the team is unable to make the postseason, that last game will be a home game on Saturday October 29th at 2:30 P.M., at which point Brad will officially begin his day-to-day duties as Indy Eleven's Vice President of Marketing & Club Growth. 

GB: What exactly does that title mean? Are there metrics to know whether you're successful other than more season tickets? Before you are able to dig into the historical data on what has worked or not, what preliminary ideas do you have to try to achieve club growth?
BH: Titles are interesting to me; coach, assistant coach, VP, etc. Irrelevant in my mind. I get to join an amazing club, and in that capacity I see my role strengthening the club in a variety of areas. Season tickets and attendance are traditional metrics, but I want to see this club grow in EVERY capacity; on the field, in the community, in fan engagement, etc. I have a number of initiatives I want to bring to life that are a blend of my soccer, entertainment, and marketing experiences. Ideas that I believe will separate us from every professional club in the US. It's a heavy lift, but I'm excited. I believe the eyes of the US soccer world will be on Indy in 2023! 

As to be expected with a professional sports team, Indy Eleven has had front office staff that were players, some at a fairly high level, including Employee #1, Molly Kruger. However, I believe Brad is the first front office person with significant professional player AND coaching experience. 

GB: How do you think that will benefit you in your role and how will it benefit the club?
BH: I didn't think about that. Interesting. I think it will be a great benefit to me in this role in that it provides me perspective from a variety of angles. The benefit to the club is that my life has been spent being involved in all levels of soccer, and as we work to make Indy Eleven the premier club in the United States, those relationships and experiences are invaluable. 

GB: How involved do you hope to be in helping shape the new stadium to facilitate current fans and grow the club?
BH: I have 100% trust in the team [that has been] put together to layout, design, and bring this stadium to life. Facilitating fans, fan experiences, and club growth have been a foundational part of the discussions. I'll be involved as needed, but in all honesty the team assembled is amazing and needs no help from me.

GB: You seem to do a good job of being engaged with Indy fans and the grassroots media on social media. How do you hope to continue that & use those outlets to help grow the club?
BH: The tv show we have produced for the last 8 years [Coop Dreams, and 7 years of Junk'd before that] started with no fans and no social media followers. We grew the fans and followers to around 200,000 in that time. We did it through honest engagements and connections many of which were on social media. The lessons learned over the last 8 years are invaluable here. 

Photo Credit: Don Thompson
GB:
What do you want fans to know about your transition from college coach and color commentator to VP of Marketing & Club Growth (and color commentator...)?
BH: I have had the fortune to wear a number of hats in my life that I fully believed were all a part of preparing me for this role. At the heart of it... I am an Indy soccer guy! 
  • I worked camps and clinics with the families that started and grew soccer in Indiana, 
  • I played my club ball in Indy,
  • I played my high school soccer in Indy,
  • I played my college ball near Indy, and 
  • Part of my pro career had me playing in Ft Wayne and Indy.
Additionally, 22 of my 28 years as a college coach were spent here in Indiana. As a kid, I grew up watching the Indy Daredevils on a black and white TV dreaming of one day becoming a pro player. For a kid in Indy in the late 70's and early 80's, playing pro was a dream with no path on how to get there. What Indy Eleven has done, for boys and girls in Indy, is to create a path for them to fulfill their dreams. I am forever indebted to Indy soccer as it has shaped EVERY single part of who I am. The drive I have to grow this club and its involvement in this community is incredible. I feel blessed and humbled to have this opportunity and cannot wait to get started.

Awhile back, I wrote about how the game was beckoning me. In that article, I described a passage from Gwendolyn Oxenham's book Finding the Game, from when they were in Italy talking to a writer, Cristiano, who read from his book and then helps them to understand his meaning. As I re-read Brad's responses to my questions, it felt like the passage that I enjoyed has been a theme of Brad's life too. As a reminder, here is the passage (emphasis mine):
"He pours us grappa and translates the meaning, hands gesturing, "It is a story about an old man who imagines what he'll say to his grandson...that there is a god for the soccer fields, a kind of magic. Not the big ones - the small ones in the provinces." Head cocked to the side, he smiles, shyly like he's telling us something personal, emotional: "Soccer will give you much more than you can give it."
Based upon Brad's involvement in soccer in Indiana, from player to coach to color commentator to his newest role with Indy Eleven, it feels like Brad has embarked on an endless quest to return as much to soccer as it has given him. His next step is to try and grow the game and Indy Eleven. Literally. It's his job title.

"My last 3-4 decades have been spent in soccer and brand building. When I saw the [Indy Eleven job] posting, it was the first time in my life these two worlds have connected. As an Indy guy, I’m passionate about building opportunities for kids in this state and Indy Eleven has a deep desire to grow the game throughout the state. Having a V.P. of Marketing & Club Growth that has been immersed in Indiana soccer for 4 decades and has been involved with national brands for the past 25 years, [the position] simply spoke to me." 

As a DePauw graduate, I'm disappointed that Brad will be stepping down from his head coaching position where he has led a very successful program over the past 15 seasons. However, as he stated in his interview with Greg Rakestraw on Soccer Saturday and above to me, the concept of his new position at Indy Eleven seems ideally suited for him and his past experiences. 

I look forward to seeing what ideas he has, and how they will begin to materialize once he gets started.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion FC - 09.34

Summary

- Opponent: Birmingham Legion FC
- Location: Protective Stadium
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 3-1 L

- Starting XI: Lewis, Vazquez, Jerome, Cochran, Dambrot, Timmer, Hackshaw (C), Revolorio, Asante, Tejada, Arteaga

- Substitution:  Rivera 70' (Tejada); Ayoze 70' (Timmer); Pinho 83' (Arteaga); Sanchez 87' (Asante)

- Unused: Trilk, Aguilera

- Scoring Summary:
BHM – Martinez 25’ (assist Dean)
BHM - Kasim 29' (assist Martinez)
BHM - Santos 61' (Penalty Kick)
IND - Pinho 83' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND – Hackshaw 45'+1' (RED)
BHM - Asiedu 55' (Yellow)
IND - Timmer 57' (Yellow)

- Referee: John Griggs
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

To say this season didn't go as hoped is an understatement. No team that isn't a 2 team of the parent club plans to miss the playoff. However, when you win your 12th game of the season, but don't win again until your 25th game of the season, the odds are really high that you're going to miss the playoffs. The final nine games of the season for Indy Eleven were more about trying to find a consistent run of form than trying to realistically make the playoffs. The Eleven were better in the final ten games of the season going 6W-2D-3L, but were still inconsistent in that period. When they were bad, there were some terrible results, being outscored 12-2 in the losses.

A starting lineup that included Revolorio, Jerome, Cochran, Vazquez, Dambrot, Timmer, and Hackshaw seemed like Coach Lowry was setting the team up for defensively heavy tactics. Yet, Timmer, Hackshaw, and Vazquez were extremely fluid in their positioning as they rotated between who was going to be in the defensive midfielder role(s) and who was going to be the left midfielder role of the diamond. Hackshaw was frequently seen up on the top line as well. The left side of the field was constantly in flux. The right side of the field was not nearly as fluid.

Defensive mistakes continue to be the thorn in the side of this team. Tonight's mistakes were by Vazquez who was involved in both of Birmingham's first two goals. Admittedly, BHM had been repeatedly knocking on the door before the goals, but mistakes being immediately punished by a goal has been a theme this year. 

A glacial pace from an offensive side in the final game of the season didn't help for how this game proceeded. Pass. Collect. Pass. Collect. Switch directions. Pass. Collect. Pass. Etc., etc., etc. BHM had little trouble with Indy's attack as the ball slowly went side-to-side for large portions of the game when in Indy's possession. 

Indy finished the first half with one shot and one less player. 

Arteaga with the one shot in the 20th minute. 

Hackshaw got tired of watching this shit too so he found a way to get out of it via a straight red in the 45'+1' due to throwing a poor punch at Alex Crognale. I think he was just trying to shove Alex, but the entire motion looked like a punch. 

This is the kind of season where Indy can't even throw a punch correctly.

With that, I'm finished. The second half will be whatever it is.

Indy are now, officially, finished with the match portion of the season, and will be spending the next couple weeks watching the playoffs on their couches like the rest of us. For many of them, they will spend that time wondering if they will be returning to Indy or packing their things and heading to other locales. I don't know what Coach Lowry's and the team's schedule looks as far as announcing those changes, but the guys tend to have their contracts through October. So I wouldn't expect to see any announcements from the team prior to that. Though you may start to see individual players' social media feeds start to give hints on their status prior to the team's announcement. Ayoze won't be the only one not returning though.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I'm writing this at halftime, so I'm inclined to just turn off my computer and call the end of the season right now. At this point of the game, Arteaga gets the GBGB. 

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Charleston Battery - 09.33

Summary

- Opponent: Charleston Battery
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,272
- Final Score: 4-1 W

- Starting XI: Lewis, Revolorio, Vazquez, Cochran, Dambrot, Timmer, Ayoze (C), Rebellon, Aguilera, Pinho, Rivera

- Substitution:  Arteaga 58’ (Aguilera); Jerome 58’ (Revolorio); Hackshaw 58’ (Rebellon); Asante 85’ (Ayoze); Tejada 87‘ (Rivera)

- Unused: Trilk

- Scoring Summary:
CHS – Williams 18’ (Barajas)
IND – Cochran 40’ (assist Ayoze)
IND – Pinho 48’ (assist Rebellon)
IND – Pinho 64’ (assist Arteaga)
IND – Own Goal 71’ (“assist” Arteaga)

- Bookings:
CHS – Paterson 88’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Cristian Campo
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Prior to the final home game of the 2022 season, Ayoze announced that he would not be returning, and that the game against Charleston Battery would be his last in front of the Indy Eleven fans. For all that he has been able to do over the years for the club and all the records he now holds for the club, Ayoze hasn’t seen a playoff game since 2019, so it was nice that his last game in an Indy Eleven jersey was a win. We’ve all seen what he can still do with the ball and that his touch hasn’t faltered, but the nagging injuries from seasons playing on turf probably weighed into his decision to not return. If Indy, the city, is lucky, then Ayoze and his family will choose to remain here now that his playing days in Indy are finished. If not, Ayo will still always be #IndyForever.

With just two games remaining in the season, the next being on Wednesday against Birmingham who will be fighting for one of the top 4 spots in the conference, Coach Lowry made some adjustments to the starting lineup as he tried to manage minutes at the end of a long season. The Kids, Revolorio and Rivera, started the game, as well as goalkeeper Sean Lewis who was seeing his first minutes since August after being injured. Starting on the bench were Jerome, Hackshaw, Tejada, Asante, and Arteaga, presumably to have the typical starters against “better” competition versus Birmingham. In the first ten minutes, Lewis was forced to make a few good saves, so “better” competition is a very fine line in the USL. With the lineup adjustment, Timmer slid into the holding midfielder role, continuing his jack-of-all-trades ability.

A frenetic pace in the opening minutes led to opportunities for both teams, but the field was tilted towards Charleston’s offensive half of the field leading to a goal in the 18th minute by Williams after yet another shot was squeezed through an extremely small opening between the post and an Indy goalkeeper. The goal was another example of Indy being punished by their mistakes. While CHS had early opportunities, this was another example where the goal shouldn’t have happened. There were multiple defenders who should have done better, and Lewis should have done better as well. Shortly after the goal, there was some miscommunication between Vazquez and Lewis where they collided with each other, showing that the players in this lineup haven’t had a lot of game time together in those positions. Indy looked out of sync early, and the goal and a collision between a defender and the keeper were the most obvious signs of it.

As the game crept towards the halftime whistle, Indy began to settle into the game, leading to a goal in the 40th minute on a free kick from Ayoze that Cochran headed past Fauroux to level the game. Amazingly, the assist from Ayoze was his first of the season, bringing his club assist record to 22, six more than second place Mares, but brought his season point total to 11 to temporarily equal that of Arteaga, both with 5 goals and 1 assist until Arteaga added his 2nd assist of the season later in the game. It was also Cochran’s first goal of the season, which was just the 3rd goal on the season from a true defender (obviously not counting Hackshaw’s brace since he has been playing more as a midfielder this season). The late first half goal by Indy is how the teams went into the halftime break. The scoreboard read 1-1, but Charleston led in all the other statistics, including possession, shots, shots on goal, and corner kicks (9 to 0). Charleston may be below Indy in the table, but they had a legitimate gripe about going into the break with an even score line. 

After the break, Indy tilted the field towards their offensive half and tilted it immediately after returning from the locker room. A 48th minute corner kick lead to a recycling effort that went from a chipped pass from the center of the box from Dambrot to Rebellon’s header back across the goal to Pinho’s header past Fauroux. With two adage goals by Indy on both sides of halftime, Indy went from a goal down to a goal up, and they didn’t take their foot off the gas. Less than 3 minutes later, Pinho put another ball off the crossbar, nearly extending their lead even further less than 5 minutes into the half. In the first 10-minutes of the second half, Indy had 4 shots; two of which were on target, and a third off the crossbar. 

Just before the game reached the 60th minute, Indy had a line change of substitutions, which led to another short period of the team being out of sync. It didn’t take long for the team to work out of the difference in personnel playing styles, demonstrating their ability in the process. The substitutions pushed Indy to a two-goal lead by the 64th minute, and then quickly to a three-goal lead in the 71st minute. The energy took a noticeable uptick from Indy in the 2nd half compared to the first half, but the substitutions, particularly Arteaga, took the game to another level. 

The goal in the 64th minute resulted from Hackshaw's newfound use of his ability to throw the ball in over the defense on out-of-bounds restarts in the opposition's half of the field. His throw was headed away by CHS, but only as far as Arteaga, who creatively put a header around his defender and into the path of an onrushing Pinho. Pinho collected, and then slotted the ball nicely around Fauroux. Indy then had opportunities on goal every two minutes until Arteaga finally saw his attempted cross ricochet off Asensio and past Fauroux for the fourth goal of the night.

In the 85th minute, Ayoze made his curtain call on his Indy Eleven career to a standing ovation from the majority of the 10,000+ fans in attendance. The referee tried to speed along the substitution, but Hackshaw and others appeared willing and eager to risk getting a yellow card for time wasting to be able to give Ayoze his proper due as he exited the game. I don’t know what Ayoze’s plan is for the future, but between his time with the Cosmos and the five seasons in Indy, Indy fans have been treated to an exceptional player. 

Indy ultimately outshot Charleston in this game, and finished with a comfortable 3 goal differential. Yet, the things that have plagued this team all season continued to rear their heads in this game. Seemingly whenever Indy has made mistakes, they have been punished for them. If Indy had been more clinical around goal, this game would have been a laugher. Rivera had an opportunity within the first minute that could/should have been scored. Pinho and Rivera both put shots off the crossbar from the six-yard box. Admittedly, Charleston could have added a couple of their own, making this game a 7-3 kind of affair, but those are the kinds of shots and defensive errors that have taken wins to draws and draws to losses. Coach Lowry is convinced that the players that he will keep from this roster and add to it during the offseason will push this team to a top of the table team next season. As I’ve routinely stated, I believe in Lowry. Only time will determine what players he keeps, what players he adds, and whether they are as successful as he has guaranteed, but in conversation after conversation with him, he truly believes that this season has been an aberration and will not be the norm for Indy moving forward.

Indy head to Birmingham on Wednesday before being official spectators of the playoffs like the rest of us. Whatever happens in the offseason and next season, Indy finished this season with a home record of 9W-2D-6L. It’s the 3W-3D-10L record on the road that did in Coach Lowry’s inaugural season in Indy. Yet, the success at home is promising, particularly given that the first part of the season was on the old, crappy turf that everyone is in agreement was horrible to play on. Indy will look to ride their recent good run of form to play spoiler to Birmingham’s postseason goals.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
It would be easy to give the GBGB to the sentimental favorite of Ayoze in his final game. Or to give it to Pinho for his brace. Both are worthy of receiving it. Yet, despite the fact that his stats are a bit underwhelming, I have to give tonight's GBGB to Rivera. His movement was good. His energy was good. He provided opportunities for other players. If he had his feet right, he would have had a goal within the first 50 seconds of the game, and if he had gone for a little bit more placement over power, he would have been rewarded with a goal in the 80th minute. The first one was unlucky. The second one is a shot that Coaches Lowry and Williams will show him in the video review, and one he'll learn from moving forward. That may not be in Indy, but rather back in Orlando City as his loan expires, but if Orlando don't see him in their plan for next year, I can definitely see him being a part of next season's Indy Eleven roster. 

Photos (Courtesy of Don Thompson)