Sunday, July 21, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Tampa Bay Rowdies - 11.19

Summary

- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,636
- Final Score: 2-0 L

- Starting XI: Sulte, Ofeimu, O'Brien, J., Diz Pe, Martinez, Stanley, Wootton, Lindley (C), Guenzatti, Williams, A., Williams, R.

- Substitution: Collier 65' (Guenzatti); Gibson 65' (Wootton); Mines 65' (Williams, A.); Neidlinger 82' (Ofeimu)

- Unused: Oettl, Chapman-Page, Henderlong, McCoy

- Scoring Summary:
TBR - Jennings 36' (assist Hilton)
TBR - Rivera 80' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
TBR - Crisostomo 13' (Yellow)
IND - Wootton 33' (Yellow)

- Referee: Thomas Snyder
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

This is an opposing goalkeeper
walking through the BYB line. Farr Love!
Indy Eleven South (also known as the Tampa Bay Rowdies) came to town with a number of familiar faces for Indy fans. Fan favorite Jordan Farr is now the netminder in Tampa, while Arteaga started up top for the visitors. If you factor in Nick Moon, who didn't make the trip to Indy, short-term signing Cal Jennings, and Nicky Law who was sitting on the bench as an assistant coach, the number of former players now associated with TBR is staggering. Indy love their former players, but #IndyForever doesn't apply for the 90-minutes of game time. Though, once the game is over, the love returns as Farr was seen walking through the BYB line.

Before I get into the game, I want to mention some player milestones that I neglected to mention after the last game against Loudoun. With his 90-minutes against LDN, Aedan Stanley surpassed the 10,000 regular season mark for his career in the USL. With his appearance in the LDN game, Cam Lindley reached 150 regular season appearances in the league. Elliot Collier has crept within one game of reaching the century mark in the league. If he finds his way onto the field in the upcoming game against Tulsa, he will reach the milestone. Finally, Sebastian Guenzatti is now within 2 games of reaching the 200 game threshold. Congrats to all the guys for their staying power!

Back to our regularly scheduled game article.

Indy first faced TBR early in the inaugural 2014 NASL season, playing to a 1-1 draw. Tonight's match was the 18th meeting between the two teams in the following decade of play, with Indy holding a 3W-4L-10D record against the visitors from Florida coming into the game. Interestingly, at least to me, four of those 18 games have been played in the month of July, with three of them during this weekend of the month. I was surprised to check the record stat and confirm how many times the two teams have played to a draw. The most notable, to me, was the 2-2 draw in June of the 2015 season, that saw a >2 hour rain delay, THREE Tampa Bay players ejected from the game, and a 98th minute banger from Kyle Hyland to salvage the draw. Within hours, Peter Wilt had let Coach Sommer go, moving Tim Regan into the interim coach role. 

This game didn't have the same level of draw, and also didn't end in one of the regular draws between the two teams. The early moments of this game were all within Indy's defensive half of the field as TBR came out pressing hard and pinning Indy back as a result. As the game continued, Indy began to find a bit more possession and forays into TBR's defensive third, but it was still the visitors that were dictating the game until about the 25th minute when Indy began to find more possession and attempts going forward. It was a little before that point where McAuley adjusted his 4-3-3 arrangement to bring Guenzatti back further into the midfield to try and help stabilize the Indy midfield that was being hammered by the TBR attack. Immediately after Lindley had a shot on target that went straight to Farr, TBR went down the field and had their 5th corner of the game. Hilton put the ball to the 6-yard box where Jennings put a flick header to the far netting, giving the visitors a deserved lead in the game going into the halftime locker room.

Full Time Shots
The second half was much like the first half. Both teams found some possession and both had opportunities at goal. The difference was that TBR looked like a better team on the day and found a second goal late in the game by Rivera that, much like the first goal, was deserved. Statistically the teams were fairly similar to each other, not counting the shots (18 to 8 in favor of TBR), shots on target (9 to 2 in favor of TBR), corners (12 to 4 TBR), and (obviously) goals, but TBR's efforts at Indy's goal were greater and much more frequent. 

Sulte had yet another good game, stopping 7 of the shots on target, but really couldn't do much for the two shots that found the net. He couldn't do anything but watch the Jennings flick header, and Rivera's shot on the second goal was so quick and was surrounded by so many Indy defenders that he had to have been surprised to see the ball coming to him. 

If I'm honest, the Indy players looked slower and more tired. They had a reasonable gap between games to get their legs back from their preceeding week, but they didn't look as energetic as they needed to be against an opponent sitting just ahead of them in the table. Indy has 6 players that have started at least 15 of the 19 games and all are averaging more than 75 minutes per game, with Stanley being the minutes leader having played every minute of every league game. All of those players have also started 3 of the 4 U.S. Open Cup games as well. Indy have signed a lot of players this season (36), but 7 have been sent elsewhere, 8 are Academy players, and 2 have been on extended injury leaves, leaving just 19 players to cover the bulk of realistic game minutes. That's a lot of minutes on legs as we get to the midpoint of the league season. Throw in the U.S. Open Cup run, and it's not surprising that some of the player's are starting to show periodic signs of fatigue. That's more an observation than an excuse of tonight's game, but Indy have the talet to compete with a team like Tampa Bay and they didn't do that very well tonight.

Indy return to action next Friday in an interconference clash on the road to FC Tulsa who are sitting on the wrong side of the playoff line in the Western Conference. After Indy's 9-game undefeated streak was broken by Orange County, Indy have not been able to get a win despite three of the four games being played at Carroll Stadium. No games are given in this league, but Indy would like to use the game at ONEOK Field as a "get right" game. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

While the GBGB typically goes to a player that I keep noticing throughout the game or that has a MVP-type game. However, in the loss, I would like to give tonight's GBGB to Logan Neidlinger, the USL Academy signing who has been training well enough to not only get some looks at being on the bench, but has also found minutes at the end of the past two games. Congrats to the young man who is headed to the University of Indianapolis this fall.

Photographs - Don Thompson Photography





















Sunday, July 14, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Loudoun United FC - 11.18

Summary

- Opponent: Loudoun United FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 9,672
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Sulte, Ofeimu, Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, Stanley, Mines, Wootton, Lindley (C), Guenzatti, Williams, A., Martinez

- Substitution: Gibson 45' (Lindley); O'Brien, J. 45' (Diz Pe); Williams, R. 45' (Williams, A.); Collier 60' (Mines); Neidlinger 84' (Guenzatti)

- Unused: Oettl, Henderlong, Schneider

- Scoring Summary:
LDN - 58' Leggett (assist Awuah)
IND - 74' Collier (assist Gibson)

- Bookings:
IND - Chapman-Page 28' (Yellow)
IND - Williams, R. 46' (Yellow)
LDN - Ryan 63' (Yellow)

- Referee: Brandon Stevis
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

This game marked the first game of the second half of the season. After Indy's rough start, who would have thought that Indy would finish the first half of the season in 3rd place? Thanks to their continued success in the U.S. Open Cup, Indy was forced into a mid-week fixture against Atlanta United on Tuesday. Loudoun, contrarily, hadn't played since before the July 4th holiday. 

2023 Rankings Chart
While the differences in freshness might have been a factor, this isn't your older brother's Loudoun United. Around this time of the season last year, Loudoun cemented themselves out of the playoff race, finishing just ahead of Hartford. However, at the midpoint of the 2024 season, Loudoun is hovering just above the playoff line with very similar statistics as Indy, with similar goal totals (30 to 26 advantage to Indy), goals conceded (25 to 20), shots on target (82 to 85), shots faced (70 to 75), and with Loudoun having a better edge in clean sheets (3 to 6). Amazing what having a consistent group of players and not being treated like a secondary endevour to the "mother" team will do for an organization. There's still an entire half of the season to go, but the visitors entered this game on a 7 game undefeated streak.

Whether it was a result of having 3 games in 9 days in high heat and humidity, the game felt very underwhelming to me from Indy's perspective. It was interesting to hear postgame that McAuley had similar thoughts. The effort to get the win in Atlanta on Tuesday could have taken the legs out of them, but Coach McAuley said that it didn't look to be the case during training leading up to the game. It just felt like from my perspective that Indy's movement was just too slow. When Loudoun was in defense mode, they had 11 guys behind the ball. As Indy tried to break down that compact defense, the passes and decisions weren't quick enough. As a result, Loudoun was able to just shift back and forth when Indy was in possession and slowly moved the ball from left to right and back across the backline. Indy's offense was very predictable for much of the game.   

Photo Credit: Don Thompson
The notable exception to this was the infusion of Collier in the 60th minute. Whether by instruction or just his nature during this game, Collier made an effort to attack the Loudoun defense. After the game, McAuley reiterated something he (and his predecessors) have stated from time to time. Tactics are numbers on a whiteboard. Once the game gets underway, the game is so fluid that it comes down to player understanding of the goals, and individual effort. Indy, as a team, didn't have the effort in the first half. Collier, with his inclusion into the game, was all effort. His goal leveled the game, turning what was starting to look like a rare loss in Indy's recent run-of-form.

Indy, despite not playing their best game, still accumulated points. Indy haven't lost a game since before the U.S. Open Cup run started with the game aginst the Chicago Fire II. One loss in 16 games across all competitions after starting the season losing 4 of their first 6 games. With teams like Louisville, Charleston, and Tampa Bay playing the way they are playing, getting points is important. Tampa Bay moved ahead of Indy in the table thanks to their result, but Indy keeps everybody ahead of them in arms reach and helps keep the teams behind them behind them with the point.

For now, I'm going to blame the poor effort from the squad on the number of games in a short period, one of them against an MLS side, all in hot weather. However, it's interesting to note from the statistics that I keep that this game was Indy's 2nd lowest long pass percentage of the season. The lowest on the season? The loss against Orange County. I had previously praised the tactical change from McAuley over Lowry and Rennie in that trying to play "the beautiful game" with passes, possession, and picking apart your opponent may not be realistic at this level of soccer on these types of fields. Statistically, in the past two league games, Indy seem to be getting away from what has made them successful in this run, which has been to attack with longer balls, crosses into the box, and trying to take the Carroll Stadium turf out of play. Watching the team pass the ball around the back trying to break down Loudoun, I wondered if the change was game specific or an evolution of the team's tactics. One that hasn't worked in Indy in the past, and was close to not working for a second home game in a row. I love the "beautiful game" as much as the next person, but it might not be what works for Indy, in this league, in this stadium. 

Guess we'll find out more next week when Tampa Bay, and their roster full of former Indy Eleven players, come to Indy.  

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Sulte came up big a few times, helping keep Indy in the game, so I was inclined to give him tonight's GBGB, but Collier's individual effort was clearly the difference maker for Indy tonight. His goal salvaged what had been an underwhelming effort from the team, just 4 days removed from securing their place in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. Collier came into the game and did exactly what you want second half substitutes to do when you're trailing. Bring a shot of energy into the attack and change the tenor of the game. Collier did both of those things.

Photographs - Don Thompson Photography












Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Atlanta United - 2024 U.S. Open Cup

Summary

- Opponent: Atlanta United
- Location: Fifth Third Bank Stadium (Kennesaw State University)
- Attendance: 2,417
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Sulte, Ofeimu, O'Brien, J., Chapman-Page, Stanley, Mines, Wootton, Lindley (C), Guenzatti, Williams, A., Martinez

- Substitution: Collier 68' (Martinez); Gibson 74' (Guenzatti); Diz Pe 85' (Williams, A.); Schneider 85' (Lindley)

- Unused: Oettl, Henderlong, Neidlinger

- Scoring Summary:
IND - 31' Williams, A. (assist Martinez)
IND - 83' OWN GOAL (Dax McCarty)
ATL - 90'+2' Firmino (assist Rios)

- Bookings:
ATL - Wiley 48' (Yellow)
IND - Martinez 52' (Yellow)

- Referee: Sergii Demianchuk
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

As I found out in the last round when I wrote for TheCup.US for the Indy Eleven versus Detroit City game, tonight's foray into the U.S. Open Cup by Indy marks just the second time that a team from Indianapolis has made it this far. The last time a team from Indy made it this far, it was the Indianapolis Inferno in 1992, when they defeated the Scott Gallagher SC team from Saint Louis by a 2-nil score. Indy headed to Atlanta hoping to be the second Indiana team to advance beyond the quarterfinal round. With their 2-1 win tonight, they did just that. Indy extend their U.S. Open Cup run and beat an MLS team for the first time in the process. Indy will take on the winner of the FC Dallas vs Sporting KC game that takes place tomorrow. 

In the early stages of the game, if you were unclear on which team was the "better" team, you would have guessed incorrectly. Indy, the USL side, was taking the game to Atlanta United, the MLS side, with multiple corner kicks, free kicks, and shots. Indy was adamant about pressing the ATL defenders quickly to get the ball back after losing possession. Once back into possession, they often had the ATL defenders chasing shadows. As ATL finally settled into the pace of Indy and that Indy wasn't going to be a pushover in the game, ATL began to have their own possession and chances. However, most of Indy's pressing came when the ball was deep into ATL's defensive third. If ATL broke the immediate pressure and reached towards the half line, Indy's press relaxed and the team settled into a compact defensive shape. 

It was a counterattack from Indy that Ofeimu started that put Indy on the board first. Ofeimu collected the ball near the half line and put a ball up the right side to Martinez who had acres of space around him. Augie Williams then proceeded to get past three ATL defenders when Williams put the ball behind them and in front of goalkeeper Cohen. Williams calmly slotted the ball under Cohen and Indy found themselves, deservedly so, up a goal a third of the way through the game. 

The field began to tilt a bit more towards Indy's defensive third after the goal, but only moderately. Indy stayed diligent with their defense, pressed at appropriate times, and attacked with pace when given the opportunities. As the game crept towards the halftime whistle, ATL picked a couple of good chances, but nothing that was overly dangerous for Indy. Atlanta finished the half with more shots, but none of those shots were on target. Indy had just one shot on goal, but Williams was effective and efficient with that one shot on target, giving both keepers zero saves at that the halftime break. Indy had a lead at the half, on the road, against an MLS team, and looked confident.

The deficit was clearly in the minds of the ATL players as tensions began to rise immediately after the players returned to play after the halftime break. Noah Wiley, Paris bound to play for the United States in the Olympics as well as a potential move to Chelsea, picked up an 48th minute yellow card for pushing Lindley to the ground, after play had already been stopped. Just a few minutes later, Martinez picked up his own yellow card for pushing a player in the back, sending him sprawling to the ground. The intensity after the break clearly ramped up with ATL needing to chase the game and Indy wanting to show that they weren't going to back down.

Indy may have looked the more effective team in the first half, but Atlanta turned the screws on Indy in the second half. After not getting any shots on target in the first half, Atlanta held the possession advantage to work around the Indy defense for multiple shots on target. Indy didn't park the bus for the entire 45 minutes, but it was close. The Indy defense was compact, switched and rotated perfectly, and kept the Atlanta players mostly in front of them, keeping ATL frustrated. 

As the game moved further and further along, Indy's strategy became defend at all costs and counter only when the ideal situation arose. Just before the end of regulation, one of those opportunities arose and Williams took a ball up the right side of the field before putting a ball between the six-yard box and the penalty spot to an on-rushing Collier. The ball, however, never made it to Collier as a retreating Dax McCarty threw out a leg to stop the ball from getting passed him and inadvertently put the ball into his own goal.

Atlanta pull a goal back in the first couple minutes of stoppage time to make the end of the game interesting, but Indy managed to hold on for the win. With Atlanta's goal, Indy's last two Open Cup games have been won by Own Goal since the game-winning first goal against Detroit was also an Own Goal. In a tournament, however the wins happen, is good. To make it even better, the game didn't require extra time. I'm not sure the Indy legs could have withstood 30 more minutes of defending.

Indy move on to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup.

Indy fans, let that sink in and enjoy the night.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

The entire team gets tonight's GBGB. I know that seems a bit too easy, but this was a definite team effort to get the win. The team bought into how they wanted to play, when and where they were going to press, and capitalized on their opportunities in front of Atlanta's goals. Sulte will be disappointed to not get the clean sheet, but he made an instinct play to close out a player knowing that his defenders were on tired legs. Firmino just made a better play around him. To that point though, every player on the Indy team played with a purpose of team defending. Team GBGB. The best kind of GBGB.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Detroit City FC - 03.12 (Playoffs)

Summary

- Opponent: Detroit City FC
- Location: Keyworth Stadium (Detroit FC hosting)
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 3 - 1 L

- Starting XI: Phillips, Soderstrom, S., Cherry, Bahr, Snyder, Unkraut, Mitchell, Rogers (C), Chester, Soderstrom, K., Whitsett

- Substitution: Sexton 45' (Soderstrom, S.); Chatterton 45' (Snyder); Darey 63' (Unkraut); Katembo 71' (Whitsett); Jacomen 80' (Soderstrom, K.)

- Unused: Blair, Tobin

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Whitsett 7' (assist Unkraut)
DET - Pagett 20' (unassisted)
DET - Romine 45'+1' (assist Offer)
DET - Addison 75' (unassisted)

- Bookings: 
DET - Childers 58' (Yellow)

- Referee: - 
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

Much like Minnesota Aurora, Detroit City came into the playoffs as the dominant team in their division. Minnesota was 7 points clear of River Light in the Heartland division, while DCFC was 9 points clear of Kalamazoo in the Great Lakes division (keep in mind those two divisions play 2 more games than Indy in the Valley division). Much like last year, Indy had to go through Minnesota and the team hosting the Central Conference playoffs (Flint City last year, Detroit this year), which means that Indy was the road team in a non-neutral site. It didn't matter last year, but it mattered this year as Detroit defeated Indy by a 3-1score to advance to the W League semifinals this coming weekend.

In the opening minutes, both teams looked to get the early advantage. Detroit wanted to possess the ball and play out of the back, while Indy were trying to attack with pace by pressing the Detroit defenders. That press paid off within the first 10 minutes when Unkraut picked the pocket of a Detroit defender before getting a ball to Whitsett. Whitsett proceeded to turn her defender, made a few steps towards the center of the field, and then unleashed a shot to the far right corner that was beyond the reach of Schriver to give Indy the early lead.

The lead would be short-lived though as a clearance from Indy didn't clear the lines and Emily Pagett put her laces through a screamer that was impossible for Phillips to reach. The goal brought the game back to level, but also seemed to settle the DCFC players as they found some good opportunities going forward after their goal, including a 25th minute attempt that had the Indy defenders struggling to keep track of the DCFC attackers.

Both teams seemed to struggle with their final touches in the offensive third. DCFC's struggles were related to effective defending from Indy and just having some errant passes. Indy's struggles seemed to be related to their inability to judge the speed of the turf, regularly putting touches just out of reach of their teammates. The heat of a 1:00 start time, and their inexperience on the Keyworth Stadium field likely played into those passes.

Those forays into the DCFC defensive third that went unrewarded were punished just into stoppage time when a counterattack led to a goal by Romine. Romine had sprayed the ball wide and a lunging Susie Soderstrom was unable to intercept the ball. Before she could recover defensively, Offer put a ball through the middle of the box that found an open and on-rushing Romine, who one-timed it through a tight window of Indy defenders and Phillips, who might have been pushed off her line by a DCFC defender. It was DCFC's best worked run-of-play and they were rewarded with the lead going into halftime. Despite not having many shots on target, they were effective with those shots. 

A 1-1 draw at halftime would have felt like a fair result, but DCFC had one more moment of brilliance than Indy forcing interim coach Kim to make an immediate substitution after the break, bringing on Chatterton and Sexton in place of Snyder and Soderstrom, S., respectively. Kim was looking to get Sexton's and Chatterton's pace and overlapping runs to put further pressure on the Detroit defense now that Indy was truly chasing the game. Indy put a ton of pressure on the DCFC defense in the opening minutes, but were struggling to get the final touch and shot.
 
Every missed opportunity to get the equalizer and make DCFC nervous went for naught, and an eventual poor clearance from Phillips resulted in a third, game-winning goal by Addison. Indy continued to pepper the DCFC defense, but were unable to break through and Indy watched the home side celebrate their advancement into the league's semifinal game. 

I'm not sure that I would say the better team won today, but the team that made the most of their chances won today. Indy probably had three mistakes on defense all day, and each one of those mistakes resulted in a goal for DCFC, while Indy's attack just couldn't find their rhythm once they got into the DCFC defensive third, and left a number of goals on the table. 

It's nearly impossible to repeat as champions, but that doesn't mean Indy isn't a championship team. This was an enjoyable team to watch, and it will be an enjoyable team to watch next year. There are players on this roster that deserve to find spots on NWSL and USL Super League teams, and it's just a matter of time before we see them on those professional teams. 

When it gets to playoff time, every mistake is magnified, every team is good, and as the defending champions, you're going to get every team's best effort. It wasn't the result the Indy team wanted, but they can be proud of their effort. 


The Game Beckons Game Ball

She transferred from Xavier to play her senior season as Arkansas, but Ella Rogers is going to be one of those players that gets a look from multiple professional teams. Her work rate is unmatched, her skill is high level, & she showed this year that she is capable to scoring if that's the role given to her. At some point, she won't be in an Indy Eleven jersey (unless Indy's Super League team signs her...), but there is no doubt in my mind that she will be playing professionally somewhere after graduation. For her effort today, and for what she has meant to this club, Rogers gets the season's final GBGB.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Rhode Island - 11.17

Summary

- Opponent: Rhode Island FC
- Location: Beirne Stadium
- Attendance: 4,728
- Final Score: 3-3 D

- Starting XI: Sulte, Ofeimu, O'Brien, J., Musa, Stanley, Mines, Wootton, Lindley (C), Guenzatti, Collier, Williams, R.

- Substitution: Chapman-Page 45' (Musa); Martinez 61' (Guenzatti); Williams, A. 61' (Collier); Gibson 71' (Williams, R.); Scheider 83' (Lindley)

- Unused: Oettl, Neidlinger

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Wootton 20' (assist Lindley)
IND - Collier 28' (assist Williams, R.)
RI - Nodarse 52' (assist Ybarra)
RI - Nodarse 69' (assist Ybarra)
IND - Gibson 79' (assist Martinez)
RI - Angking 90'+5' (assist Kwizera)

- Bookings:
RI - Nodarse 19' (Yellow)
IND - Mines 35' (Yellow)
IND - Sulte 54' (Yellow)
IND - O'Brien, J. 59' (Yellow)
RI - Williams 80' (Yellow)
RI - Kwizera 84' (Yellow)

- Referee: Ricardo Montero Araya
- Adage goals: One (but boy was it a big one)

Thoughts and Opinions

The Stadium at Tidewater Landing
One of these teams is in season 11 of their existence. The other is in their first season. One of these teams has plans for their own stadium. The other has their stadium in active construction. If you thought that the longer existence team is the one with a stadium in construction, you would be wrong. Rhode Island, despite a decade less history is currently constructing their own stadium, while Indy's stadium plans have been mired in starts, stops, and a mayoral MLS debacle. The good news for Indy is that they came into the game with an 11 point advantage over Rhode Island and a 6 position lead in the table. Rhode Island came into this game with a 3-game undefeated streak including a 5-2 win AT Louisville, while Indy are trying to bounce back after a 12-game undefeated streak across all competitions came to a screeching halt in a 1-nil loss to Orange County.

Despite Indy's 10-day hiatus from game minutes and the bad taste in their mouths from the Orange County defeat, the Eleven had two immediate chances at goal from corner kicks, but were unable to get the scoring started. After the second attempt, the game become wide open with end-to-end action with Rhode Island putting two of their own shots on target. Once the two teams both found their chances, the game settled down until just before the 20th minute. Mines tracked down a ball before it went over the end line and turned back towards the center of the pitch. Nodarse was late with his challenge, giving Indy a free kick just outside the box, and receiving a yellow card for good measure. Instead of Indy putting the ball into the mixer in the box, Lindley put a perfectly weighted ball to Wootton who was standing at the top of the box. Wootton first timed the ball and with the help of a slight deflection found the back of the goal.

Indy then doubled their lead with a quick counter and a deft chip from Romario Williams over the back line that put Collier in on goal alone against Lee. Collier calmly put the ball to Lee's right to give them 2 shots on target and 2 goals despite a significant disadvantage in possession. Through the first 30-minutes, Indy utilized the counterattack perfectly to give themselves a two-goal advantage. Rhode Island had a couple of good forays into Indy's defensive third, including an effort from Dikwa that required some last-ditch defending from Musa and O'Brien. As the half neared the halftime whistle, Rhode Island was forced to defend three consecutive corner kicks, all of which Lindley would tell you he should have done better with as none of them made it past the first or second defender. The corner kicks just didn't give the rest of the Indy players a chance to make a play. However, Indy had done enough to get to the halftime break with the 2-nil advantage.

All those missed opportunities at the end of the half were exacerbated when Rhode Island pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute turning the game on its head with a corner kick headed goal by Nodarse. Then Rhode Island pulled the game level in the 69th minute with a nearly exact corner kick head goal by Nodarse. Rhode Island's dominance in the second half were rewarded with goals that forced the final 20-minutes of the game to be an unnecessarily nerve-wrecking affair from the Indy fans' perspective. As the game began to look like it was getting out of hand for Indy, Coach McAuley brought in Gibson to try and regain control over the midfield. It was the late game substitute that found what looked to be the game-winning goal in the 79th minute. However, a 90'+5' stoppage time goal from Angking solidified a win that went to a draw that went to a win that went to a draw. Indy begins another undefeated streak, but conceding such a late goal definitely has the "draw that feels like a loss" vibe to it. 

As Indy reaches the halfway point of the season, it's definitely better to conclude the first half with a positive result on the road. When the team is still sitting in 3rd place in the table and reached the 30-point mark 7 games faster than they did last year, it's difficult to complain about this result. Yet, Indy let this one slip away from them. 

Indy return to action on Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup in Atlanta before returning back to The Mike to take on Loudoun United.  

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I thought about giving this to Romario Williams again this week due to his clear ability on the ball that facilitates getting others into the attack or not lose the ball, but I want to reward a different player this game. Tyler Gibson is a player that has not had the kind of minutes that Indy fans are accustomed to seeing from him during his previous time with Indy. Gibson has made due with a substitution role, often as the team is trying to see out a game and they need his defensive abilities. I honestly thought that was why he was brought on tonight, to help stabilize a midfield that was getting torched in the second half. While I do think that he did that, he also showed a concerted effort to break the Rhode Island defense and get into the attack. He nearly had one goal just a minute before he scored if Lee hadn't kept his body large and closed down the angle to prevent Gibson from getting a good shot through Lee's legs. Gibson was dynamic in his substitution role and I'm going to reward him with tonight's GBGB.

Indy Eleven vs Minnesota Aurora FC - 03.11 (Playoffs)

Summary

- Opponent: Minnesota Aurora FC
- Location: Keyworth Stadium (Detroit FC hosting)
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2 - 1 W

- Starting XI: Phillips, Sexton, Cherry, Bahr, Chatterton, Darey, Mitchell, Rogers (C), Chester, Soderstrom, K., Whitsett

- Substitution: Soderstrom, S. 72' (Whitsett); Jacomen 72' (Sexton); Snyder 89' (Soderstrom, K.)

- Unused: Blair, Katembo, Snyder, Tobin, Unkraut

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Cherry 4' (assist Bahr)
MINN - Duong 66' (unassisted)
IND - Mitchell 83' (assist Chester)

- Bookings: 
MINN - Rapp 74' (Yellow)

- Referee: - 
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Death. Taxes. Indy Eleven vs Minnesota Aurora in the playoffs. 

For the third time in the three year history of the USL W League, Indy Eleven and Minnesota found themselves facing each other with the chance to advance in the playoffs. Indy had to travel to Minnesota in 2022, where 6,200 fans watched the two undefeated teams play to a 2-1 score thanks to a 64th minute game-winning penalty kick by Minnesota. In 2023, the two teams traveled to host city Flint, where both had to get past conference semifinal opponents (Chicago City SC for Minnesota, Flint City AFC for Indy) to face each other in the conference final. Indy were the victors thanks to a 67th minute goal from Sam Dewey. Minnesota rode their victory in 2022 to the league final game before losing to South Georgia Tormenta 2-1 after extra time. Minnesota have yet to lose a regular season game in three seasons, but have been unable to reach the ultimate prize. However, after winning the conference final in 2023, Indy went on to beat North Carolina U23 2-1 after extra time in the league final. 

It's not a long league history, but as the league has continued to grow (44 teams in 2022 inaugural season to 80 teams this year), only Indy Eleven, Minnesota Aurora, and Long Island Rough Riders have made the playoffs each year. This year, the teams traveled to host city Detroit, but still found themselves facing off with each other again. The winner of the Indy Eleven vs Minnesota Aurora game has finished their season in the league final. That's good news for Indy Eleven who came out the victors today with a 2-1 win.

Indy had a perfect start to the game with an early corner kick. Bahr continued to show her class with her delivery into the box, and Cherry outjumped her defender to get her head to the ball putting it out of the the reach of Kane and an Aurora defender. Three minutes into the game, and Indy had the lead. Indy continued to dominate the first few minutes, but not surprisingly, Minnesota began to work their way into the game. They found some opportunities to go forward, but the Indy defenders were always in good position to stifle the attack. As Minnesota worked their way into the game, it was predominantly through the effort of Saige Wimes, who was forcing the Indy defenders to make decisions, including a 31st minute scramble in the box that nearly allowed Aurora to equalize.

Both teams' defensive pressure forced a lot of long passes as the players had very little time to do much with it other than try to get out of trouble and away from their feet. Any time any player held onto the ball for very long, there was at least one defender clipping at their heels. The moments where players could find pockets of time and space generally led to good chances for both teams. 

By my count, the shots and shots on target were essentially even, but you could argue that Indy's chances were marginally better than the ones from Minnesota. You could also argue that Minnesota's chances weren't any better because of effective last-ditch defending by Indy. Indy went into the break with the lead due to their quick start, but it would have been easy to say that a halftime draw would have been equally fair and reasonable. As it was, Indy had to defend their lead and Minnesota were going to come out of the halftime break knowing that their season was dependent on getting at least 2 goals. 

The early minutes of the 2nd half were frenetic as both teams tried to impose their way will onto the game. Neither were immediately effective as the ball pinged around from team to team. Indy nearly had a second goal when Soderstrom put a ball through the box that found a wide open Rogers. She clearly didn't realize how much time she had available and scuffed the ball wide from a poor left-footed touch. The missed shot seemed to empower Minnesota, who began to pin Indy back into their defensive half. That pressure eventually led to a free kick from a dangerous spot that was put directly into the goal from Duong on the kick. 

An 82nd goal from Mitchell looked like it might have solidified Indy's ability to advance, but just minutes later, Rapp put Bahr into a bad position and was awarded a penalty kick in the 86th minute. Weichers stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick and went to her right. Fortunately for Indy fans, Phillips went that direction and caught the ball with her leg to keep the ball out of goal and maintain Indy's lead. The remaining minutes of the game were Indy defending and Minnesota throwing everything forward.

Indy held on to advance after beating Minnesota in back-to-back years. Despite Minnesota's regular season successes, they're going to be tired of seeing Indy who have come out on top the past two years after getting the better of Indy in the inaugural season. Indy will await the winner of the second game of the night when Detroit City takes on River Light FC.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

In all fairness to the goals from Cherry and Mitchell, the late-game heroics from Phillips to maintain the victory on a penalty kick gives Phillips tonight's GBGB. She went the right direction and despite nearly overshooting the ball, managed to get her leg to it to keep the game in Indy's favor. The game could have gone to extra time if it had not been for the save.

Chester's dummy that put her defender in a blender and completely out of position that led to the game-winning goal gets an honorable mention for moment of the game. Ninety minutes of game action and the two most notable moments in the game for me happened within minutes of each other and within minutes of the game's conclusion.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Racing Louisville - 03.10

Summary

- Opponent: Racing Louisville
- Location: Lynn Family Sports Vision & Training 
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 6-2 L

- Starting XI: Phillips, Snyder, Bahr (C), Otto, Chatterton, Darey, Mitchell, Soderstrom, S., Chester, Soderstrom, K., Jacomen

- Substitution: Katembo 45' (Jacomen); Sexton 63' (Soderstrom, S.); Adam 63' (Chatterton); Tobin 71' (Darey)

- Unused: Blair

- Scoring Summary:
LOU - Boman 10'
LOU - Schupansky 31'
LOU - Schupansky 40'
LOU - Boman 48'
LOU - Schupansky 64'
LOU - Dickerman 84'
IND - Soderstrom, K. 89'
IND - Mitchell 90'+  

- Bookings: 
IND - Bahr 56' (Yellow)

- Referee: - Matthew Adkins
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

Having clinched the Valley Division with their draw against Kings Hammer, Indy headed down to Louisville without any real divisional motivation other than pride and a desire to win the LIPAFC for the third time this season. Minnesota care of business on Saturday giving them more points per game than Indy, thereby solidifying their #1 spots in the Heartland division. The other top team to come out of the Central Conference, in the Great Lakes division, was Detroit City FC. When Indy took to the filed, Detroit was still playing their final game of the season too. However, it was looking like regardless of the results for Indy and Detroit, Indy was still going to have to face Minnesota Aurora. Due to the league rules about not having inter-division opponents in the playoffs, and the wild card team from the conference being River Light FC in the Heartland division, even if Indy finished with a better points per game than Detroit, they were still going to be the official #3 seed in the conference. So just like in 2022 and 2023, Indy have to start the playoffs on the road. 

I know I don't need to say this to anybody who has been following the USL W League version of LIPAFC, but I'm going to say it anyway. Louisville, who have a 1st division professional team in the NWSL, absolutely sucks in their coverage of their USL W team. A camera is, by all accounts, an upgrade from seasons past. A shaky camera that doesn't always follow the action and has only the wind destroying its mic as commentary technically qualifies as a stream of the game, but just barely. I'm really surprised they don't want to do better.

Now that's been said...

The first half of this game was one-way traffic in the wrong way if you're an Indy fan. Racing dominated every aspect. Indy defenders (at all levels) were forced to chase the ball as Racing passed it around them without much difficulty. When Indy did get good movements and touches, they were quickly undone by Racing defenders or bad bounces for Indy. They were outplayed, out efforted, and generally looked like a team that was disinterested in being there. That may seem harsh to say, but Indy did not compete in this game and that's something I've never thought I would say about this team. Racing players wanted it more, while Indy players were reactionary and slower. I think Indy had just a single shot in the first half and it wasn't close to being on target. They weren't threatening in any way, while Racing peppered Indy's goal time after time. The 3-nil halftime lead for Racing was well deserved. 

Then Racing came out of the halftime break and added another quick goal to further break Indy's spirit. Shortly after, Indy had a counterattack with Soderstrom and Chester. Soderstrom pulled the defenders, put the ball across the ball towards an unmarked Chester, and the ball ran out of her reach harmlessly across the endline. That single play perfectly summarized the day for Indy. Those are two of Indy's best players in a breakaway situation and they couldn't connect well enough to even get a shot, much less a shot on target. It was at that point that I resigned myself to the fact that there wasn't going to be any 2nd half miraculous finish for Indy. 

Indy's only other regular season loss came at the hands of St. Charles when Indy were the better team but couldn't buy a goal and STC had two opportunities and made good on both. This game was nothing like that game. Racing deserved this win, from the opening minutes to the late stages. The only solace Indy can take after their worst defeat in the league is that one of today's teams will be in the playoffs this week and it wasn't the winner of this game. They're trending in the wrong direction though.

After Indy's loss to STC last year, Indy went on a 7-game win streak to capture the league title. Whether they take today's loss into this year's playoffs as motivation or not will be determined later this week when the playoffs start. Indy are going to need to play significantly better against Minnesota than they played today if they want to advance further in the playoffs and defend their title.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Between the poor camera feed and the shadows that made it difficult to definitely distinguish every player particularly when they were on the far side of the field, as well as a 6-2 defeat, I think we'll forego the GBGB tonight.