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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Eleven Park AKA Titanic Park - Part 2

Just under a month ago, I described the Eleven Park as Titanic Park because it felt like me writing the article about the situation was me as the band continuing to play music on the deck of the Titanic as it slowly sank into the ocean. Continuing to perform as the [Indy Eleven] world crumbles around us. Here I go, playing some more music...

Immediately before I made that statement in that article, I described what I could see happening with the stadium situations. To recap:

  1. PSDA2 kills PSDA1.
  2. MLS kills PSDA2.
  3. Indy Eleven still without a stadium (more than a dozen years into its founding while new USL Championship side Rhode Island FC is already in the process of building a stadium) seeks other options that don't include a PSDA with an Indianapolis politician.
    1. See above discussion about punching your weight.
    2. Ersal/Keystone convince Mayor of Westfield that a stadium located in/around Grand Park makes for a good idea and synergy, hoping a different politician will be better.
      Narrator: "It won't."
  4. As best I can tell, while Indy Eleven can technically use Carroll Stadium for its women's USL Super League team (reminder, that's a Division 1 level league, on par with NWSL), the lack of their own stadium kills the women's professional team because fans don't want to sit at Carroll Stadium in the winter and the players don't want to play on the turf in the winter. Players like Katie Soderstrom, who came back to Indy from a pro career in Europe, I think partially intrigued by the idea of being part of Indy Eleven's inaugural Super League team, watch that dream remain just a dream.
Today, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission met to discuss the Professional Sports Development Area #2 proposed by Mayor Hogsett that has been going through the process of usurping the PSDA #1 that incorporates Eleven Park. To the surprise of nobody following this situation, the Commissions voted 6 to 1 in favor of the PSDA #2. 

PSDA2 kills PSDA1.

Step 1 complete. 

Mayor Hogsett gets to continue to talk about bringing MLS to Indy with a still unnamed billionaire owner group.

Step 2 still in play.

What Indy Eleven, Ersal, and Keystone do about Step 3 is still to be determined. 

Compounding the rough week for Indy and Eleven Park, the City of Indianapolis announced "final plans for archeological work at Greenlawn and Henry Street Bridge construction." It wasn't so much the plan that grabbed my attention in the press release, it was the verbal jabs thrown at Keystone and Indy Eleven that was shocking to me. Below is an excerpt from the press release, with emphasis by me.
The city has entered into a contract with Stantec, an engineering services company, to provide a proactive archaeological approach to the site. 

“As we’ve continued to meet with members of the community, we realized that we were falling short of their expectations. By adding Stantec to the team, we believe we are now more closely aligned with the desires of our residents,” said Indy DPW Director Brandon Herget. “Stantec’s previous work on the Bethel Cemetery project has been referred to as the “gold standard” by community members I’ve spoken with, and provides this project with excavation process led by archaeologists, not a contractor-led project with archaeologist oversight.” 
...
"The new bridge and roadway project, known as the Henry Street Bridge, will be constructed through the old 'Bury Ground' and 'New Bury Ground' sections of the Greenlawn Cemetery, parts of which hold the largest African American burial ground in Indianapolis or Marion County. Although this project will only disturb less than 1.5 acres of the 20-plus acre site, the city estimates that 650 or more graves could be unearthed during the construction of this project. Based on the number of human remains unearthed at the Greenlawn Cemetery site over the last six months, this is a fair assessment of the challenges that lay ahead. The city’s plan of having an archaeology team methodically search for and recover forgotten graves at the site before the construction crews begin work is the best way to ensure all those left behind when the cemetery was abandoned more than a century ago are relocated to a place where they can respectfully rest in peace,” said historian and Community Advisory Group member Leon Bates. “The price tag of the city’s approach to Greenlawn Cemetery is not cheap, but then, is there a price limit for doing the right thing?” 

In a separate press release regarding the final plans for the Henry Street bridge project that runs adjacent to the Eleven Park site (again, emphasis mine):
“Earlier this year, a consortium of community stakeholders, including the city, approached Lilly Endowment to seek funding that would enable the city to preserve the enhanced, architecturally significant plan for the bridge without sacrificing thorough archaeology of the site,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “We are grateful for Lilly Endowment’s support, which is specifically and exclusively for the enhanced design of the Henry Street Bridge.”  

I mean, I continue to wonder what Ersal did to the Mayor, because Mayor Hogsett continues to make life more and more difficult for Ersal and Indy Eleven.

Today's confirmation from the Commission on PSDA #2 now clarifies some of what the club is going to need to do moving forward.

Ersal and the rest of the Owner's group need to figure out a new way to fund their stadium, while also waiting to see if the Mayor's MLS bid ultimately kills the team. That's a difficult situation to be, but I'm sure that Ersal's team is considering the scenarios for either situation. As I stated in my previous article, at this point, Ersal/Owner's group/Keystone/Indy Eleven are going to have to privately fund their stadium if (when) the MLS bid isn't accepted. At that point, they will also probably need to operate it themselves too instead of it being part of the Capital Improvements Board portfolio like Lucas Oil Stadium, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Victory Field, and the Convention Center.

Building on the Greenlawn site is looking further and further like an option for Keystone without substantial effort and delay. The Eleven Park social accounts keep reiterating, "We are ready to build." I can almost guarantee that isn't the case. I assume at this point that the design team wasn't complete by the time the demolition finished, partially because they were waiting on City construction permits to determine if there was anything that needed to be adjusted from those permit reviews. The Mayor's office has stated in the public meetings that the permits have never been issued, so the design team, and by extension the design itself, is in some form of limbo. Likely, the design team has been put on hold. How far the design has progressed is an unknown to me, but I seriously doubt that it is anywhere close to being "ready to build" unless you're talking about the loosest version of that phrase. I mean, I'm "ready to retire," but the ~15-20 years that I have until I reach that stage is still a long way from happening. 

While the Mayor has been less than ideal in this situation and people associated with the adjacent Henry Street bridge project aren't against throwing jabs, I don't believe Keystone/Indy Eleven are telling the truth either.

Here I sit continuing to play the music, but the iceberg has seemingly succeeded in sealing the fate of Eleven Park. 

Details of the public meeting that was held for the archeology of the Henry Street bridge project can be found here (https://wridinfrastructure.com/june-2024-update/).

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Orange County - 11.16

Summary

- Opponent: Orange County FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 9,490
- Final Score: 1-0 L

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

- Substitution: Schneider 38' (Diz Pe); Williams, R. 45' (Blake); Collier 79' (Wootton); Ikoba 79' (Guenzatti)

- Unused: Oettl, Gibson, Henderlong

- Scoring Summary:
OC - Zubak 25' (assist Lambe)

- Bookings:
OC - Sorto 35' (Yellow)
OC - Zubak 42' (Yellow)
OC - Karlsen 45'+7' (Yellow)
IND - Ofeimu 45'+8' (Yellow)
IND - Williams, R. 52' (Yellow)
OC - Chattha 73' (Yellow)

- Referee: Joe Surgan
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Back-to-back weeks brought Western Conference foes to The Mike, with both teams hovering around that conference's playoff line. On a night where the starting kickoff temperatures were right at 90-degrees but felt slightly higher than that due to the humidity, I came into this game expecting it to be a slow paced game with a mistake by one of the teams potentially being the deciding factor. Orange County, like San Antonio last week, are accustomed to higher temps, but tonight's temps are the kind where you sweat in the shade. Or maybe that's just me. 

Given how slowly Orange County took every single throw-in during the early stages of the game, they knew they needed to take some of the humid air out of the game. The referee and fourth official were both observed telling the OC players that they needed to keep the game moving. To their credit, the OC players disregarded those requests and continued to milk the game where they could. Indy, contrarily, tried to restart every free kick as quickly as possible. Many times with multiple restarts because they didn't let the ball come to a complete stop or were further up the field than Surgan deemed acceptable.

While I thought a mistake would be what separated teams, OC proved me wrong. From a corner kick recycle in the 25th minute, Lambe put a ball into the middle of the box that found Zubak forcefully headed past Sulte to open the scoring. The protestations of offside from the Indy players were met with deaf ears and Indy found themselves chasing the game, a position they haven't found themselves much during this undefeated streak. Despite tilting the field in their direction as the half progressed, OC's one-goal lead was how the teams went into the locker, but not before Blake went down finishing his day. Coach McAuley made the decision to play a man down for the remainder of the half, wanting to get to halftime before using his second substitution window. 

As expected, Blake did not return to action after the halftime break, but was instead replaced with newly signed Romario Williams. The change in personnel also provided a change is formation as Guenzatti dropped back into the midfield with the Williams duo up top together and a change to a back four. Indy's desire to equalize put them on the front foot early. Their exuberance to claw one back also put them offside a couple times, one of which called off a goal. 

Their exuberance also meant that many of their touches were slightly off and they couldn't keep things going smoothly. The team looked like they were trying to effort their way to a goal because things weren't coming easily as OC stayed compact and physical defensively. Indy's effort resulted in 38 crosses, connecting on 24% of them, which led to 36 clearances from the OC defense. Sulte wasn't credited with a single save, while his counterpart Shutler had 7 saves. Shutler's saves and Indy's lack of clinical finishing in their offensive 1/3 of the field marks the first time all season that Indy has been held without scoring a goal. Let that sink in for a minute. The 16th game of the season is the first clean sheet for an Indy opponent.

Indy's effort, in the second half, was much better than in the first, but this wasn't one of those games where they were able to effort their way to an equalizer or win. If the team had been more clinical in their shots, they might have won this game going with ease. As it was, the early injuries to Diz Pe and Blake, the latter of which was carted from the sideline because he was unable to walk, created a bit of a disjointed midfield. Diz and Jack join the rest of Indy's injured list (Quinn, King, Chapman-Page...) that seems to be ever growing, and ever worrisome. The off weekend this coming weekend might be helpful in getting guys healthy again. 

I've often heard Coach Painter of Purdue men's basketball say that winning can hide a lot of problems. Indy have been grinding out games, getting timely Own Goals and penalty kicks, to keep the undefeated streak going. However, maybe the wins were hiding some problems that reared their head tonight. Regardless, Indy go into their bye week with a bad taste in their mouth and a longer line into the medical staff's room during next week's training. The undefeated and winning streak are something they will look at appreciatively at the end of the season, but post-game, both McAuley and Lindley said the same thing. What has happened in past games is in the past. Neither could take solace in knowing the loss came at the end of a near record-breaking club results streak. For now, the 2016 team remain as the undefeated torchbearers in (men's) club history, but this 2024 team will be known for their win streak, whether they were in a place to admit it last night or not. 

 As we creep towards the halfway point of the season, Indy sit in 3rd place in the table. The teams immediately behind them have games-in-hand so we'll see where they start to land once those teams begin to become more even in games played. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
It might seem strange based on his stat line and his amount of time in the game, and while Lindley's control of the midfield makes my midfielder heart want to give it to him, he's going to get edged tonight for the GBGB by his newest teammate, Romario Williams. His stats weren't eye-popping, but his first touch was really good and he looked dynamic. With a little more time with his teammates, the up top pairing of the Williamses with Guenzatti tucked underneath should prove to be a formidable weapon. I think fans saw in this game just a glimpse of what the trio could be capable of providing moving forward. They'll want to see any or all be more clinical in their finishing than they were tonight, but there's promise there that could separate them from the other recent starters in Martinez and Ikoba. 

Photos - Don Thompson Photography