Sunday, June 23, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Orange County - 11.16


- 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 - 25' Zubak (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

Friday, June 21, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Kings Hammer - 03.09


- Opponent: Kings Hammer
- Location: Scudamore Stadium - Northern Kentucky University
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Phillips, White, S., Cherry, Snyder, Adam, Darey, Rogers (C), Smith, O., Soderstrom, K., Buels, Budish

- Substitution: Soderstrom, S. 19' (White, S. - injury?); Bahr 45' (Buels); Mitchell 45' (Smith, O.); Pelkowski 45' (Adam); Katembo 62' (Budish); Jacomen 62' (Soderstom, K.); Unkraut 81' (Darey)

- Unused:

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Budish 51' (assist Mitchell)
KH - Own Goal 83'

- Bookings: 

- Referee: -
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I have said it often with the USL W League teams, but I bears repeating for the next point for this game. Rosters, and specifically, gameday lineups are constantly in flux. Players' availability, particularly when you're like Indy Eleven and include some veteran players who have day jobs, forces coaches to be flexible, have faith in a number of players, and for players to have faith in any combination of players that can be used in games. Seemingly some teams have trouble with that amount of inconsistency, but Coach Dolinsky has pulled together a roster, and has a playing style, that allows players to be pulled in and out of lineups without any major drop in talent or results.

Which leads me to my 1st point. By my count, Coach Dolinsky has played 33 different players this season, and 28 different starters, in 9 games. To the tune of a 7W-2D-0L record, with tonight's result. That's impressive, no matter what level you play.

Which leads me to my 2nd point. There was only one goalkeeper suited for tonight. Five different keepers have been on the various game day rosters throughout the first part of this season, and for whatever reason, Dolinsky was only able to take one keeper with him tonight. Such is the life of a USL W League coach. Luckily, he didn't need a second keeper. I do wonder who would have been thrust into the goalkeeper position if it had become necessary. Particularly after all the substitutions had been made. My money? I would put it on Bahr to be willing to take the role. Dolinsky, however, would value her defensive presence too much, so I would go with Rogers. In a tight spot, you go with your leaders. That's Bahr and Rogers in late game situations.

In the opening minutes of the game, KH looked like a team that knew that only three points was good for them if they wanted any chance of playing in the playoffs. They were the clear aggressors and routinely had Indy's backline running back towards their own goal to defend. It was difficult to tell, but I thought I could hear Coach Dolinsky yell, "okay, organize!" every time the Indy forwards lost the ball in the KH defensive third. A point, on the road, was going to be enough to clinch their spot in the playoffs. When the referee blew the whistle in the 26th minute for the hydration break, KH had already managed (unofficially by my count) 6 shots to Indy's 1. They had managed to get just 2 of those on target, but the field was drastically tilted in their direction, while Indy had a definite "bend but don't break" appearance to their play.

While it's one of the few times in three years of this team where I thought they were out-hustled to balls passes were consistently not where they intended them to go, the halftime nil-nil score was definitely in Indy's favor and not KH's. Indy hadn't forced Galley into any saves, but Indy hadn't conceded either. KH's three shots on target in the half were all from distances that weren't that threatening for Phillips. Indy fans love to see the score higher than zero for their team, but the goose egg wasn't a bad result for the half.

Yet, for all that Kings Hammer did correct in the first half, they conceded a 51st minute goal when halftime substitute Mitchell attacked the middle of the KH defense before finding a trailing Budish who put the ball out of reach of Galley and into the lower left hand corner of the goal. The substitutes and the goal changed the tenor of the game as it became a bit more wide open as KH chased the equalizer and Indy counterattacked with the spaces that were now open. 

A poor clearance from Indy in the 77th minute found the crossbar and then landed harmlessly on top of the goal. The near miss seemed to energize KH as they rattled off a few promising attacks in the next couple of minutes. That extended pressure finally paid off when a cross deflected off an Indy defender out into their own goal, bringing the match level again.

Despite the level score being acceptable for Indy's playoff needs, they looked upset that the KH goal came from an own goal and looked determined to get back on top. Buoyed by the level score, KH looked just as motivated to get their own game winner. As a result, the closing minutes were tense, frenetic, and difficult for both sets of fans to watch, knowing that any simple mistake could spell disaster.

After a stoppage time delay where Unkraut and Donovon ran into each, bringing both sets of trainers onto the field, KH found themselves a 25-yard free kick that was subsequently shot directly into the wall. A couple minutes later, they found themselves with a 40-yard free kick that resulted in no real threat on goal. Those two chances were the best near the end of the game, with the 40-yard free kick being the final action of the game.

It wasn't the win that Indy wanted, but the draw solidifies their place in the playoffs for a third straight season. After the game last week between these two teams, I called the win "gritty." Tonight was no different. Kings Hammer looked to be the more threatening team in the first half, but it's hard to argue with the defensive effort that Indy continues to put in against this team and finds a way to get points. Kings Hammer definitely need to hold their head high though. They were fortunate on the deflection goal tonight, but they have also held Indy to just a single goal twice out of their three meetings, which no other team has been able to do this year, while also getting two draws with a combined score of 5 to 4 in favor of Indy. It may not feel great to be out of the playoffs, but that's a respectable showing this season for Kings Hammer against the league's defending champions.

Indy stays on the road to close out the regular season on June 30th when they play Racing Louisville. They still have everything to play for since the conference playoffs are based on points per game. It looks like Minnesota Aurora is in the driver seat in the Heartland Division, while Detroit City are in the driver seat in the Great Lakes Division. However, both teams have teams right behind them that will be wanting that top spot or at a minimum get the third playoff spot that is available to the "best of the rest" of those two divisions. Indy could really use the bump in PPG with the win, and then hope Minnesota and Detroit slip to help Indy's cause for hosting their first playoff game. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

You know it by know. This award isn't always given to the player that gets noticed the most. Or at least not statistically noticed the most. Sometimes it goes to whomever I keep noticing as doing the good work to get the result. For me, that person was Ella Rogers. I know, I know, Rogers has been doing the dirty work for three seasons. Tonight, though, I just feel like she turned up at key moments for an intervention, a pass to unlock the KH defense, or a shot. In another gritty defensive effort on the road against a good KH team, tonight's GBGB just gets narrowed down to my "eye test" and Rogers edged her teammates for it tonight. 

I will give an honorable mention to Mitchell though. Her energy, pressure, and attack after the halftime break really gave the team a spark that led to her assist and the team's goal.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Lexington SC - 03.08


- Opponent: Lexington SC
- Location: LSC Youth Complex
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2-0 W

- Starting XI: Reason, Pelkowski, Bahr, Snyder, Chatterton, Cherry, Rogers (C), Unkraut, Dewey, S., Chester, Jacomen

- Substitution: Darey 66' (Pelkowski); Martin 66' (Cherry); Katembo 71' (Dewey, S.); Buels 71' (Jacomen); Smith 76' (Rogers)

- Unused: Phillips, Adam

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Dewey, S. 31' (unassisted)
IND - Rogers 52' (assist Chester)

- Bookings: 
LEX - Kiesling 88' (Yellow)

- Referee: -
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I watched this game on my phone while sitting at my kid's pole vault practice. So between the small screen and the terrible angle of the Lexington stream, I can safely say that it was nearly impossible for me to distinguish certain aspects of the game. Not trying to do the women a disservice, but due to the factors of the game and my viewing of it, I think we're just going to hit the bit items tonight. It's been a bit, but I think it's bullet recap time.
  • Seriously, could that camera angle been worse. I get there was a change in venues to one that's not really set up to stream games, but that wasn't great. I haven't said it lately, but Indy is definitely spoiled with our streams thanks to ISC Sports Network and Greg Rakestraw (& Brad or Angela or Ian). I will get credit to Lexington's play-by-play/color commentator Josh Braun, who I thought did a good job. He and I disagreed on some of the stat totals, but his commentary was good.
  • Change of venue - The game was moved from the Georgetown College's stadium to the Lexington youth sports complex due to the heat of the stadium's turf being unplayable. How the hell hot was that turf?! I once measured the turf at Carroll Stadium to be 137-degrees F during a mid-afternoon game in June against Pachuca, where I watched players spray water on their boots instead of drink it.
  • Lexington SC, which was founded in 2021 (just 3 years ago) as a USL League One team already have their own soccer specific stadium UNDER CONSTRUCTION! Not in design. Not being considered. Under. Construction. Admittedly, the scope of their stadium is significantly less than that of Eleven Park, but things don't have to take as long as it's taken for Indy. Lexington's men's team, USL W League team, and their USL Super League team will be playing in their own stadium before Indy ever figures out what is going to become of their, seemingly, never-to-be-constructed stadium plans. 
  • What started as a normal game turned into "a three hour tour" (you know the tune...). A pop-up thunderstorm in the 22nd minute resulted in an approximate 40-minute delay.
  • Indy's pressure on Lexington was something to behold tonight. Defense starts with the forwards was in full effect tonight. Lexington spent large chunks of this game trying to figure out how to get out of their own defensive third. The Indy players swarmed whenever possible, and limited much possession from Lexington. 
  • By my count (which, again, differed from Josh's and was calculated from a poor video on my phone), Indy had 14 shots, 9 of which were on target. Lexington had 4 shots, none of them on target. Lexington had minimal chances and couldn't do much with the ones they did generate.
  • I don't see many players announced yet for Lexington's USL Super League team, but don't be surprised if/when they sign one or all of Kailey Utley, Autumn Weeks, and Trinity Watson. All have high level experience and all are the best players on their USL W League team. There just wasn't, at this point tonight, enough talent around those three to compete with a team like Indy. 
  • Indy get to 22 points for the season. Technically, Kings Hammer can reach that total as well, so Indy hasn't officially clinched their playoff spot. Guess who Indy plays on Friday night. Indy could make it official around 9:00 PM with either a win or a draw when Indy travels to the Cincinnati area to face the only team that has been able to get a point from Indy this season.
  • With the win, the team extends their unbeaten streak to 15 games (in official games), tying the club record set by the 2016 men's team (who had a lot more draws than this team). One more positive result would tie the 2016 team's record across all competitions (including the aforementioned international friendly against Pachuca). The team has a chance to make the semantics irrelevant with positive results to close out the season.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

With my normal refrain of "how do you pick a player to give the GBGB when the entire team is so dominant" like tonight, I do think one player gets the slight edge for me tonight. Dewey was clearly in "take it to 'em" mode early in the game with a goal in the 5th minute by being in the right place and having quick reflexes on the corner kick goal, as well as another shot that just grazed the outside of the post. Dewey's lack of hesitation at attacking Lexington's goal helped set the tone for the way the team was going to play for the rest of the game. So Dewey gets tonight's GBGB for doing exactly what the team needed from one of its veteran players on a hot night on the road.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Indy Eleven vs San Antonio FC - 11.15


- Opponent: San Antonio FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,491
- Final Score: 1-0 W

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

- Substitution: Wootton 60' (Guenzatti); Collier 73' (Mines); Gibson 90' (Blake)

- Unused: Oettl, Henderlong, Ikoba, Schneider

- Scoring Summary:
IND - 29' Own Goal (Burks)

- Bookings:
IND - Ofeimu 2' (Yellow)
SA - Taintor 32' (Yellow)
SA - Chol 50' (Yellow)
IND - Mines 52' (Yellow)
SA - Gomez 54' (Yellow)
IND - Chapman-Page 79' (Yellow)

- Referee: Adam Kilpatrick
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Thanks to the U.S. Open Cup, Indy and San Antonio had the rare opportunity for multiple interconference matchup games against each other in a season without it being a playoff game. Indy faced off against San Antonio in early May in the USOC Round of 32, coming away from the Sellick Bowl with a 2-nil victory behind goals from Blake and Williams in the first 10 minutes of the game. Including that earlier game against San Antonio, since that May 8th victory, Indy has scored 17 goals in all competitions and have conceded just 4, getting 3 clean sheets in the process. Indy is on a 5 game home win streak, a 7-game win streak in league play, a 9-game win streak across all competitions, and an 11-game undefeated streak. Conversely, in that same timeframe, San Antonio has just 1 win and a record of 1W-1D-4L and hovering just above the Western Conference's playoff line. To use an Ocean's Eleven joke, "apparently, he's [they've] got a record [injury report] longer than my... well, it's long." Their injury report is longer than any report I have seen in quite some time. Eight players were listed on their report, forcing San Antonio to suit 5 Academy players for their substitutes. It's hard to overcome that level of unavailable players very often.

Despite their limited bench, San Antonio took the early part of the game to Indy, spending a significant amount of time in Indy's defensive half. On a night where the temperature at the starting whistle was hovering higher than 80-degrees, it's a reminder that San Antonio are used to these temperatures.

Just before the 15th minute, Chapman-Page's right arm was hanging out away from his body when a shot was blasted off of his arm. The handball rule can be a tricky one, as it was definitely ball to hand because it would have been nearly impossible for him to get his arm away from contacting the ball due to the proximity of the shot, but if a referee doesn't call that one, they'll never call a handball. It was whistled for a penalty kick and without much protestations from the Indy players about the actual call. However, when the penalty was awarded, the Indy players were irate about a high boot from SA that wasn't called that happened in the build-up to the shot that resulted in the penalty kick, when the same infraction by Ofeimu resulted in a yellow card in just the 2nd minute. Hernandez stepped up and went to his right. Unfortunately for him, but good for Indy, Sulte went to that same side making the save. As Sulte collected the ball and picked himself off the turf, you could nearly hear Indy fans throughout Carroll Stadium saying "ball don't lie." The save allowed Indy to stay in the game, and shows how well things are going for Indy right now during this run. Sure it helps when your goalkeeper is 6'-7", but he still needed to go the correct direction and make the save.

Fifteen minutes of back-and-forth action eventually led to a corner kick from Indy. The resulting service from Stanley was redirected nicely into Indy's Burks. Stanley's continued great service once again led to an Indy goal. It just wasn't an Indy player that found the ball first. In 15 minutes, Indy went from appearing that they were going to have to chase the game to being ahead. LaCava found a shot less than 10-minutes later that was textbook way to break a defensive line, but Sulte once again came up big with a kick save that took more of San Antonio's steam away from them. San Antonio's own goal was the difference between the teams as they went into the halftime locker. Looking at the halftime stats, SA could feel a bit upset that they were behind at the break as most of the stats were skewed their direction.

San Antonio's deficit and lack of bodies on the bench began to show itself in a physical way and they tried to just make the game ugly. Yellow cards starting to be shown more, sometimes in the wrong direction. Mines' yellow card resulted because he threw a player to the ground that had placed a shoulder into Mine's chest when Adam Kilpatrick, the referee, was looking elsewhere. It's always the second player that gets caught, and by itself, Mine's infraction could have resulted in a red card. The yellow card wasn't the correct call, but it was a fortunate one, that allowed Indy to stay at full strength.

As the half progressed, Indy tilted the field in their favor, but couldn't find the insurance goal to put San Antonio away. The precarious advantage was nearly undone by Chol in the 80th minute when he brought down a ball from Hernandez behind the Indy back line, but lifted his shot just over the bar into the top of the goal. Much like the "ball don't lie" feeling after the penalty save, a collective "whew" could be felt from the Indy fans.

When the fourth official raised the board and showed the stadium that there would be an additional 5-minutes of stoppage time, Indy fans had no idea they would spend the entirety of that time on the edge of their seat, hoping that their team could prevent a goal from San Antonio and see out the victory. Indy Eleven had to weather a barrage of corner kicks, a couple of them arguably unnecessarily, as San Antonio made a final push to equalize and Indy had difficulty clearing the ball. In two minutes of game time, Indy faced not one, not two, not three, but four corner kicks. Just as time was about to expire, Burks, who was responsible for the Own Goal, nearly made up for his earlier mistake with a shot from well outside the box that he dragged just barely wide of goal. An outstretched Sulte might have been able to get to it had it been on frame, but another "whew" from Indy fans could be felt throughout the stadium. San Antonio knew that was their last chance, and the final whistle was blown shortly after Sulte kicked the ball back into play. 

Indy extends all the streaks. With upcoming games against Orange County, Rhode Island, and Loudoun, all teams hovering around their respective playoff cut lines, it's amazing to think that Indy could realistically continue those streaks until Indy faces Tampa Bay on July 20th and in the process tie the club record for undefeated streak set by the benchmark team for club success, the 2016 squad that made it to the NASL Soccer Bowl. 

Indy has won in multiple different ways during this undefeated streak and tonight was more of the same. It wasn't completely pretty and nobody from Indy scored a goal, but much like the women's game earlier this week, it took a gritty performance to come away with the win. Indy will, probably, lose at some point, but this undefeated streak is enjoyable if a bit nerve-wrecking to watch at times.

Indy return to The Mike next week to play another Western Conference opponent in Orange County.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
C'mon man! You all know who gets tonight's GBGB. Two shots on target. Two saves. One a penalty kick save and the other a kick save on a breakaway. The man with a very vocal preteen/teen girl fan club gets the GBGB.

Photos - Don Thompson Photography

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Kings Hammer - 03.07


- Opponent: Kings Hammer
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Phillips, Martin (C), Darey, Bahr, Pelkowski, Otto, Chatterton, Chester, Mitchell, Whitsett, Soderstrom, K.

- Substitution: Rogers 64' (Whitsett); Jacomen 64' (Darey); Snyder 71' (Otto); Buels 77' (Soderstrom, K.); Cherry 77' (Mitchell); Unkraut 77' (Pelkowski)

- Unused: Weiger

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Mitchell 31' (assist Pelkowski)

- Bookings: 
IND - Jacomen 74' (Yellow)

- Referee: Erin Patterson
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Elite athletes can find motivation in any number of things. A perceived slight or a poor showing or just an internal drive that is higher than those around them. Indy Eleven is filled with elite players. If they needed to find motivation coming into this game, they just needed to look to the last game against Racing Louisville where it took a stoppage time penalty kick from Bahr to get the victory. If that isn't enough, they could have looked to the previous game against Kings Hammer where KH overcame a two goal deficit and being down twice to get a point from Indy. If all that isn't enough, thanks to a Lexington win in Racing over the weekend, a win tonight over KH would put them 9 points clear of KH who sit in second. Indy would sit on 19 points, with KH only able to get to 22 if they won out. A win tonight would take some of the pressure off from winning the division, with only the ability to host their first playoff game on the line for the remaining three games.

I'm sure they all knew this before the whistle blew. I'm sure Coach Dolinsky reminded them that KH didn't roll over in the first game even when they were down.

Kings Hammer arrived with the appropriate jerseys this time around so duct tape numbers weren't required tonight. So they looked the part this game, and continued to play the part of a team that wants to compete with Indy Eleven for the division title as well. It's clear that many of the KH players have played together for multiple seasons in their youth programs. They look very much in sync with each other and consistent with how they want to play. Like the previous game, they didn't come to Indy tonight and roll over. 

The first 20 minutes was back and forth. KH had the bulk of the possession, much of it in Indy's defensive half, but couldn't really do much with it. When Indy had the ball, their touch up to or by the forwards was just a bit off. Passes were too long or too short. Shots were too late or too soon. Indy managed a burst where they had a couple shots, but only one on target, and KH had an opportunity in the 21st minute that Phillips went down low to push to the side for Martin to ultimately clear. 

However, it wasn't until the 31st minute that the KH defensive effort made their first real mistake. Like good teams do, Indy made them pay for that mistake. Pelkowski put a ball through the lines and the KH defenders paused just long enough thinking that their offside trap was effective, but the flag stayed down and Mitchell touched the ball around Galley and put the ball into the far netting to open the scoring.

The goal for Indy didn't change how the two teams were playing. KH continued to hold possession, while not being able to figure out how to get the best of Martin and Bahr. Indy struggled to find the touches to unlock the back three of KH. As a result, the teams went to the halftime locker room with Mitchell's goal being the lone tally of the game. Coach Dolinsky knew he had options sitting on the bench that could change the tenor of the game like Rogers, but also knew that the experience of playing different players together will only benefit the team as they finish out the season and, now likely, into the playoffs.

The second half tilted itself firmly to KH's benefit as they lived in Indy's defensive half of the field. At one point near the 60 minute mark, KH rattled off three corner kicks as Indy could not clear the ball from their box. As good as Indy has looked at times this year, KH were getting good bounces, but they were also the aggressors. They were quicker to the ball. They played harder. They played like a team that wanted it more. Due to their place in the table and the first half goal from Indy, frankly, KH needed the result more, and they looked like the better team for large chunks of this game. 

They didn't, however, come away with a win. Sometimes it's called "winning ugly." I just think it was a gritty performance from Indy against a very good, organized, and motivated Kings Hammer squad. It's unrealistic to think that a team can win every game by scoring 3 or more goals, particularly with the squad rotation that is required in a league where players are unavailable for any number of reasons (White had to return to Penn State, for example). Yet, the capitalized on one of the few mistakes from KH and then gutted out a win. In a division where only one team makes it to the playoffs, you just have to get positive results, mostly wins, and do it however you can. Tonight, that was through grit and team defense. 

Indy don't play again until next Tuesday when they travel to Lexington, but tonight was Indy's final home game of this season unless they make the playoffs and host a game there. Tonight's win makes that more likely, but an away run of Lexington (2nd time playing this season), Kings Hammer (3rd time playing this season), and Racing Louisville (3rd time this season), also doesn't make it a guarantee. There's also the issue of the other two divisions in the Central Conference potentially snagging the hosting rights.
Please note that hosts will be decided based on host bid submission. Being the highest seed in your conference does not guarantee the hosting of matches, however, it will be one of the several contributing factors when deciding the host site(s).

It's fun to cheer for this team. It's fun to watch a group of girls/women come together for a summer and gel and come together quickly to play exciting to watch soccer. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I know that they just won the GBGB award two games ago, but this has to go to Martin and Bahr. If pressed, I might go with just Martin. The two veterans were rock solid tonight against a pressing Kings Hammer team with a speedy Taylor White and Lauren Donovan. Coach Dolinsky thought that the youthful legs of Kings Hammer showed tonight, but I think the importance of having Martin and Bahr holding down the line tonight was equally important. Their ability to see the game, defensively and offensively, allows them to overcome some of the difference in speed that they lacked tonight. A team doesn't get a gritty 1-nil win without somebody stepping into the leadership role and directing. It was a lot of team defending, proving that they could hold a team from scoring that had proven in the last game against Indy that they are capable of doing so, but that effort started with Martin and Bahr. So they get tonight's GBGB(s).

Photos - Don Thompson Photography