Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Racing Louisville - 03.01

Summary

- Opponent: Racing Louisville
- Location: Lynn Family Sports Vision & Training Center
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 3-1 W

- Starting XI: Blair, Sexton, Cherry, Cuneio, Snyder, Darey, Rogers (C), Pelkowski, Mitchell, White, Chester

- Substitution: Jacomen 45' (Mitchell); Unkraut 59' (Cherry); Adam 59' (Darey); Thompson 68' (Chester); Smith 68' (White); Johnson 68' (Pelkowski); Weiger 73' (Blair)

- Unused: 

- Scoring Summary:
IND - White 7' (unassisted)
IND - Cuneio 47' (unassisted)
IND - Jacomen 59' (unassisted)
LOU - Coffield 89' (assist Schupansky)

- Bookings:
None

- Referee: Shelby Breeze
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

With new players, probably for each team, the early minutes of the game had a definite feeling out look to it. Indy's leading scorers in Williams, Soderstrom, & Dewey, while on the roster, didn't even make the trip much less be in the starting eleven. Neither did Bahr. So while the team has some familiar names from previous seasons, today's lineup was predominantly a new set of faces for fans to learn, and a different group of players of which to start creating defensive and offensive stats. 

One name that I noticed on the roster and immediately wondered why I knew the name was Abby Unkraut. It was only after thinking about it for a minute did I realize it was because I complimented her play in my article about Indy's very first USL W-League game in 2022 against Kings Hammer. Unkraut was a player on that team. The now sophomore at the University of Georgia has come to Indy to play her summer soccer instead of returning to Kings Hammer

There was an early shot for Indy from Rogers, proving that the old guard was still making an impact. About a minute later, Rogers forced a corner kick by attacking her defender, who blocked Rogers' cross attempt. Nothing seemed to came from the team's first corner of the season, however, the ball stayed wedged deep in Louisville's half of the field. When a ball was played back to Brandon, White pressed the keeper hard and Brandon lost the ball to White, who calmly slotted it into goal to start the season's goal scoring. 

After the early goal, the game settled into a fairly even affair with both teams getting good looks at goal. Louisville probably held a small advantage in possession, but just barely. Indy, however, had the more threatening chances, and definitely lead in offside calls. It's difficult to see from the camera angle, but at least one or two of those seemed close. It's early in the season, so Indy will figure out that timing as the players get more used to each other, their tendencies, and their speed. 

While there wasn't any commentary for the game (it's Racing, so we're lucky there was a stream at all), but it was clear from the on-field audio that Racing's coach, Callie McKinney, wants her team to be a high-pressing team. She constantly yelled for her players to push whenever Blair had the ball. Having watched her team concede a goal by doing that very thing must have been frustrating. "[insert name of player] Higher!" was yelled so many times it was like a laugh track on a 90s sitcom.

Indy started the second half the same way they started the first half, in Louisville's box from a corner kick, and getting another early goal to double their lead, just minutes into the half. Suspecting that these two teams could be the ones vying for the Valley Division's lone spot in the playoffs, getting the second goal was an important confidence booster. Though taking their foot off the gas has never been in this team's DNA, and they nearly scored a third just five minutes later.

When they did score their third right before the 60-minute mark, the goal became getting game minutes for other players and keeping a clean sheet for the goalkeepers. Before the referee whistled for play to resume, Coach Dolinsky already had two subs ready to come in. Minutes later, he made three additional substitutions to use every single field player on the game day roster. Minutes later, Dolinsky had cleared the bench of all subs when Weiger came on for Blair in goal. Indy fans don't need me to tell you, but Indy's club leader in minutes played, Rogers was NOT any of those subs.

Unfortunately for Indy, the clean sheet wouldn't come to pass. A late corner kick by Louisville ran across the goal face before Coffield from Louisville finally found a foot to it and redirected it into the goal. The goal prevented a very solid effort from the Indy goalkeepers, but the win remained intact. As we've seen in the past, goal differential can be an important part of who moves on and who doesn't, so Louisville fighting for the goal could come back into player later in the season. For the night though, Indy and their fans will take the win, knowing that they played a good team and came out winners.

Indy have their home opener next Monday night at Grand Park as the second game in the club's packed week of 5 games in 8 days. The aforementioned Kings Hammer come to Indy to experience once again, the volume of noise created by the Indy fans and the BYB inside the Grand Park Event Center.


The Game Beckons Game Ball

There was the little glitch at the end giving up the late goal, but I thought the combined efforts of Blair and Weiger were really good. They controlled their box and made good saves. Even the last minute goal from Louisville, a few different Indy players had a chance to clear the ball, so I don't think you can completely put that one on Weiger. Regardless, on a night where multiple players played well, I want to reward the goalkeepers for their effort tonight against a good Louisville team. So Blair and Weiger combine for the GBGB.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Miami FC - 11.10

Summary

- Opponent: Miami FC
- Location: FIU Soccer Stadium
- Attendance: If a tree falls in the woods but nobody is there to see it...
- Final Score: 3-1 W

- Starting XI: Oettl, Ofeimu, Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, Stanley, Gibson (C), Mines, Wootton, Guenzatti, Martinez, Williams

- Substitution: O'Brien, J (15' (Chapman-Page - injury?); Boudadi 45' (Mines); Lindley 56' (Gibson); Collier 56' (Guenzatti); Blake 77' (Wootton) 

- Unused: Sulte, Schneider

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Diz Pe 41' (assist Stanley)
MIA - Luisinho 56' (unassisted)
IND - Williams 67' (Penalty Kick)
IND - Williams 70' (assist Stanley)

- Bookings:
IND - Gibson 3' (Yellow)
MIA - Cardona 19' (Yellow)
MIA - Lopez 31' (Yellow)
MIA - Mitrano 45'+1' (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 61' (Yellow)
IND - Williams 90'+2' (Yellow)

- Referee: Muhammad Hassan
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

If Indy fans came into the season looking for consistency in a starting lineup, they have been disappointed. Indy, once again, trotted out a different lineup today against Miami FC, with both Lindley and Blake starting on the bench, with Mines and Wootton getting starts in their place. Also notable given his recent run-of-form, Sulte found himself on the bench as well, giving Oettl his first start in 4 games. The starting lineups also had a feel of "same name, different jersey" as Indy started four different players that were recently on the Miami FC roster (Stanley, Chapman-Page, Mines, and Ofeimu), while Miami started recent Indy Eleven player Danny Barbir and Molina came into the game at the half. 

The early stages of the game were very disjointed. Plenty of fouls (23 total in the first half) and stoppages for "injuries" from physical plays made the game feel like the kind of game were the number of yellow cards could reach near double digit level. Gibson started the yellow card proceedings with an unnecessary tug of a jersey in the 4th minute and it only proceeded from there. Both teams had arguments for additional yellow cards, but the teams went to the locker room with a total of just four yellow cards (three for Miami, and just the one early one for Indy). 

Indy settled into the game with the better chances in the first half, and Williams had some opportunities to get the goal scoring started, but seemed to be off with his shots, sending 3 of Indy's 8 shots in the direction of the goal, but his shots never felt that threatening as he was leaning back in his shots or from awkward angles. It wasn't until the 41st minute that a corner kick from Stanley that found the head of Diz Pe to get the scoring started. The teams headed to the locker room with Indy leading in nearly all the statistical categories, but most importantly, on the scoreboard.

Both teams made substitutions coming out of the locker room, and Indy nearly doubled their lead within the first 5 minutes, but Williams' yips continued after the break. Boudadi, who came on for Mines, intercepted a pass and put a perfect cross in front of goal that Williams bobbled, then left footed the ball wide of the goal from within a few yards of the goal.

Immediately after Indy made more substitutions for the night in the 57th minute, there was a play in Indy's box where Diz Pe was fouled by Lopez. The foul wasn't called and the ball trickled to Luisinho who scored past Oettl. Indy very rightly felt aggrieved by the lack of non-call on Lopez, but it looked like Williams' inability to get a goal was going to come back to haunt them. 

A few minutes later, Lindley was forced to pick up his third yellow card of the season on a professional foul, but he laid into the rest of the Indy players for their lackadaisical defending that forced him to make that foul. Within 6-minutes, Indy found yet another "ball don't lie" moment this season when Boudadi was taken down in the penalty box, forcing the referee to point to the spot. For all his wayward shots up to that point, Williams calmly stepped up to take the penalty kick and sent Gagliardi the wrong way to  restore Indy's lead.

Three minutes later and Stanley continued his fine assist form and put another ball into the path of Williams who redirected it into the Miami goal. Once Miami found themselves down two goals, the rest of the game played out with a professional approach from Indy with solid defending and Miami struggling to put shots on target. Oettl was credited with just a single save, as Miami's shots were rarely on target and some were barely in the vicinity. 

The yellow card total settled down, but still finished at six for the game. There were 36 fouls called on the game, so the weather seemed to tire the players enough to take some of the physicality out of the game. Though the spread out nature of the closing minutes could have been a part of that too as the players weren't in as tight of quarters.

Indy are now on a 6-game undefeated streak across all competitions (and 4 in league play) and head home to The Mike this coming weekend to play Hartford. While the teams around them have game(s)-in-hand, the win also catapulted Indy into fourth place on the table. Given the way that they started the season, it's been an impressive run from Indy recently.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I know I was a bit critical of him at times in this article, but Williams accounted for 9 of Indy's 17 shots, which was 1 more than the entire Miami team had with 8 shots. While I think he would agree that if he was a bit more clinical (at least two of his shots should have been handled better), this game wouldn't have even been close. For now though, a brace and the effort to try and make a difference edges him for tonight's GBGB over Stanley who finished with SEVENTEEN crosses and 6 chances created. Outside of Blake, Stanley has been the most consistent offensive weapon and he nearly picks up tonight's GBGB as a result. 

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Indy Eleven vs San Antonio - 2024 U.S. Open Cup

Summary

- Opponent: San Antonio FC
- Location: Sellick Bowl at Butler University
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2-0 W

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

- Substitution: Boudadi 57' (Mines); Gibson 57' (Lindley); Ikoba 72' (Martinez); Collier 72' (Williams); Schneider 73' (Boudadi - seemed to be due to an issue with his contacts)

- Unused: Oettl, Wootton

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Williams 2' (unassisted)
IND - Blake 10' (assist Stanley)

- Bookings:
SA - Hernandez 20' (Yellow)
SA - Chol 41' (Yellow)
IND - Guenzatti 58' (Yellow)
SA - Burks 66' (Yellow)
SA - Lacey 69' (Yellow)

- Referee: Kyle Johnston
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

While I love the US Open Cup, it was either head to Butler University and the Sellick Bowl or go to my daughter's track meet. Sorry boys, my daughter's more important. She set a personal record so I'm glad I didn't miss that. Plus, this is my side gig, so I have the freedom and flexibility of discussing, roughly, at my leisure. So you're getting my thoughts a day later.

I might be a bit late discussing it, but Indy didn't show up late for this game. They stepped onto the field last night like they had been drinking Red Bull, while San Antonio looked like they were running in wet concrete. Indy was in a different gear to start the game, and if I'm honest, looked like the team that I think McAuley was saying he wanted them to be when he talked in preseason. They pressed San Antonio to the point where it was nearly impossible for San Antonio to get out of their own half. That effort resulted in a 2nd minute (1 minute 12 seconds) goal by Williams that McIntosh couldn't corral.  

Just like that, Indy had the game winner. They obviously didn't know that was going to be the case, but the goal stood as the winner for the next 88 minutes and 48 seconds. There was an 8th minute handball in the San Antonio box that wasn't called, somehow called Indy offside instead, which could have made it 2-nil within 10 minutes. Then minutes later, Indy did make it 2-nil with a 10th minute "ball don't lie" moment to make up for the non-called handball. Another clear chance late in the half would have made it 4, while San Antonio had maybe a couple of half chances in the first half that forced saves from Sulte, but were mostly from distance giving him time to react. Going into the locker room, Indy had and deserved their lead. Indy felt good about the way they dominated the half, and had a two-goal lead to show for it. 

Indy are now undefeated in Open Cup games at the Sellick/Butler Bowl. The field looks like it is difficult to play on, but Indy have found a way to come out victorious each time they have played there. 

Indy will now continue their Open Cup run in the Round of 16 on May 22nd when they host fellow USL Championship team Detroit City at Carroll Stadium. The team have already played each other this season, at Carroll, with Detroit coming from behind to get a 2-1 win thanks to an 88th minute goal from Rodriguez. Detroit has played well to start the season, but Indy seems to be playing better recently. Knowing that a quarterfinal game could be waiting for them, I'm guessing both teams are going to take the game seriously. Unfortunately, Indy will play the previous Saturday against Hartford, and the following Saturday against Phoenix, while Detroit, on the other hand, will have 18 days between league matches. They play this Saturday (the 11th) and then don't have another league game until the 29th (a full week after the Open Cup game). They are going to be rested going into a match on the 22nd, and won't be worried about roster rotation nor saving energy. They'll probably also have a good traveling contingent with them, so that will be a tough game for Indy, despite having the home-field advantage.

This was a good win for Indy, and now they shift their focus back to the league as the travel to Miami for a game on Mother's Day Sunday. Miami has also struggled out of the gate this season so Indy will look to expand upon their current 5-game undefeated streak across all competitions that started with the US Open Cup win against the Chicago Fire II.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Sulte. Yeah, I know Indy scored two goals within 10 minutes, and could have scored more. Hunter Sulte had 6 saves to hold onto the clean sheet as San Antonio tried to get back into the game in the second half. A clean sheet win in the US Open Cup to get to the Round of 16 gives Sulte the edge for the game's GBGB.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Monterey Bay FC - 11.09

Summary

- Opponent: Monterey Bay FC
- Location: Cardinale Stadium
- Attendance: 4,504
- Final Score: 1-0 W

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

- Substitution: Collier 64' (Guenzatti); Ikoba 64' (Williams); Gibson 76' (Martinez); Wootton 90'+2' (Blake)

- Unused: Oettl, O'Brien, E., Schneider

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Collier 88' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND - Stanley 71' (Yellow)
IND - Diz Pe 74' (Yellow)
MB - Archimede 75' (Yellow)
MB - Fehr 87' (Yellow)
IND - Blake 90'+2' (Yellow)

- Referee: Corbyn May
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

A 10:00 Eastern start time for Indy Eleven meant that I had time to watch the new episodes of season 3 of Welcome to Wrexham. My only concern about watching it before Indy played is that I already feel like I temper some of how I write depending on my mood. When I watch a couple hours of Phil Parkinson saying "f**k" a couple dozen times, I had to make a more conscience effort to not let Phil's favorite word slip into what I write about Indy. Let's be honest, Indy has been deserving of some of Phil's four-letter fury at times this year. Against Monterey Bay the past two seasons, Indy have deserved an absolute Parky drubbing, beating Indy in both of their matches, by a combined 8-2 score. So as I watched Wrexham's early season struggles as they began their foray into League Two, I couldn't help but think that Indy needed to show fight and get something positive out of their west coast trip to continue their recent two-game undefeated streak.

The first 15 minutes of this game was back-and-forth, but slightly tilted towards Indy's favor with 4 shots for Indy and 1 for Monterrey, none of which really bothered either goalkeeper. However, the game was not lacking for action. It also saw Diz Pe continue his early season trend of bombing forward from his centerback position. Something that Ofeimu did in the next 15 minutes. Watching Indy's two centerbacks go forward is a surprising effort for this Indy team, particularly considering that Indy has yet to keep a clean sheet. Getting your centerbacks that far out of position forcing other players to cover for them, is a bold choice. Whether that's a practiced tactical decision or just player decisions is unknown, but it's not a decision that immediately jumps to mind as a good one.

For all the attacking Indy had in the first half, they were credited with just 1 shot on target and that didn't happen until the late minutes of the half. They were getting into good positions to score, but there seemed to be a hesitation to put balls on frame unless there was a wide opening. Unless, of course, your name is Blake and he finished the half with 1 shot, 1 shot on target, and 3 blocked shots (though to be fair, I think the shot on target should have been credited to Guenzatti). Regardless, possession was basically equal, but both team's possession was in Monterey Bay's defensive half of the field. Indy will be happy to feel like they dominated the half, but they needed to come away with more for their effort. Monterey Bay played for the counterattack, and had their fair share of shots, but it still feel like Indy were the better side. Given Indy's recent results against MB, that was good to see.

If I could offer some constructive criticism for the Monterey Bay telecast and/or the Monterey Bay operation crew? Figure out how to show the game without the sign board washing out the action on the field. The game looked like it was being played in haze any time the game was anywhere in the midfield.

Now back to our regularly scheduled game discussion. 

Everything I said about the first half applied to the second half. Back-and-forth. A significant portion of the game in MB's defensive half. Poor final product from both teams in their final decision in the opposing boxes. 

Until...

In the 88th minute, Indy worked the ball around through the midfield to Stanley on the left side. Stanley put a ball across the face of goal, which Siaha felt he needed to parry, but it was a weak clearance that proceeded to bounce around off players. The ball eventually landed in front of Collier, who proceeded to blast it over Siaha and in the process gave Indy all three points on the road and their first clean sheet of the season. 

The teams finished with nearly equal shots on target, and I think a draw would have been a fair result given the poor effort from both team's around the opposition's goal. Given Indy's propensity to concede poor goals this season, the clean sheet feels more impressive to me than the goal and the win. I question some of the defensive decisions, but they were able to get it done tonight (and this morning for those of us in the Eastern time zone).

Indy stay on the road next week against Miami, but have a midweek game against league foe San Antonio in the U.S. Open Cup at Butler. When Indy return home to play Hartford on the 18th, the club will have four games to watch as the women will start their home games that week with a game on Monday and a game on Wednesday, bookended by the men's game against Hartford and a game against Phoenix. Plenty of soccer to watch in the coming weeks for the club.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
It pains me a little to give the GBGB to a person who had 4 passes, completing just 2 of them, lost more duels than they won, and lost more aerial duels than they won given their height, but when you make the most of your 1 shot on goal by scoring it in the 88th minute, and give the team a win when it looked like a draw was going to be the extent of the game's effort, then I'll give you the GBGB. Collier found himself in the right spot and took a shot. He didn't look to pass. He didn't blast it over the top of the goal. He purposefully, and forcefully, shot the ball into the goal in a way that Siaha didn't have time to react. In a game where players struggled to do that, Collier gets the edge on tonight's GBGB. 

Thursday, May 2, 2024

A resolution for a second stadium location

Tonight, I read through Resolution #2024-E-021  (that was approved with a 7-1 vote) from the Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) that creates a second professional sports development area, seemingly in competition with the one we all expected was being created for Eleven Park. This resolution and step from the MDC is consistent with what Mayor Hogsett indicated he had begun doing when he made the MLS bid announcement last week. The resolution was approved without public comment, sending a bunch of Indy Eleven supporters home early. The supporters were there to offer their opinion on this new professional sports development area versus the one that was believed to have begun when Indy Eleven and Keystone began demolition on the Diamond Chain site for Eleven Park. The Commission voted, and then moved on with their regularly scheduled meeting agenda items, which included a good discussion about the horrible athletic facilities for Crispus Attucks High School for those that stuck around.

The resolution has a bunch of legal language so it's not all the easiest read, but this quick post (insomnia is good for something I guess) is a summary of some of what I think are interesting pieces of the resolution: 

  • It looks like the Mayor is trying to take full advantage of the non-contiguous language from the original law. Properties are scattered throughout downtown. I found the property owners of every single property listed and seemingly all of them are existing businesses or City-owned properties. Many of them are parking lots, including a bunch of lots located south of Lucas Oil Stadium.
    • Notable City-owned or adjacent properties include the old City Hall and its parking lots, the City Market, the Marion County Jail. 
    • Other notable (one will be discussed in more detail later and so isn't listed here) properties include the Stutz Building, the Gold Building, Shapiro's, Emmis Entertainment, 1 North Pennsylvania, and a few Eli Lilly parking lots.
  • I'm not sure how well the use of existing properties meets the language of the law that allows for the professional sports development area. I reread the language from the law (insomnia is rough, ya'll), and Section 5.(b)(3) states, "the project...will protect or increase state and local tax bases and tax revenues." Utilizing a bunch of existing properties doesn't really "increase" the bases or revenues. The stadium should though. Maybe that's enough.
There were two addresses that were listed separately from the rest of the properties. Interesting about those were that they just happen to be addresses for the Circle City Mall that was recently acquired by Hendricks Commercial Properties. Bottlework, which is also a Hendricks Commercial Properties property was also listed with the larger list of properties. It really makes me wonder how much more Hendricks may be involved in this process, MLS bid, etc. I can't imagine their part of the MLS bid application unless the MLS ownership group reached out to them as their developer in lieu of Keystone. 

The rest of the language seemed pretty consistent with the law language. It did say that if Tax Area #1 is used, then Tax Area #2 is terminated, and if Tax Area #2 is used, then Tax Area #1 is terminated. This clearly pushes Keystone's property out if the Mayor's area gets used. 

This is just my opinion, but it seems like Mayor Hogsett is trying to expedite the process by using existing properties as part of the "development," which could also coincide with a cheaper stadium. So instead of trying to find financing for a $250M stadium plus another +$750M for the development pieces, the entire thing gets simplified to just funding for just a stadium, maybe in the $100M to $150M range, which makes everything get done easier and faster. If that opinion has any merit, why he seemingly isn't discussing that with Keystone is unknown to me. Or maybe those conversations have taken place and Ersal and Keystone have not been receptive. Maybe Ersal's consistent appearance that he wants to remain the majority owner and do things his way is playing into the Mayor's actions since there is a time crunch on the law. Maybe Ersal is his own worst enemy right now.

Maybe my gut feeling that the Mayor didn't look like he was happy about last week's announcement, because he knew how it would be perceived, was accurate. Maybe he's trying to find some kind of loophole in the law by using the existing properties to provide a lifeline to Ersal/Keystone/Indy Eleven and not a noose. It's a weird way of going about it, but until we hear more from everybody, it feels like we're getting two sides of the story, when we all know there are three; his, his, and the truth.

Again, I really don't know, but the singled out appearance of Hendricks Commercial Properties, who have experience with developing a stadium, really caught my attention, and now has my brain going in overdrive, which is why I'm writing this as 2:00 AM.

Links for you to do your own reading:

Meeting Minutes
Declaratory Resolution

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Indy Eleven vs North Carolina FC - 11.08

Summary

- Opponent: North Carolina FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,071
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Sulte, O'Brien, J., Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, Stanley, Gibson (C), Lindley, Blake, Martinez, Ikoba, Guenzatti

- Substitution: Mines 61' (Ikoba); Ofeimu 61' (O'Brien, J.); Collier 75' (Diz Pe - injury?)

- Unused: Oettl, Henderlong, Neidlinger, Schneider, Wootton

- Scoring Summary:
IND - 48' Own Goal (Maldonado)
NC - 51' Perez (assist Mentzingen)
IND - Martinez 75' (Chapman-Page)

- Bookings:
IND - Ikoba 45'+1' (Yellow)
NC - Placias 72' (Yellow)
NC - Armstrong 74' (Yellow)
NC - Brewer 85' (Yellow)
NC - da Costa 90'+1 (Yellow)

- Referee: Eric Tattersall
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

In a week where I have written a ton of words around the off-field part of Indy Eleven, it felt good to be able to talk about the on-field happenings. Indy's old foe from the NASL days and early USL days, North Carolina FC (formerly the Carolina Railhawks) returned to The Mike, with both teams off to less than ideal starts. Both Indy and Carolina have managed just a single win to this point in the season, which Carolina edging Indy on the table by getting one more draw than Indy. Indy opened their club career against the Railhawks with a 1-1 draw, but both teams have gone through more than a decade of history since the day that Michael Ambersley scored Indy's first ever goal. Both have changed leagues. North Carolina dropped down to the USL League One for the past three seasons. Indy has changed venues...twice. Indy holds the advantage in games between the two teams with a 10W-4D-4L record, but just a slight edge in goals at +6 as the games have all be close affairs. Only a handful of the games have been decided by more than 1 goal. The most notable multi-goal differential games being the 4-1 Miracle at the Mike win for Indy Eleven in 2016, which solidified the Spring Championship, and a 5-nil drubbing of Indy by North Carolina FC in early October of 2017. 

Indy's injury report is starting to look rough. Quinn remains out as he rehabs his injured knee, Sanchez is out with an ankle injury, King is out after pulling up in the game against Colorado with a hamstring issue, Boudadi is out with an ankle injury, and Williams rounds out the report with an elbow injury. Indy has a larger roster this injury to potentially ride out the injuries, but those are some very important parts of Indy's team last year and this year. Sulte continued his effort between the posts after getting his first start last week against Colorado and Gibson returns to the starting lineup after his week off against Colorado.

In the early minutes of the game, both teams had their moments of possession and chances, but neither could put their stamp on the game. Indy forced McGuire to come out of his goal a number of times to clear the ball, but he was successful in doing so each time. Nothing that you could call threatening for either team, but both teams had the opportunities to push deep into each other's half. It was until the 16th minute that Carolina blasted a shot towards the Indy goal, that Sulte managed to smother and end Carolina's effort. 

Indy's defense can be really good at times, but they can also be so nervy for Indy fans. There's just moments where touches are loose, decisions are questionable, or somebody switches off for a split second. Every time one of those scenarios happen, Indy looked like they are going to concede a goal. This isn't a new thing for Indy this season, but the overlapping runs from Armstrong on the left side of the field were causing some vital last-ditch efforts from Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, or O'Brien. 

If there are young players out there reading this, watch Guenzatti, Blake, Gibson, and Lindley...when they don't have the ball. Their effort and ability to put themselves and their teammates into good positions to receive or distribute the ball are really impressive. Guenzatti was listed as the forward up top, but he actually played underneath Ikoba and Martinez, pulling defenders with them, while also regularly tracking back to help defensively or get a ball that he can get to somebody else in a better position. Those four players (and Quinn when he returns) are a good reason why Indy's on-paper potential is so high. They put out so many fires ahead of the backline, and should be the catalyst for Indy's offense. I think that's what frustrates me the most with Indy's long-ball percentage, which was over 20% for the game. One of the best parts of this roster is regularly being bypassed. This game was strange to me in that the long-ball percentage was so high, but it also felt like Indy had a more concerted effort to possess the ball. I would probably need to re-watch the game while not also trying to type to see if my first impressions of the game were accurate. Indy lost the possession battle, barely, but as wide open as the game was at the end of the second half, the possession similarity could be expected.

Indy went into the locker room with 1 shot, none on target. That's not going to get it done. Indy came out of the locker room, and Blake quickly picked up a free kick near the box. He delivery was perfect, but no Indy players found it. Luckily for Indy, Maldonado did and his touch ushered the ball nicely into his own goal. Indy with the lead in the 48th minute. Three minutes later and the defensive mistakes that I described came to fruition, as Perez found a header on a cross that he pushed past Sulte. Just like that, Indy went from a goal up, which has been rare this season, to back to level. 

Three. Minutes. There was literally nothing listed between the two actions.


Within ten minutes, Coach McAuley started making substitutions by bringing on the Bens. While Ikoba had the lone shot in the first half, he had some rough moments where he seemed out-of-sync with his teammates and he was one of the first subs, leaving in place for Ben Mines. O'Brien, J. left for Ofeimu. 

Another player came onto the field, but he was quickly ushered back off. I've seen a lot of things at The Mike, but there's a first for everything. Not sure where he came from, how he managed to bypass security, or what happened to him afterwards, but I believe this young fan is the only one to have been on the field during a game. Anybody else hearing an older brother egging him on right before this? 

"I dare you to run out on the field. Do it. I double dog dare you." 

"Okay."



After the substitutions, and the delay, Indy started to ever so slightly tilt the field in their direction. Another free kick from Indy from a dangerous spot and Blake continued to show he is at a different level than everybody else and he put a perfect ball into the box. It was basically where he put the first one, but instead of finding a player from the other team, he found Chapman-Page who deftly put it back into the mixer and Martinez headed it home to give Indy a 2-1 lead.

With the lead in Indy's favor, the game became wide open as North Carolina looked to equalize and Indy looked to counter with the space that was now presenting itself. Indy also ramped up their defensive effort from everybody. Indy, the club and its fans, felt like it was in a fight for the two days preceding this game. Indy, the men's team, fought for this win. You could see it in the players's faces. They were going to do everything they could do to hold onto the win. A win they knew would mean a lot to the fans. When the 4th official held up the sign indicating 5 more minutes, it felt overly generous in Carolina's favor, but nearly everything in the stoppage time was in Indy's favor.

In some ways, this felt like a cathartic win for the club and the supporters. Coach McAuley got his first home win. The players overcome another adage goal. The fans were able to show support like they have for the past 11 seasons. Regardless of where the discussions continue with the stadium and the Mayor and MLS, the win tonight showed the fight in this club at all levels. Fans, players, coaches, and front office staff. This felt like a much needed club win against a foe that seems to continue to be around in the big moments for Indy.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
This is a hard game to pick because I thought there were quite a few guys who had good games. I picked on Ikoba a little bit earlier, but even he didn't have a bad game; I just think he's still adapting to the team and/or the speed of play. There was the defensive lapse that led to the North Carolina goal, but I wouldn't say that the backline played poorly. I already complimented Blake on his free kick placement, and he's playing with so much confidence right now, he's taking bold shots on goal. I also complimented the other three in the midfield with Gibson, Lindley, and Guenzatti. I think I'm just going to give the GBGB to the midfield four of Gibson, Lindley, Blake, and Guenzatti. They were all box-to-box and put in a very good shift to get the victory.

Additional Photos - Don Thompson Photography










Friday, April 26, 2024

More thoughts on MLS to Indy

I've had another day to think about things. Another day to read informed and uninformed posts from people I respect, people I don't know, and people who I think are morons. Sorry, that's unfair. People that I think are maybe, or probably, unintelligent about the issues at hand, but speak as if they know what is going on. I'm going to be clear with you on where my information gaps are at in all of this. 

Let me be clear for the people in the back. I have no idea what is going on. I have guesses, suspicions, and some general knowledge of how these things have happened in the past to other clubs. There are probably only a handful of people that know most, and maybe not all, of the details, and all of those people are going to hold that information as close to the vest as they possibly can until it's impossible for them to hold it any longer. Keystone released an announcement about the Mayor and showed one of their cards. The Mayor had to respond and showed one of his cards. Both still have a bunch of cards in their hands.

Indy Eleven and Keystone have been doing this for years. How many of the Indy Eleven staff knew about what was going on with Keystone might be limited to just a couple people, or maybe none. I would guess that Greg Stremlaw had at least a surface level understanding, and maybe a little bit more, but I would bet that it didn't trickle down very far past him. Your day-to-day front office staff? They received the news with the rest of us. 

Politicians are synonymous with not giving all the details to all the people. The old saying, "lies, damned lies, and statistics" could probably be changed to "lies, damned lies, and politicians" at this point. I haven't seen a politician that I can fully trust in my entire life. So it doesn't surprise me at all that Mayor Hogsett was working behind-the-scenes on a potential MLS bid/stadium despite him having one of the shovels in his hand when the Indy Eleven had their groundbreaking ceremony last year. Did he know then that this week's events might take place? I doubt it, but you never know.

So whatever information we all know at this point, it's because somebody involved wanted you to know that piece. Whether they judged correctly on whether it was the appropriate time to pass along that information will be determined later. As I stated yesterday, Mayor Hogsett looked like he was being forced to give information yesterday. Like he wasn't ready to give what he did, but sure as hell wasn't going to give any more. From what I've seen today, that hasn't changed much.

As I also stated yesterday, Indy Eleven isn't perfect. Supporters know this. Some have decided to not be involved with the club due to some of those imperfections. I don't blame them for that. I have stuck around for 11 seasons despite some of my issues with the club. Maybe it's similar to a routine for them of not being able to "separate the art from the artist." Maybe I haven't given up on the soccer; "separating the soccer from the club" so to speak. Yet, despite those imperfections, I have dealt with some really good people with this club for a long time. I have had almost no interactions with Ersal, so I don't know him to be able to judge him. He doesn't know me. I bet he couldn't pick me out of a police lineup, despite my constant presence at games and in post-game media sessions, and that's okay. I don't do this to interact with the owner of the club. I do this to interact with other fans and supporters.

Those interactions, and the sweeping of them under the proverbial rug by the Mayor, are what have this fanbase up in arms. It's no secret that Ersal, the club, and many fans wanted MLS in the beginning. Let me rephrase that. It's no secret that Ersal, the club, and many fans wanted Division 1 status in the beginning. Early on, that meant MLS. Now, many/most of the long-time supporters have soured on MLS as they watched their brethren in other supporter groups around the country get booted to the side as billionaires bought teams in their city and forced the team that built relationships from the bottom up get kicked to the curb.

This is exactly what Mayor Hogsett proposed yesterday. He took what Indy Eleven and its supporters have built over the past 11 years and said it wasn't worth anything. For the past 24 hours, I have read people calling Indy Eleven "minor league." People who apparently don't understand how soccer in this country is different than the other major sports. Indy Eleven isn't a farm club to some "major" team. At this point, none of the USL Championship teams have that relationship. These are independent teams with professional soccer players that are working to bring soccer to their market and hopefully be financially successful at it. As I stated on X, Indy Eleven has a championship winning women's team, a championship winning Academy program, and 21 soccer clubs throughout the state that have an affiliation with the club. Indy also is set to have a 1st division women's soccer team starting in 2025, which could now be affected by the Mayor's announcement. 

Those are not actions of a "minor" club. Your continued use of the term undermines the rest of your point for soccer fans. 

One of those people was James Briggs with the Indy Star.

"Also, to state the obvious, Indy Eleven is a minor league team, a shaky status for long-term endurance. Indy Eleven has strong, passionate supporters and a cool culture. But the team is a niche, small-scale entertainment product that the vast majority of Indianapolis doesn't care about."

Given that James' previous statement before that one was this next gem, he lost me as being a reputable resource on this discussion:

"Indy Eleven's plan to build a 20,000-seat soccer stadium without an MLS team was like building a cruise ship and hoping it would bring the city an ocean."

I thought it when I read that part, but thankfully a former classmate of mine (technically my siblings' classmate) and former President of Indiana Sports Corp and former Chief of Staff under Mayor Ballard, Ryan Vaughn verbalized it for me:

The City of Indianapolis has a history of doing bold things with sports teams and one of those teams that Mayor Hogsett referenced yesterday was a result of the very thing Ryan was implying. The Indianapolis Colts are no longer the Baltimore Colts because Indianapolis built a cruise ship and it brought the ocean. The difference is that Indy Eleven already has the team here. There doesn't need to be a reason to start a new one or steal one from somewhere else. The stadium just gives them a proper place to play, and maybe, in the future, be capable of being a 1st Division club (again, with the men since the women's team will already have that status next year when ("if" now?) they join the USL Super League). 

Then there were a couple of interactions I had with Jefferey Tompkins, who I normally like to read regarding his thoughts on developments. However, he showed he may understand developments (of which Eleven Park is definitely one), but doesn't understand soccer in this state by first continuing the "minor league" narrative, but also with a post that is he deleted where he stated that Indy Eleven could move to Fort Wayne because they too are planning a downtown development that could include a soccer stadium. Fort Wayne already has a professional soccer team in the USL system that is partially owned by former U.S. Men's National Team player DaMarcus Beasley. Part of the issue today was soccer fans having to explain how soccer works in this country.

Former Indy Eleven player Daniel Keller had this to say to Mayor Hogsett:

I appreciated Keller has a player, but unfortunately, I disagree with him here. An MLS team in Indianapolis would fill a stadium. There are enough casual supporters who want to watch "major league" soccer to fill the stands. There are enough people out there who know Messi and some of the other major stars on those teams that they will come to the games that might not come to the Indy Eleven games. There are enough Indy Eleven soccer fans that just want to watch and support soccer in this city. An Indianapolis MLS team would be successful. Ersal knows it. The Brickyard Battalion and Indy Eleven soccer fans know it. There is interest in soccer in this city and state. 

The issue and outcry from Indy Eleven supporters is not (entirely) about bringing MLS to Indianapolis. It's that its being done without the people who have been supporting soccer in this city and state for a decade or more. It's looking around them to find something shinier. Daniel is right that a plan for MLS expansion without collaboration with the Brickyard Battalion is a miscalculation. If the Mayor had stood there yesterday with Ersal and a bunch of Indy Eleven fans next to him, this entire thing goes differently. 

The Indy Eleven fan base, but particularly the hard-core, long-term supporters value that Indy Eleven has been built, not bought. Maybe those are midwestern ideals, but those are things that are important to this fanbase and the Mayor overlooked everything about it.

I don't know if MLS will accept an Indianapolis bid to join the league. History has shown that Indianapolis have never been that high on MLS's list, and so I seriously doubt that anything comes of it except the Mayor spending a bunch of money for a marketing campaign that won't work. The collateral damage, though, could be the demise of Indy Eleven. I know some people who don't think that will be true, and I indicated yesterday that it could survive as least short-term as an F you to the Mayor from Ersal. Yet, fans have waited years for the idea of having their own home stadium instead of sharing one with the Colts or playing at a track and soccer stadium that was on the IUPUI Master Plan to be demolished before Indy Eleven became its tenant. That, now, seems less likely again.

But who knows? 

The Mayor? Ersal Ozdemir? Their inside circles? Beyond that, I haven't found anybody that really knows what's going on. So maybe I'll be wrong.

Maybe Ersal and Keystone/Indy Eleven will pivot and the proposed >$1.0B development will be scaled back. The stadium was set to be $200M of that total, with the rest being the hotel, apartments, etc. Maybe the stadium doesn't look like the renderings (again...) and it gets redesigned to serve the more immediate needs with the ability to expand, which I've been saying they should do for years, and not all of the development happens. Maybe Ersal and Keystone/Indy Eleven say that they took over the management of Grand Park in Westfield, maybe they should just management Eleven Park and not turn it over to the Capital Improvement Board, which had been the plan. Maybe that's one more F you from Ersal to the Mayor, who I suspect won't be invited to that ribbon cutting ceremony. 

Who knows?

All day, I kept thinking about the phrase "Of all the unimportant things, football [soccer] is the most important." It's been attributed to Pope John Paul II, and whether that part is correct or not doesn't matter. What matters is that soccer and the community that it can build for them means a great deal. Soccer is important. The soccer community is important. The Mayor's announcement yesterday reminded me of that fact. I don't know all the Indy Eleven supporters, but I know a fair amount, and I believe a fair amount read the things that I write. The things we share are important to us, and we've built it that way. The community we built is important to us. The Mayor has forgotten that.

Like I said yesterday, tomorrow night I'll be at Carroll Stadium with a bunch of other people who like to watch "minor league" soccer and scream and cheer for Indy Eleven for 90-minutes. I have a feeling that a bunch of the people who you have been reading the past 24 hours can't say the same thing.

For now, that's where my soccer team plays, so that's where I'll be.