Monday, April 30, 2018

Indy Eleven vs Charlotte Independence - 05.05

- Opponent: Charlotte Independence
- Location: Charlotte
- Attendance: 1,702
- Final Score: 0-0 D
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Venegas, Mitchell, Ouimette, Ayoze, Matern, Lewis, Pasher, Watson, Saad, McInerney
- Substitutions: Steinberger 66' (Lewis); Braun 80' (Pasher)
- Unused: Farr, Speas, Rusin, Guerra, Ring
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Ayoze 32' (Yellow); McInerney 72' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

After a bye week, the Eleven headed to Charlotte looking to continue their good run of form. For the first time this season, they came home from their road trip with just a single point instead of the possible three. Statistically, the game was close with no team really having any major advantage. From my eyeball test, that was pretty consistent too. Each team seemed to have stretches where they were the dominant team and then stretches where they were on their back foot.

With the exception of a ball off the woodwork, Charlotte managed 7 shots, none of which were on target. The Eleven forced Charlotte's Miller into 2 saves. One of those shots was unlucky for the Eleven to have not found the net as Miller barely got a hand to a Saad shot and it bounced down off the ground and up over the crossbar.

In a week with three games, a draw on the road is a good one to start, but there's a feeling that the Eleven needed to get a win knowing that the two teams coming to Indy this week are FC Cincinnati, a team who has already come to Indy and defeated the Eleven, and Louisville City FC, a team that has yet to lose a game this season and is beginning to already pull away from the rest of the conference. As I continue to reiterate, the interplay with this team is showing itself more and more each game and it seems like only a matter of time before it translates to more goals. Defensively, the team continues to be stingy, despite my continued concern of Fon Williams' control of his box, so once the offensive piece finally gels, the Eleven may put themselves in the elite portion of the conference. As it stands, while they continue to gel, they have kept themselves above the playoff cut line.

Additionally, Venegas was added to the starting lineup this week, meaning that with the exception of Ferreira, Starikov, and Lundgard, the team is getting back to full strength. Again, in a week where the Eleven play three games, full roster depth is a good thing. The unused portion of the bench against Charlotte included Rusin, Speas, and Ring, who have a combined four starts in the young season. The roster is so deep that starter level guys didn't even see the field in this game. I'm guessing one or more of them see the field on Wednesday or Saturday.

Lastly, I'm sure I'm not the only one who was glad to see Zayed make an appearance for Charlotte in this game. He didn't see the ball much, but just seeing him on the sideline waiting to come in made me smile a little bit.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

While I would have liked to see him actually get a shot off or create some chances, Lewis was active on the right side of the field, completing nearly 90 percent of his passes and seemed threatening in the attack.

The Pasher/Lewis winger lineup is eventually going to produce more goals, but they're fun to watch right now, even if they're not yet producing.


Monday, April 23, 2018

The Soccer Life - Kevin Johnston

Unlike many of the Indy Eleven grassroots media who have chosen to write about the team as part of their fandom and have a relatively minor reach (or no reach in my case), today's interviewee started a site that has quickly reached a national audience. Like the rest of us though, at this point he still has to have a day job and Kevin Johnston's day job is being an accountant for a hotel company accounting department. However, Kevin is equally qualified to run a soccer related website since he studied Sports Communication from Indiana University in Bloomington, as well as New Media at IUPUI. Kevin has translated that education into being a Freelance Correspondent for the Indy Star, covering the Indy Eleven and boxing (those are the ones I know about, but there could be more), resulting in a much better, and much appreciated, coverage of the Indy Eleven compared to their initial seasons. Additionally, as mentioned above, Kevin has to put up with fellow friends of the site Nipun and Aaron, since Kevin is the Founder and Managing Editor (and rumored $hill) for the soccer news outlet, of which all three are a part.

Kevin recently sat down to provide his own answers to my standard Soccer Life questions, but before we get into those responses, I wanted to talk about a subject much more important than my survey. Earlier this year, Kevin posted the below tweet about his wife kicking cancers ass. If you're so inclined, I thought I would provide a link to the Young Survival Coalition so that you can make a donation in Chrissy's name. I've never met her, but if she kicked cancers ass, she has my respect and I this post is a way to ask other people to celebrate her life. Way to go Chrissy!

Kevin also requested that I mention Indiana Futsal as SocTakes' official nonprofit partner.

One last piece of bookkeeping (see what I did there in my intro for an accountant), I found some of the above in Kevin's day job bio, but I liked the closing lines of that bio so I'm including it here: 
Born and raised in the Circle City, the Indy lifer has never met a breaded tenderloin he didn’t like. He often wakes up in cold sweats from recurring nightmares of debits and credits, but satisfies his massive OCD with dreams of perfect accordion folds and balanced bank reconciliations by day.
With that, I give you Kevin's responses to his Soccer Life...

1. Name:
- Kevin Johnston

2. Role (Player, Parent, Coach, Referee, General Spectator, All of the Above, None of the Above, Other):
- Soccer Journalist and former player

3. Soccer-specific Nickname (and any story behind it):
- Just plain ol' boring KJ.

4. Age became interested in soccer:
- 7

5. First recollection of the game:
- In my first year of rec, I remember our GK punted the ball over his head for an own goal.

6. Highest level of play achieved:
- High school varsity

7. Honors/Awards
- What are those? ;-)

8. Last competitive match – Date (if known) & Level of Play
- My last match with any real meaning was probably in 2001 at age 18 with my youth club. I played a season or two in the men's open league at Off the Wall in my 20s, but I was more washed up than a whale carcass.

9. Position:
- Center back

10. Jersey number:
- #8

11. Coaching experience:
- None.

12. Refereeing experience:
- None.

13. Most memorable moment(s):
- My youth club was invited to be guinea pigs at a coaching seminar at the Indiana Convention Center, and we ended up doing a full training session led by former Brazil national team manager Carlos Alberto Parreira.

14. Least memorable moment(s):
- Coming up short twice in the club state finals -- two runner-up finishes and zero state titles.

15. Favorite World Cup moment(s):
- The most indelible moments in my memory are probably: Baggio's missed penalty, Chastain's converted penalty, and Zidane's Panenka/head-butt.

16. Favorite team(s)
- Indy Eleven

17. Favorite Historical player:
- Chris Wondolowski

18. Favorite Current Player
- Chris Wondolowski
Editor's Note: That's a first for this survey...historical and current player being the same guy.

19. Indoor vs Outdoor:
- Outdoor

20. Grass vs Turf:
- Grass

21. Other sports played (and to what level):
- High school freshman basketball and JV cross country

22. Other Comments:
- I've always been a huge fan of The Game Beckons and I'd like to say thank you to Drew and Don for the exceptional Indy Eleven coverage they provide.
Editor's Note: I hate including something that praises me, but they're his words so I felt I should honor them. Thanks for the kind words Kevin.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Indy Eleven vs Nashville SC - 05.04

- Opponent: Nashville SC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,188
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Ring, Mitchell, Rusin, Ayoze, Matern, Lewis, Pasher, Steinberger, Saad, McInerney
- Substitutions: Watson 68' (Lewis); Braun 83' (McInerney); Guerra 90' (Steinberger)
- Unused: Farr, Speas, Moses, Amankona
- Goals: Saad 15' (assist Ayoze), Saad 34' (assist McInerney)
- Bookings: Ayoze 70' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

For the second week in a row, the Indy Eleven scored in the 15th minute to give themselves an early lead and forced their opponent into chasing the game. Unlike last week, the Eleven added a second goal in the 34th minute to further provide themselves with a cushion. However, a lapse in defensive structure late in the first half gave Nashville a dreaded "adage goal" and some momentum going into the break (as a reminder for those new to the site, the "adage goal" is something that Doug Starnes  first talked about with the Indy Eleven as far back as May 2014 on his, now defunct, Eleventh Heaven blog. "There’s this adage in soccer that teams are most vulnerable at the beginning and end of matches, a just either side of halftime, and just after a goal has been scored...For consistency’s sake, we’ll use five minutes as the universal window across the adage."). Coach Rennie had this to say about what happened in the locker room at halftime:
"At half time it wasn’t so much a conversation but a rant to make sure that we don’t do that. You have to respect the game. You have to respect the opponent. You have to respect the whole game until the last minute whether that be half time or the end of the game. We didn’t do that. We let down just a little bit and we got punished. It made the game much harder than it should have been. At 2 nil we felt like we were playing very well and we were comfortable. I thought it the second half we managed the game well and had a few good chances and didn’t give up too many."
After the break and with Coach's rant in their heads, the Eleven took on a much more defensive mentality in the second half. This makes two weeks in a row where the team has had a lead and then moved into a more defensive stance with their tactics. With the exception of the FC Cincinnati game when they were behind and were the ones needing the goal, the Eleven have been forced to withstand some fairly significant waves of pressure and have done so admirably. As a fan, I've never understood the proverbial parking of the bus with a one goal lead because it seems like points are routinely lost by an adage or stoppage time goal.

Fortunately for the Eleven this year, they've done a good job of absorbing the attacks and limiting teams to only a couple of good opportunities. Nashville SC looked to duplicate their late first half heroics with some late second half heroics with a set piece in the 89th minute from just outside the 18 yard box. From Reed's service into the box, Bourgeois put his header on frame, which was out of reach for Fon Williams, but was blasted 50 yards back up field by Steinberger who had drifted to the post on the restart. That's the attacking midfielder defending well late in the game. That's another good sign of things to come.

The USL Matchcenter shows the team starting out as a 4-2-3-1, but I think it played more like a 4-4-2 with Saad and McInerney up top. Saad definitely dropped back at times into the midfield, but recent Team of the Week winner Pasher also pushed forward.


As in the Average Position map shows Pasher as if he was the lone striker. The map plays out like the 4-2-3-1 that the league felt they were playing, but it was, unexpectedly, the left midfielder who was in that "1" spot. When Lewis was subbed out in the 68th minute for Watson, Pasher moved from his left mid position to right mid. A move that I questioned at the time because of Pasher's desire to kick, shoot, or cross with his preferred left foot. Putting him on the right means he's going to turn back to the middle instead of making a cross with his right foot. If you remember, his preference is so strong, he missed a good opportunity in the 10th minute of the game against North Carolina because he couldn't get it on his left foot and instead shot it over the goal and into the stands with his right. Coach Rennie had a reason for the change and was happy with the way he played:
"The first thing of it was that I wanted to shut that side down a little bit more but because of his good defensive work, that happened. And also I think the game changed a little bit at that point, I don't know if you could sense that, but we got a lot of our chances once he went to the right. And that meant the fullback had a different look and he's quite comfortable playing on the right coming inside and that actually I think was when the momentum in the second half changed and the game became a little easier for us. So I think he can do right, left, or left back so that's nice for a coach to have."
Okay, okay, Saad's free kick, and a Sportscenter Top 10:

Seriously?! I could sit here and watch that strike for hours. The bend on that ball made Pickens look silly and that's not an easy thing to do. Luckily for me, I can watch it and his first one, over and over again, because I missed his first goal live. Lucas Oil being Lucas Oil, I was moving between one part of the stadium to another and that's not always the easiest thing to do. While I was away from the field, Saad scored his first goal. Ironically, and sadly, I missed the very first goal ever scored in Carroll Stadium because of the mess of a concession stand issues that first game and I now missed the very first goal ever scored in Lucas Oil Stadium.

While I'm discussing the goals, I thought it was funny that the first goal was scored by a 50-yard pin-point assist from Ayoze and a relatively short kick on goal, while the second goal was a very short assist, but a 35-yard shot on goal. Long/short and short/long. Let's talk about that assist from Ayoze too. Yes, the defender misjudged his jump and didn't get a head to it, thereby allowing Saad to run onto it, but that is an absolutely effective use of the long ball. Perfectly executed. Ayoze put the ball in a position that forced the defender to try to get to it, far enough that Saad could run onto it, but not so far that Pickens had any chance of getting there ahead of Saad off of his line. Pickens had no choice but to stay in his area and then try to make a save once Saad put himself into a better shooting range. It looked simple, but that was a spectacular ball from Ayoze.

I'm still concerned about Fon Williams' kicks out of his goal when he's under a little bit of pressure. I've talked to my trusted goalkeeper source and he's assured me that I shouldn't be worried yet (I'm paraphrasing a little), but that left-footed shank that went less than 20 yards forward and 20 rows into the stands continues to be a troubling aspect of his goalkeeping for me. I hope they get it resolved soon because teams are going to start trying to find ways of taking advantage of his rushed kicks.

A couple of miscellaneous items:

  1. Lewis is dangerous on the right side. He has great skill, but is maybe trying to do too much at times right now. Felt like he overran the ball a couple times trying to make moves. He's also going to need to figure out that the refs in the USL are not the same as the ones he sees playing for Trinidad and Tobago and falling easily likely won't get you a call. What it got him on Saturday was a discussion with the ref about what the ref perceived as potential flopping.
  2. There were some guys behind me this week, who probably couldn't be described as "fans" of the Eleven, but were out, rather, to watch a reasonably priced soccer match in the weather-controlled environment of Lucas Oil Stadium. I can say that, because inexplicably against my personality, I turned around to talk to them after overhearing their conversations. One of them (the one who seemed to know less about soccer than the other) booed at the "umpire" for talking to Lewis about the above mentioned perceived flop attempt. He was also the one that said that he didn't think a stadium for just the Eleven would happen and definitely shouldn't happen "before they fix the friggin' roads." The second one has attended games at Carroll Stadium and liked the noon start and hoped that all of the games started at that time. Thought it was good for families who didn't want their kids out late at night. They both seemed disappointed by the announced attendance of 10,188 having expected to be part of 17k to 20k fans. They were the prime example of residents who may be seeing the team play entirely because the amenities are better at LOS than at Carroll. Either way, they seemed to enjoy the game and I got the impression that they might be back for future games. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This is about as easy a Game Beckons Game Ball selection as I've had in the past two seasons of giving out this "award." A Zayed hat-trick might have been a bit easier, but Soony Saad deserves it this week. Not only did he get a brace for the Eleven, but he did it in spectacular fashion. His second was amazing, discussed above, but the first one was special too, also discussed above. When asked about it after the game, he had this to say about it:
"It was a lot more. Jack checked in and the defender had gone with him leaving up some free space. Then Ayoze saw it and played a perfect ball and I was able to out-stride the defender that went for it. It went over his head and I was able to capitalize and finished. I almost thought it was too good to be true. I stayed cool and put it in the back of the net." Coming from a guy who was talking to the media scrum in a bow-tie, "cool" takes on a different meaning (make no mistake, some guys can pull off a bow-tie in a media scrum in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium and Saad is one of those guys. He can also make you feel really old, which he was able to do to me. My issue, not his...).

When he finished the shot, he had three defenders around him and one of the best goalkeepers in the league in front of him and he calmly put the ball in the net. Two top-notch finishes in the first half. I would have liked to see him have more chances in the second half to go for the hat trick, but, as mentioned already, the team took a more defensive stance to the second half. As the team gets more into stride, I don't think we've seen the last of multiple goal games from him nor the other forwards on this team so maybe we'll see another player join Zayed with hat tricks for this team.


Captain Brad Ring - One step closer to officially having 100 appearances for The Eleven


Monday, April 9, 2018

Indy Eleven vs NCFC - 05.03

- Opponent: North Carolina FC
- Location: Cary, North Carolina
- Attendance: 3,169
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Ring, Ouimette, Mitchell, Ayoze, Matern, Lewis, Pasher, Watson, Saad, Braun
- Substitutions: Steinberger 27' (Lewis - injury); Speas 67' (Braun); Rusin 90' (Mitchell)
- Unused: Farr, Moses, Guerra, Amankona
- Goals: Pasher 15' (assist Braun)
- Bookings: Mitchell 37' (Yellow); Fon Williams 71' (Yellow); Ouimette 90'+5' (RED)
- Adage goals: None

On a dreary night at WakeMed Soccer Park, the Indy Eleven roster shuffle continued due to Ferreira's injury last week against FC Cincinnati providing Indy's OG, Brad Ring, with another start and another game closer to the 100 game mark for the team. Unfortunately, that dreary night also produced two more injuries as first-time starter, and Trinidad & Tobago international, Nathan Lewis left in the 27th minute with an apparent concussion and fellow T&T resident, Carlyle Mitchell left in the 90th minute with a leg injury. Guess we'll see how severe they were in the coming days.

In his short time on the field, Lewis showed some promising moments on the right wing, but an inadvertent arm to his head cut short what was looking to be a potent attack against NCFC with Pasher pushed into the LW role and dual forwards in Saad and Braun. Less than 30 minutes after starting the game, the Eleven went from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 with Braun the lone striker. With a one goal lead on the road in rough conditions, the Eleven seemed to take their collective foot off the gas. A tactic that rarely seems to go well, but after Braun found a streaking Pasher up the left side in the 15th minute, there was the proverbial parking of the bus and the Eleven defended a significant amount of the remaining 75 minutes. To the tune of a 70/30 possession defending.

That's a long time to defend and a lot of time without the ball. That much time defending well was nearly undone when center ref Kevin Broadley awarded a penalty to NCFC in the 90'+3' for what seems to be a borderline call. Fon Williams dove to his right, putting his hands on Bekker's attempt, and salvaged the win. Minutes later, NCFC's Guillen and Indy's Ouimette were both shown red cards for an incident in the box and the game finished with a roller coaster ending.

The good news is the Eleven have won two of three games to keep themselves in the upper half of the conference while they continue to gel. The bad news is that, much like last year's team, there is a constant reshuffling of players due to injuries. Getting positive results as guys are getting healthy and guys are playing out of position is important and a good start to the season, but the preseason depth we also see with this team is already starting to get tested.

One last takeaway for me is going to be my reoccurring them of this year's reviews. Goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams. I'll preface this by saying I'm not a goalkeeper. My one season between the posts when I was a kid doesn't count towards knowing how to play the position. However, in addition to my concerns about his footwork and balls sailing on him out-of-bounds, there were moments in the game where he seemed to not know what play to make. There seemed to be too many moments where he let crosses (and NCFC had nearly 30 of them) drop instead of attacking the cross and grabbing it out of the air. With the wet conditions, I kept thinking that one of them were going to take an odd, skipping bounce and find its way off of a player, NCFC or otherwise. Fortunately, my fears were unrealized, but I'm still concerned about the fact that he seems rooted on the goal line.

The Game Beckons Game Ball:

Pasher. Moments before he scored his goal, he had another chance but was unable to get a shot off with his preferred left foot and the chance was missed. He made up for it by putting away the chance gifted to him by Braun.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Gymnastics Beckons

To date, this has been a blog about soccer. Exclusively. Local, national, and world soccer topics, but still only about soccer. Not today...

Today, I'm going to talk about gymnastics because sometimes Gymnastics Beckons. And sometimes the things we do for our kids need to be passed on as lessons for other parents.

For the readers who are soccer fans, I'll give a little background on me and gymnastics.

I grew up playing soccer as the only sport that I played in any kind of organized capacity. In the neighborhood, I played basketball, football, roller hockey, tennis, golf, baseball, and some made up combination of any of those together, including the periodic basketball game while riding bicycles or scooters. My wife grew up primarily playing basketball, softball, and volleyball. When we had kids, we assumed that they would play one of those sports because that's what we knew.

That's Alex McMurtry of U of Florida and
one of the more unique beam skills
My oldest daughter, "L," tried soccer and didn't really like it. My middle daughter, "D," tried soccer and liked it and was pretty good at it. Yet, we put them in a couple dance and gymnastics type classes at the Y and it turned out that they liked those more. So, despite not knowing much more about gymnastics than what I saw during the Olympics, the occasional Big Ten, Pac-10, or SEC competition on television, and the movie Stick It, I've become a gymnastics dad. Which is really just a euphemism for "being financially ruined."

"L" turns 12 in a couple weeks and has been doing gymnastics/tumbling since she was 2 years old. "D" turns 10 this week and has been doing gymnastics/tumbling since she was 2 years old. My little one, "E," turned 5 this week and has been doing gymnastics/tumbling since she was 18 months old. She has literally never known anything else beyond being in a gym and when asked, has absolutely no desire to try any other sport. "I'm a gymnast."

That's our life. A life that few can understand and relate. We've spent thousands of hours combined in just this past year in meets or practices (this season, that has been 3 nights a week for 4 hours at a time, but started out as 4 nights a week for 4 hours), as well as the exorbitant amount of time my wife spends being the gym's booster club president for the past three years. Our gym hosts a meet every year and during her tenure, we're the first ones there every day and the last ones to leave. We also help clean the gym for the gym owner. If I'm not at home or work, there's a good chance I'm at their gym.

One of the unique things about gymnastics in Indiana is that we don't know when our girls will compete until a week or two before the meet day. We know the weekend that the meets will occur, but the final competition schedule for any specific meet isn't finalized until right before the meet. With two girls competing (for now), that has meant that we routinely will have one girl compete on one day and then return the next day to watch the other compete. Sometimes that happens here in Indianapolis and sometimes that happens in different towns like Lafayette, Bloomington, and Richmond. It's an odd way to run meets, but it's something that we grown accustomed over the years.

This year, my girls competed in the same level. Due to my girls' proximity in age, they've been in the same level a couple times as it is common for gymnasts to repeat a level until they have mastered certain skills that will allow them to advance to the next level. The State meet for my girls was in Richmond, about an hour and a half drive. This is an important detail because it's at that driving distance that doesn't necessarily force us to stay overnight depending on when they compete.

When the schedule came out, "L" competed at 5:00 PM on Saturday night and "D" competed at 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, with the Daylight Saving Time change taking place during the night. No choice but to stay overnight.

My rare optimism that we would be able to have both girls on the same day or at times where an overnight stay wasn't necessary was suddenly shot to hell and we had to scramble to find a hotel in the metropolis that is Richmond, Indiana. Since it's the State meet, many parents assume that they are going to need to stay overnight and available options a week before the meet were minimal. Yet, we found a room. In a national chain. So we booked it.

The day of the meet, we make the trek over to Richmond early so that we can support some of our gym's other gymnasts (this is State, so the girls' competition times are based on their ages and in the session before "L" competed, there was only a single gymnast competing from our gym. We're gymnastics parents so went to support.). We piled into my smaller, but better gas mileage, car rather than the wife's van and got to the, rhymes with "Ay's Dinn," early to check in before we went to the meet.

As we pulled into the front of the hotel, my wife and I shot each other a glance. Mine said, "What have we done?" and her's, I found out later, was "we should have driven the van because it would have been a better sleeping option." Is it really any wonder that men have such a hard time deciphering women when all that can be attempted to be said in a look...

I pulled to the front of the hotel and she went inside to check-in. A few minutes later, she emerged with a fearful look on her face, only to tell me that the room wasn't ready yet and that "the place is a shithole." Confirming everything that I had been deciding for myself from my view of the outside.

Nothing to be done at that moment, we proceeded to the meet and during the downtime when "L" wasn't competing, I spent time on my phone searching for another sleeping option. All booked. Even going over the border into Ohio, everything said they were full. So we were stuck. Stuck in a shithole for the night.

NOTE: NOT a photo of actual shitholetel
Photo Source
Afterwards, (where "L" competed well I might add, finishing top 10 in the State in the All-Around), we headed back to the shitholetel. One of our other friends was also staying at the same "Ay's Dinn." As we waited in the Arby's drive-thru, my wife received a text from our friend who had not seen the "Ay's Dinn" in the light of day that read, "We're afraid to go in. "M" says this place looks like the hotels in horror movies." As we drove up to the shitholetel at night, "M" wasn't wrong. As bad as it seemed during the day, by the light of the moon, the street lamps, and the nearby interstate traffic, it somehow seemed worse. Creepy and foreboding, but we didn't have any other real options.

The inside of the room was...ok. The heater worked really well for the half of the bed that was right next too it, but the rest of the room felt like it didn't get any heat and was loud enough that I eventually turned it off knowing that it would likely keep me awake. Little did I know that the review that I read of the "Ay's Dinn" while I was at the meet that indicated there was a nearby train would have drowned out any noise from the heater.

There was a train. The tracks ran immediately next to the hotel. Ever see the scene in the Blues Brothers movie where they're at Elwood's apartment and Jake asks Elwood "How often does the train go by?" and Elwood replies, "So often you won't even notice." That was not the case at the "Ay's Dinn" shitholetel. I heard trains go by at 1:30 AM, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, and 5:00. Spaced just enough that you DO notice and it wakes you every damn time.

As we settled into bed, my wife slid in close to me. Close. REAL close. I love my wife, but we've been married for a long time and this was not a night for intimacy. This was a night for survival. Which is apparently what she had in mind because she whispered into my ear,
"This is how we're sleeping, right?" to which I replied,
"No. Get off of me."
"If we're going to die tonight, we're going to die close together."

And that's how she fell asleep. Close enough that I could hear and feel her breath all night when I woke up with every passing train.

Given that the Daylight Saving Time change occurred while we were there and I didn't want to cause my daughter to be late to State, I set the room's alarm, but also set my watch and phone alarms. While the alarm clock was as bright as the sun next to my head all night every time I woke up with every passing train every half hour, to my surprise in the morning it didn't actually function as an alarm clock. I'm not sure if I was expected to plug in a device to provide it music when it went off, but it just sat there and glowed its blue glow when it was time. Luckily, I had the other two alarms.

By this point, I couldn't wait to get out of the "Ay's Dinn", but grudgingly decided to take a shower because I can only feel dirty for so long. And a restless night in a shitholetel only made me feel dirtier. However, this was the kind of place that even taking a shower doesn't make you feel clean.

Packed and ready to go, we went down to partake in the continental breakfast. The hotel staff seemed genuinely surprised to see people actually walking through the doors to take part in their breakfast. Given that it consisted of Fruit Loops, Cheerios, a couple honey buns, some bagels and muffins that didn't look that fresh, milk that didn't taste quite right, and no orange juice, apple juice, nor water, it became clearer why they seemed surprised. I refused to eat there.

Headed away from the "Ay's Dinn" towards a Kroger to get us some morning breakfast and bottled water, I realized that I've reached a point in my life where a stay at a shitholetel is no longer an option and will never happen again. In my youth, a stay at an "Ay's Dinn" type place would have been rough, but I would have rationalized it by saying I just need it for a few hours of sleep. However, my husband and fatherly protective nature kicked in that night and their safety are more important to me and we'll be reserving a room well in advance and some place else next year, regardless of what it costs me.

"D" also competed well, finishing Top Ten in the All-Around and was a bronze medalist on the Uneven Bars. We remained at the meet all day, supporting the rest of the gymnasts from our gym, because that's what we do.

Gymnastics has become our lives. It's what we do. It's what we watch. It's what we discuss.

Sometimes you'll stay at a shitholetel and listen to trains go by every half hour, because Gymnastics Beckons.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Indy Eleven vs FC Cincinnati - 05.02

- Opponent: FC Cincinnati
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 17,535
- Final Score: 1-0 L
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Ouimette, Mitchell, Ferreira, Pasher, Speas, Matern, Watson, Steinberger, Starikov, McInerney
- Substitutions: Ring 44' (Ferreira - injury); Saad 57' (Speas); Braun 86' (Watson)
- Unused: Lundgaard, Rusin, Guerra, Lewis
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Ferreira 41' (Yellow); McInerney 45'+4' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

In front of a franchise record 17,535 fans, the Indy Eleven began their new adventure in Lucas Oil Stadium with a 1-nil loss against FC Cincinnati, one of the stronger sides from last year. The Eleven were arguably the better of the two sides, but couldn't connect on their chances, while FCC managed to get one of their two shots on target to go into the goal. The Eleven more than doubled up FCC in shots, shots on goal, and shots inside & outside the box, but could only find the post in the 17th minute when McInerney headed a cross from Pasher. McInerney had another chance in the first half from the penalty spot, but FCC's keeper Newton went the correct direction and parried away the attempt, as well as the attempted rebound shot from Speas.

USL Stats - 2nd Half Shots
With a one goal advantage on the road and a fairly stout defense, FCC didn't push forward with the same intensity in the 2nd half; content to keep 8 or 9 guys behind the ball and absorb the pressure from the Eleven. Pressure that didn't happen as quickly as it needed during spells. As the lady behind me verbalized (in an accent I never did manage to pinpoint) what was in my head in the 73rd minute with a slow Indy Eleven build-up, "Where the runners?"

There are glimpses. Just like last week, you can see what this team can become. They're just not quite there yet. At least, not quite there yet all the time.

Eventually, the glimpses will happen more frequently and will provide more results. Pasher's pace and crosses continue to remind me of Vuko, but without Vuko's sometimes lackadaisical retreat back on defense. The cross that he sent in for McInerney's shot off the post came from Pasher taking on three different FCC defenders, the first of which was left standing still when Pasher used some fancy foot skills to freeze him.

USL Stats - FC Cincinnati Goal
Overall, the team played a good game and even FCC's goal came against the run of play at that point in the game. Bone sent a cross-field pass from left to right to a waiting Ledesma. When he wasn't immediately pressed, he put a perfectly weighted ball towards the penalty spot, which Welshman flicked on out of the reach of Fon Williams. Welshman was flanked by two Indy Eleven defenders and the ball floated right between them to where Welshman was waiting. It was one of the rare major mistakes the defense made all night, but FCC made them pay for it with a goal. While the defense didn't make too many mistakes, the offensive counterparts were putting too many of their shots high and wide of the FCC goal. Newton was credited with 6 saves, but the Eleven had 11 other shots off target, with some of them not even forcing any effort from Newton.

USL Stats - Fon Williams Distribution
As long as we're talking about goalkeepers, let's look in on how Fon Williams did this week with keeping his clearances in the field of play. One ball exited the field from his clearances. However, that ball was kicked as Fon Williams was under pressure from one of the FCC forwards. Two games in and I've noticed that he doesn't do well with clearances when under pressure. It's not going to take too much longer for the rest of the league to see enough tape to test him more often to see if they can force him to turn the ball over without the rest of the team doing much work and having to win aerial duals.

So that takes care of the on-field analysis. I'm not quite sure I'm ready to completely agree with Kristian Nicht's assessment of the team just yet, but I've seen enough to think this team could be special.

As far as the new venue goes, Lucas Oil Stadium is massive. Yet, the drapes that were put up to hide the upper sections significantly helped reduce the feel of the venue. There were open seats scattered throughout the bowl, but the visitor section was packed full, the BYB was packed full, I saw at least one section of the 200 level seats being used, and there were suites scattered around the stadium that were used. Attendance numbers in professional sports are as much of a mystery to me as why people like Justin Bieber's music, but it certainly felt like 17,000 people were there.

The massive size of the stadium creates some weird acoustics though. From my seats in Section 116, the FCC supporters were significantly louder than the BYB. Granted, they were basically aiming their sound at me, but when they chanted "we can't hear you" to the BYB, they weren't wrong. I've been to 4 years of Carroll Stadium and I know what sound the BYB can put out, but somewhere between their section and mine, the sound disappeared. I have a theory that part of the difference between the two sections was that some of the BYB noise was being lost behind them in the massive platform on the north end of the stadium, whereas the sound from FCC's section had nowhere to go but out. At times, I could also hear the Red Card Regiment when they were playing in the South End, more than I could hear the BYB. A couple dozen instruments drowned out a few thousand BYB members and FCC supporters. Odd acoustics.That being said, all that noise must have been reaching the field because I noticed a couple times that guys were having a difficult time talking to one another.

When your house is massive, you need massive art work. In that category, the BYB and Slaughterhouse-19 did not disappoint, creating one of the best tifo the team has ever seen. Thanks to local resident and actor Drew Powell (Gotham), the tifo found its way to its inspiration and provided Indy with tens of thousands of views when Millie Bobby Brown responded to his tweet.

Let me reiterate, the stadium is massive. That goes for the press as well. The game brought out a significant number more media members, from writers to photographers, and the ability to move around the stadium that was enjoyed at Carroll was impossible at Lucas Oil Stadium. At Carroll, if you wanted to move between the press box and the field, you could do so easily and really not miss any of the action. If the front office needed to run halftime stats to media personnel or address any issue that was happening, it was a couple minutes. In Lucas Oil Stadium, it took a couple minutes just to get to the elevator that would take you were you needed to go. The logistics of LOS are so much different that Carroll and the Front Office staff that I saw over the course of the night looked absolutely exhausted by the end of the night. The tasks that they have been able to do at Carroll took on lives of their own in LOS.

Finally, there wasn't a single Port-a-Potty. Concession stands that weren't housed in cargo containers. Fifty degree weather that didn't require fans being completely bundled. Absolutely no chance of not starting the game at 7 and finishing at 9. I'm still not convinced on how this works financially (I mean, did you see how many security staff are employed at LOS compared to Carroll...and the Guest Services staff...and the concession staff...and the staff running the elevators...etc.?), but there were some definite perks to being at LOS. Not to mention that we were able to witness a soccer game in Indianapolis with 17,000+ people, which was not feasible at Carroll Stadium.

It may not have been the result that everybody wanted on-the-field, but the off-field portion seemed to go significantly more smoothly than the Eleven's first attempt at a new venue 4 years ago when the team kicked off their inaugural campaign in Carroll Stadium. The glimpses we're seeing on-the-field are going to become more consistent and I think this season is going to be something special in which to participate.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This week, the Game Beckons Game Ball goes to Brad Ring. #Legend was forced into action early when Ferreira went down with an injury just before halftime. While Indy fans have grown accustomed to seeing Ring in the holding midfielder role, Ring played really well as a right back. Ouimette shifted into the centerback role vacated by Ferreira and the defense went about its business.