Sunday, July 8, 2018

Indy Eleven vs Charlotte Independence - 05.17

- Opponent: Charlotte Independence
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,858
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Venegas, Ouimette, Mitchell, Ayoze, Matern, Ring, Moses, Watson, Saad, Braun
- Substitutions: Speas 10' (Braun - injury); Starikov 17' (Venegas - injury); Guerra 90' (Ring - injury)
- Unused: Lundgaard, Pasher, Rusin, McInerney
- Goals: Speas 62' (assist Starikov); Mitchell 70' (assist Ayoze)
- Bookings: None
- Adage goals: One

Before the match reached the 20 minute mark, the Eleven were forced to burn two of their three substitutions as Justin Braun and Kevin Venegas both left with hamstring injuries. Venegas was the first to be affected, but managed to hang on until the substitutes were ready to enter. Braun was not as fortunate and immediately requested the replacement as he grabbed his leg from the Lucas Oil Stadium endzone. Ben Speas entered the game for Braun in a "like-for-like" substitution, though with different skill sets. Speas isn't able to handle the same kind of hold-up play as Braun, but Speas did a respectable job all game of being the man up top. Starikov was the substitute for Venegas and when I asked Coach Rennie why he chose to pull Moses back from his midfield spot given that Ring was already on the field and had played the right back in the early part of the season, he stated:
"Because we wanted to get a forward player on, so we felt like if we kept Brad Ring where he was, we could move Seth to a defensive position and then we could put Eugene on. So it worked out really well for us. It's not always a masterstroke, but in this game it did work out well. And I actually thought Seth did a really good job. I think he defended well, he broke forward well, he showed great energy. In the end, it worked out to do the rotation like that because Brad Ring did well for us in midfield."
Charlotte fields two players with 8 goals on the season (one of those now has 9 with Herrera scoring in the 50th minute), plus a third player in Zayed that Indy fans know can find the cheese. As a result, the starting lineup was heavy on defensive midfielders for that reason, so with the forced substitutions happening so early, the coaches didn't want to move away from those tactics at that point. The midfield was constantly in flux with Ring, Matern, & Watson constantly interchanging to provide cover for each other. It often meant that the Eleven's counterattacks were not as quick as Charlotte's transition to defense as Charlotte often quickly had 8 guys behind the ball. However, the Eleven found their moments, often creating set piece opportunities because of their pace around Charlotte's defense.

While the stats don't completely agree with me, my eyeball test said that this was one of the more dominant games by the Eleven. They gave up some possession and a goal, but the goal was really the only significant opportunity by Charlotte. Charlotte's goal was followed by Fon Williams shouting at his guys, saying "Too easy guys!" Nobody went to the ball, nobody properly tracked Herrera, and a guy of his caliber isn't going to miss too many times from inside the box with yards of space around him. I just can't think of too many opportunities where Charlotte significantly threatened the Eleven.

However, the Eleven have played well in their past two games and only got a positive result out of one of them, so it's good for their confidence to play well and get the win. Coach Rennie addressed this after the game by saying:
"In the last three games this week, we've really been unfortunate in the goals that we've lost. We've hardly had any chances up against us. And we've lost two goals and we've tied a game and lost a game so we've really been unfortunate. And before the game I said that to the players that it's been a little bit cruel in the last two games but it's not always like that. So we have to believe, we have to fight for each other and when we were down, we did that. We fought together and I was really pleased to see Ben Speas getting a goal because he's been doing really well in training. He held the ball up really well for us. Eugene set the goal up and both of them, obviously, had to come off the bench to do that. So that showed good concentration and character and I was really happy with the win."
Ben Speas may not have been an official starter, but his effort off the bench was rewarded with the goal in the 62nd minute from the other early first half sub in Starikov. Starikov was calling for the ball that he headed back across the goal to Speas' one-time left footed shot and my pick for team MVP at this point in the season, Ayoze put a perfect ball to Starikov. Similarly, Ayoze's corner kick in the 70th minute that Mitchell won was put in a location that forced Charlotte's keeper, Dykstra, to come off his line. Mitchell just beat him to the spot. With 4 goals and 5 assists, Ayoze has been involved in 41% of this team's goals and if you count the times, like Speas' goal, that his play leads to another player's assist, this team seems to go as he goes. Luckily, he goes well. As long as he can avoid another yellow card, since he's currently sitting on 4 yellow cards.

It was good to see Eamon Zayed return to Indy. Colin Falvey was seen on Twitter preceding the game telling Zayed that Falvey and Marco Franco left Indy with positive results so it was his turn. It was also good to see that, despite my pre-game prediction of him getting on the scoreboard, Zayed was unable to unlock the Indy defense and Charlotte left without points like Ottawa and Penn FC had been able to do.

The Eleven will now spend the next month on the road, not returning until August 15th, which will be a newly turfed Lucas Oil Stadium.

Ring while exiting late in the game due to injury when the Assistant Ref told him to hurry off the field:
"You do your job, I'll do mine."

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I could give this to Ayoze again, but I'm going to give it to Speas, Starikov, and Moses for their combined efforts in playing significantly more minutes than anticipated and out of position, respectively.



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