Friday, July 6, 2018

Indy Eleven vs Ottawa Fury FC - 05.16

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 11,025
- Final Score: 0-1 L
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Venegas, Rusin, Mitchell, Ayoze, Matern, Starikov, Guerra, Watson, McInerney, Speas
- Substitutions: Saad 59' (Watson); Pasher 73' (Starikov); Braun 73' (Speas)
- Unused: Farr, Ring, Steinberger, Moses
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Guerra 26' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

June was a good month for Indy Eleven and a rough one for Ottawa. The Eleven were undefeated in the month of June, while Ottawa won only once during the month and lost three times (in league play; they did get a couple victories in the Canadian Championship). The script was flipped for the teams as July gets underway with Ottawa taking a 1-nil victory in Lucas Oil Stadium. Even though Ottawa's results haven't been what they wanted in June, the team has had good success against the Eleven, dating back to their days together in the NASL. Overall, Ottawa now has a 6W-2D-2L record against Indy, with a +7 goal differential.

The stat line nobody wants to see. The dreaded red ball next to a players name indicating that they were credited with scoring in the goal they were supposed to defend. In the 28th minute, from a free kick just outside the right side of the 18-yard box, Ottawa's Oliveira placed the ball into the 6-yard box where the closest teammate, Colin Falvey, was easily 5-yards away. While we all love Falvey, he's not exactly the biggest goal scoring threat. The ball landed near Mitchell, he stumbled, and the ball went into the goal like he planned for it to go there. Mitchell's mistake and own goal remained the only time the ball found the back of the net the entire game, but it should not take away from how well Mitchell played (and is playing) for the Eleven. Mitchell has been a rock in an ever changing back line and often stops attacks before they get underway.

His mistake is made worse because the rest of the team couldn't place the ball into Ottawa's goal, despite having an advantage in every single statistical category. Indy dominated in possession (62% to 38%), shots (14 to 6), shots on goal (4 to 2), crosses (23 to 3), duels success rate (60% to 40%), aerial duels success rate (65% to 35%). After the own goal, the Eleven became a lot more direct, but not always with good results. I even included in my match notes, "Who to?" because I realized I had said it at least a few times by the time I wrote it.

The game against Ottawa is the second game in a 4 game stretch in a week in a half so I understand the need to rotate some players, but I question Speas up top as the lone striker. He can't give you the same kind of target Braun can provide or the physical presence that McInerney has been providing. Once Coach Rennie used his complement of subs by bringing in Saad, Pasher, & Braun for Watson, Starikov, & Speas, respectively, the offense looked much more effective. Granted, part of that was that the Eleven were chasing the game and Ottawa was content to hang on and get out of town with a win, but Braun is much better at hold-up play and Pasher's return to the lineup is a welcome sight as the one player who is unafraid of trying to take on players and go to goal.

As the Eleven chased the game, they proceeded to have one of the most baffling plays of the game. In the 80th minute, the Eleven were awarded a free kick near the corner of the 18-yard box. At that point in the game, Ayoze, McInerney, and Saad were all on the field. All players that we've seen score spectacular free kick goals this year. Waiting in the box for the cross were 6'2" Mitchell, 6'3" Braun, & 6'4" Rusin with Ottawa not fielding a single player taller than 6'0" at the time. However, with all of those advantages, Ayoze placed a ball on the ground towards the center of the box that was summarily blasted back towards midfield. "Who to?"

The Eleven continued to push for the goal, but it never materialized and the Eleven's recent undefeated streak came to a hot and humid end. Which brings me to a point that others have verbalized in other places. The Indy Eleven started playing in Lucas Oil Stadium for a variety of reasons, but one that was mentioned was "always perfect weather." Yet to save a few bucks (okay, tens of thousands of bucks), the Eleven have chosne to open the roof on days where the temperatures have reached the lower 90s. In Wednesday's case, the game time temperature was 93-degrees with over 50% humidity. There should be no reason that a team that plays in a world-class air conditioned facility should need to have hydration breaks during the game. The teams looked gassed, fans were miserable, and I honestly believe that having the roof open actually prevented the crowd from being larger. While the announced attendance topped 11,000, I think it could have been higher given the number of people that were in the downtown area due to the July 4th festivities. I understand the need to not spend money unnecessarily, but the optics and subsequent poor PR of fans complaining about the heat inside the stadium are not going to endure the team to a potential MLS bid. Assuming that is still their goal, and I'm not convinced that it should or needs to be, continuing to play games in that type of environment is likely to not work out as well as the team would hope.

Despite the protestations from fans on social media about the heat, I fully expect the roof to again be open on Saturday when the Eleven take on Eamon Zayed and the Charlotte Independence. If it's as hot and uncomfortable as it was against Ottawa, I'm going to use this platform to complain again. I was never sold on the move to Lucas Oil Stadium and unnecessarily sitting in my own sweat isn't converting me.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Ayoze has become my favorite new player this year. His first touch is impeccable, he never looks rattled on the ball, and he's also a threat from free kicks and penalty kicks. With the exception of the above mentioned questionable decision to play a free kick on the ground late in the game, I think Ayoze played a solid game including a run at the Ottawa goal early in the first half that could have changed the dynamic of the game had it not been for a point blank save by Ottawa's goalkeeper Crepeau.



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