Friday, August 17, 2018

Indy Eleven vs North Carolina FC - 05.22

- Opponent: North Carolina FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,023
- Final Score: 3-2 W
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Venegas, Mitchell, Ferreira, Ayoze, Matern, Starikov, Watson, Speas, Guerra, McInerney
- Substitutions: Moses 62' (Speas); Saad 74' (McInerney); Collier 84' (Starikov)
- Unused: Lundgaard, Ouimette, Ring, Steinberger
- Goals: Starikov 7' (assist McInerney); Speas 31'; Guerra 90'
- Bookings: Mitchell 45' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

I've routinely heard Coach Rennie say something to the effect of "it was an exciting game," "an exciting finish," "good for the fans," etc. I can honestly say that I could handle a few less games from the Indy Eleven that achieve that excitement by requiring late and stoppage time goals. There's something to be said about getting an early 2-goal lead and being able to ride it out without having to get a goal in the 90th minute off of a scramble in front of North Carolina's goal. Parking the bus isn't sexy nor "exciting," but it's a tactic Coach Rennie and the team have successfully deployed on the road. Earlier this year after the 2-3 loss to Cincinnati, Brad Ring stated, "getting 2 goals, for us, should be enough to get some kind of result." That was true in May and should still be true today in August. Fortunately for the Eleven, they managed to find a third goal against NCFC that they were unable to find against Cincinnati.

Starikov put the Eleven on the board in the 7th minute by outworking his defender to the ball, but every single bit of play that lead up to that goal scoring touch was fantastic. The assist to the assist to the assist goes to Watson who has an uncanny knack of reading opposing players passes and putting himself in their path. After winning the ball near midfield, Watson put a deft touch on the ball to get it away from two defenders and into the path of Ben Speas who carried it for about 10 yards before making a 20-yard pass that McInerney could run onto. With time and space around him, Jack Mack had the ability to look up to find his defender, as well as what was going on within the box, before putting a low line-drive to the 6-yard line. Starikov got to the ball first and slotted the ball home with his left foot. It's exactly the kind of build-up to a goal that you love to see.

Speas' goal about 20 minutes later was one of those "NO! NO! NO!," "YES! YES! YES!" goals where you hated that he took the shot until it found the back of the goal. Thanks to the very visible football lines on the field (more on that in a minute), his 28-yard blast was put into the smallest of windows, yet it found its way over a defenders leg and just outside the reach of an outstretched Tambakis.

Now for NCFC's first goal in stoppage time of the first half. Mitchell was put into a bad position and had to give the professional foul. A free kick and a yellow card resulted and both were deserved. Given the location of the free kick though, it was set up nicely to attack the near side post and the Eleven created a wall with Guerra (5'-9"), Speas (5'-8"), and Watson (6'-0"). The only way they could have fielded a wall shorter was if Ayoze (5'-8") and Amass Amankona (5'-7") were in for Guerra and Watson. Exacerbating the height problem was that none of the guys wanted to take the ball off their face, which I completely understand, but that was exactly the height that the ball traveled between Watson and Speas on its way to the goal.

It was a rough way to go into half having weathered a 55%/45% possession disadvantage and a 12 shots to 4 disadvantage. Consider that, the Eleven had four shots on goal in the first half and could have gone into halftime with a 2-nil lead. The other two shots were one that was put just wide of the goal by McInerney on a restart by Venegas and a free kick from Ayoze in the dying seconds of the half that was deflected out for a corner. That's it. North Carolina's shots weren't always very threatening, but Indy really didn't have many opportunities in the first half. The Eleven nearly tripled their shots in the second half, but still had a significantly fewer number than NCFC.

I don't think the team was overly happy with my pre-game criticism of the new turf. Let me rephrase that. The turf is nice. There was a very noticeable difference between the old turf and this new one and the new one felt much better, even to my untrained evaluation. However, I don't think the team was overly happy with my pre-game criticism of the much more obvious LINES on the new turf. When I asked him about the turf (not the lines) after the game, Coach Rennie stated, "It plays, like, much better – much, much better. There was a much better game tonight, and there was much more passing, interaction, and changing. Obviously, the difficult thing is the lines. That’s hard for the players. It’s difficult to see."

That's where the Indy Star article stopped Coach Rennie's quote.

Since I asked him the question, I'm going to give you the rest of what he had to say:
"That's one thing that's a little disappointing. I've been coaching in other big stadiums around the U.S. and they all had green surfaces and then line it for the NFL games, like Seahawks, Patriots, and Atlanta. So that's a bit disappointing because it makes it difficult to make this a multi-sport venue when there's that many lines and there's that many murals. I suppose it's a sign we really need our own soccer stadium. There's so much interest in this club and we really need to grow it now, but the players made the most of it and I thought they did a good job. So the surface does play a lot better so that's one big positive.”
There was never any doubt in my mind from the moment the Eleven announced they were playing in Lucas Oil Stadium that they were going to have to make some concessions to the "primary" tenant of the facility. Three Wednesday home games in August made that clear. A field full of football markings and extremely faint soccer markings speaks volumes on where the Eleven rank in importance at Lucas Oil Stadium. I was on the field and I can tell you that even at that level, the yellow lines for the Eleven were difficult to see. Carroll Stadium was not ideal. Lucas Oil Stadium is not ideal. I don't see a soccer specific stadium happening with the current owner and current legislative climate. So Indy Eleven fans might as well get used to being considered second class citizens. It doesn't mean I can't (and won't) complain about it on Twitter.

The game against NCFC started a difficult stretch of 7 games in 22 days and so it was good to start it off with a win. Now the team heads to Ottawa to face former captain Colin Falvey again after losing 1-nil at home on an own-goal before returning next Wednesday to face bottom of the table (but winners of 2 of their last 4 games) Toronto FC II.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

For being in the right place at the right time and opening his scoring column, Juan Guerra gets this game's Game Beckons Game Ball.

Runner-up nod goes to Carlylle Mitchell who saved a ball off the line in the 21st minute after a shot from NCFC was partially blocked by Fon Williams, but continued towards the goal.




Jeff C. said...

Good and important win by Indy. With the race for playoff spots so tight, a win was essential here. My goodness, that extra time after Guerra's goal--I didn't think it was ever going to end. I kept expecting another mental lapse like the one that led to NCFC's adage goal in the first half. Fortunately, it never came.

The lines are definitely a problem. I spent my teenage years watching the Cosmos at Giants Stadium, and it was always a sad moment when the football preseason began and the gridiron lines were put on the field. They're ugly and distracting. I do find some of the Twitter/Reddit commentary longing for a return to Carroll to be over the top, though--I think people are too quick to forget Carroll's manifold shortcomings, for both the players (the pitch was terrible, and IUPUI was unlikely to invest in an upgrade) and the fans (the uncomfortable seats, the distance from the field if you weren't in one of the end sections, the lack of amenities, the total lack of shelter that required evacuation during thunderstorms, etc., etc.).

Because I watched on TV (school night for the kids), I didn't get much of a sense of the crowd size. How was it? I'm very concerned about attendance (actual, not reported) at these Wednesday games.

Drew said...

Attendance was poor and that's putting it mildly. It was one of those games where it felt like you could take 10 minutes and count everybody in the stands. +9,000 is absolutely laughable.

Jeff C. said...

I was afraid of that. Hopefully there will be an uptick in attendance with Dylan Mares' return.