Sunday, September 23, 2018

Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds - 05.30

- Opponent: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
- Location: Pittsburgh
- Attendance: 2,454
- Final Score: 2-3 L
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Ouimette, Mitchell, Ferreira, Ayoze, Ring, Watson, Mares Guerra, Starikov, McInerney
- Substitutions:  Saad 45' (Starikov - injury); Collier 65' (Watson); Venegas 81' (Ring)
- Unused: Lundgaard, Matern, Rusin, Speas
- Goals: McInerney 81' (assist Guerra); Own Goal 90'+2'
- Bookings: Venegas 90'+4'' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: THREE

The Eleven have four games remaining in the season; two against teams that have already clinched playoff spots in FC Cincinnati and Louisville City FC; another against Bethlehem who currently sits ahead of the Eleven in the table; and another against Tampa Bay who have won 4 of their last 5 games including currently being on a 3-game win streak. With a very crowded middle of the table, the Eleven need to get positive results (and probably a couple of wins in hostile environments) to secure a place in the playoffs. Getting points in back-to-back games in Pennsylvania would have gone along way towards that goal. However, the Eleven make the trip back to Indy tonight after losing to Pittsburgh with zero points in the suitcases.

While the losses are disappointing, the Eleven's inability to get wins against the top portion of the table is concerning. With the loss, the Eleven drop back down to 6th place on the table. The Eleven have won 12 games this year, but only 3 of those wins have been against teams currently in playoff position. Their record against the teams above them (FC Cincinnati, Louisville City FC, Charleston Battery, Bethlehem, and tonight's opponent in Pittsburgh) is 2W-5L-4D. Their record against the final two playoff teams (New York Red Bulls II, Ottawa) is 1W-2L-1D. So most of their success has come against the bottom half of the table; 9W-2L-4D.

Which, again, is not who they play to finish the season.

The Eleven didn't look horrible against Pittsburgh, but they didn't look great either. The Eleven were credited with just 1 Shot on Target (McInerney's goal), but nothing else required a save from Riverhounds goalie Lynd. Looking at the distribution graphic from the game shows a glaring lack of touches anywhere close to Pittsburgh's 18-yard box.

Maybe as worrisome was the fact that Indy took a nil-nil scoreline into halftime only to let things escalate quickly into a 2-nil deficit mere minutes into the second half. Pittsburgh scored in the 49th minute and then, before the smoke cleared, the Riverhounds put a second one past Fon Williams in the 51st minute. The Eleven continued their trend of fighting to the end, pulling one back in the 81st minute on a goal from McInerney where a deft touch put himself in on goal and then followed that with a clean shot on goal. Then after pulling themselves back within one, Mares was called for a foul inside the box setting up Pittsburgh's 3rd goal via penalty kick. Again, before the smoke cleared, the Eleven pulled themselves back within one to make it interesting at the end.

Amazingly, it's just the 3 time all year that the Eleven have had back-to-back losses, but they are coming at a bad time of the year. They played at home on Wednesday against the surging Rowdies with an absolute need to get a positive result if they want to maintain their chances of being in the playoffs. I'm not sure that getting into a position to host a game is possible at this point, given their remaining competition, but a loss to Tampa Bay would put a significant dent in their chances of even being in the playoffs.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I want to give the Game Beckons Game Ball to Mares for his play in the middle of the park (and in particular for his run in the 57th minute), but it's hard to give it to him when it was his foul that allowed Pittsburgh to extend their lead back to 2 after McInerney's goal had pulled them back into striking range again. You know what? Despite that mistake, Mares still played a fantastic game. So Mares it is...


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