Thursday, September 27, 2018

Indy Eleven vs Tampa Bay - 05.31

- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: ??
- Final Score: 2-0 W
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Ouimette, Mitchell, Ferreira, Ayoze, Matern, Venegas, Moses, Mares Collier, McInerney
- Substitutions:  Watson 68' (Mares); Saad 83' (Collier)
- Unused: Lundgaard, Ring, Rusin, Speas, Guerra
- Goals: Ouimette 37' (assist Ayoze); Collier 75'
- Bookings: Fon Williams 74' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

The Match Center on the USL website described the starting formation for the Eleven as a 4-2-3-1. The official lineup from the team described it as a 4-4-2. However, the way it played, and the way that Coach Rennie confirmed it played, was more of a 3-1-4-2. When I asked him why he made this kind of change so late in the season, Coach stated:
"We kind of wanted to do that all along. Like when we built the squad, our plan was to have a couple ways to play; one of them was the back three. But for most of the season Reiner wasn't available. We felt it was difficult to play with three in the back when Reiner wasn't available. Now that he's been able to get some consistency, we thought it was a good time to try that system. And I think that tonight it showed we were much more comfortable and balanced on the ball. But it also gave us good balance defensively as well, so it's something that we can add to our game."
The three back system pushed Venegas and Ayoze further up the field, with both guys hugging the sidelines, even when the ball was on the opposite of the field. This created a lot of width for the team and a lot of lanes for Mares, Moses, and Matern to find players either going forward in the attack themselves or disrupting Tampa's attack. Mares and Moses were all over the field, constantly switching sides with each other or overloading a side to prevent Tampa from getting any kind of movement.

Coming into the game, Tampa's record was 11W-1L-1D was scoring first and 0-11-4 when conceding first. They were 0-2-1 on artificial turf and 4-8-2 on the road. All statistics that worked into the Eleven's favor after an Ayoze corner kick found the head of Ouimette in the 37th minute. The Eleven had looked dangerous proceeding the goal, having three good chances in a short timeframe. As I indicated on Twitter in the 28th minute, Collier and Moses were abusing the ankles of Tampa players with some fancy footwork. Venegas got into the ankle abuse action as well, which set up his own shot on goal that Vega was forced to parry over the bar. The corner kick from Ayoze resulted in Ouimette's goal. Indy's second goal in the 75th minute resulted from spectacular interplay between Watson, Collier, and Moses and then a clinical finish from Collier on the rebound from the initial shot.

As good as the offense looked, the team defense looked just as good. I can only recall one significant mistake and that was late in the game with some miscommunication between players. It nearly lead to a goal so they were lucky to not get penalized for the mistake, but it's the only one that stands out for me. In the closing minutes, Tampa was pressing hard to get a goal back and the Eleven's team defense withstood the onslaught. Tampa Bay was credited with 11 corners. The first corner came in the first minute with a 2nd a few minutes later. Then Tampa had 3 more bunched just before and just after the halftime break. The other six corners took place in the last 3 minutes of second half stoppage time.

  • 90+6'Corner, Tampa Bay Rowdies. Conceded by Jack McInerney.
  • 90+6'Corner, Tampa Bay Rowdies. Conceded by Jack McInerney.
  • 90+6'Corner, Tampa Bay Rowdies. Conceded by Jack McInerney.
  • 90+6'Corner, Tampa Bay Rowdies. Conceded by Reiner Ferreira.
  • 90+5'Corner, Tampa Bay Rowdies. Conceded by Karl Ouimette.
  • 90+4'Corner, Tampa Bay Rowdies. Conceded by Owain Fon Williams.

Why was there so much stoppage time you might ask? Well, USL refs are going to USL ref. Center referee Daniel Radford awarded a penalty kick to Tampa Bay as a result of a phantom handball by Mitchell. Fortunately for the Eleven, Radford consulted with the Assistant Referee on that side of the field and retracted the call. It's hard to know for certain whether Lucas Oil Stadium's massive replay screens, and the in-stadium replay and camera work, affected their decision to overturn the call, but it was, ultimately, the correct call. 

That's not to say that Radford still didn't do what we've all grown accustomed to seeing from USL refs. In the 74th minute, with the Eleven up only by a goal at that point, Radford showed a yellow card to Fon Williams for time wasting because he repositioned the ball on a goal kick. One of the softer yellows I can remember all season. If it had been 10-minutes later, I might have agreed with Radford, but the Eleven hadn't shown any sign of time wasting at that point in the game. In fact, it was only moments later, while pressing forward offensively, that Collier scored his goal. As Coach Rennie said in the post-game interview, "Fair play to the officials because, ultimately, they got the right call."

On a team full of experienced players, Watson and Ring are the Captain and Vice-Captain. However, for the first time all season at least one of them were not in the starting lineup. As a result, Ayoze started the game wearing the captain's armband. Watson took over the captain's role when he came into the game late, but it answered a question for me on who Coach Rennie would use if neither Watson and Ring were not in the lineup. As a potential team MVP, Ayoze is a good selection.

Getting a win tonight was vital for the Eleven, with just three games remaining, two of which are against the top 2 teams in the league at their home fields. Indy heads to Cincinnati on Saturday, likely with a hefty contingent of Eleven fans in tow, to play a team that has solidified their playoff spot, solidified home field advantage, and as of tonight, solidified the Eastern Conference Championship. However, the Indy Eleven players aren't expecting to go into Cincinnati to find a disinterested opponent:
"You don't want to have off or bad performances before going into the playoffs. So going to Cincinnati, going to Louisville, they'll want to win. They'll want to be on a good spell going into the playoffs. Especially against a team they know they may face in the playoffs. Everybody's going to go at it." - Karl Ouimette
Should be interesting on Saturday if you're able to make the trip.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

It's always hard to pick the Game Beckons Game Ball when so many players did so much right, including a player getting their first goal of the season, but I think Moses deserves it tonight. He's a high energy guy and was very effective on the offensive end, but his defense stood out for me against Tampa. He was credited with 6 tackles, 1 clearance, and 4 interceptions.


This shot was so close to being Venegas' 2nd goal of the season...


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