Sunday, March 31, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Hartford Athletic - 06.03

- Opponent: Hartford Athletic
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 20,251
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Crognale, Barrett (C), Ayoze, Matern, Gibson, King, Enevoldsen, Kelly, Starikov
- Substitutions: Watson 71' (Starikov); Pasher 76' (Matern); Diakhate 90' (Kelly)
- Unused: Farr, Farias, Osmond, Ouimette
- Goals: Own Goal 40' (Lyngo)
- Bookings: Ayoze 58' (Yellow); Gibson 63' (Yellow); Matern 69' (Yellow)
- Referee: Lukasz Szpala
- Adage goals: None

For the first time in Indy Eleven history, the team won their home opener (played to draws in 2014 - 2017 and lost to FCC last year); beating expansion side Hartford Athletics by a score of 1-nil. For the first time in Indy Eleven history, the team surpassed the 20,000 mark for announced attendance; reaching 20,251 fans. For the first time this season, Ayoze took the field and reminded us all why he was last year's team MVP.

For what is hopefully the last time this season, Dane Kelly missed a shot from 3 yards out, sending the low cross from Ayoze over the crossbar. While that is the shot that had Kelly holding his head in his hands and Indy Eleven fans groaning for what could have been, Kelly was a pest for the Hartford defense all night. In addition to the ball that somehow made its way over the crossbar (I think it took a last second hop right before it got to him that affected where it hit his foot), Kelly has done more woodwork this year than a carpenter. Kelly put two more shots off the woodwork, bringing his season total to four. The one off the left post in the 52nd minute was a left-footed blast that hit near the upper 90. The one off the right post in the 89th minute (and his last touch of the game), was a right-footed low screamer that hit a foot off the ground. Kelly is trying everything he can to get the ball in the net, but has been unlucky to date. "I'm a striker so I'm going to get chances. I'm going to score some and I'm going to miss some too. Today's one of those days where I just couldn't find the net." Teams need to be worried about when he finds his rhythm because he is getting chances and sooner or later, he's going to get going and stop being unlucky.

Kelly may be struggling to find the net and other players have been picking up the goal scoring until he rounds into form. For example, Starikov had 3 shots (2 off target, 1 blocked), Enevoldsen had 3 shots (1 on target, 1 off target, 1 blocked), and Ayoze had 2 shots (1 on target and 1 off target) with 7 chances created between them. While none of the Indy Eleven's chances materialized into a goal, the team was helped out in the 40th minute, when Hartford Athletics' Lyngo attempted a chested ball back to his keeper Lissek and inadvertently put the ball into their own goal. It would be easy to say that Indy was lucky with this goal, but the pressure that they were placing on the Hartford defense finally materialized in a goal, just not exactly in the way that they would have planned.

Another sign that Ayoze was back was that he was shown a yellow card in the 58th minute. Ayoze received 6 yellow cards last season, 4 in a stretch of 4 games before figuring out how to deal with the USL refs. Ayoze's yellow card set off a string of yellows shown to Indy Eleven players as Gibson and Matern both were shown yellow cards in the next dozen or so minutes after Ayoze was shown his. Somehow, Hartford finished the game unscathed. USL refs going to USL ref.

Indy came away with a victory and that helped make the largest jump on the table this week. It's difficult to judge the table right now with the way that the USL schedule is being played right now, but it's always nice to see the team in the top half of the table. Their standing won't remain that way for long as they don't play again until April 15th. They also don't play another home game until May 1st, so if there were any new soccer fans created in the 20,000 in attendance, they're going to have to wait a month to get back to LOS to cheer. USL schedule going to USL schedule.

Other Notes

- Walker was shown as being out due to injury. The broadcast indicated it was abdominal. I heard after the game that it was because he had an appendectomy. He was walking around and seemed to be doing well. Hopefully he continues to recover well.

 - I thought the team looked out of sync at times in the first third of the game. Upon watching the replay, I counted at least ten instances of unforced errors and bad decisions. Those were either passes that were ill-advised (without enough pace or into traffic), passes that were different than the receiving player was expecting, or passes to a spot where nobody was located or could reach. Given it's the third game of the season, some of that can be attributed to still learning each other, but I have to wonder too if the adrenaline of playing in front of the home crowd had the guys amped a bit at the beginning. I didn't notice the same sort of mistakes later in the game.

- Early in the game (7th minute), Matern was leading a break with Kelly. While the rest of the stadium began to increase in volume as they hoped to see something materialize from the break, Matern's not exactly the preferred guy to lead that charge. In the end, Matern had to wrestle the ball away from 3 defenders who had converged on him, but did, ultimately, gain a free kick just outside the 18-yard box for his efforts. I would have liked to see him put in an earlier ball over the top to Kelly and let the USL all-time record goal scorer work his magic.

- I had hoped to see it last year during the July 4th match against the Ottawa Fury, but the team was finally able to acquire a full-field sized version of the American flag for display during the National Anthem. With the rendition of the Anthem by Courtney Jurick, it was as cool as I had anticipated it to be. I do know that the flag was borrowed from the Colts, but I don't know if there will be periodic use of the flag this season or if this will be the only time we see it this year.

- Former Indy Eleven player Wojciech Wojcik (aka Woj) entered the game for Hartford in the 74th minute and immediately got into the action by fouling Matt Watson. It's always nice to see former Eleven players continuing to find teams after their time here as Woj was loaned to OKC, then signed to OKC, then spent last year with the Cosmos, before rejoining manager Jimmy Nielsen in Hartford (Nielsen was the coach in OKC when Woj was there). #IndyForever

The Game Beckons Game Ball

As I said last year, I sometimes wish I could give him this award every week, but Ayoze certainly made his presence felt in his first action this year. With Hackshaw playing behind him, Ayoze is freer to make the runs and be a pest offensively without the defensive responsibilities that he had last year. His touch and decision making was right where he left us expecting last year. Glad he's back in the lineup.

Additional Photos (courtesy of Don Thompson Photography)

1 comment:

Don said...

That is a lot of historic first.