Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Saint Louis FC - 06.01

- Opponent: Saint Louis FC
- Location: Saint Louis
- Attendance: ??
- Final Score: 2-1 L
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Barrett, Ouimette, Penn, Walker, Gibson, Watson (C), Enevoldsen, Ilic, Kelly
- Substitutions: Pasher 73' (Ilic); Starikov 90' (Penn)
- Unused: Farr, Farias, King, Matern, Osmond
- Goals: Hackshaw 61' (assist Walker)
- Bookings: Hackshaw 57' (Yellow); Barrett 64' (Yellow)
- Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
- Adage goals: None

Indy Eleven kicked off the 2019 season on the road against Saint Louis FC with a nice contingent of the "Battleborn Brigade" in tow. If you're going to provide commentary for a match, do a little research and get names correct, including the one for the supporter's section. Just makes you look unprofessional.

As far as the game goes, it looks like Coach Rennie is going to start the year defensively the way that they finished last year, with a 3 back lineup. The first time that Indy played it last season was a late September game versus Tampa Bay, but Coach Rennie indicated at that time that he had wanted to employ that tactic earlier in the season, but the loss of Reiner made it difficult. It looks like he wanted to get an earlier start to using the 3 back system earlier than the 31st game of the season like last year.

The difference between this year and this game was the absence of Ayoze, who was pulled in the 18th minute of the last preseason game against Nashville, but was not listed as "official" injury for this game. However, Indy's MVP for last season didn't even make the roster for the game against Saint Louis, so I'm going to interpret that to mean that he wasn't fit to play. As a result, academy product and Indiana University signee, Josh Penn moved into the starting lineup. I'm not sure why Pasher didn't get the start, but Penn did nothing to make me think he isn't deserving. More on that in a bit. While I think Ayoze's composure and decision making were missed, it was the other side of the field that seemed to be making the bad decisions, not the 18-year old who was in his place. Ouimette, who played more minutes than another other field player from last year's team, made multiple mistakes that created chances or goals. With or without Ayoze, that was not a great game from Ouimette.

With the back 3 of Ouimette, Barrett, and Hackshaw, Coach Rennie employed dual holding midfielders in Walker and Gibson. Both pushed forward at times, but they were there to provide cover for the back three. The aforementioned Penn and Watson were the wingers, while Ilic, Enevoldsen, and Kelly rounded out the midfield and forward roles. Ilic and Enevoldsen routinely tracked back on defense, but Kelly played up top and only had 2 touches in the defensive half. It's interesting to note that spine of the defense for this game was comprised of ex-FC Cincinnati players with Newton, Barrett, Walker, and Gibson.

Indy acquired a lot of offensive firepower in the offseason in Ilic, Enevoldsen, and Kelly. Yet, less than 30 seconds after Kelly missed a penalty kick, defender Hackshaw headed home the resulting corner kick from Walker in the 61st minute. Indy then proceeded to give up goals in the 69th and 76th minutes on scramble plays where they were unable to get the ball cleared from in front of their own goal. Indy often played the short ball out of the back, including one from Hackshaw to Newton that forced him to chip the ball over a defender to get it back to Hackshaw, and those passes created some nervy moments with a high pressing team like Saint Louis. Indy tried to play out of the back last year and so this is clearly something that Coach Rennie wants to do tactically, but the regular season game speed employment of it needs some more work.

The Saint Louis' commentators felt that the result was a fair one, but I think they neglected to remember the chances that Penn created in the 1st half or the Kelly header that slammed into the crossbar early in the 2nd half. Neither team was overly clean, with some wayward passes, heavy touches, and troubles defending. Indy gets a few days to work on their issues before heading to Charlotte for their season opener and then a couple weeks off before their own home opener on March 30th. I'm going to reserve my judgement for this year's use of the 3-4-2-1 lineup for at least a couple more games and until I see it with Ayoze on the field, but I have some concerns from its use against Saint Louis.

Other notes:

- Paddy Barrett picked up a yellow card in the 64th minute on a clumsy challenge. He was also carded in 2 of the 5 preseason matches. He is shown to have received 5 cards last year so either he'll slow down on the cards or Coach Rennie has asked him to fill more of a defensive enforcer role this year.

- In Ayoze's absence, Walker took all of the corners and, I believe, all of the set piece restarts. Ayoze was missed in this aspect of the game as well.

- Coach Rennie utilized only 2 substitutes during this game, bringing on Pasher for Ilic in the 73rd minute and Starikov for Penn in the 80th minute. The remainder of the bench consisted of a back-up goalkeeper, THREE defenders (Farias, King, & Osmond), and Matern, and holding midfielder. Chasing the game, he didn't give himself many fresh legs to try and get an equalizing goal. A game day roster of 6 defenders, 3 holding midfielders, and 2 goalkeepers (11 of 18 players) doesn't give you many offensive options, but also doesn't seem out of the norm for Coach Rennie.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

As I said on Twitter, Penn "is 18 yrs old & playing in his 1st match with a professional squad on opening weekend as a starter. Adrenaline had to be thru the roof. Impressed he was able to contain it." Yet, he was the bright spot for me. He pushed forward, attacked players one-on-one, had 1/4 of the team's crosses, and created 2 chances. For a player that I assumed was signed for depth, he made a great "professional" debut. If he can continue this type of play, the Eleven are going to miss him when he leaves mid-year to enter Indiana University.

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