Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Swope Park Rangers - 06.04

- Opponent: Swope Park Rangers
- Location: Kansas City
- Attendance: 232
- Final Score: 3-1 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Crognale, Barrett (C), Ayoze, Matern, Gibson, King, Enevoldsen, Kelly, Pasher
- Substitutions: Watson 60' (Pasher); Do-Heon 77' (Matern); Diakhate 88' (Kelly)
- Unused: Farr, Farias, Osmond, Ouimette
- Goals: Kelly 2', Enevoldsen 6' (assist Kelly); Kelly 53'
- Bookings: Kelly 33' (Yellow); Crognale 41' (Yellow)
- Referee: Kevin Broadley
- Adage goals: None

While Indy have watched for the sidelines for two official season weeks, they've also watched their place on the table plummet due to lack of games, having played just 3 games before Monday night's game with the Swope Park Rangers. Other teams have played as many as 7 games already, with the conference leaders having played 5 or 6 games. Similarly, SPR had also only played 3 games on the season, but have been playing at a on one week, off one week routine since opening their season March 9th in a 3-1 away loss to NYRBII. The game against Indy marks their third home game in a row. Conversely, Indy has spent, and is spending, the first part of the season on the road more than an old-fashioned traveling salesman, getting just 1 home game in their first 6 matches before spending the entire month of May at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Indy Eleven started the game looking like a team that was eager to be playing against somebody in a different jersey and with a game plan tailored to their opponent. Swope Park like to possess the ball, which they did, and Indy was content to defend and then counter when given the chances. When Indy did possess the ball, they were composed on the ball and played out of pressure a number of times. Dane Kelly started the scoring early in the 2nd minute by pressing the issue with a poor pass from Riley to goalkeeper Dick. When Enevoldsen put the Eleven up 2-nil in the 6th minute, Indy's game plan seemed to be working to perfection and only solidified their ability to play that style.

Swope Park pulled back to within a goal in the 26th minute when Alexsander picked up the ball in SPR's defensive third, beat King, and then dribbled nearly to the Indy 18 before laying the ball off to Harris for a shot over Crognale and Newton. King couldn't catch Alexsander, nobody else stepped to him quickly enough, and Harris put a nice ball over last-ditch defending from Crognale and Newton who couldn't make himself big enough. Shortly after halftime, Ayoze picked up a ball in his own defensive third and instead of dribbling the field, blasted a ball down the left side to a streaking Enevoldsen. A poorly cleared cross landed at the feet of Kelly who went right, shifted left, and sent a shot into the upper 90 to put Indy back in front by two.

It should be noted that of the two goals that didn't result from a poor back pass from a defender, Ayoze placed perfectly weighted balls to his teammates. In addition to the one above, Ayoze was responsible for a gorgeous chip to Kelly who one-touched the ball into the path of the on-rushing Enevoldsen who one-touched it under the keeper. Two of Indy's three goals were setup by passes from Ayoze.

After Indy scored their third goal, the "Rennie Bunker"(TM) was in full effect. Defend, defend, defend. Counter on SPR mistakes. What started as a 3-4-1-2 turned into a 5-4-1. As a result, at the end of the game, SPR had a 15 to 12 advantage in shots. However, only 3 of those 15 were on Target, partially because Indy's bunker forced SPR to take 11 of their 15 shots from outside the 18 yard box. While SPR had a nearly 60/40 advantage in possession, Indy forced that possession to be in safe places. Indy held SPR to 5% successful rate on their 20 crosses.

While Indy played the game they wanted to play and jumped out to an early lead, there were a couple of nervy moments from Indy's back three that have me concerned because I keep noticing them happening. At some point this season, I predict Indy is going to give up a goal like SPR did by trying to play out of the back with a bad decision. At a couple points this season, the pass back to Newton from one of the back three has been light or with him under pressure from a forward causing him to either A) chip it over the on-rushing forward, B) blast it out of bounds, or C) find another outlet with a pass that is nearly intercepted. One of these times, those options are going to fail and an opponent is going to get an easy goal.

The Indy Eleven came into this game with a plan and executed it perfectly. The early press lead to an early goal and the team's ability to defend for long stretches and counter on mistakes forced Swope Park behind the 8-ball before the 232 people in attendance had much chance to get situated in their seats. The speed of the up front trio of Enevoldsen, Pasher, and Kelly caused problems for the SPR defenders all night and Indy was unfortunate to not score a couple more goals.

Indy will look to extend their franchise tying 3-game win streak to 4 games when they play Bethlehem Steel on Saturday. Bethlehem lost to Charlotte on Tuesday night so both teams will be playing on less than their normal rest. Though Bethlehem will be playing their 8th game, while Indy will be playing just their 4th.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I routinely have difficulty selecting the winner of the Game Beckons Game Ball, but this game was easy. With the struggles that Kelly has had in the first three games with getting his shot to find the back of the net and not the woodwork, this was the kind of game he needed to have to get his confidence back. Kelly filled the stat sheet with 5 shots, 2 goals, 1 assist, 1 yellow card, and a partridge in a pear tree. The only thing missing was that neither of his goals were considered the game winner. Enevoldsen picked up that honor with his goal. Interestingly, in Indy's three wins this season, Enevoldsen has 2 game winning goals, with the third being collected by the prolific scorer Own Goal. Kelly's 2nd minute goal did set a record for the fastest goal in club history, clocking in at a measly 1 minute 9 seconds. The previous record was set in 2018 by Eugene Starikov (assist Mares) in a September game against New York Red Bulls II, which crossed the goal line at 1 minute 45 seconds.

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