Thursday, May 30, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds - 2019 U.S. Open Cup

- Opponent: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Location: Pittsburgh
- Attendance: 444
- Final Score: 0-1 L
- Starting XI: Farr, Hackshaw, Ouimette, Barrett(C), Watson, Walker, Pasher, Gibson, King, Enevoldsen, Penn
- Substitutions: Kelly 72' (Penn)
- Unused: Perez, Ayoze, Osmond, Diakhate, Nieto
- Goals: None
- Bookings: None
- Referee: Chris Ruska
- Adage goals: One

Sometimes I look at the stats after a game I've watched and I think, "did I actually watch that game?" This game exemplifies that thought as Indy dominated nearly every stat listed in the Match Center, but it never really felt like Indy was in that level of control of the game, particularly in the second half when Pittsburgh began to take the game to Indy and Indy was left on their heels for long stretches.

It was only until I looked at the Distribution chart that what I felt I saw on the screen matched what I saw in the stats. Indy kicked the ball around in the defense and in midfield, but were utterly anemic in the final third. The Distribution chart makes it look even worse than the final third, but I'll be generous.
“Really, the only reason we haven’t won many of the games we’ve played recently is that final third, that final touch. We’ve been defending well, possessing the ball well, creating chances, pressing well – we’ve done all the things well apart from putting the ball in the back of the net. So we’re in that spell at the moment where we need to keep doing the other things well, but we need to make sure that final third is done right because, until then, it continues to be frustrating.” - Coach Rennie
The Team Stats indicate that Indy generated 13 shots, 5 on target, but everything from about 40 yards from goal in to goal was a struggle. Passes became ineffective and the team squandered the few really good opportunities that they generated on goal. Penn missed a virtual tap-in in the 61st minute when he couldn't quite catch up to a perfect cross from Enevoldsen. Not to be outdone, Enevoldsen pushed a shot wide in the 89th minute when he had a 1 v 1 with Pittsburgh's goalkeeper Morton, moments after the team gave up the winning goal to second half substitute Kenardo Forbes in the 85th minute. Forbes made an immediate impact after coming into the game in the 81st minute.

With back-to-back games against Pittsburgh (one U.S. Open Cup game and one league game) in the span of 3 days, Coach Rennie chose to play the majority of his normal starters with the exception of Jordan Farr who had to play because of Evan Newton's red card against Lansing Ignite. The rest of the bench was populated by two Academy players (one a goalkeeper); a player found through open tryouts; Mitchell Osmond, who has played a single minute all season; and Ayoze. As the game remained tight towards the end, it became obvious that Coach Rennie didn't/doesn't have faith in his bench, chose to continue to give Ayoze a night's rest, and made just a single substitute, bringing on Kelly in the 72nd minute for Josh Penn. In his 18 minutes of action, Kelly touched the ball just 6 times, only one of which was even close to the goal and another that was the kick-off after Pittsburgh scored. He did, not surprisingly, get called offsides.

It will be interesting to see how Coach Rennie manages players on Saturday when Indy plays Pittsburgh again. I suspect Newton will be back between the posts with Ayoze and Kelly replacing Watson and Penn, but otherwise, the lineup will be the same, likely with similar results.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Pasher gets the Game Beckons Game Ball again this week. He created 2 chances on goal, had 2 successful crosses, was nearly 80% accurate in his passes in Pittsburgh's half of the field, and had 0 long passes. In a game where more than 20% of Indy's passes were considered long, Pasher was one of only two players who didn't resort to playing it long.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Nashville SC - 06.10

- Opponent: Nashville SC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,037
- Final Score: 0-0 D
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Ouimette, Barrett(C), Kim, Walker, Ayoze, Gibson, Farias, Enevoldsen, Kelly
- Substitutions: Pasher 64' (Kim); Watson 85' (Farias); Penn 87' (Kelly)
- Unused: Farr, King, Matern, Osmond
- Goals: None
- Bookings: None
- Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
- Adage goals: None

Nashville SC came into the game against Indy Eleven with Indy as their seventh opponent in 3 weeks, having played on May 4th, May 8th, May 11th, May 14th (Open Cup), May 18th, May 22nd, and Saturday against the Eleven. That kind of stretch forced Nashville to make 7 changes to their lineup from their game on Wednesday, including the team (and one of the league) leaders in goals, Daniel Rios. Indy, on the other hand, came into the game on a week's worth of rest and having played only three games during that same stretch. As a result, Nashville looked content to allow Indy to maintain possession, repel Indy's attack, counter when the opportunity arose, and try to get back to Tennessee with at least a point.

Photo: Matt Schlotzhauer
Which they did. Despite Indy maintaining a roughly 60/40 possession advantage and a slim advantage in shots and shots on goal, Nashville was able to their version of the 3-back system to thwart all of Indy's attacks. Towards the end of the game, Indy looked out of ideas on how to get a goal. Long passes, long crosses, and even the insertion of Pasher to run at the defense were not very effective against Nashville's defense. For their part, Nashville's offense wasn't any more effective against Indy's defense, which continues to play well together. Despite the loss of Crognale, who has returned to the Columbus Crew, the insertion of Karl Ouimette back into the starting lineup has not prevented the Eleven from playing at a high level defensively. Saturday's draw with Nashville marked the 5th clean sheet of the month across all competitions and an undefeated month of May (to date).

Photo: Matt Schlotzhauer
The problem, as I see it, is that the team's recent opponents have figured out that they need to prevent Kelly from using his pace to get behind them and take shots. Kelly is the team's shot leader with 28, nearly double the next player, Enevoldsen. Against the top teams in the Eastern Conference this month, the Eleven have held the approximate 60/40 possession advantage against all of the teams except for Tampa Bay when Indy was down a man for 70 minutes of the game. Seemingly the Rennie Bunker (TM) is an effective tactic for Rennie opponents as well. Exacerbating the issue is that Kelly has not been effective at winning the balls that have been sent his way, being successful at just 30% of the duels and aerial duels. Saturday, Kelly won less than half of his duels and only 25% of his aerial duels, had one shot off target, was called offside twice, and created zero chances. As Indy's main attacking weapon, the team needs more out of him to be successful. When defenses take him out of the game, which Nashville was able to do, others have to step up and provide that spark.

Pasher's entrance into the game in the 64th minute was intended to provide that spark as it had versus Charleston, but Nashville's effort maintained the nil-nil by limiting Indy to long ball passes and crosses in the final 15 minutes. Indy didn't get many good looks at the end of the game and Nashville had even fewer.

I continue to mention that, under Martin Rennie, the Eleven have had success against the teams in the middle to lower part of the table, but have struggled against the top teams in the conference. While it's difficult to complain about an undefeated month against the team's the Eleven have played, each one of those games (with the exception of the Tampa Bay game when they were down a man) feel like they should have been able to get a better result and done more with the possession advantage they held. There is still a lot of season to be played and points against the top teams will likely prove to be valuable later in the year, but they are going to need to figure out how to get three points from those games to be truly successful come playoff time.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Photo: Matt Schlotzhauer
I think this game's Game Beckons Game Ball should go to Karl Ouimette. Ouimette was spending a lot of his time sitting on the bench after Crognale was added to the roster from Columbus, but has been thrown back into the center centerback role with Crognale's loan being un-loaned. Ouimette was near Cory Miller level on aerial duels in this game, winning 12 of 15 duels and 10 of 11 aerial duels. He simply did not let Nashville's players beat him to the ball. He also accounted for 1 of Indy's 3 shots on target. Gibson, a former teammate of Ouimette's in San Francisco stated that, "we have 100% faith that they're [the centerbacks] going to win the ball so it's now up to us to win the second ball. ... It's definitely nice to know that you have those guys behind us and they're always going to win the ball." Which was definitely exemplified by Ouimette in this game.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Charleston Battery - 06.09

- Opponent: Charleston Battery
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,259
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Ouimette, Barrett(C), Matern, Walker, Ayoze, Gibson, Farias, Enevoldsen, Kelly
- Substitutions: Pasher 45' (Walker); Watson 83' (Matern); Osmond 90'+5' (Enevoldsen)
- Unused: Farr, King, Diakhate, Nieto
- Goals: Pasher 84' (assist Ayoze)
- Bookings: Pasher 51' (Yellow); Kelly 67' (Yellow)
- Referee: Lukasz Szpala
- Adage goals: None

The USL Championship teams entered the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament this week, which meant that every single team entered this weekend's games on short rest. It also meant that all 18 eastern conference teams were in action during the weekend. The Memphis v Pittsburgh game was abandoned due to weather and 50% of the remaining games finished with draws. Only Indy, conference leading Tampa Bay, Ottawa, and Hartford Athletic were able to get all three points from their games. By the way, congrats to Hartford for getting their first league victory.

I didn't watch all of the other 8 games played in the eastern conference, but the Indy v Charleston game looked like two teams who were playing on short rest with neither team being able to figure out how to break down the other in their respective offense thirds. The average position and heat map for the game showed the bulk of the possession huddled around the center circle. Twenty guys spent the majority of the time within 25 yards on either side of midfield (it's easy to observe that stat when you're watching a game with football lines...).

The respective Attack stats were similarly skewed towards a game with, what felt like, very few real opportunities on goal. The two teams combined for just 3 shots on target, forcing just 2 saves from the goalkeepers. When I asked Coach Rennie about the team's early inability to break down Charleston, he stated, "This game was always going to be a tricky game because, first of all, Charleston are a good team and they know how to pick up points and how to win games in this league. They're always in the playoffs, they're always up there, so it was always going to be a tough game. But it was also hard coming off a mid-week game. You know, we've been kind of unfortunate in the sense that almost all of our home games have been after two days of recovery and so we've maybe not been coming out flying."

Indy dominated the possession in the first half, but didn't actually get a shot on goal until there were 35 minutes gone in the half. In my first half notes, I wrote down, "wouldn't normally change a player at half, but I think Walker needs to come out." He just seemed to be struggling with his touch and his positioning. In a rarity for me, Coach agreed with him and made the change of Walker for Pasher immediately after the halftime discussion. A halftime discussion where the team emphasized the need to get a goal:
"We talked about it before the game and we talked about it again at halftime that it was really important that we got a goal. Because you know, at home in this stadium in this building, we haven't had one of our players put the ball in the back of the net yet. So it was really important, even if it meant risking losing a goal, we had to go for it. So we made the change at halftime and I thought, Pasher really kept going. It wasn't quite going his way, he wasn't quite finding his man at times, but then he came up with the big goal."
The insertion of Pasher was a change to the tactics, but until his goal in the 84th minute, it looked like his energy and ability to go at the defense with his speed might not be rewarded. Pasher was credited with 5 crosses, but only 1 of those were considered successful. However, that didn't dissuade Pasher from continuing to do what he does: "Don't change because eventually 1 out of 10 will create a goal. It's 0 - 0 so everything's in your hands. So, basically, if I go 9 times and I miss, but if I go for the 10th time and we get a goal, that's a job done. I basically need to stick to what I do and go from there."

With the later winner, Indy finished with another clean sheet and moved back up the table a few spots thanks to their three points when much of the table finished with just one point for the weekend. It will be interesting to see how Indy performs at home next week against Nashville SC with a full week's worth of recovery and whether they can score a few more goals to go against Coach Rennie's indicated trend.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Pasher. As mentioned above, Pasher's insertion into the game at halftime was made to be a very specific change to the tactics. Pasher's speed and ability to go at defenders made Charleston revise their defensive strategy. While the first half heat map showed that the center of the field had a fairly even distribution of touches by both teams, the second half heat map showed a notable difference with Pasher pushing on the left side. Pasher's effort on a short week of rest paid off because he knows his role and continued to do it. "I'm just a very forward minded person and my game is assisting my forwards. So, basically, my job is to go up there and get the ball, turn and go right at people. That's basically what I did and I got a few balls in the box to try and get a few opportunities and luckily got a goal out of it."

Off (but kind of on) Topic

Earlier this year, Indy took a step towards getting their own stadium, but I continue to have concerns about its ability to fill that stadium at the size that they have proposed. While the attendance numbers have hovered around the 9 to 10k mark all season, the attendance for this game didn't look to be at that level. All of that is a conversation that I've had before, but I think there is a different, secondary, issue that the team need to get addressed if they want to increase the attendance (the actual attendance) necessary to make a 20k seat stadium viable. When the game concluded, I made my way to the media room for the post-game press conference. As Coach Rennie walked in with the Indy FO staff after talking to Greg Rakestraw on the telecast, I became aware that I was the extent of the press.


No other bloggers. No Indy Star. No WTHR. No WRTV. No WISH. No FOX59.

The press conferences normally have just a few participating outlets (me, Bloody Shambles, Soc Takes/Indy Star...notice a trend), but this one was just me.

While I appreciate the access that the team allows me and the quotes it gives me the opportunity to use in my recaps, the team has to figure out a way to get professional sports journalists to cover the team in a way that other teams in Indy are covered. I just don't have the reach that they do. Indy Eleven games are finished by 9:00, with the press conference finished by 9:30. The team needs those media outlets to be a part of the post-game press conferences so that coach and player comments can be included in the evening sports news. The core fans are going to be there, but until the team can get the legit media there (no offense to the Soc Takes/Bloody Shambles crews), they're going to continue to struggle to get new fans into the game and the stadium. Meaning, they may have found their peak attendance numbers, but I guess we'll see as the soccer specific stadium moves forward.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Lansing Ignite - 2019 U.S. Open Cup

- Opponent: Lansing Ignite
- Location: Indianapolis (Butler University)
- Attendance: 853
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Barrett, Ouimette, Walker, Watson (C), Gibson, King, Enevoldsen, Diakhate, Pasher
- Substitutions: Farr 29' (Diakhate - after RED); Kelly 75' (Enevoldsen); Ayoze 86' (Watson)
- Unused: Farias, Perez, Nieto, Osmond
- Goals: Enevoldsen 57' (assist Barrett)
- Bookings: Newton 21' (RED); Enevoldsen 51' (Yellow); Watson 62' (Yellow); Walker 88' (Yellow); Kelly 90' (Yellow)
- Referee: Adam Behrens
- Adage goals: None

Lansing Ignite FC have begun their foray into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup much the same way that Indy Eleven did when they entered into the competition in 2014. Lansing looked strong against the 2018 U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup champion Bavarian SC out of Wisconsin, and looked respectable against their next opponent from a higher division. Indy did the same thing in 2014 versus Dayton Dutch Lions before falling to the Columbus Crew in Extra Time. Lansing Ignite wasn't able to duplicate the extra time portion, but held their own against "better" competition.

Indy came into the game with an Open Cup record of 2W-4L-1D (the draw courtesy of a 1-1 finish in 2016 against the Chicago Fire, who won the game in penalty kicks). However, their only wins in the tournament have come at home. Every other result has been on the road, including two away losses in 2017 and 2018 against amateur squads Michigan Bucks and Mississippi Brilla, respectively. Whether the team saw the same pattern or just wanted to host again, Indy decided to try and get their opening round game in more friendly confines. Coach Rennie indicated post-game that he was grateful to the Front Office for helping them get the game at home rather than on the road. Due to a scheduling conflict with Lucas Oil Stadium (or just not wanting to pay the rent for the stadium a mid-week game against a lower division team), Indy needed to find another location. Hence, the Eleven played their first ever official game at the Sellick Bowl on the campus of Butler University. Formerly known as the Butler Bowl, the outdoor venue is a great location to watch a game and has been a periodic location for preseason games for Indy. The Sellick Bowl also allowed the Brickyard Battalion to resurrect the smoke bombs that have been missing the past two years inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

Having watched the team fall to an amateur squad last year and knowing that they did the same thing the year before, Coach Rennie took no chances in this game, bringing out the majority of the normal starting lineup, despite having to play a league game just 3 days later. Diakhate started in place of Kelly, but the rest of the lineup consisted of guys who have been starters before. Additionally, former Indy Eleven midfielder Nathan Lewis started against his old squad after not starting last week versus Bavarian SC before getting subbed out in the 68th minute.

Lansing Ignite started the game extremely strong, nearly scoring within the first minute. If it hadn't been for a goal line clearance by Barrett, this game may have had a complete different tenure. After the early scare, the Eleven settled in after that and dominated the possession until the 17th minute. At that point, a through ball for Lansing forced Newton off his line and out of his box where he made contact with Lansing's Elma NFor. Newton was initially shown a yellow card, but as medics tended to NFor, Newton's yellow was rescinded and then shown a red card. After several more minutes of stoppage, Jordan Farr entered the game to see his first minutes as an Indy Eleven player, with Diakhate coming out.

As NFor made his way to St. Vincent's Hospital after the red card, Indy continued to carry the possession until halftime, but without any significant shots on goal. Lansing had a couple of opportunities in the 2nd portion of the half with their man advantage. The lengthy injury delay added 11 minutes of stoppage time to the half. A rare stoppage time announcement that was met with cheers from the Brickyard Battalion. Indy and Lansing went into the half tied, with potential Man of the Match candidate Matt Watson clearly in need of the break after putting in a very solid first half effort. "He's one of those guys that leads by example and guys really respect that and follow that." Not bad for a guy "in his mid-thirties."

Despite Indy maintaining possession after the red card, the second half started with Indy leaning more towards the Rennie Bunker (TM). The bunker began to loosen as the game progressed until Indy scored in the 57th minute on a header from Enevoldsen. Once the goal was scored, Indy fully settled into The Bunker. "We knew that if we could get a goal, we expected to defend well." I have talked about the bunker a lot this season, but it worked to perfection after Indy scored as Lansing had some opportunities in the second half, but not nearly as many as could have been the case with a man advantage. To get a clean sheet with a goalkeeper who hadn't seen any minutes in his time in Indy, down a man for nearly 70 minutes, speaks volumes about the defensive effort and the effectiveness of the Bunker when employed during games like this.

Sometimes I let myself forget that some of these guys are young can be experiencing things for the first time. While he played extremely well, Jordan Farr managed to remind me afterwards that professional athletes aren't born that way. He honestly wasn't sure what to do with himself during the press conference.
"I'm just going to hold my brick up. I didn't think I'd ever get one of these.
There's no nerves. I'm just kidding. Of course there was. I'm not made of steel. 100% there were nerves. It's the first game I've played, besides preseason, for a year and a half, almost two years.
There were big-time nerves. They kicked off as soon as the ball, from the free kick, went over to the side of the goal. I was, 'ok, I'm going to take a goal kick, it's going to be solid, next play, next play, next play.'
There's no really other team I could ever think playing for. So to get a brick. And to see Owain get brick after brick and Evan brick after brick and to follow in the footsteps of those amazing goalkeepers, it finally feels like I'm here and a part of it all. Brickyard Battalion is fantastic. The guys love playing in front of them. They're the reason we win games. They're the reason we tie. They're the reason's we get shut-outs with 10 men.
It's insane. It's a dream come true."
Sometimes I get hardened to the business side of the sport, but interviews with guys like Jordan remind me why I wanted to start covering this team and this game. I love the idea of a professional athlete not being afraid to express their fears and their absolute joy during their first media scrum. I have a feeling it won't be the last time he's getting interviewed.

The Brickyard Battalion would have liked to use more of their stored smoke bombs, but unfortunately, the smoke was only cued once with Enevoldsen's goal (not counting the post-game celebratory smoke). However, that was enough as Indy added to their season clean-sheet total by keeping Lansing off the board and without any significant chances.

With the win, Indy extend their home Open Cup record. Indy now travel to Pittsburgh on May 29th, just three days before they play Pittsburgh in Lucas Oil Stadium on June 1st. It will be interesting to see how the two teams handle the Open Cup game with tactics and personnel so close to playing each other in a league game. Coach Rennie indicated that at this point, he "plan(s) to play Jordan and that's all I really know."

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Watson gets the Game Beckons Game Ball tonight for the effort he put in on both sides of the ball, but I have to give Farr some love too. Matt's effort was impressive tonight. I watched him chase down a Lansing Ignite player on a 60+ yard run to usher the ball harmlessly out of bounds on one of Lansing's break-away runs.

Jordan gets the love for being the "next guy up" and enjoying the moment of taking the next steps as a professional.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Indy Eleven vs North Carolina FC - 06.08

- Opponent: North Carolina FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,017
- Final Score: 0-0 D
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw (C), Crognale, Ouimette, Ayoze, Matern, Gibson, King, Enevoldsen, Kelly, Pasher
- Substitutions: Watson 72' (King); Penn 74' (Pasher); Diakhate 86' (Kelly)
- Unused: Farr, Farias, Walker, Ilic
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Diakhate 90'+1' (Yellow)
- Referee: Sergii Demianchuk
- Adage goals: None

Coming into the game, when asked about not having Paddy Barrett in the game, Coach Rennie was quoted as saying, "I don't think it really changes anything. For us, we’ve got a number of players who can step in if someone’s out. Paddy’s been a very good player for this season and he’s a very important player for us, but so is Karl [Ouimette]." While I don't think that's completely true, otherwise why would Barrett have played every minute of every game prior to his dismissal against Tampa Bay, Ouimette did do a good job in Barrett's place. With a pair of back-to-back draws against some of the top teams in the conference during a busy 3-game week, Barrett's yellow/yellow/red card didn't ultimately come back to hurt the team.

This game looked noticeably different than the one on Wednesday versus Tampa Bay. The Rennie Bunker (TM) wasn't present and Indy controlled the game from possession, defense, and shot perspectives. The Eleven had multiple bites at the apple, but couldn't get a shot (one of 20) to find its way into the goal. North Carolina really only had a few good chances, one by former Indy Eleven player Ben Speas, and Newton came up big on each of those. Speaking of which, with the clean sheet, Newton became the USL Championship's all-time leader in that category. The team already has four on the season, on pace to set a new club record, but that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

As I watched, I was reminded of something I said towards the end of last season. Last year, Indy was good, but not great, particularly against the elite teams in the conference. As I watched shot after shot go wide or caught by NCFC's Tambakis, I began to wonder if we'll see a similar trend this year. Indy has looked spectacular against the bottom of the table and Bethlehem, outscoring them by a 10 to 3 margin. Against the top of the table, Indy have been outscored 4 to 2, plus a couple of nil-nil draws. Again though, that may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Hopefully this isn't a game that Indy will regret not getting all three points based on the number of good opportunities they had to get a game-winning goal.

Indy now has two weeks off from league play before hosting Charleston on May 18th, but will host a U.S. Open Cup game on May 15th versus the winner of Lansing Ignite and AFC Ann Arbor.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Pasher. He may have made a mess out of a couple of his chances, but he looked dangerous all night. One of his chances, he looked indecisive as he found himself behind the defense and one-on-one with the keeper and looked like he couldn't decide if he wanted to try and chip the keeper or take a full shot and he ended up getting caught by the recovering defense. On another occasion, he got in towards the box, but lost the ball under his feet. Sometimes his speed, and he may be one of the fastest in the league that I can recall seeing, is faster than his decision process.

After all that, why does he get the GBGB? Because he was consistently a nuisance for NCFC's defense and the stats indicate that my eyeball test were accurate. He could have easily had a goal, but his pace and effort constantly had NCFC's defense on their heels or full-out sprinting toward the goal to try and catch him. With that much effort and pace, teams won't be able to throw so many bodies at Kelly to defend him, which both Tampa Bay and NCFC did the past two games. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Tampa Bay Rowdies - 06.07

- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 8,035
- Final Score: 0-0 D
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Crognale, Barrett, Ayoze, Walker, Gibson, Watson (C), Enevoldsen, Kelly, Pasher
- Substitutions: Ouimette 26' (Pasher - due to Barrett RED); Diakhate 75' (Kelly); Matern 90'+3' (Enevoldsen)
- Unused: Farr, Farias, King, Ilic
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Barrett 13, 20' (Yellow/Yellow - RED)
- Referee: Elvis Osmanovic
- Adage goals: None

A nil-nil draw against the last undefeated team in the conference is something that the Eleven may be able to look back at later and recognize as a key part of making the playoffs. Achieving that result by defending for the majority of the game because Barrett picked up two yellow cards in the first 20 minutes makes it that much more impressive. 70 minutes is a long time to defend and not concede a goal. It also makes it hard to judge a game like this since the tactics for Indy had to change at such an early stage of the game. Coach Rennie was forced to burn a sub in the 26th minute so that he could get Ouimette into the game to help shore the defense. I'm confused about the sub though in that he pulled Pasher, who we saw last year is capable of playing on the back line. Regardless, Barrett's departure from the game changed everything for the Eleven.

This is kind of a throw away game. Indy wasn't able to exert its normal offensive prowess because the team, the entire team, was focused on defending first. So let's use the game as a teaching lesson on why you don't want to get a yellow/yellow/red in the first 20 minutes.

Here are the Shots for both teams in the first 20 minutes:
Here are the Shots for both teams in the first 20 minutes. Indy managed to get 3 shots in that time frame, from different players, from different locations, but all of them on frame. Including a header from Barrett that forced a reaction save from Tampa's goalkeeper McCarthy in the 13th minute. Otherwise, Indy could have been ahead early and then truly played their game plan. As it was, Barrett say his second yellow several minutes later and the Rennie Bunker (TM) was in full effect. In that same time frame, Tampa Bay managed just one shot, which didn't require a save from Newton.

Now let's see what happens after the 2nd yellow card and Barrett's dismissal from the game.

Indy managed just four more shots the rest of the game, only one of which forced a save from McCarthy. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, proceeded to take 14 shots on goal after Barrett's ejection. What's noticeable about those shots, however, are that none of them were On Target and four of them were blocked. Against New York Red Bulls II, Newton was required to make 6 saves, nearly as many as he had been forced to make in all of the preceding 5 games. Down a man for 70 minutes, Indy's defense did their job and Newton was credited with just 1 save for the game. The Rennie Bunker (TM) did its job and did it well.

I could show you the Heat Maps for those two time frames, but they basically show the same thing. Indy with an advantage in the first 20 minutes. Tampa Bay pinning Indy into the Eleven's defensive half of the field for the last 70 minutes. Red cards, and particularly early game red cards, ruin game plans and adjust tactics, substitution patterns, and results. Indy managed a draw, but it makes you wonder what could have been if they had been at full-strength for the entire game.

Indy get a few short days of rest to play their 3 game in 7 games, as North Carolina FC come to town on Saturday. Indy will be without Barrett so Coach Rennie will have to, once again, adjust the lineup as they play the third team this week who are ranked in the Top 4 in the conference. Luckily for them, two of the three games have been at home and the next game after NCFC comes in two weeks.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

When a team has to defend for as long as Indy defended on Wednesday, a defender is going to get the Game Beckons Game Ball. Guaranteed. The entire team played defense well, but Crognale stood out to me. He finished the game completing nearly 86% of his passes, won 67% of his duels, 80% of his aerial duels, and had 7 clearances.