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.

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