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.

No comments: