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.

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