Sunday, June 30, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City FC - 06.16

- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,584
- Final Score: 1-1 D
- Starting XI: Farr, Hackshaw, Osmond, Ouimette, Walker (C), Gibson, Ayoze, Farias, Pasher, Enevoldsen, Diakhate
- Substitutions: Watson 58' (Pasher - injury); King 72' (Farias); Kelly 79' (Diakhate)
- Unused: Newton, Kim, Ilic, Nieto
- Goals: Pasher 9' (assist Enevoldsen)
- Bookings: Farias 45'+3' (Yellow); Osmond 69' (Yellow); Ayoze 80' (Yellow)
- Referee: Farhad Dadkho
- Adage goals: None

The third game in eight days is always going to be a difficult one. When that third game is the Louisville Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest, you kind of expect it to be a hard-fought, close match. Coming into the game, Indy was sitting at the top of the table due to a 5 game win streak and a 9 game undefeated streak (and some help from the USL tiebreakers). LCFC came into the game right in the middle of the teams that are in position to make the playoffs, but on a week's worth of rest and, as Coach Hackworth put it, "coming off a result that we are not happy with in terms of our overall performance." Much like last Saturday's game where Atlanta came in wanting to make amends for a game that didn't go like they wanted, LCFC wanted have a good showing against Indy, in Indy.

To counteract LCFC's motivation, Indy started the game with a lot of energy and put Louisville on their heels early. In the first 20 minutes, Indy had 6 shots, 3 of them on goal. One of those shots was converted as Pasher continues to show Indy fans what they were missing last year due to Pasher's injuries. By the time Pasher scored in the 9th minute, the interplay between the front three of Diakhate, Enevoldsen, and Pasher made it look like Indy was going to put multiple goals on the board again. Conversely, LCFC's first shot on goal didn't happen until the 42nd minute.

Yet, Indy's good offense form in the first 20 - 30 minutes deteriorated as the game progressed and their legs became heavier and heavier and LCFC continued to push tempo. LCFC pushed for a win after getting a free kick goal in the 55th minute by DelPiccolo. Further exacerbating Indy's deterioration of offensive opportunities was the injury to Pasher that forced him to leave in the 58th minute. Pasher has been the team MVP for the past month and there was a noticeable drop-off in the team's chances after his departure. Indy only had 4 shots in the entire second half, while LCFC had 7 shots, 3 on goal. Indy's last shot occurred in the 76th minute.

Yet, Indy bent but never broke at the end of the game. Whatever struggles the team was having on the offensive half, the defense continued to play strong. As Indy transitions from offense to defense, their recovery defense is a thing of beauty. Hackshaw, Osmond, Ouimette (and Crognale and Barrett when they're on the back line) were helped out by Ayoze, Walker, Gibson, and Farias and stifled nearly all of LCFC's transition opportunities. If not for some loose whistles from the ref that set up some free kick chances, this would have been a different result for Indy.

Some final notes, all related to Indy's forwards. Like everyone else, I love Alioune Diakhate's story and that he is getting rewarded for his improvement and goal scoring. Yet, I'm not sure that he's a ready for starting in back-to-back games. Early in his time in Indy, Diakhate was prone to fouling as soon as he came in and causing immediately turnovers. While he's improved in that aspect, putting him up top with Pasher and Enevoldsen playing underneath him was not effective. Diakhate did not win a single aerial duel in the game and was routinely muscled off the ball. As Indy devolved into "hoof and chase" at the end of the game, they needed someone better at hold-up play than Diakhate is able to do at this point in his career. Additionally, he was called for a foul in the 67th minute even though replay showed it was clearly faked. That only happens because of his propensity to foul.

That being said, Kelly continues to struggle and his inconsistent effort bothers me. As a substitute, brought in at the 79th minute, and with 2 weeks before the next game, there's no reason his effort wasn't at max capacity. Yet, at the end of the game, he made a long run to get a ball. When the ball turned back over to LCFC and went to the other end, Kelly jogged back to half. He didn't run. He jogged. With the teams going end-to-end at that point, his lackadaisical hustle back meant that the entire team had to adjust and wait for him to get back before trying to go forward again. That's unacceptable, is part of a trend with him, and may be part of why Diakhate is seeing more time.

Indy now goes on the road to face Hartford and should be a chance to keep the undefeated streak alive, but Indy was underwhelming against Hartford in March. So Indy now get a couple weeks of rest, which is ideal to get Ilic and Starikov back to fitness, to determine the extent of Pasher's injury, and to get focused on Hartford on the 13th.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Pasher. Again. His effort and ability on the ball causes problems for opposing defenses and he's starting to see teams throw two guys at him as soon as he touches the ball. It paid off with an early goal and the team looked completely different when he went out with his injury.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion FC - 06.15

- Opponent: Birmingham Legion FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,248
- Final Score: 3-0 W
- Starting XI: Farr, Ouimette, Osmond, Barrett (C), King, Gibson, Ayoze, Farias, Pasher, Enevoldsen, Diakhate
- Substitutions: Watson 65' (Pasher); Walker 74' (King); Nieto 90'+3' (Diakhate)
- Unused: Perez, Kim, Ilic, Kelly
- Goals: Pasher 7' (assist Farias); Own Goal 44' (Laurent); Enevoldsen 90'+1'
- Bookings: Osmond 32' (Yellow); Enevoldsen 82' (Yellow)
- Referee: Ismir Pekmic
- Adage goals: None


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Atlanta United FC 2 - 06.14

- Opponent: Atlanta United FC 2
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 11,137
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Farr, Ouimette, Osmond, Barrett (C), Walker, Gibson, Pasher, Kim, King, Enevoldsen, Kelly
- Substitutions: Watson 60' (Kim); Diakhate 75' (Kelly)
- Unused: Perez, Farias, King, Ilic, Nieto
- Goals: Diakhate 84' (assist Pasher)
- Bookings: Kim 18' (Yellow); Gibson 68' (Yellow); Pasher 90'+3' (Yellow)
- Referee: Elijio Arreguin
- Adage goals: None


Indy Eleven vs Loudoun United FC - 06.13

- Opponent: Loudoun United FC
- Location: Washington, D.C.
- Attendance: 650
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Farr, Ouimette, Osmond, Barrett (C), Walker, Gibson, Pasher, Kim, King, Enevoldsen, Kelly
- Substitutions: Ayoze 71' (Kim); Watson 78' (King)
- Unused: Perez, Farias, Nieto, Diakhate
- Goals: Own Goal 66' (Martinez); Pasher 89'
- Bookings: None
- Referee: Thomas Snyder
- Adage goals: None


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Memphis 901 FC - 06.12

- Opponent: Memphis 901 FC
- Location: Memphis
- Attendance: 6,829
- Final Score: 3-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Ouimette, Osmond, Barrett (C), Walker, Gibson, Pasher, Kim, King, Enevoldsen, Kelly
- Substitutions: Watson 67' (Kim); Farr 72' (Newton - injury); Diakhate 74' (Kelly)
- Unused: Farias, Nieto, Penn
- Goals: Enevoldsen 31' (assist Walker); Kim 52' (free kick); Pasher 58' (assist Kelly)
- Bookings: None
- Referee: Malik Badawi
- Adage goals: None

As an Eleven fan, it would be nice to think that a three-goal output from the team signifies a return of form for the team's offense, but I have to temper my excitement of seeing Enevoldsen, Pasher, and now Kim get on the board. Indy's 3-nil shutout win against Memphis comes against one of the teams in the conference's bottom third of the table, where Indy has feasted this year. Only Birmingham ranks lower than Memphis in their conversion rate of attack, converting just 10% of their shots, while also not being a team to keep the ball out of their own net. Memphis has only one clean sheet on the season, a 1-nil victory over Bethlehem back in March.

So, yes, the team played well, possessing the ball and converting on their opportunities, but this was also against a team that they should beat, even on the road. Fortunately for the team, they have a few more games like that in recent weeks before, once again, facing one of the conference leaders in Louisville in another of the third game in 8 days scenario.

It has been good to see Kim get some minutes lately, as I think he provides something different in the midfield than the other players. His vision is good and he's starting to get in the attack more. If I'm honest, I'm surprised that he was awarded the goal on his free kick since it took a deflection from a Memphis player and I think Caldwell would have been in position to stop the shot had it not been deflected. “Kim’s a very high-level player that’s needed just a little time to adjust and adapt, but it seems like he’s starting to find his rhythm." With the injuries to the squad, more on that in a second, Kim's inclusion into the lineup and ability to get more minutes could prove pivotal down the stretch of the season.

Jordan Farr, once again, saw minutes in this game in a substitute role. Farr may not be getting the starter role, but has been forced to come in twice this season as a substitute and has performed well. It's difficult to know what Newton injured while taking a goal kick in the 71st minute, but Farr may be seeing his first minutes as a starter soon. As of the time of this article, no word has been provided by the team on the extent of his injury. Given that Newton had injury issues during his time at FC Cincinnati with his hip, Farr's ascension into the starter role may be coming sooner rather than later, even if this injury proves to be minor. Newton's injuries in Cincinnati were, at least partially, attributed to playing on turf, which he has continued here in Indy. While the injury to Newton forced Coach Rennie to make a substitute that would not normally be made, given the rest of the bench for the game, I'm not sure it drastically affected the substitution pattern. Kelly's injury a few minutes later also didn't drastically affect the pattern, as he would have likely been substituted in that general timeframe anyway. I haven't heard anything about that injury at this point either.

What does concern me a bit is the absence of Ayoze from not just the starting lineup, but also from the game day roster completely. I've routinely said that he is the team's MVP and there has been little to no comment about him not being part of the game day squad. Whether it's good or just hiding the details, but he has not been shown on the team's Injury Report. So maybe he's just getting a few games rest.

Indy has two more games against teams in the bottom/middle of the table before facing surging Louisville. It will be interesting to see the Injury Report before the Loudoun game and whether Newton, Ayoze, Kelly, or others are on it. Though, as it stated above with Kim getting minutes potentially helping Indy down the stretch, getting Farr some minutes could be similarly helpful later in the season as Newton progresses through another season on turf fields.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I'm going to give this game's Game Beckons Game Ball to Enevoldsen, who looked dangerous all night. He had his defender completely on his heels and unable to figure out what to do to defend for the goal, but was also continuing to attack until the last second. As time wound down, Enevoldsen picked up the ball in midfield and charged at the goal. When nobody picked him up, he unleashed a shot that just barely missed the crossbar. He was active from box to box and put the team up in the first half, which "meant that Memphis had to attack and come out a little bit more, which created some space for
us to attack ourselves." - Coach Rennie

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds - 06.11

- Opponent: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,071
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw (C), Osmond, Ouimette, Pasher, Matern, Gibson, Penn, Farias, Enevoldsen, Kelly
- Substitutions: Kim 45' (Penn); Walker 57' (Matern); Diakhate 77' (Kelly)
- Unused: Farr, King, Watson, Diakhate, Barrett
- Goals: Walker 71' (assist Farias); Pasher 81' (assist Enevoldsen)
- Bookings: Kim 60' (Yellow)
- Referee: Lorant Varga
- Adage goals: None

With two games in three days against the same opponent, both teams made wholesale changes to their lineups. Pittsburgh started just 5 players that were in Wednesday's starting lineup (Uzo, Adewole, James, Vancaeyezeele, Dos Santos), while Indy started just 6 players (Pasher, Hackshaw, Ouimette, Gibson, Penn, Enevoldsen) in both games.

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)
On a team where defense is paramount and defensive midfielders are plentiful, Tyler Pasher is a prime example of the ability of pace to break down defenses. Pasher periodically displayed what he was able to do last season until his head injury took him out of lineup. By staying healthy this season though, I would argue that with the exception of Ayoze, Pasher may be putting himself in contention for team MVP, ahead of his much more prominent pre-season offensive producing teammates. Kelly has shown glimpses, Enevoldsen has shown glimpses, and Ilic and Starikov have been resigned to the sidelines with lingering injuries.

Yet it's Pasher, who I was concerned about ever playing soccer again with last year's head injury, who I continue to be most excited about when he gets the ball. He has his limitations. He highly favors his left foot. He can sometimes hold onto the ball too long. He looks to get to the endline for crosses, sometimes over other available options. All that being said and despite other teams' scouting reports probably indicating the same things about him, he attacks opposing defenses daring them to stop him. He still out-paces guys down the sideline. He still gets to the endline for crosses. He gets shots (and goals) from seemingly impossible angles and vital moments in the games.

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)
The Eleven have needed Pasher's pace and ability to break down defenses because while the defense has remained strong thanks to the stellar play of Barrett, Ouimette, and Hackshaw (and Osmond last night), the team has needed another player to step up on the offensive end. Kelly and Enevoldsen, highly regarded offensive weapons, have either found the goal in bunches or not at all. Having a third option in Pasher should, key word should, help open things up again for Kelly and Enevoldsen. I still feel an attacking midfielder who can help distribute would be helpful (Mares comes to mind...), Pasher's unabashed ability to go at, and by, defenders is going to continue to be helpful moving forward.

After Indy gave up a 15th minute goal by Pittsburgh's Mertz, ending their home shut-out streak at 464 minutes, Indy continued to control the game. Pittsburgh's goal was a result of a poor turnover by Matern. Indy initially got back to defend well, but Matern and Gibson both lost track of the rest of the Pittsburgh attacking players and Mertz found himself with plenty of space to get a shot off out of the reach of Newton.

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)
Down a goal and not having a lot of success in getting the ball in the goal at home, Coach Rennie went to his bench earlier than normal with this game, one of them more or less scheduled, and the other to provide a change of pace (again with that word) as Indy chased the game to get a result. Coach Rennie indicated afterwards that he has always intended to give Penn roughly a half's worth of action due to wanting to protect the young athlete. I'm guessing that Penn's knock in the first half may have caused Rennie to make the sub a little earlier than he had planned. Kim came on and provided a different dynamic to the midfield. Obviously, he's more experienced than Penn, but also brings a more refined attack than Penn can bring. Additionally, in the 57th minute, Coach Rennie brought in Walker for Matern. Whatever you think of Matern, he is a defensive midfielder first and the team needed someone to help push things forward. Even without scoring the equalizing goal, I thought Walker helped push Indy's line of attack higher up the field, further putting Pittsburgh on their heels. Coach was complimentary of Walker's performance, stating "Obviously it was a great goal, but overall gave us a lift and gave us energy. We were in the ascendancy at that point, but I think that helped just move us a bit more."

Walker expanded on Coach Rennie's comments on what was said to him before coming in and what he was told to do. "It was as simple as that. Just bring energy. Try and create chances. I mean, there is no secret to it. We were down a goal so we had to change, something. So it was just, switching player for player, same position, and it was just fresh legs into the game. Nobody likes not starting or not playing so you have that little edge..."

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)
All three substitutes were effective and did exactly what they were brought on to do. Kim helped with the attack, Walker further moved the line of attack and then got the equalizer, and Diakhate has shown his progress this season.
"He comes on, he works. He's a presence. He's putting people under pressure, but he's not fouling. He's keeping the ball in the corner, but he's not fouling. He's creating chances, he almost created a goal." - Coach Rennie
Even though the team gave up a goal off of some rare poor defending, it was good to see Osmond get some minutes ahead of Hackshaws departure for Trinidad & Tobago's friendly with Japan. Given that he made the roster for the friendly, it's likely that he will make T&T's roster for the Gold Cup, meaning more games away from the Eleven. So it was important to get Osmond in the mix. My one concern, and it's relatively minor, is Osmond's exuberance often caused him to chase balls into other player's areas of responsibility. I counted a number of times that he chased a ball into an area where Ouimette, Hackshaw, or Newton were better placed to receive it or handle it. Hopefully, it was just a little bit of first start adrenaline and he will settle into playing with Ouimette and Barrett during Hackshaw's stint with his national team.

Indy Eleven have a week off before going on the road to play Memphis at AutoZone Park.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Even with all my above praise for Pasher, I'm going to give this game's Game Beckons Game Ball to Walker. He truly changed the game for me with his energy and ability to push the defending line higher up the field. He was more active in the offense than Matern had been and it resulted in him being in a position to receive a ball that he could put on frame from just outside the 18 yard line. "When I struck it, I felt like it had a chance and when I picked my head up, it was going past the goalie. It felt good as I struck it." It wasn't a game-winner, but it gave the team a chance to push Pittsburgh even further back to, ultimately, get the win.


Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)

Photo: Don Thompson Photography (@DLTPhotog)