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)

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