Sunday, July 28, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Nashville SC - 06.19

- Opponent: Nashville SC
- Location: Nashville
- Attendance: 13,047
- Final Score: 2-0 L
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Osmond, Barrett, Walker, Gibson, Ayoze, Pasher, Farias, Enevoldsen, Diakhate
- Substitutions: Kelly 45' (Diakhate); Ilic 63' (Farias); Watson 73' (Walker)
- Unused: Farr, Ouimette, Kim, King
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Pasher 17' (Yellow)
- Referee: Elvis Osmanovic
- Adage goals: None

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, Indy was playing Loudoun, a team in the bottom of the table. This week, Indy played Nashville, a team near the top of the table. Last week, I thought Osmond was one of the differences in the win. This week, he was still a difference, just not in the same good way. Last week, Indy was playing at home, a place where they haven't lost in over a year. This week, Indy was on the road, a place that's been either up or down for Indy, with no draws.

“I think we’ve played nine away games and won five, so we’re doing well away from home." What's missing from Coach Rennie's statement is that all five of those wins have come against teams who are not currently in a playoff position. My continued concern of Indy's form against "higher level teams" (Coach's words...) is that they struggle to get results. It's Coach's job to highlight the successes to the public. It's my job to think about the legitimacy to his statements. Good results are going to keep you in the race for the playoffs. Bad results against those playoff teams in the regular season don't bode well for success in the playoffs. Until Indy can show consistent success against the "higher level teams," I'm going to continue to be concerned about Indy's playoff success.

It's also become clear that Coach Rennie is losing faith in Kelly as a starter, giving Diakhate his 4th start of the year. Though it looks like Diakhate is going to be on a shorter leash now that Ilic, and hopefully Starikov soon, are healthy as he became a halftime substitute when Indy was forced to chase the game after giving up 2 goals in the first half.

Indy's leading scorer, Tyler Pasher, is no longer a secret weapon. It's been happening for a few games now, but Pasher has been drawing the attention of more than one defender. In the 18th minute of this game, Pasher drew 5 defenders (see screen capture to the left). That makes it difficult for him to do much beyond get dispossessed, particularly when the rest of the forwards are covered by other defenders. Tyler is still going to create chances, but Indy is going to have to find a way to, potentially, use Pasher as a decoy for awhile because teams have figured out that, right now, he is Indy's only consistent offensive threat. When Pasher picked up an unnecessary yellow card 65 yards from goal in the 17th minute, he had to be careful about his effort. He still had his moments, but everything seemed a bit more forced on offense and not as effective on defense.

“At 2-nil you’re chasing the game a little bit, and right before going into halftime I thought we had
a really good claim for a penalty kick." I suspect that Coach Rennie's vocal badgering of the referee or his staff are why we didn't see Rennie on the sideline after halftime. He routinely gets upset about calls, but he must have taken it a step further for this game. Being down 2 goals on the road against a "higher level team" will do that I guess. I do wish I knew what he said to the referees to get himself thrown out of the game.

A few games ago, Newton came back from his injury and I made the Bull Durham/Crash Davis comment about respecting the streak. Since Newton returned, Indy have gone 1W-2L-0D. I'm not saying that Indy would have won those games with Farr in goal, but Indy didn't respect the streak and have seen the downside of success since that game.

Last point.

Last week, I thought Osmond was the difference in how the defense performed. In both goals that Nashville scored tonight, Osmond was involved. Yes, you can, and should, argue that other defenders were back and could have prevented Nashville's goals, but Osmond was the first defender to the ball in each case. In each case, he was the first defender to get beat. While he lost his footing on the first one, he at least managed to push the ball to the middle towards other defenders. In the second (see below), he pushed the ball to the middle, but neither he, nor the other defenders, were effective at preventing the shot.

As I quoted Enevoldsen last week, and paraphrasing him this week, when Indy defends well, it may only take a goal to get a positive result from the game. When Indy struggles to score and make multiple mistakes on defense, there's very little chance Indy is going to get a good result. That's where Indy found themselves tonight. With 3 of Indy's next 4 games being against playoff level teams, we may get a good glimpse of where Indy will be when the playoffs start and will only be playing "higher level teams."

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I think this is going to have to be one of those games where I don't hand out a Game Beckons Game Ball. I just can't pinpoint one player who I feel stands out enough. This was not the kind of result we expect from this team.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Loudoun United FC - 06.18

- Opponent: Loudoun United FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 11,059
- Final Score: 2-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Osmond, Barrett, Walker, Gibson, Ayoze, Pasher, Ilic, Enevoldsen, Diakhate
- Substitutions: Farias 63' (Ilic); Kelly 67' (Diakhate); King 90'+3' (Pasher)
- Unused: Farr, Ouimette, Kim, Nieto
- Goals: Enevoldsen 81' (assist Kelly); Pasher 90'+1' (assist Ayoze)
- Bookings: Gibson 24' (Yellow); Barrett 50' (Yellow); Ayoze 55' (Yellow); Osmond 73' (Yellow); Kelly 83' (Yellow)
- Referee: Matthew Corrigan
- Adage goals: None

Per every press release that Indy has released in their history, "per club and team policy, terms of player contracts with Indy Eleven will not be released." So we have no idea what Dane Kelly and Alioune Diakhate get paid for their services. The smart money would tell you that Kelly gets paid significantly more than Diakhate. While that's not always the way to create your starting lineup, any kind of competitive athlete who was hired to score goals likely finds it difficult to watch the game start with a unknown open trialist playing in his position. Yet, maybe that's exactly what Kelly needs right now to further light a fire in him.

While Kelly didn't score himself, he was an absolute frustration for the Loudoun defense from the time he came into the game in the 67th minute until the end of the game. He was the assist on the game winning goal by Enevoldsen in the 81st minute, he picked up a yellow card in the 83rd minute by catching the foot of Loudoun GK Edwards Jr. who was a bit too casual with a play out of the back, and managed to get Edwards to pick up his own yellow card in the 87th minute for something he said to Kelly on what looked to me like could have been a penalty kick for Indy. While Diakhate's play has been slowing catching up to his raw ability week-to-week, Kelly provides a different type of threat. His pace, off the bench, caused Loudoun problems in the waning minutes of the game. It's not exactly how you want to see one of your top paid players earn his salary, but Kelly, motivated to try and prove everybody wrong, could be exactly what this team needs moving forward. It makes me think of Carli Lloyd during this year's World Cup. It's a nice option to have coming off the bench.

A healthy Ilic and Starikov aren't going to hurt either.

Enevoldsen was also brought onto this team to score goals and he was finally rewarded for his efforts, including yet another time this year where I think he should have been awarded a penalty kick. I don't have an official stat total for it, but it seems like he's been taken down in the box without a call more than any other player on the team. In this game though, we also saw him working to teach Diakhate what runs he should be making and frustrated at Kelly for not making an obvious pass, but also getting the game winner, 4 shots on goal, and creating 3 chances.

During the post-game press conference, Enevoldsen diverted from a question a bit and stated, "We have a really good defense, which means there's pressure on us up front because most games if we just put one in, it means we'll at least get points out of it because the defenders don't let a lot of goals in." Which leads me to Osmond.

I really like Ouimette and what he can bring to the team and to a game, but there is something that Osmond brings to the center-back role that seemed to be missing last game when he was not playing. I've had concerns at times about his over-zealous nature, but the defense felt more organized in this game, even with Pasher and Ayoze constantly pushing forward and Hackshaw looking a bit off from his normal self. Maybe last game's defense was an outlier, the team "getting a little complacent before the loss last week," (via Newton after the game) but I feel like Osmond should be the starting center-back with the other guys rotating as necessary.

It's not a recap lately unless we're talking about Tyler "get out of jail free card" Pasher (h/t to Nipun for that one). As has been the case for the past two months of games, Pasher's speed, ball skills, and desire to push the ball forward has been the major force for Indy's offense. Coach Rennie brought out a unique lineup this week by putting Ayoze on the right side of the field because he has to keep both of them in the lineup. They're the engine that's running the attack right now. Ayoze's vision and ball-handling skills are in the top of the league. Pasher's ball-handling, at full speed, is what separates him from other players and continually gets him opportunities for crosses. In this game, I would have liked to see the other attacking players make near-post runs when Pasher was screaming down the sideline with the ball at his feet because their center and far-post runs were routinely caught or parried away by Edwards.

This was the kind of game where, at the end, you can say that the better team won. Indy felt like they were going to eventually get the game-winning goal and the stats bore that out. When that happens, sometimes you see interesting things in those stats. Like an average position chart that looks like an arrow going forward for Indy... I'm not sure that is exactly how Coach Rennie expected it to play out when he set his starting lineup, but that's what happened.

It's also interesting to me that the Eleven have played 6 league games this year where they didn't receive a single yellow card. They had only received 21 yellow cards in their previous 17 games. Yet, in this one, they received 5 yellow cards, on 11 fouls conceded. Loudoun, conversely, received just 2 cards on 16 fouls conceded.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Enevoldsen and Osmond split the Game Beckons Game Ball award for this game. I feel like they were the difference in this game.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Hartford Athletic - 06.17

- Opponent: Hartford Athletic
- Location: Hartford
- Attendance: 5,500
- Final Score: 2-1 L
- Starting XI: Newtown, Hackshaw, Ouimette, Barrett, Walker, Gibson, Ayoze, King, Watson, Enevoldsen, Kelly
- Substitutions: Ilic 60' (Watson); Pasher 73' (King); Diakhate 84' (Gibson)
- Unused: Farr, Farias, Osmond, Kim
- Goals: Ayoze 88' (Penalty kick)
- Bookings: Hackshaw 89' (Yellow)
- Referee: Sergii Demianchuk
- Adage goals: None

Some have called this game the definition of a "trap" game. The Eleven had a couple weeks worth of rest and are sitting near the top of the table, while Hartford sits near the bottom and were opening their new stadium in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,500 fans. As Coach Rennie stated afterwards, "It was certainly disappointing not to get something out of the game because there were lots of things that we did well. In the end, we walked into a difficult situation and we feel like we should’ve done a little bit better.”

Which is true. The Eleven dominated possession. They were better in duels and aerial duels. They had significantly more opportunities from corners. They had more crosses and were more successful with those crosses. They had their second lowest percentage of long passes all season (nearly 6% lower than their season average).

When they didn't do things well, Hartford made the most of their chances. Hartford were 50% accurate on their shots, putting Hartford's Dixon put one off the crossbar in the 56th minute, before getting one in the net a couple minutes later when an Eleven breakdown in defense allowed Angulo to get an unpressured shot past Newton. Why was it unpressured? Ouimette had pushed forward to win a ball and stayed up after doing so. The ball made its way to Hartford's goalkeeper Due, who summarily blasted it across the halfway line where it was headed once and then passed to Angulo who had a clean run at goal because Barrett paused just long enough to raise his arm in request of an offside call and to look at the other side of the field to the AR, who correctly left his flag down. Barrett's unanswered request caused him to trail behind the ball with no chance to catching Angulo.

Down a goal, Indy was forced to press. With Hartford's second goal, a similar situation arose. Players were pushed forward with a King long throw-in/pseudo corner kick. Hartford cleared the ball, but players continued to stay pushed forward as Ayoze retrieved the ball. Ayoze passed to Hackshaw, who sent one of their 11% of long passes back up the field only to get it collected by Angulo. Angulo blasted it forward to Barrera, who laid it off to former Indy player Wojcik. Woj took a slight touch to avoid a sliding Ayoze and had an easy shot away from Newton.

Indy's bend but don't break defense against Louisville was a thing of beauty. Indy's bend but don't break defense against Hartford was less effective. As much as I praised Indy's transition defense against Louisville, when Indy failed in transition against Hartford, Hartford made them pay for it. With the second goal, Hackshaw was back defending Barrera and everybody else was trailing. The closest Eleven player beyond Hackshaw and Ayoze was Gibson who had to jump over the sliding Ayoze. No Ouimette, no Barrett, no Walker.

I don't know why it popped in my head when I saw the starting lineup, but as the immortal Crash Davis stated, "a player on a streak has to respect the streak." During Indy's preceding six games coming into Hartford, the team was 5-0-1 with Osmond in the center of the back line and Pasher scored 5 goals with 1 assist. I assume that Pasher was "fit for selection," but deemed not capable of a full ninety. Yet, as Indy struggled to break down Hartford's defense, Pasher's ability to take on defenders off the dribble was something that the team was clearly missing. I also don't know if Hartford would have scored their goals with Osmond in the game, but I have to wonder why Coach Rennie made the change(s).

Indy returns home this week to play Loudoun United FC, a team Indy beat a month ago with a late goal from Pasher. Hopefully, the Eleven don't have back-to-back poor results against teams in the lower half of the table.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This game's Game Beckons Game Ball goes to Ayoze. He created 3 chances, had 13! crosses, and scored his first goal of the season.