Saturday, August 31, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City FC - 06.23

- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Louisville
- Attendance: 9,211
- Final Score: 1-1 D
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Ouimette, Barrett (C), Conner, Gibson, Ayoze, Farias, Ilic, Pasher, Rodrigues
- Substitutions: Osmond 46' (Hackshaw), Watson 64' (Rodrigues), Walker 84' (Conner)
- Unused: Farr, Diakhate, Starikov, King
- Goals: Pasher 43' (assist Ilic)
- Bookings: Newton 82' (Yellow); Ouimette 87' (Yellow); Ayoze 90' (Yellow)
- Referee: Mark Allatin
- Adage goals: None

As with most games, I don't typically do much as far as social media during the games and this one was no different. I had one tweet before the game and one afterwards. However, both of them lead me to what I want to discuss with this game.

The tweet before the game was about the fact that I look forward to the day when the #LIPAFC can be played in stadiums solely meant for soccer. Indy's secondary (or tertiary) status within Lucas Oil Stadium is a frustration that Indy Eleven fans have already had to experience when games were switched from a Saturday to a Sunday once the Indianapolis Colts' schedule was released. The Eleven had to adjust their schedule for the Colts' preseason games. That gives a very clear indication of where the team ranks in its use of Lucas Oil Stadium. The Lucas Oil Stadium football lines that can't (won't) be hidden during Eleven matches is another clear indication.

All that being said, I'll take football lines every day of the week and twice on Sunday(s) over soccer games in baseball stadiums. Like many of the minor league baseball stadiums in the Midwest (think Victory Field in Indianapolis and Parkview Field in Fort Wayne), Slugger Field is a very nice facility that seems like a great place to watch a baseball game. However, it's frustratingly difficult to watch a soccer match there. Sight lines are all over the map, some of which have netting partially blocking your view, there's a mixture of grass and turf (including a conversion of the pitcher's mound that I started seeing the process after the game), and the dimensions are short and narrow. All of that combines to drastically affect the way the game is played and the tactics involved. Teams like Louisville that have to deal with it on a regular basis develop some familiarity with it and have a home advantage. Teams like Louisville that have had so many of their players stay with the team for so many years develop a true home advantage that is difficult to overcome. Teams like Indy have to adjust or walk away from Louisville with a loss.

In the first half, Indy was going from east to west, forcing the Indy attack to have to deal with the changes from grass to turf to grass to pitcher's mound, particularly on the left side of the field. Indy have been known to play Tyler Pasher on the right side of the field, but when he and Rodrigues are the two players up top, I fully believe that placing Pasher on the right side of the field in the first half was so that Indy's leading scorer and quick left footed player could limit the times he had to make the transition from grass to turf when he was attacking. While the two players interchanged all night, Pasher spent much more time on the left in the second half when he didn't have to deal with the turf.

The short and narrow field also allowed Louisville to high press Indy's defense without fear of wearing themselves down chasing Indy's normal possession orientated build-up out of the back. The close confines and compact nature meant that passes needed to be sharp and crisp and neither were spectacular in that regard. Indy were nearly 10% less accurate in their passes in this game than their season average. Louisville wasn't any better. Some of that can be attributed to LCFC's defense, but having 20 guys in a 40 yard swath of field makes for difficult passing lanes.

My post game tweet was about it being a hard fought game. Which was an understatement by the end. What started as an intense game, but with a lot of friendly extension of hands during fouls. As the game progressed, fouls became harder, fewer friendly offers of hands. By the end, there were a lot of yellow cards, 80% of which came after the 80th minute mark. Some of that can be attributed to some bad decisions by the referee earlier in the game that could have curtailed some of the physicality later, but it culminated in an 80th minute dust-up when Newton got tried of taking hits from Thiam and expressed his displeasure. What followed was 3 minutes of pushing, shoving, and the referee trying to ease the situation. Given the fouls that continued to the end of the game, he didn't succeed.

In a rivalry game, which has gone from simply a "geographic" rivalry to a true rivalry, a draw for Indy on the road isn't a bad result. Indy picked up the first goal of the game in the 43rd minute on a Pasher goal when LCFC misplaced a ball, allowing Pasher to do what he does best (from the left side of the field at that point). With a lead on the road, normally Indy would have gone into the Rennie Bunker (TM), but the size of the field made that a more difficult proposition than at other venues. LCFC equalized in the 70th minute when second half, and fresh legged, substitute Thiam out-jumped the Indy defense on a set play when Indy couldn't get the ball clear of goal. I would say that Indy's goal was against the run of play, while it seemed like a matter of time before LCFC found their goal.

The draw allows Indy to continue to help themselves in the table. Dane Kelly wasn't included in the LCFC injury report, but he did not make the trip game day roster. With games in hand on the teams above them, the upcoming plethora of games in September will require player management to get as many positive points as possible to determine where Indy finishes in the table. Getting Kelly healthy from his knock last game will be vital during this stretch of games.

As it stands now, Indy has played its last game at Slugger Field as Louisville will be moving into their new digs next season. I asked some Louisville staff about some of the details of the conversion from baseball diamond to soccer field. In response, I continued to hear Louisville folks say, "just 4 more games." However much we as fans can grow accustomed to our team's initial homes, watching them grow and thrive enough to allow the building of soccer specific stadiums allows us to watch and judge teams on their true abilities and not necessarily how they are able to adapt those abilities to play within undesirable field constraints. While their construction is in progress, driving by today I was able to get a quick glimpse (from outside the fence) of how much better it will be to watch next year's LIPAFC game from Lynn Family Stadium than from Slugger Field. This weekend's version of LIPAFC solidified this as a valuable rivalry in USL Championship league and I look forward to next year's continuation of both team's progress.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I regret that he's never received the Game Beckons Game Ball, but Tyler Gibson deserves to finally get some credit from me for his effort and play. He's the Energizer Bunny in terms of effort and mileage and routinely provides cover for the defense while being the first step going forward for the offense. This was not one of his best games statistically, but he was solid in his effort in the tight quarters of Slugger Field.

No comments: