Sunday, August 18, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Saint Louis FC - 06.21

- Opponent: Saint Louis FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,035
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Ouimtte, Barrett, Walker, Gibson, Ayoze, Farias, Watson (C), Ilic, Starikov
- Substitutions: Pasher 46' (Starikov), Kelly 58' (Watson), Conner 78' (Ilic)
- Unused: Farr, Osmond, Diakhate, King
- Goals: Pasher 66'; Kelly 81' (assist Barrett)
- Bookings: Conner 84' (Yellow)
- Referee: Elton Garcia
- Adage goals: One

Indy started the 2019 season on the road against Saint Louis in a 2-1 loss, despite getting the scoring started in the 61st minute with Hackshaw. Coming into the game, Indy has hovered around the top 4 for the past 10 weeks. Conversely, Saint Louis FC spent some time early in the year at the top of the table, but have plummeted since week 8 down to as low as 12th and had won just one game in their past 13 games. These are two different teams than the ones who played against each other in week one, not counting the plethora of roster changes that Indy made in the past week.

Notable starting lineup for Indy was that Pasher was absent and Ilic and Starikov were up top in a rare (at least this season) 3-5-2, and captain Matt Watson picked up just his 6th start of the year. Newly acquired Novoa and Rodrigues were unavailable with visa issues and Conner began the game on the bench.

Indy came out of the gates looking rusty from their break in league play, while Saint Louis looked like they wanted to get ahead early instead of having to come from behind. Saint Louis had the opening kick and proceeded to take it and force Newton into a save just 20 seconds into the game. They continued the pressure early with 3 shots in the first 20 minutes, while Indy worked to find their footing by holding an advantage in possession.

Indy had the bulk of the possession in the first half, but Saint Louis managed to get more shots on goal during their limited possession. As has been a recurring statement this year, Indy looked like they were missing somebody who could take on STL's defense or blow by them. Several of Indy's substitutes didn't go to the locker room at halftime, but Pasher had a more immediacy to his halftime touches and became the team's first sub in the 46th minute, taking the place of Starikov. Starikov played well, but is still getting his fitness back and Pasher's pace gave STL something else to consider in their 2nd half tactics that they likely weren't expecting to confront immediately out of the locker room.

Farias has played all season in a very wide position. He spent the entirety of this game with his heels on the touchline and Indy found him time after time, creating just 1 chance, but had 5 crosses. Pasher and Ayoze also followed suite of maintaining width, with Pasher spending more time on the right side. Putting Pasher on the right seems like an odd choice given his propensity and strength with his left foot, but it really forced defenders into the spin cycle when he cuts into the middle of the field. It's what set up his goal in the 66th minute and is something Coach Rennie has utilized from time-to-time this season.

After Pasher's goal, Indy dropped back into a pseudo bunker with Kelly the lone, dedicated, man up top and Pasher and Ilic dropping back further to help with defensive responsibilities. With Saint Louis forced to push things forward to overcome Indy's bunker, it was a long clearance from Barrett that allowed Kelly to run onto a ball and with a deft chip, put Indy up by a 2 goal lead. Kelly has struggled to find the back of the net lately so maybe that's the goal that gets him back into things. The competition for the starting forward positions may factor in to his effort as well.

With the exception of the late free kick goal by Saint Louis' Hinton in second half stoppage time to prevent the clean sheet, Indy looked like they weathered what could have been a trap game. With upcoming games against teams further up the table than Saint Louis, it was important to keep pace as much as possible and not drop points against a team in the bottom of the table. Indy did that and moved back into 4th place, with games still in hand on all of the teams ahead of them. That's a good place to be ahead of a busy end of August and September, where the games in hand will disappear.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

The substitutes; Pasher, Kelly, and Conner. All three of Indy's substitutes made an impact during their time and did exactly what you want them to do. Pasher and Kelly scored goals and new signee Conner brought a physicality during his time, including getting a yellow. Maybe not the exact detail he would have wanted in his debut, but he did what he was required to do in his role off the bench at that point in the game.

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