Saturday, September 21, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion - 06.28

- Opponent: Birmingham Legion FC
- Location: Birmingham
- Attendance: 4,062
- Final Score: 1-0 L
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Barrett (C), Osmond, Gibson, Conner, Ayoze, Perea, Ilic, Pasher, Novoa
- Substitutions: Walker 60' (Ilic); Kelly 60' (Novoa); Starikov 84' (Perea)
- Unused: Farr, Rodrigues, King, Watson
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Conner 53' (RED); Ayoze 83' (Yellow)
- Referee: Greg Dopka
- Adage goals: None

Over the years, Indy hasn't had a lot of significant sustained success. When they have been a good team, and with a couple of notable exceptional moments, Indy has made a habit of having a chance to make significant moves up the table only to look like they weren't worthy of that ranking. Tonight was no different.

Indy controlled the ball and possession, but gave up a goal late in the first half to make the game more difficult than they wanted to deal with in this difficult run of games. However, even before Wright's goal in the 39th minute, Indy didn't look like a team with a chance to be the top team in the East. Passes were sloppy and often nowhere close to being on target. At times, passes were sent long. Other times, they were woefully short. Indy's counterattacks were slow and ineffective. Indy managed just 1 shot in the first half and it wasn't on target. Birmingham managed 5, despite being out-possessed 56.6% to 43.4%.

Everything from Indy looked labored.

Drew Conner's straight red card in the 53rd minute on an unnecessary tackle exacerbated every problem. Up a goal and up a man, Birmingham had no need to take any chances. They could sit in their own form of the Rennie Bunker (TM) and play keep away when they did have the ball to wear down the rest of the Indy players, then counter when the opportunities arose. By the end of the game, the possession ratio didn't change at all despite Indy being down a man, but Birmingham were able to further increase their advantage in shots, finishing with 14 to Indy's 7. Indy forced Van Oekel into just one single save.

Indy continued to hold possession, even down a man, but they couldn't do anything with it. Every ball Indy sent over the top was met with at least six Birmingham defenders and a couple of trailing Indy players. It was obvious that Indy wanted to attack Birmingham from the left side of the field as the ball continued to be swung back to that side of the field going forward. With the right side of the field being ineffective at generating any kind of offense, Birmingham was able to focus on the left and continued time-after-time of sending multiple players at Pasher. As the defense swarmed around him, Pasher had no ability to play out of it and routinely, and actually quite easily at times, had the ball taken from him. Pasher finished with just one chance created, Ayoze just three.

Conner's effort and exuberance and effort caused him to miss most of the second half and Wednesday's game against Atlanta United FC II, but I'm not convinced that Indy would have won this game even with a full complement of players. Indy didn't look like the better team from the start. They certainly didn't look like a team that had a chance to take sole possession of first place. With the Baby Bulls playing on Saturday night against Louisville, Indy lost their chance to finish the weekend in first place. In fact, with other possible results for the weekend, Indy could drop back down to at least third place. Though still with games in hand on the other teams around them.

Indy head to Atlanta United on Wednesday. A loss to Birmingham is difficult, but a loss to Atlanta would lead to significant concern as the team finishes the season.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Evan Newton was forced to earn his paycheck for this game.

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