Thursday, September 5, 2019

Indy Eleven vs New York Red Bulls II - 06.24

- Opponent: New York Red Bulls II
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,124
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Barrett (C), Ouimette, Osmond, Walker, Gibson, Ayoze, Farias, Conner, Ilic, Pasher
- Substitutions: King 45'+1' (Farias - injury); Watson 76' (Walker), Kelly 78' (Ilic)
- Unused: Farr, Perea, Starikov, Rodrigues
- Goals: Kelly 83' (assist King)
- Bookings: Conner 17' (Yellow); Barrett 28' (Yellow); Walker 61' (Yellow); Ouimette 79' (Yellow)
- Referee: Lorant Varga
- Adage goals: None

As the season has progressed, this game stood out as an important one with Indy and New York Red Bulls II being consistently at the top of the top having not been ranked below 4th place in the conference since Week 14. NYRBII came into the game with the high power offense in the Eastern Conference, scoring 64 goals, 15 more than Nashville and nearly 30 more than Indy. Indy came into the game as the stingiest defense in the league, giving up just 18 goals on the season. Indy also came into the game on a 20 game undefeated streak at Lucas Oil Stadium (21 home streak including the U.S. Open Cup game against Lansing Ignite) and allowing just 4 goals from opponents in 12 home games. Further fueling Indy was the desire to make amends for the 2-1 loss to NYRBII earlier in the year, while also gaining ground on the Eastern Conference leaders. The teams came into the game with nearly identical number of passes on the season, despite Indy having played 3 less games. However, Indy has an 80% accuracy rate, while NYRBII ranks last in the conference with 73%, a statistic that Indy wanted to continue to keep in their favor, jumping passing lanes. Indy managed to keep NYRBII below their average, including limiting them to 60% in Indy's half of the field.

To try and counteract NYRBII's high scoring offense, Coach Rennie employed the defensive midfield combo of Walker and Gibson, which he hadn't used since Drew Conner became a starter. The desire to keep NYRBII in check meant that the team needed guys to be more defensive minded, while looking to counter with Ilic and Pasher up top and Conner sitting underneath those two to serve as the connector between the defense and offense. With a couple games under his belt, Conner's effort and composure on the ball meant he was a good selection to be the box-to-box player the team needed against NYRBII. It also caused him to get another yellow card in his short stint here in Indy when he ran 40 yards to catch up to a NYRBII player only to catch him with his leg after sweeping the ball away.

In the 40th minute, Pasher single-handedly took on the NYRBII defense and nearly succeeded, with his shot sailing a bit high and wide. He followed it up a minute later with another run down the right side, but didn't get the shot he wanted, which nearly took out one of Lucas Oil Stadium's security personnel. With the way that Indy was attacking, either Ilic or Conner needed to run underneath Pasher when the backline sent a ball over the top for those moments when the NYRBII defenders headed the ball back away from Pasher. Without that runner, Indy consistently gave up possession and chances when Pasher didn't get to the ball.

An injury to Farias late in the first half force Coach Rennie to, twice in two games, adjust his substitution pattern ahead of schedule. Hackshaw didn't see the end of the first half against Louisville and an apparent thigh injury forced Farias to depart early tonight. Barely into the game, Farias' substitute King, was slow to close out Loebe who rocketed a shot off the crossbar in the closing seconds of the half, sending both teams to the lockers tied.

NYRBII swarmed Indy's attackers and midfielders, forcing Indy to be well below their season average for passing. Indy couldn't maintain the ball through its midfield, forcing them into long balls and errant passes. Indy had their highest percentage of long ball passes since April 28th, when they played...NYRBII. Couipled with Pasher's atypical ineffectiveness to close out his chances led to Indy's inability to get on the scoreboard until late in the game with the addition of Kelly and his fresh legs and a well placed header in the 83rd minute.

Kelly (routinely pointed out by the team as the USL's all-time leading scorer) went 14 games without scoring a goal, but has now scored twice in the past 4 games. I think it's important to note that his goals came in a substitute role and also occurred after the departure of Enevoldsen. If Kelly can find his form in a substitute role, that's exactly where he should be playing. Indy's defense is going to keep them close in all of the remaining games and having Kelly come on as a late game option after Pasher has ran the opposing defense ragged for 70 minutes is a nice option to have for Indy.

Indy's defense hunkered down and managed to keep NYRBII from finding the back of the net in the closing minutes, despite a final shot differential of 19 to 7. With the win, Indy move up in the table to third, while also maintaining three games in hand on NYRBII. Indy has struggled against the "top level" teams in the conference so getting this win is a great way to kick off a busy September schedule. Indy will now travel to Charleston on Saturday, subject to the weather from Hurricane Dorian, to continue the momentum created from this win.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Evan Newton gets the Game Beckons Game Ball for his effort against one of the most offensively-minded teams in the conference/league. While not all of NYRBII's 19 shots were threatening, Newton had to come up big on a few occasions, finishing with 6 saves, matching his highest number of saves for the season, which also came against NYRBII in April. NYRBII have scored 3 or more goals in 10 of their 27 games, scoring 5 goals 3 times and 8 goals once. They have been held scoreless just two other times this season; a 2-0 defeat to Tampa Bay in May and a 3-0 defeat to Pittsburgh in late June.They have scored 33 goals since last being held scoreless so for Newton to get another clean sheet for the season is a significant accomplishment.


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