Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Ottawa Fury - 06.26

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,047
- Final Score: 2-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Barrett (C), Ouimette, Gibson, Conner, Ayoze, King, Ilic, Pasher, Novoa
- Substitutions: Watson 65' (Novoa); Starikov 74' (Ilic), Kelly 87' (Pasher)
- Unused: Farr, Rodrigues, Perea, Osmond
- Goals: Ayoze 6' (assist Ilic); Ayoze 55' (assist Conner)
- Bookings: None
- Referee: Ismir Pekmic
- Adage goals: None

Indy and Ottawa have been competing against each other since 2014 when they both entered into the North American Soccer League. In that time, Ottawa has had the better of the results, with Indy getting 2 wins, 6 losses, and 3 draws and having been outscored 11 to 19 in those games. This was the teams' first meeting of 2019, but Ottawa came into Lucas Oil Stadium as the last team to get a win in the building, having secured a 1-nil win last July 4th. Ottawa has recently developed a tendency to play Indy on key national days now that they're both in the USL Championship. Last year the two teams played on Independence Day, while this year it was Patriot's Day. Unlike last year, Ottawa was unable to spoil the day as Indy scored twice and secured another clean sheet.

The stagnant offense that affected Indy versus Charleston was remedied with the reinsertion of Pasher and Conner back into the starting lineup. In the early moments, the game was a bit sloppy but tilted towards Indy's offensive end due to those two players, Ilic and Novoa. The pressure paid off when Ayoze took a 25 yard shot that deflected into the goal in the 6th minute, scoring his first goal of two goals on the night and his first goals not taken from the penalty spot.

Football lines affected the Ottawa goalkeeper when he caught the ball 19 yards from the end line. Yes, that's a foul and a yellow card for the Ottawa net minder. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to playing in Lucas Oil Stadium. Indy looked like they pulled something from the training ground with a touch from Ilic to Ayoze underneath Ilic to a left-footed shot from Pasher. It looked like it had a chance, but was deflected wide. "We worked on that one quite a long time ago so I'm surprised they remembered it. I'm glad they did and it worked good. Ultimately, you give players ideas and opportunities, but they have to be the decision makers on the field and they have the quality to do what they want to do and it was really unlucky not to score."

Photo: Don Thompson Photography
Novoa and Pasher routinely switched sides of the field and making similar runs against the Ottawa backline. Novoa doesn't quite have Pasher speed, but his pace troubled Ottawa defenders, particularly with them needing to be cognizant of where and when Pasher was making his runs. This pairing could be something dangerous moving forward as Novoa further settles in and gets more familiar with the rest of the team. The skill level is there, but Novoa just needs a little more time with the team to get on the same page. Coach Rennie agreed when I asked in the post-game press conference stating, "I thought, at times, they made a couple movements where they got into each other's space a little bit, but I think that's something that we can quickly rectify." Novoa looked fresh, even as he was being subbed out in the 65th minute, but Coach is continuing to manage minutes this month.

Ayoze. What more can you say about the guy that hasn't been said before? His first touch is impeccable. He places balls where they need to be placed. His effort is unquestionable. Tonight was no different. He was really hugging the touchline, creating width and allowing the trio of Pasher, Ilic, and Novoa to have space in the middle as he sent in crosses. He finished the game with 7 crosses and 6 chances created.

While the teams went into the locker room at halftime with a 1-nil score, the first half was dominated by the Eleven, holding a 60% - 40% possession advantage even though the game was predominantly in Indy's half of the field. Ottawa had five shots on goal to Indy's six in the first half, but none of Ottawa's shots really troubled Newton, who had 2 saves in the half. Indy were rewarded early with the deflection goal, but their effort outpaced Ottawa and their technical ability was higher as even Indy's defenders were able to move the ball around Ottawa players. Indy were more accurate with their passes at an 83% rate, whereas Ottawa was less than 72%.

The visitors from Canada came out in the 2nd half with more energy, but the 56th minute goal from Ayoze seemed to suck most of the rest of the life out of them, while Indy continued to press. Pasher nearly scored a goal seemingly seconds after the ball was placed back into play. Surprisingly, even with a two goal lead, Indy never settled into the Rennie Bunker (TM), continuing to push forward until late in the game, including a header from Ilic that bounced off the post in the 72nd minute and a chance from Ouimette in the 84th minute.

Photo: Don Thompson Photography
Ottawa did seem to get a 2nd life close to the 80th minute, getting two really good opportunities on goal, that went just wide and high, respectively. They also managed to keep Indy off the board for a third goal in the 84th minute on a goal line clearance that Ouimette could have done better with his effort and should have scored. Somehow, Ottawa finished with the same number of shots as Indy, but that seems like a deceiving statistic for this game.

It keeps being said, but with so many games in such a short time, managing player usage is important and the minutes Novoa received tonight will be beneficial moving forward. It's also important to get points where possible and continuing to get points at home is vital.

Indy finish the night tied on points with league leader New York Red Bulls II, still with a game in hand, but are officially in 2nd place due to goal differential. Indy will look to continue the good vibes on Saturday when they take on Bethlehem Steel and try to continue the home undefeated run.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Photo: Don Thompson Photography
I have to give the Game Beckons Game Ball to Ayoze. I feel bad giving it to him in back-to-back games, but when you're deserving, you get the awards. I'm a bit surprised that the first goal wasn't changed to an own goal for Ottawa, but it was a great strike and may have had a chance even without the deflection. It would be nice to see him get on the scoreboard more too as the season winds down, thereby creating one more option in the Eleven's toolbox of scorers.


Photo: Don Thompson Photography

Photo: Don Thompson Photography

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