Sunday, October 27, 2019

Indy Eleven vs New York Red Bulls II - 06.35 - USL Playoffs (Conference Quarterfinals)

- Opponent: New York Red Bulls II
- Location: Indianapolis (Carroll Stadium)
- Attendance: 5,175
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Farr, Hackshaw, Barrett (C), Ouimette, Gibson, Walker, Conner, Ayoze, King, Pasher, Kelly
- Substitutions: Watson 76' (Kelly), Novoa 85' (Pasher)
- Unused: Brown, Osmond, Perea, Starikov, Ilic,
- Goals: Ouimette 27' (assist King)
- Bookings: None (for either team...)
- Referee: Michael Radchuk
- Adage goals: None

With ten days rest and planning for this game, Indy faced New York Red Bulls II in their first game of the USL Championship playoffs and their first game at Carroll Stadium since the end of the 2017 season. For all of its charm, and there were many fans ecstatic to be headed back to Carroll Stadium for this game, The Mike can be torture on game plans and tactics when the weather becomes a factor.

The weather became a factor.

A constant rain throughout the day created a surface that was soaked and fast. As Brad Hauter indicated on the telecast, "make the mistakes in your opponent's half of the field."

To his point, Indy often played the ball over the top with long passes, with a season low effectiveness to show for it. Indy played long passes nearly 33% of the time, but passes routinely skipped away from receiving players. The Eleven managed just 48.8% passing accuracy, while RBII managed just slightly better at 58.2%. Indy's accuracy in RBII's half plummeted down to a paltry 36.1% success rate. Some of that was the weather, some of that was the result of the Rennie Bunker (TM) and blast at the end of the game, but Indy also made a clear choice in how they wanted to play on that surface and where they were willing to make mistakes.

One of those long passes came off a restart that RBII also blasted out of their area only to have Paddy Barrett recycle it back into the mix on a long diagonal ball towards King. King perfectly one-touched his centering pass, and Ouimette showed his skill level with a side volley that went opposite side netting past Louro. NYRBII pleaded for an offside call, but it appears that King timed his run well to get to Barrett's pass. I've watched Barrett practice these long diagonal balls before games so it is clearly something that is part of the plan and something that he has learned to do well. When his pass doesn't reach its intended target it is generally met with a frustrated reaction from Barrett.

Ouimette's 27th minute goal proved to be the game winner as Indy could never find another goal, managing just 5 shots (1 on target), while also limiting RBII to just 9 shots (also just 1 on target). In a night of high scoring playoff games in which the winning team scored 3 or more goals in 5 of the 8 games, Indy held on for a 1-nil win. Given that RBII were the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference and the 3rd highest in the league, it's all the more impressive that Indy kept them scoreless. RBII were shutout just 6 times all season. Two of those were against Indy. If the old saying that "defense wins championships" is true, Indy's ability to keep RBII off the board may serve as a springboard for the rest of the playoffs.

What can we take from this win against NYRBII? Confidence, but that may be about it. It was an ugly game under poor conditions on a field that was basically new to all 27 guys who took the field. It's doubtful that Indy will want to continue next week versus Nashville conceding so much possession or continue to spray balls long one-third of the time they touch it. Indy played Nashville to a nil-nil draw in May in Indy and then played to a 2-nil loss in July in Nashville.

The point of the playoffs is to survive and advance and Indy did that against RBII under adverse conditions and can now set their sights on Nashville SC. Indy will look to remedy their road form against a team who finished the regular season on a 6-game undefeated streak and a 4-game win streak. Including their recent home playoff game, Nashville played their final three regular season games at home and have scored 10 goals in that four game stretch. Again, if Indy wants to move forward in the playoffs, their stingy defense is likely going to be the main reason they advance against Nashville.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I thought about this for awhile and could never really settle on a single player that I felt should get the game ball. Ouimette for his goal. Farr for a clean sheet in his first playoff start. Kelly and Pasher for continually chasing down long balls. Ayoze's and Conner's effort. Walker's and Gibson's help defense in front of the back 3. Hackshaw, Barrett, and Ouimette for helping facilitate that clean sheet for Farr. This game truly required a team effort against a top team in bad conditions. So, in what I believe is a first for me, I'm going to give this game's Game Beckons Game Ball to the entire team.

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