Thursday, October 17, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Swope Park Rangers - 06.34

- Opponent: Swope Park Rangers
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,251
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Farr, Osmond, Barrett (C), Ouimette, Gibson, Walker, Conner, Ayoze, Pasher, Novoa, Kelly
- Substitutions: Hackshaw 46' (Osmond), Ilic 62' (Novoa); Perea 83' (Kelly)
- Unused: Brown, Starikov, Rodrigues, Watson
- Goals: Kelly 56' (assist Ayoze); Kelly 67' (assist Walker)
- Bookings: Osmond 23' (Yellow); Conner 40' (Yellow); Hackshaw 61' (Yellow)
- Referee: Chris Ruska
- Adage goals: One

Swope Park came into Lucas Oil Stadium looking to cleanse their palate after losing to Louisville City FC by a score of 8-3 after being ahead 3-nil. With that mentality, SPR hung around in the first half, but Indy had the bulk of the chances and possession. Regardless, SPR's ability to stick around in the first half forced Indy to work harder than they would have preferred given that a draw in this game was enough to secure a home playoff game for the club. The first half was physical with the referee showing 5 yellow cards between the two teams; Indy with 2 and SPR with 3.

Coach Rennie made no changes to his lineup from the game against Tampa Bay, with the exception of starting Pasher again in place of Ilic. This consistency provided one of the most interchanging between the midfielders and forwards than I can remember this season as players routinely switched sides and lines throughout the game. However, it also meant that guys are going to have to use the break between this game and the, now official, home playoff game on the 26th to get any kind of rest. While Indy fans had to adjust their schedules because of the Colts booting the Eleven from playing on the 19th, Indy became the first team to complete their season and as a result, have a few extra days rest.

Even Hackshaw, who had been on international duty and only flew back into town earlier in the day (from my understanding), saw time thanks to one of those first half yellows going to Osmond who received numerous warnings from the referee. Not wanting to take the chance of playing yet another game down a man, the coaching staff subbed Osmond out at halftime. Personally, I would have preferred to see Rennie bring on Watson or Starikov, adjusted the forward and midfield lines, and slid Ayoze back as the left back, a position he routinely played last year. Hackshaw played well given his travel and lack of rest, but he could have used a full ninety minutes off right before the playoffs after his international duties.

Indy pressed everything in the first half, looking to force the SPR back line and goalkeeper into a poor touch and finished the half as much in SPR's defensive half as they were in their own half versus Tampa Bay. A striking difference between playing one of the conference leaders at their house and the bottom of the conference at your house and the tactics that Coach Rennie employs under those two scenarios.

Indy's effort and possession led to a slight advantage in shots at half, but Indy's final touch around goal was all they were missing. Doing everything correct up to that point, but couldn't get their shots on target. I would like to have seen Indy attempt more shots from around 25 yards straight out from the goal as SPR was consistently slow at closing down the ball in that location. Though when Indy received the ball in that area, it was generally Gibson and Walker, who are unlikely to shoot, so maybe that was why SPR was slow to close down the player.

SPR spent a lot of time chasing and defending, which meant that if Indy didn't get a goal in the first half, SPR was going to wear down in the 2nd half, potentially leading to multiple late goals. Indy managed to get two goals in the 2nd half, but the affect of wearing down SPR was seen more in their production rather than Indy's production. SPR managed just two shots in the 2nd half, one of which was the goal in the 57th minute. The goal that happened one minute after Indy put themselves ahead in the 56th minute on a goal by Kelly.

One minute later. Seriously?

Seriously. That takes Doug Starne's adage goal theory to the extreme.

Kelly going airborne during his 2nd goal
Photo Credit: @DLTPhotog
Luckily, Indy wasn't content with playing out the rest of the game and settling for the draw and continued to press forward. While it only created a goal advantage with more than thirty minutes left in the game, Kelly's 67th minute goal seemed to provide a calming feeling in the crowd that the game was going to be a win for Indy.

With the win, Indy clinched a home playoff game and finished the season undefeated at Lucas Oil Stadium, and at home in general including their U.S. Open Cup victory against Lansing Ignite at the Sellick Bowl on the campus of Butler University. Announced earlier in the week by the front office, Carroll Stadium will once again be home for Indy Eleven as their playoff game(s) will happen at the former home of the team. When I asked Coach Rennie after the game if he felt Carroll Stadium could still provide a home field advantage given that only a few of the current players on the roster have played at the stadium, all while they were visiting players with other teams, and if he had any plan to reach out to former local players Brad Ring or Jon Busch for ways to handle the field.
“I think it’s home field advantage in the sense that, over the years, Indy Eleven has done really well in that stadium. I think that the crowd are even more of a factor in that stadium – I think it’ll be sold out, I think it’ll be a really hectic atmosphere, and I think that will be a big positive for us. We’ll have to adapt to some things, but I feel good about it. I’m really happy to be at home. We’ve had so many away games in recent times and those are difficult because you don’t have a normal routine, you’re waking up in a strange place, you don’t have the feeling like you do at home. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for us."
Photo Credit: @DLTPhotog
Indy is locked into the 3rd place finish in the Eastern Conference and will face either Tampa Bay Rowdies, New York Red Bulls II, or Louisville City FC depending on the results of the weekend. Given that Lou City has as many or more players/coaches on their roster that have played at Carroll Stadium, have had success there, and can bring their own contingent of fans, I have my reservations about Indy's home field advantage against them. Indy looked like the far inferior team against Tampa Bay less than a week ago. With the way that NYRBII have played of late (having lost 4 of their last 5), they might be the team that Indy would want to face as they start the playoffs.

All 3 of Indy's opponents play on Saturday night so they won't need to wait until the final game of the regular season on Sunday (Birmingham vs Pittsburgh) to know their opponent. Will a week's preparation and a few extra days of rest be enough to have more success in the playoffs than last year? The team set season club records this year for Wins (19), Road Wins (6), Points (63), Shutouts (13), was unbeaten at home, and have conceded the 2nd fewest in the USL Championship. A win in the playoffs is the next progression and hurdle for this team to clear.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Photo Credit: @DLTPhotog
Kelly gets the nod for this game. For all his struggles this year to consistently find the back of the goal, he has moved himself into some elite company in the club's record books for scorers. Kelly's brace makes him just the 4th player in club history to achieve multiple braces in a season, joining company with Zayed, Braun, and McInerney. He's now 5th in Game Winning goals and tied for 5th in Career Goals. For a prolific scorer, it helps to see the ball go in. For a prolific scorer to score 3 goals in the final two games of the regular season, that's a promising sign for Indy.

Photos (all by @DLTPhotog)

No comments: