Sunday, July 12, 2020

Indy Eleven vs Saint Louis FC - 07.02

- Opponent: Saint Louis FC
- Location: Indianapolis Lucas Oil Stadium
- Attendance: 4,761 (the infamous distributed tickets value...)
- Final Score: 2-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Barrett (C), Ouimette, Conner, Gibson, Ayoze, Haworth, Carleton, Pasher, Moon
- Substitutions: Watson 69' (Carleton), Ilic 80' (Moon), Osmond 84' (Barrett)
- Unused: Farr, Antley, King, Walker
- Scoring Summary:
IND – Pasher (assist Carleton) 52’
IND - Hackshaw (assist Ayoze) 79'
- Bookings:
- Referee: Calin Radosav
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions
I'm going to start this by saying that I wasn't at the game and that I question the playing of games entirely. I appreciate the fact that people's livelihoods are on the line here. I understand people's desires to try and get back to some kind of normal. I'm just not convinced we're there yet and we're potentially setting ourselves up for an extended "social distancing" life because people aren't taking it seriously enough. I saw people in the stands without masks on. I don't get that. I miss being at games. We all do. Yet I couldn't get beyond my personal opinion of how I've witnessed people behaving for me to attend the game in person. Maybe at some point, but I'm not there yet.

I was glad to see the players standing up for Black Lives Matter. This is an important moment in the history of the country and I hope that we're finally moving in a direction that addresses the issues we've had for too long in this country. They're small steps at this point, but they're small steps that have needed to be taken for far too long.

No, onto the game itself...

With tonight's win, the Indy Eleven haven't lost in Lucas Oil Stadium in over 2 years. In a shortened 16 game season (one pre-shutdown and 15 post-shutdown), that's a useful stat to have in your back pocket with 10 of the 15 games taking place at home. Add in the ability to have 5 substitutes with Indy's depth in every position, and it will be unfortunate if the Eleven don't make it into the post-season. To do that, I've mentioned before that I thought Indy needed to take as many points as they can from Saint Louis and Sporting KC II and then hope to split the season with Louisville to clinch their spot. Indy took the first step in that tonight by not only getting a win against Saint Louis, but also keeping the clean sheet to help with the goal differential, which could come into play at the end of the year.

If you look at the heat map from this game, it would appear that this game was played predominantly in the midfield, but Indy won in all of the major statistical categories. They nearly doubled Saint Louis in shots and shots on goal, won the possession and aerial duels battle, and completed more than 80% of their passes. Most people will argue that it isn't just possession, but where you have that possession and what you do with that possession. Indy took their possession and methodically moved it up the field to put themselves in dangerous situations, with just enough of the long passes to Pasher, Moon, and Carleton to keep reminding Saint Louis that Indy has one of (the?) fastest players in the league with Pasher. I enjoy a distribution map that looks as green as what Indy was able to create tonight.

Indy's distribution and attack led to 13 shots and 8 shots on goal in the first half alone and 19 and 9 for the game.  Indy's attack came from multiple sources as even Barrett had a 40 yard shot that forced a good save from Morton in just the 9th minute of action, signifying the extent to which Indy was going to try and break down Saint Louis' compact defense. 

Yet, for all of the distribution and passes from Indy, their goals came from a long pass or a set piece cross. The first goal was a 40-yard pass from Carleton to Pasher, who the performed his normal magic trick of making a defender think he's going to his right, only to get it back to his left and put it under the keeper. The second goal was a 30-yard set piece cross from Ayoze that was perfectly placed in a spot over the defense, but that kept Morton planted on his line. 

As we saw last season, teams can know the scouting report and still can't stop it. 
  • Pasher wants to go to his left. Force him to his right. He might still beat you, but you're giving yourself a chance. In the moment though, when he's going at a defender with more speed than a player is used to seeing, the ball fakes seem to work.
  • Ayoze is dangerous on free kicks. Okay, teams can't prepare for his placement. I'll give them that one.
  • Indy is going to stay organized defensively and if you're going to attack it, you need to do it in numbers. Saint Louis did that a few times, but just couldn't do it consistently enough to overcome a goal, and then two goal, deficit.  
What teams don't have in the scouting report is the effort and ability of Carleton and Moon have added to this team and the pressure that Haworth on the right side is going to take off of Pasher on the left side. They saw a glimpse of what the new additions are going to bring to this year's squad and it should concern opposing teams. Indy was good last year and they have additional pieces that are going to make them even harder to beat, particularly given their home form.

Sporting KC II comes to Indy next weekend and Indy needs to continue taking points from the teams not named Louisville City FC to put themselves in the best position at the end of this sprint season.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
It has to be Pasher, right? 85% pass right, 5 shots, 3 shots on goal, and his goal turned the game from "promising" to a nearly certain win. Hackshaw's goal put the game out of reach for Saint Louis, but it was Pasher's goal that showed that teams can game plan around him, but he can still beat them and Indy has found weapons around him to take off some of the pressure.

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