Thursday, August 27, 2020

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City FC - 07.10

- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Lynn Family  Stadium
- Attendance: 4,851
- Final Score: 1-0 L

- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw (C), Osmond, Ouimette, Conner, Gibson, Lindley, Haworth, Carleton, Pasher, Moon

- Substitutions: Walker 78' (Conner), Ilic 78' (Carleton), Antley 78' (Haworth), Rafanello 87' (Lindley) 
- Unused: Farr, Dumas, Watson

- Scoring Summary:
LOU - Del Piccolo 61' (assist Hoppenot)

- Bookings:
IND - Gibson 37' (Yellow)
IND - Ouimette 75' (Yellow)
IND - Hackshaw 90'+7' (Yellow)

- Referee: Matthew Thompson
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions
The bad news is that Indy lost in Louisville. Again. Whether it was Louisville Slugger Field or the new Lynn Family Stadium, Indy has never managed a win across in Louisville, with a record of 0W-3D-3L and being outscored 10 - 5. In the past you could (and I did) argue that Slugger Field's conversion of a baseball field converted to a soccer field with an extremely narrow pitch and a large portion of it covered in a turf in the stadium's infield made it difficult for team's to overcome Louisville's familiarity with the stadium. That argument is gone.

The good news is that Indy doesn't have to play there again this season unless it occurs in the playoffs. The next two editions of the LIPAFC will take place in the friendly surroundings of Lucas Oil Stadium, where Indy's record against Louisville is 1W-1D-0L. 

The bad news is that Louisville is doing Louisville things and peaking at the end of the season. More bad news is that Indy's lead over the rest of Group E has dwindled to just 3 over Louisville, who has a game in hand. I still believe that Group E comes down to Indy and Louisville, even if Saint Louis has shown to be better than expected, as long as Indy and Louisville split the season. This is still possible if Indy can get a win in Indy in one of the two upcoming games against Louisville on September 5th and September 16th and draw the other. 

Indy's overall history with Louisville (2W-4D-5L), combined with what I saw tonight, make me wonder if a split is now possible. While the possession stats and the heat map make the game seem like it was a very even game, Indy was anemic in Louisville's final quarter of the field. With two teams as defensively strong as Indy and Louisville, it takes a concerted and concentrated effort to break it down. There were so many examples in this game where Indy would look to counter and Pasher or Moon would find themselves facing four or five Louisville players, forcing them to slow down the attack and realize that none of the rest of the offense was within 20 yards of them and everything would get cycled back into Indy's defensive half. When Louisville broke forward, they did it in numbers and they did it fast.

In the two games against Louisville, Indy has averaged 20% of their passes as long passes, while Louisville averaged 13%. For context, that number has been steadily growing for Indy throughout the season with it peaking at 30% in Pittsburgh in late July, coming immediately back down to 11% in Saint Louis, and then climbing back up to 22.5% the past two games. Some of last week's high number can be attributed to being a man down and trying to buy real estate to catch their breath. Yet, the trend remains as the reliance on Pasher for the offense and the bypassing of the midfield has continued. With Carleton's ability, I think he needed to see the ball more. However, with the slow speed at which Indy routinely went forward, it might not have made any difference how many touches he had. 

Indy generally does a great job of team defending, but there were questionable decisions during Louisville's play that led to their 61st minute goal. Indy doesn't make a lot of mistakes, but when they do, they seem to result in goals for their opponents. 

Indy has another 10 days of rest before they play Louisville again and Louisville will be coming off of 7 days rest so the game should be lacking in effort. LIPAFC 3.0 for the season will kick off 5 consecutive games at home for Indy, including the two against Louisville, two against Sporting Kansas City II, and one against Saint Louis. Indy find themselves in a better position in the table than they might have expected based on their early schedule and who they played in that schedule, but the four iterations of the LIPAFC in a six game span may determine how Group E finishes and Indy needs to get better results than they obtained tonight. Louisville has been on a run of 8 games at home, but if Indy doesn't get at least one win out of their next two games against Louisville, they may find themselves having to travel in their first game of the playoffs and Hartford has looked strong and the chances of beating Pittsburgh three times in a season seems daunting.

Must win next week? It may be.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
It may be back-to-back games, but Newton deserves it again. He came up with a few big saves and couldn't have done anything else with the goal that Louisville scored. He kept the team in the game.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds - 07.09

- Opponent: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Location: Lucas Oil Stadium
- Attendance: 5,748
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw (C), Osmond, Ouimette, Conner, Gibson, Ayoze, Lindley, Carleton, Pasher, Ilic

- Substitutions: Antley 56' (Carleton), Watson 57' (Ilic), Moon 82' (Pasher), 
- Unused: Farr, Haworth, Rafanello, Moon, Walker

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Pasher 13' (assist Carleton)

- Bookings:
IND - Ayoze 50' (RED)
PIT - Dos Santors 58' (Yellow)
IND - Watson 62' (Yellow)
IND - Gibson 81' (Yellow)
IND - Moon 86' (Yellow)

- Referee: Lukasz Szpala
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions
If you are one of those people that like to look at the statistics to get a feel for the game without watching the game, don't bother on this one. They aren't very helpful in telling you about the final result. Pittsburgh had more possession, more shots, more shots on target, 57.1% shooting accuracy, 23 crosses, and as can be seen from the heat map, the majority of the game was played firmly in the Indy Eleven half of the field. 

A 50th minute red card on Indy Eleven's Ayoze will do that.

A red card that resulted from a called handball on a goal line clearance from a shot on goal after a Pittsburgh corner kick. As an Indy fan who has seen it in replays, I can rationalize that Ayoze wasn't at fault because he headed it first and it ricocheted into his arm, even if it was in an "unnatural" position; a position that could be argued was because he was putting his arm out to protect himself from hitting his head on the goal post. However, from a ref's perspective, without the advantage of replay, it's a card he had to give. I would argue that some of his other cards to Indy players were unnecessary, but the red card was the appropriate decision.  

Fortunately for Indy, Newton went the correct direction on the penalty kick and made one of his very sparse 3 saves, given that Indy spent 47 minutes of game time down a man. As Rakestraw has pointed out on numerous occasions, Newton isn't always required to make numerous saves, but he is asked to make a few key saves. He did that tonight, keeping Indy with their one goal lead. 

Then the Rennie Bunker (TM) was in full effect. Pasher dropped into the left back position temporarily until the coaching staff could make the changes that they wanted to make for a man down situation. Despite how well Carleton and Ilic had been playing, Coach Rennie brought on Watson and Antley to drop Indy into a 5-3-1 formation, with Pasher the lone man up top for the periodic ball to chase. Otherwise, it was all men back to defend and defend some more. 

With Indy having a one goal advantage thanks to a 13th minute goal from Pasher on a one-touch assist from Carleton, there was little need to push forward unless the opportunity was absolutely available. Otherwise, it was defend and blast the ball up field to relieve pressure. This game marked just the second time that Indy surpassed the 20% long pass mark, with the other game coming against Pittsburgh earlier this year. 

With Indy now off until they play August 26th against Louisville, the guys can get some rest knowing that they have survived their out of group schedule with a 4W-0D-0L record. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
There are so many guys that could receive this for this game. I continue to appreciate the pairing of Conner and Gibson in the midfield and all three subs brought the energy that was needed after the red card, but I have to give this game's Game Beckons Game Ball to Evan Newton. He made a good save in the first half and his penalty kick save is what kept the team defending for a win instead of defending for a draw. The save made all the difference in the guy's mentality when facing the prospect of a half's worth of playing time down a man.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City FC - 07.08

- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Lynn Family Stadium
- Attendance: 4,850
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Barrett (C), Ouimette, Conner, Gibson, Ayoze, Antley, Carleton, Pasher, Ilic

- Substitutions: Watson 74' (Carleton), Moon 74' (Ilic)
- Unused: Farr, Osmond, Dumas, Rafanello, Lindley

- Scoring Summary:
LOU - Williams 3' (assist Matsoso)
IND - Pasher 59' (assist Carleton)

- Bookings:
IND - Hackshaw 43' (Yellow)
IND - Barrett 55' (Yellow)

- Referee: Calin Radosav
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions
Indy Eleven came into the game with the prospect of facing the defending Eastern Conference champion Louisville City FC a total of 4 times in the next 6 games; twice at home, twice away. In the most recent iteration of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest, Indy headed across the river where the Eleven held a 0W-2D-2L record in the Derby City. While the club hasn't seen much success playing in Louisville, LCFC also hasn't had much success at Lynn Family Stadium, with a 1W-0D-3L record in their brand new stadium. Yet, both teams knew that positive results, but particularly a win, would be important. A LCFC win would have put themselves back into the race of Group E, while an Indy win would have put them 8 points clear of 2nd place Saint Louis. 

Indy started the game as if they were wanting to let LCFC enjoy some success at home. For their part, LCFC started the game like they were tired of not winning in their new stadium and had an effective high press that led to an early goal in just the 3rd minute of play on a well played cross from Matsoso that Speedy Williams headed back across the goal and out of the reach of Newton. Multiple, uncharacteristic giveaways by Indy's back 3 early (and by many players throughout the game) nearly led to a 2nd goal within the 6th minute. The first 10 minutes looked like Indy was still thinking about the last loss against Sporting KC II and look completely outmatched by LCFC. 

Indy began to settle into the game a bit after the 15 minute mark, but LCFC's press created a lot of confusion and scrambling from the Indy defense. Multiple occasions resulted in Ilic, Conner, and Gibson dropping back into the defensive third to try and help with the group defending and providing a clearance.

For extended segments of the game, Indy's decision making in the final third was slow, giving LCFC time to get back into position and be organized against Indy's attack. Conversely, LCFC's intent going forward was much quicker than Indy's defense; resulting in frantic recoveries from Indy. 

Totsch did an impressive job of keeping the league's leading goal scorer, Pasher, from getting any clean touches and not allowing Pasher to run past him with the ball. However, everybody lost site of him in the 59th minute as Carleton received the ball on the right side, looked up, and put a well placed ball behind the back line and in front of Lundt that Pasher was able to run onto and push into the goal. The Pasher goal changed the tenor of the game as Indy knew that a point in Louisville wasn't a poor result and LCFC worked to get the three points. 

The effort, energy, recovery, and decision making of Conner and Gibson make them my preferred dual holding midfield pairing for the Indy Eleven. Coach Rennie has toyed with some other pairings throughout the season, but the Conner/Gibson lineup works the best for me. Maybe it's the chemistry they have developed by being roommates, but having Conner in the lineup brings something to the midfield that Indy fans don't get with the other holding midfielders; a true box-to-box midfielder. 

Indy has a week off before playing Pittsburgh at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 15th, before heading back down to Louisville on the 26th. Indy should be able to get a lot out of the video review of this game, but getting positive results in Louisville in such a short period of time will be difficult. Indy recently had a 5 game in 15 days stretch, and while that run of games was difficult from a personnel and fitness perspective, this current stretch of LCFC-PIT-LCFC-LCFC-SKCII-LCFC will be difficult to achieve positive results from a team that you see so many times in a short duration. By that forth game, Rakestraw and Hauter are going to have to find out birthdays of the players families just so they have new things to discuss during the game. 
A 1-1 draw in Louisville after going down a goal in the 3rd minute is a result that made the bus ride home a little easier. It also keeps Indy 6 points clear of 2nd place Saint Louis (who does have a game in hand). It may not have been the full 3 points, but the point helps keep Indy up top and in control of their destiny.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I know I nearly gave the Game Beckons Game Ball to the holding midfielder duo of Conner and Gibson a couple games ago and that I talked about them above. Yet, I'm still going to give it to them this game. On a night when the back three didn't have their best game as a collective unit, Conner and Gibson picked up a lot of slack, while also helping push forward when they could. Carleton and Pasher may have been the players to bring the game level, but I don't think they would have had that chance if it hadn't been for Conner & Gibson's effort for the rest of the game.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Indy Eleven vs Sporting KC II - 07.07

- Opponent: Sporting KC II
- Location: Lucas Oil Stadium
- Attendance: 5,409
- Final Score: 0-1 L

- Starting XI: Farr, Hackshaw, Barrett (C), Osmond, Walker, Gibson, Dumas, Antley, Lindley, Pasher, Moon

- Substitutions: Ilic 46' (Moon), Conner 46' (Walker), Ayoze 59' (Dumas), Watson 59' (Antley), Carleton 77' (Lindley)
- Unused: Newton, Ouimette

- Scoring Summary:
SCKII - Barbir 70' (assist King)

- Bookings:
SKCII - Rad 50' (Yellow)
SKCII - Duke 76' (Yellow)
IND - Ayoze 88' (Yellow)
IND - Osmond 90'+7' (Yellow)

- Referee: Youssef Elmessoussi
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions
Writing about a home loss is something that hasn't happened in over two years. Indy Eleven haven't lost a regular season home game since July 4th, 2018 against Ottawa Fury. A span of 29 games that puts Indy in the top of the USL record books for home regular season undefeated streaks. A span of games that included just 7 draws, the last of which was a 1-1 draw against Louisville City FC in June of last year. 

Indy has made a habit of winning their home games throughout the club's history. Tonight's game was Indy's 99th home game in the club's history. With the loss, Indy now has a 50W-26D-23L regular season home record, meaning that 74% of the time, Indy has come away with points. If you take out the inaugural 2014 season where Indy struggled to get wins until the unforgettable night against Minnesota, that number goes to 81% of the time that Indy gets a positive result at home. 

Yet, Sporting KC II came into Indy on a week where they had a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday schedule and managed a win in Louisville on Wednesday and high pressed the entire game with a bunch of teenagers and young twenty year olds. Indy, on the other hand, one-upped SKCII by coming into the game with a Saturday-Wednesday-Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday schedule. Even with Indy's depth at all positions, that's a rough schedule, and Indy looked tired at times. Walker and Moon only played the first half and Farr picked up his first playing time of the year in place of Newton, so Coach Rennie was clearly conscientious and concerned about the effort his squad was going to be able to perform tonight against the young talented guys from SKCII.

Indy was (is) the better team.  Indy have played a couple more games than the rest of Group E, but they still have a 6 point lead over 2nd place Saint Louis and a 9 point lead over SKCII and LCFC with 6 more home games remaining. The loss isn't the end of the world for this team, but sometimes the schedule just works against you.

The SKCII goal in the 70th minute came from an effective counter attack, but there was a distinct difference in the 1st and 2nd half for the Eleven. Indy definitely tilted the field towards the SKCII goal after the halftime break, but it became even more pronounced after the SKCII goal. Indy just couldn't finish the chances like they have in other games. 

Tyler Pasher was again met with triple team defending so there are going to be openings for other guys to showcase their talents and scoring abilities. However, on a night where nobody was that well rested from the last two week's schedule and the opponent has the ability to high-press you non-stop for 90 minutes (a tactic that we've seen used effectively over the years by NYRBII), preventing them from scoring and finding your own chances can be difficult.

Indy now get a full week to rest and work on some things in training that they haven't been able to do the past two weeks, just in time for the first installment in 2020 of the LIPAFC, as Indy head down to Louisville's new Lynn Family Stadium to attempt to maintain the road teams' successes at the new stadium. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Most of the time, I give the GBGB to the player that I think had an excellent game. This was another hard game to choose that player. So tonight's Game Beckons Game Ball goes to Jordan Farr. You never want to be the goalkeeper during a game where the team loses for the first time at home in two years. Nor do you want to be the player that the club front office decide is going to be the player representative during the press conference after the loss. Yet, Farr took it like a champ. He heaped praise on the coaching staff for believing in him. He heaped praise on Newton for being one of the best keepers in the league year after year. He heaped praise on the fans who are able to make it to the games to support the team. Jordan was the consummate professional after a difficult loss. So I'm going to reward him for that effort and mentality.