Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Indy Eleven vs Saint Louis FC - 07.14


- Opponent: Saint Louis FC
- Location: Lucas Oil Stadium
- Attendance: 5,664
- Final Score: 1-1 D

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

- Substitutions: Ilic 61' (Gibson), Rafanello 79' (Moon), Watson 87' (Conner), Carleton 88' (Ayoze)
- Unused: Farr, Antley, Osmond

- Scoring Summary:
STL - Cicerone 50' (assist Blackwood)
IND - Hackshaw 72' (assist Ayoze)

- Bookings:
STL - Wharton 4' (Yellow); 75' (Yellow) - RED
STL - Greig 45' (Yellow)
STL - Adewole 45'+2' (Yellow)
STL - Fink 45'+4' (Yellow); 61' (Yellow) - RED
IND - Conner 55' (Yellow)
IND - Hackshaw 64' (Yellow)

- Referee: Lukasz Szpala
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Saint Louis plays in a way that makes them comfortable sitting back and absorbing play and counter-attacking at key moments. The first half consisted entirely of that style of play. Indy had 7 shots on goal, forcing Morton into 6 saves.  Conversely, Saint Louis' less than 40% of possession in the first half resulted in just one easy save from Newton. Indy's one shot off target was from Moon who couldn't put a Pasher cross on frame from inside the six yard box.

Indy pushed their tempo a little more in the second half early, nearly getting a goal within the first couple of minutes when a non-call on Moon in the box (probably the correct call) bunched the Saint Louis defenders and Cam Lindley stole the ball from the group and proceeded to put a ball across the six that Pasher ushered just outside of the right post. 

Yet, against the run of play, Indy gave up a ball in the 50th minute in the Saint Louis box and Saint Louis sprinted to the other end, with Cicerone ultimately slotting a ball past Newton and turning a dominant performance by Indy on its head. Much like Coach Rennie's comment last week, "Even sometimes when we hardly made a mistake, we’ve been punished, and when we’ve had chances, we’ve not taken them," Indy found themselves trailing after making very few mistakes. In this one, nobody tracked back with Cicerone as Greig opened some space for Cicerone to run into. Blackwood had an easy pass to the middle of the field where Cicerone could shoot at the goal uncontested.

Then a second yellow to Fink in the 61st minute once again turned the game on it head. Just before the card to Fink, Indy had subbed in Ilic for Gibson, in a clear plan to get more players in the attack. The red card tilted the field in Indy's favor and their persistence paid off when Indy was finally able to put the ball past Morton in the 71st minute. In a typical Conner play, he hustled down a ball in the corner, that led to him being fouled. The ensuing free kick led to a short corner, which Haworth (who took the free kick) played quickly to Ayoze who sent a perfect cross to the back post that Hackshaw headed into the goal.

Less than 5 minutes later and a second yellow on Wharton put Indy up two men with plenty of time to get a victory. Throw in what became 10 minutes of stoppage time and Indy had 25 minutes with a two-man advantage to get the game-winning goal. In that timeframe, Indy managed another 7 shots, but only forced Morton into a single save in the entire second half, even with the man advantage. 

Twenty-five minutes of a two-man advantage and Indy finishes the game in a 1-1 draw, but also not taking ahold of 2nd place in the Group that they absolutely needed to take with this game. Now their path to the playoffs looks even more daunting after looking like they were going to easily make it based on their results in the first portion of this season. Rakestraw reminded us on the telecast that the last time Indy had a two-man advantage was in 2015 against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. That game also resulted in a tie, thanks to a 97th minute goal by Kyle Hyland. What Rakestraw didn't mention was that the draw was the final nail in the coffin on Coach Sommer as head coach. While I don't expect that to happen here (and a former high ranking front office staff member agrees with me), the #RennieOut crowd has not been happy with the past month of results and have started to become more vocal.

I said it last week and I'll say it again this week, this team misses the services of a proper striker who can be, and is, in the right place at the right time. For all of Indy's talents, to me that is the piece that just isn't there and it's not something that Coach Rennie seems to want to find or know how to utilize properly; see Dane Kelly as the league's all-time leading scorer and 2nd leading scorer this season as an example of the latter. With the way that Indy plays and the way that Saint Louis was forced to play down two men, Pasher's goal scoring strengths were completely neutralized. I began to think that it would have been better to drop him back into a defenders role (which is where he started in Indy so he's capable back there) and put Hackshaw or Ouimette up top to get their head on one of the 29 crosses Indy had for the game. While it seems counterintuitive to put Indy's top goal scorer out of a goal scoring position, Pasher isn't likely to get a 1v1 situation where he can run past the defender nor is he going to get many goals from his head. Indy needed a different way to attack the goal.  

An ongoing refrain from Coach Rennie in the post-game press conferences, which is stated again tonight is, "We created a lot of chances tonight and I think we need to be a little bit more clinical with those chances, there’s no doubt about that." I want to believe that some of these guys have that ability, but chatting with former Indy Eleven player Eamon Zayed after the game, he too doesn't see a true striker on the roster and also thinks it's the piece that is missing. In his words, "if you play without an actual 9, then you better have two wide forwards to score 10+ goals and Indy only has one!!!!! [Indy is] a 10+ goal man short of being a title winning team!"

So without a true number 9 nor a second 10+ goal scoring wide forward, are we seeing the pinnacle of where Indy can reach? Who knows, but tonight's draw makes it much more difficult for them to even be in this year's playoffs, much less have success in them if they get there. I was asked today my thoughts about the game before it started. I responded with, "I'm not sure if this is a must-win game, but it's definitely a must-draw game. Given that it's at home, it needs to be a win." Indy can still make the playoffs if some other results go their way (a Louisville vs Saint Louis game on Saturday with Saint Louis missing some players because of tonight's red cards is big), but Indy needs to consider the final two games of the season as "must-win" games to help keep their fate somewhat in their control. 

Indy returns to action next Wednesday against Sporting Kansas City II, who are now just playing for pride and to ruin other team's chances. Regardless, they have already proven they can win in Indy and the Eleven shouldn't take them lightly. By this time next week, we should have a better understanding of the importance of the final game of the season in Saint Louis. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
If you're a defender and you get the goal that pulls a draw out of a come-from-behind scenario, you get the Game Beckons Game Ball. Congrats Hackshaw.

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