Sunday, May 23, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Sporting Kansas City II - 08.03


- Opponent: Sporting Kansas City II
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 3,999
- Final Score: 2-0 W

- Starting XI: Farr, Hackshaw, Cochran, Timmer, Sissoko, Law, Moon, Ayoze, Arteaga, Wild, Hamilton

- Substitutions: Seagrist 69' (Ayoze); Smith 76' (Hamilton); Vassell 77' (Wild); Buckmaster 90' (Moon); Gutjahr 90' (Koffie)

- Unused: Edwards, Ouimette

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Hamilton 53' (assist Wild)
IND - Arteaga 65' (assist Wild)

- Bookings:
SKC - Resetar 48' (Yellow)

- Referee: Matthew Corrigan
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

There aren't a lot of guys still on the roster that were around when Indy Eleven lost to Sporting Kansas City II last September, when the team lost 2-1. While that lost didn't ultimately seal their fate in missing the playoffs, it was a loss that provided an extra level of pressure when the team faced Saint Louis the next week. So while most of the players didn't have come into the game with any extra motivation to right the wrong of last year, Coach Rennie remembers and the starting lineup had the look of a manager that had a perfervid desire to prove this is a different team. We've been used to seeing Indy in a 3-5-2 type lineup, but with a fully healthy Hamilton, Rennie unleashed as much of his attacking weapons as he could squeeze onto the field. The official lineup from the team called it a 4-4-2, but it definitely played like a 3-4-3. Indy always falls back into a back 5 in defense, but they were going to go forward and they were going to go forward with numbers. Hamilton routinely had his back to goal with good hold-up play, Wild showed something that we haven't seen since Pasher's departure; an ability, and an overwhelming desire, to attack players 1 v 1, and Arteaga has a high motor and is unafraid to take his shot from all kinds of angles and locations. This lineup, with this group of players, was anything but the Rennie Bunker (TM).

And yet...

Indy Eleven First 27 Min Distribution Chart
In the early part of the game, the team looked like the teams we have seen in the past with long passes and long diagonal passes. There were so many in fact in the first 25 or so minutes of the game that I made a note of it and asked Rennie about it in the post-game press conference. I wondered if they had seen something in the video that they felt they could exploit. Nope. Just what the players felt was available. Whatever it was that they felt was available in that first third of the game, they significantly reduced those long diagonal balls the rest of the game. 

Before I get into the second half, I want to take a minute to discuss a couple of the other notes I wrote down during the game.

At some point Ayoze is going to reach 50 years old and retire from the game of soccer. Until then, Indy fans can only hope that he decides that he and his family want to stay in Indy and continue to play the left winger role. Until Hackshaw either gets the next Indy to MLS transfer or someone else decides to pay him more than Indy is capable of paying, Indy likely has the best left side of any team in the USL. If you aren't appreciating what they are bringing to this team, this is my reminder to value the high level of soccer those two guys are bringing to this team.

Second note - I was unable to attend the first home game (or the 2019 playoff games) so this was my first time back to Carroll Stadium since 2017. I absolutely missed the fans' ritual of stomping on the metal stands during the team's corner kicks. It's something that grew out organically in the early days of the team and has continued after the return to Soccer's Greatest Dive Bar. I don't know any of the details of what Eleven Park may include, but I doubt they will include metal stands. As I sat in the press box and felt the vibration of the stands, I had a brief moment of elation as I remembered how many games I've felt the stands vibrate underneath me, followed by a moment of sadness that an upgrade in stadium (which I want to be clear) will forever silence a fan tradition.

Now, back to better thoughts.

Photo Credit - Matt Schlotzhauer
Both teams entered the locker room at a stalemate, at least from the scoreboard perspective. SKCII had the possession advantage, but that's the only place where they led. Indy led 6 shots to 1, with a 2 to 0 advantage on shots on goal. Indy doubled SKCII in corner kicks 4 to 2. SKCII did lead in fouls committed, hammering Indy with 12 fouls to Indy's 5. Indy left the locker room with an apparent adjustment in tactics from Rennie that told the team to press more and press higher. No matter where an SKCII player touched the ball, an Indy player put them under pressure. That pressure paid off with in the 53rd minute when Hamilton put Indy on the board off of a corner kick from Wild and Indy was able to finally #CueTheSmoke as a result of a goal and not just the celebratory, "we're able to do smoke again" smoke last game. Smoke that seemed to linger a bit longer, blanketing the field as play resumed, as if it knew that the fans missed the opportunities to release the smoke and didn't want to leave.

Photo Credit - Matt Schlotzhauer
Then nine minutes later, Arteaga put the ball into the right side of the goal after Wild took on players 1 v 1 and found Arteaga, eager to send a ball passed the keeper, which he did through a path of outstretched legs. With Hamilton's goal, the players that Indy saw score multiple times during the preseason and came into the season with the hope that would translate into the regular season, have now scored 3 goals in 3 days and account for all of Indy's goals. Indy finished the game with 16 shots and 7 of those on target. Arteaga and Hamilton accounted for 9 of those shots. So while other players had shots (Wild had 3 and the CBs had a few), production out of these two guys is exactly what Indy fans want to see. The team doesn't have to rely on just one player's next level ability to get past players and don't have to funnel the ball to just that one player or hope for set piece goals. Now, the team still has that ability whenever Hackshaw, Ouimette, and Cochran are on the field, but also have some players that can score in different ways. 

Indy closed the game out with Arteaga having two really good chances later in the game and Farr didn't have to make a save (an easy one at that) until the 74th minute. Was Indy's domination because SKCII played on Wednesday and were tired or resting key players? Or has Indy improved with the addition of goal scorers and a chance in tactic? We'll find out when the team makes the trip down I-65 to play Louisville City this next week and we'll see if Rennie sticks with the 3-4-3 formation. My guess? Rennie resorts back to the Rennie Bunker (TM), Louisville gets an early goal, Indy has to chase the game, and walk away with a 2-0 or 2-1 loss. My hope? That Rennie comes out exactly like he did against SKCII, which is something that I don't think that the Louisville coaching staff will expect given 3 years of experience (remember, they are playing under a former assistant, and now interim head coach, after John Hackworth left last month). 

That's next week. For now, Indy fans get to celebrate a dominating effort from Indy that actually resulted in two goals and plenty of smoke.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Wild. Goal scorers always get the love, but Wild deserves this one. He was responsible for the assists on both goals, had 2 shots on target, 1 shot off target, 8 crosses (3 successful), and 4 chances created. That's making your presence felt and it's how you stay on the field, if I were the coach. 

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