Sunday, June 20, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Sporting Kansas City II - 08.09


- Opponent: Sporting Kansas City II
- Location: Children's Mercy Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Edwards, Ouimette, Cochran, Hackshaw, Timmer, Ayoze (C), Law, Moon, Wild, Smith, Arteaga
- Substitutions: Hamilton 70' (Ayoze); Koffie 67' (Smith); Gutjahr 86' (Timmer)
- Unused: Svetanoff, Seagrist, Sissoko, Vassell

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Law 19' (assist Ayoze)
SKCII - Mushagalusa 20'
IND - Wild 50' (assist Arteaga)

- Bookings:
IND - Law 12' (Yellow)
IND - Cochran 83' (Yellow)
SKCII - Duke 90'+2' (Yellow)
IND - Koffie 90'+5' (Yellow)

- Referee: Adam Kilpatrick
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

The post-Rennie era started with caretaker manager Max Rogers standing on the sidelines in a stadium with a gorgeous grass surface, but not a single fan in attendance. When you're the face of a three-coach conglomerate charged with getting Indy out of a three-game losing streak after the team mutually parted ways with the head coach, eliminating that external factor is helpful. Doing it without your starting goalkeeper bumps your difficulty level back up though.

Overall, there wasn't much difference between this lineup and the one that played against Pittsburgh, other than the obvious change in goal from Jordan Farr to Bobby Edwards. If the interwebs are to be believed (because I haven't received confirmation from the team), we're about to see how Bobby Edwards does full-time as Farr was out with a broken arm. So Edwards in and Moon replaced Buckmaster on the right side. Other than that, the starting XI was the same. However, it seemed to play differently. 

While it doesn't completely show up on the Average Position graph, Moon was playing a little deeper on the field, closer to a 4-3-2-1 arrangement. With Moon deeper on the right, and Timmer playing the defensive midfielder role, Nicky Law was allowed to play in a much more advanced role, which better suits his abilities. He played higher and spent a lot of the game in advanced positions on the left side of the field. This left he and Smith to function as dual playmakers to get the ball to Wild and Arteaga. The game ended with Smith tucked in more centrally than I expected, but I definitely expected to see the final result of Law as high up the field as it shows. This arrangement with Timmer as the solo defensive mid is something I would like to see moving forward. It's been joked over the years that Rennie liked to have as many defensive mids on the field as possible, "with obvious results." By simply allowing Timmer to be the only one providing cover for the backs and bringing Moon back a little more, it allowed Law and Smith to better dictate the offense moving forward. Moon still went forward and there were numerous occasions where it looked like the 3 back system we're used to seeing from Rennie, but there was a definite tweak here with Rogers, Presser, & Swift LLC that gave Law much more freedom and ability to push forward. I like it.

As Brad Hauter mentioned during Soccer Saturday yesterday, the dismissal (mutual parting) of a coach can go a couple of ways for a team. In one way, there's the thought that "if the coach can be gone, so can I" and it makes guys work harder. In the beginning of the game, Indy had a high press with a lot more energy than we've seen in the past few games. The temps and humidity drained that out of everybody quickly and it slowed down, but there was an obvious difference in the effort in the beginning of this game. 

The effort was not limited to just the defense, as it was effort that led to Indy's first goal in the 19th minute. There was a mistake by the SKCII players near midfield, which dropped the ball at Wild's feet near the touchline. He did not hesitate and immediately attacked the SKCII backline running upfield and towards the center of the pitch. As he begins his run, Ayoze (35-year old Ayoze) got on his wheels on the left wing, Law got on his wheels through the center of the field, and Arteaga got on his wheels on the right wing. As Wild gets closer to the center of the field, Law's run pulls two defenders to him, leaving a free pass to Ayoze, who one-touches it behind the backline to the 6-yard line where Law's effort allows for a relatively easy redirect into goal. Arteaga was making the back post run without any defenders around him. This entire sequence is every glimpse of talent and scoring ability that we've previously seen from Indy wrapped into a nice package.  

And then... One minute after scoring a beautiful team goal, the guys make silly mistakes and give up a goal. Let me yell this for the folks in the back, "ONE MINUTE LATER!" For a team that has had difficulty this season of coming out of the locker room ready to play, they proved they can make the mistake of not staying switched on after a goal too. Yes, one could argue that it was just a brilliant individual effort by Mushagalusa, but it wasn't stellar defending either. Ouimette goes for a slide tackle 30-yards away from goal and along the touchline, which he missed badly after trying to recover from Moon, who had left Mushagalusa to chase a ball to a player that Ouimette was already covering. Moon chases down Mushagalusa as they get to the endline, and then Mushagalusa puts Moon into the spin cycle, before firing to the far post with Edwards screened. 

Up one minute, tied again a minute later. Indy can't keep shooting themselves in the foot with these kinds of defensive decisions and mistakes.

Ouimette (25th minute) and Hackshaw (31st minute) were both denied goals in the first half from stellar reaction saves from Pulskamp and Arteaga also found himself denied a goal in the 56th minute by the quick reflexes of Pulskamp. Pulskamp had an excellent game keeping Indy from getting more than the two goals they scored. 

Speaking of keeper play, Indy's Edwards was easily Man of the Match. SKCII was credited with 22 shots, 9 of which were on target, giving Edwards 8 saves on the game. Some of those shots were right to his gut, but he also was forced to lay out all 6'-6" of his frame to get to some of them. He was twice inspected by Head Athletic Trainer Meeja Kinsey for injuries, causing back-up keeper Alex Svetanoff to start warming up. Towards the first half, there was a long examination of Edwards for concussion protocol, which she eventually determined he passed. With Farr out, Indy is going to need Edwards to continue to play well, and I think we're going to find out a lot more about his abilities since the next game is against LouCity, in what will be a much different playing environment in a packed Lynn Family Stadium. With Farr out for the foreseeable future with his injury, it does concern me a bit that Edwards looked to be injured twice in the game and an 18-year old Academy player with no professional game experience nearly had to come on and is Indy's only back-up option moving forward. I know that Ouimette was listed at one time as the backup backup goalkeeper, but that's a precarious position for the team at a key position. Edwards was also not nearly as mobile or as good with his feet as Farr, so we may see a little less play out of the back at times and a few more long clearances. That's just me being picky and letting my pessimistic side show, in what was an overall stellar performance from Edwards. 

SKCII was awarded a corner kick in the 90'+9' minute of play, which ultimately was the last play of the game, and SKCII threw everyone into the box including Pulskamp. After Edwards secured the ball and Kilpatrick blew his whistle, both goalkeepers simply laid down on the ground inside Indy's box. In 90+ temps and 90+% humidity, and after making a combined 13 saves on 16 shots on target, both keepers were spent and need of some hydration, recovery, and a long nap. While Indy came out on top, I think the #GKUnion would be proud of both of their efforts. 

One of my other concerns moving forward was Mushagalusa. Not every team is going to have a guy like him, but he was running wild against the defense. Quick guys who are unafraid to attack the backline under any circumstances may see Mushagalusa's method of operation against Indy as a prime way to attack Indy. LouCity's Jonathan Gomez comes to mind in the next game as somebody who might fit this bill. Most concerning to me was he even managed to put Hackshaw on his heels and into the spin cycle in the 2nd half that forced a save from Edwards. 

Another one of the bright spots for me was that it felt like there were flashes of offensive brilliance than we've seen in previous games. Wild's goal was a result of good team movement and build-up from Indy, including a well-weighted one-touch pass from Arteaga that put Wild in 1v1 on Pulskamp. It might have been one of Pulskamp's few bad decisions on the night to come out against Wild, but it was also started by an Indy player attacking the defense centrally. Moon brought the ball towards the middle of the field, dumped it off to Arteaga, who split two defenders with his pass for Wild to run onto just inside the 18-yard box. It was good soccer to watch.

With the exception of the mental and physical breakdown that led to SKCII's goal a minute after Indy had scored, there was a lot that Indy did better today. Moving forward, I want Timmer to continue to play the defensive midfielder role and Law to play more of the central attacking midfielder role. If there's one thing that I hope we see moving forward from the Rennie era, it's that slight adjustment in tactics.

Indy comes home with three points in their pocket, some much needed confidence, and just under a week to prepare for a trip to Louisville to face a team that is not going to be happy with the way the last game between the two ended. For now, let's dwell on the three points, because they were a much needed and much deserved three points in this game.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Bobby Edwards. I said that until somebody else took if from Law, he was going to continue to receive the GBGB. I still think Law played an excellent game and scored a goal as a result of it, but you have to give it to a guy who makes 8 saves, and helps keep the team in it through 90-minutes of regulation and 20-minutes of stoppage time. Hence the photo above. So it's fitting that Edwards was the one with the ball in his hands when the final whistle blew. 

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