Sunday, July 25, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion FC - 08.15


- Opponent: Birmingham Legion FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 5,999
- Final Score: 2-1 L

- Starting XI: Dick, Buckmaster, Ouimette, Cochran, Seagrist, Timmer, Gutjahr, Ayoze (C), Law, Moon, Arteaga
- Substitutions: Hamilton (Gutjahr 63'), Wild (Buckmaster 63'), Vassel (Ayoze 86')
- Unused: Edwards, Koffie, Malic, Sissoko

- Scoring Summary:
BHM - Kasim 54' (assist Dean)
IND - Own Goal 77' (Kavita) 
BHM - Dean 90'+1'

- Bookings:
BHM - Servania 45'+1' (Yellow)
BHM - A. Crognale 64' (Yellow)

- Referee: Kevin Fikar
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

Birmingham came into this game on 14 days rest and the 2nd spot in the Central Division standings. Indy came into this game on a downward trajectory. Despite playing at Carroll Stadium, this game had the feel of not IF Indy would lose, but by how much. While the shots became a bit more even by the end of the game with Indy having 3 shots on goal and Birmingham having 5 shots on goal, Indy had a single shot on goal in the 1st half and it came in the 45th minute. The halftime stats also indicated that Indy had zero chances created, while Birmingham had 7.

If you're looking for positivity, this is the wrong place to find it. My notes on the game are littered with things that the players are either blatantly doing wrong or things that I just personally feel could be the problem. I've decided to not call out all of those notes because it doesn't take much to see those mistakes happening when you watch the game.

I have been clamoring to see a Hamilton-Arteaga front line and interim coach Rogers granted my wish for the final 27 minutes of the game. From the match stats, it looks like there were 9 official chances created by Indy Eleven players; Ayoze (5), Law (2), Moon (1), and Wild (1). The two forwards didn't account for any of the chances created, but did account for Indy's three shots on goal. Though Arteaga's single shot on goal came in the aforementioned shot in the 45th minute. 

It could be argued that when you are only giving yourself three shots on goal, you better make them count, and Indy Eleven aren't doing that. It could also be argued that if you aren't connecting on your few chances on goal, you have to be stout defensively for the full 90 minutes and that is definitely not happening. 

I had two thoughts last night as I watched the game. The first is more general, the second is more tactical related.

  1. This feels like the 2017 season. On paper, Indy should be performing much better than they are right now. In 2017, it was a rash of injuries that made consistency difficult. This year, it's been a constant change of the lineup, a mutually departed coach, and an adjusted tactical formation under Rogers. Given that this season is just short of the halfway point, it feels like things aren't going to gel and what you see now is what you are going to get under a new coach (if that happens during the season). Something is off and it's difficult to see it getting any better.
  2. Every time I felt like the team was having a good push forward, the ball made its way back out to the wings where it was either crossed (31 times) where there aren't a ton of guys on the field who are going to legitimately win a header against Alex Crognale (other than Ouimette, Cochran, or Timmer on recycled corner kicks) or sent backwards after BHM recovered. There seemed to never be a consistent attempt to break down the BHM defense through the middle of the field and so the BHM defense knew that they didn't have to worry about it. I decided to go back through the highlights to find out how Indy have scored their goals because it felt like they were coming from either set pieces, through the middle of the pitch, or through one-touched passes.
    - Birmingham - Quick restart near half to touchline, towards goal, one-touched by Law to the middle of the box, one-touched shot by Smith, rebound goal from Arteaga
    - SKCII - 1st goal by Hamilton from corner kick; 2nd goal by Arteaga after Wild attacking center of pitch
    - Louisville - 2 penalty kicks from Hamilton
    - OKC - Moon goal from corner kick
    - Memphis - Late goal by Ouimette on flurry on corner kick recycle
    - SKCII - 1st goal - Wild through the middle, out to Ayoze who one-touched it to Law making the run through the box; 2nd goal - Moon through the middle, to Arteaga, one-touched to Wild.
    - Louisville - 1st goal cycled around with mostly one-touch passes (Hackshaw to Smith header); 2nd goal was recycled corner (Moon to Hackshaw); 3rd was Ouimette to Arteaga in the middle of the pitch to Smith to Arteaga through one-touch passes)
    - Atlanta - Error in center of pitch, Moon picks up and runs basically straight at goal and then centers to Hamilton
    - Memphis - Moon straight through the center of the pitch

There has only been one goal that could even be close to be considered a goal from a cross, and even it (the Law goal vs SKCII) was more of a one-touch pass from Ayoze who was still within the box. Indy doesn't have the players nor the history of showing it to be effective for teams to worry that it is going to work. I didn't rewatch the game to confirm, but I don't remember any significant attacks in this game that forced the BHM defense in the middle to deal with an attack straight up the middle of the pitch.

Either way, Indy aren't converting on their limited chances and aren't closing out players on defense at key moments in the game. That's how you lose games and how you continue to slide down the standings. Based on the results of this season to date, it's hard to imagine Indy making the playoffs unless something drastic happens. Maybe that's a new coach (no word from the team on that progress) or maybe that is just the guys winning a couple of games in a row and gaining some faith that they are capable of getting more consistent results. 

As it stands today, it feels like 2017 and another scorched Earth rebuild is in the off-season after the new coach gets hired and has a say in the roster rebuild. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

If I'm picking out a player that stood out for me in a positive way, I guess it would be Moon. He's the one that most consistently feels like he's working hard on both offense and defense and isn't afraid to attack the defense.

Photos (Courtesy of Don Thompson Photography)

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Memphis 901 FC - 08.14


- Opponent: Memphis 901 FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 6,999
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Edwards, Buckmaster, Ouimette (C), Cochran, Seagrist, Timmer, Gutjahr, Vassell, Law, Moon, Hamilton
- Substitutions: Smith (Gutjahr 63'), Wild (Vassell 63'), Arteaga (Hamilton 63'), Ayoze (Moon 89')
- Unused: Dick, Liu, Sissoko

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Hamilton 47' (assist Vassell)
MEM - Salazar 51' 

- Bookings:
MEM - Dally 85' (Yellow)

- Referee: Luis Arroyo
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

It's been 10 days since Indy played a game that counted in the record books, but just 7 days since Indy made their trek to OKC Energy FC and watched all of the first half stats, including Cammy Smith's 2nd goal of the season, get washed down the drain with the Oklahoma weather and the lighting issues when the Energy didn't have enough energy to light the stadium after the storm. With the match postponed very early in the second half, the entire match against OKC will be replayed, in its entirety, on September 29th, just three days after they were regularly scheduled to play OKC on September 26th. So Indy will hang out in Oklahoma for a few days in September.

"Hey kid. What do you think about the game's result?"

Now that the housekeeping is out of the way, let's focus on Memphis. The last time the two teams played, Indy went down early after Memphis' Salazar (remember that name...) scored a goal in the 3rd minute and then added to the total in the 35th minute when Murphy scored. Ouimette prevented the Memphis clean sheet by scoring in the 90'+6' in a flurry of activity in Memphis' end. The game was also the first in a 3-game losing streak that culminated in the departure of Martin Rennie. 

This game started completely differently with Indy getting two corner kicks in the first three minutes as Indy appeared to learn their lesson from the first match. It's not something that is new to this team and this fanbase with Indy giving up goals in those "adage" windows. It was something that happened so often in the 2014 season that Doug Starnes wrote about it and is something that I keep track of in my stat spreadsheet. It's happened so often this year that it should be something that is a focus in training. I decided to go back and listen to the beginning of the game telecast, and Brad Hauter was prophetic when he stated early in the match:

"You talk about them having to play uphill at times. It's in those critical moments in matches, first five minutes, last five minutes of a half, or right after a goal. If you look at the 15 goals they have given up, 7 have come in those critical moments. If you push that out to 8 minutes, it's 9 out of the 15 goals have happened in those little windows."

That's getting ahead of myself a bit though.

Indy came out again, like they did against OKC, with a more definitive desire to press Memphis to try and force Memphis into mistakes in their defensive half. This led to the early corner kicks and Indy continued to control the ball through the half, with a 60% to 40% advantage in possession at halftime. Interestingly, Memphis had more shots than Indy, but Indy had more shots on goal, with Indy putting 75% of their shots on target, while Memphis managed just a paltry 14%. Memphis' Dacres had the best chance early in the 11th minute, but sent the ball well over the bar towards the Indy skyline. 

When looking at the halftime stats, there was one other stat that jumped out at me and the Indy staff in the press box. 19 called fouls. That translates into nearly a foul called every 2.5 minutes. It didn't get better in the second half as there were a total of 32 fouls called, or 1 foul every 2.8 minutes. Despite all of those fouls called, there was just a single yellow card to Memphis' Dally in the 85th minute. Moon received a couple of calls against him early, and I wrote down in my notes that he might be destined for a yellow card in the game, but despite a couple of discussions with the referee, Moon somehow managed to stay out of the books for the rest of the game. 

Photo credit: Don Thompson
However, Moon did find himself in the books in a positive way when he received a pass from Vassell in the 47th minute and made the Memphis defense look silly as he went around, through, and nutmegged through them to get a shot to the left of the goal that Morton was unable to stop. While I will continue to hang my hat on the fact that Nicky Law has been the best overall player on the roster this season, Nick Moon has been the most dynamic offensively and this was a prime example of it. He attacked the goal. If the ball hadn't gone in, I might have said that he took too many touches, but it worked out for Indy this time. Moon has been a mismatch for the opponent's left back for most of the season and he has been unafraid to use his size and skill against them.

Then the ole adage goal made another appearance as Salazar made the lead a short-lived 4 minutes, bringing Hauter's statement to the foreground and taking Indy Eleven to an abysmal 10 of 16 goals conceded occurring in that "critical moment" windows and the 7th of those 16 goals scored by players wearing #11. In all ways, it's the 11 beating the 11. I don't know what the underlying issue is with this team, but this is definitely a trend and not just a coincidence. Interim coach Rogers stated at the game that, "the disappointing thing is this is the third game in a row that we’ve been a goal up and we’ve conceded after that, so that’s something we really need to focus on going forward." Given that this isn't a new trend, I'm surprised that they aren't already working on this in training. However, this could just be a mentality thing and, as a group, the team relaxes after they score or aren't switched on in the beginning moments of the halves. That's a harder thing to train out of players.

Rogers rode the starting lineup for another 12 minutes, but then made some substitutions that felt more like a hockey line change. Smith came on for Gutjahr, Wild came on for Vassell, and Arteaga replaced Hamilton (at this point, I don't think we're going to get my wish of seeing the two of them up top together). The substitutions made an immediate impact in the energy of the attack, with Indy ratcheting up the pressure for the rest of the game. Indy had three shots in the first half. They had four shots between the 63rd minute and the 71st minute. However, the Eleven didn't record another official shot for the remainder of the 20 minutes of the game. 

I continue to see glimpses from this team. Hamilton nearly had a goal, if not for a great save by Morton. There were some amazing interplay between Law and Moon, and Law and Wild and Arteaga, but they're only glimpses. Vassell continues to struggle and really feels like an offensive liability to me despite the success he has had with the Jamaican teams. He just seems to struggle with what to do and when to do it, particularly when he is playing in the deeper midfield role that he was playing in this game. 

Yet, they're just glimpses. 

At some point, as it currently stands with this roster, we're all going to have to admit that this is a middle of the table team who will be flirting with being on either side of the playoff line. Even if they make the playoffs, it could be a one-and-done. There's, obviously, a lot of soccer to be played before the end of the season, but Memphis is a team that Indy has to beat to consider themselves one of the elite teams in the division/conference/league because the Louisvilles, Birminghams, and Tulsas of the world are doing their best to try and pull away from Indy. Giving up points to teams below them in the table during away games is starting to make this look like this is going to be a nail-biting 2021 campaign.

Final Thought

When Hackshaw returns from his time with Trinidad and Tobago, this is the lineup that I would like to see employed at some point at least once (also assumes Farr is back as I think he is the better of Indy's two regular keepers):



Ouimette - Cochran - Hackshaw


Moon - Law - Ayoze

Wild - Hamilton - Arteaga

The substitution pattern late in the game might be a bit tricky, but at a minimum it might be Seagrist for Ayoze and Smith for whoever is tired up top. Maybe Koffie for Timmer depending on the game scenario.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

It's becoming a routine response from me, but it's either Law or Moon who deserves the GBGB. Tonight it's Moon. He was the goal scorer and an absolute beast on the right side against Memphis.

Additional Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Indy Eleven vs OKC Energy FC - 08.13 (Part 1)


- Opponent: OKC Energy FC
- Location: Taft Stadium
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: POSTPONED

- Starting XI: Edwards, Buckmaster, Timmer, Cochran, Seagrist, Smith, Gutjahr, Ayoze (C), Law, Moon, Hamilton
- Substitutions: Moon 
- Unused: Dick, Malic, Ouimette, Koffie, Sissoko, Vassell, Arteaga

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Smith 15' (assist Hamilton) - Until it didn't...
OKC - Lopez 20' (assist Ellis-Hayden) - Until it didn't...

- Bookings:

- Referee: Brandon Stevis
- Adage goals: One - Until it didn't...

Thoughts and Opinions

This game started much differently than the last game. Indy's decision to press was in more display and they looked like a team that wanted to play. What wasn't different was Moon's effort and the team rode his effort up the right side of the field for a good portion of the half. While OKC worked their way into the game in the 2nd third of the first half, the overall first half heat map shows that the game was tilted towards the OKC goal. 

Indy's hustle in the first third of the first half lead to a goal in the 15th minute as Law intercepted near the OKC box, that he passed to Hamilton. Hamilton then pushed the ball to the left to Cammie Smith who was making a run up the field, took a couple of touches, and then fired a rocket past C.J. Cochran, who the commentators pointed out a few times isn't related to A.J. Cochran.

Indy's propensity to give up early goals didn't happen in this game, but it seems it translates to their ability to not stay focused after scoring as well. While Indy dominated the field position game, the halftime whistle found them nearly equal in possession, shots, shots on target, and passing accuracy However, Indy held a 7 to 0 advantage in corner kicks and a 14 to 3 advantage in crosses. It definitely feels like the team is missing something on the corner kicks without Hackshaw and Ouimette's presence.

With all the similarities, it was probably fitting that they went into the locker room tied at one apiece. Then they came out and started the second half. 

Then there was a weather delay in the 48th minute...and so we waited.







Until just before midnight EST, when my screen went from Delayed to Postponed. Meaning everything that took place in the first 45 minutes will be as if it didn't happen. So Cammy Smith's goal and Hamilton's assist do not count. Moon's and Law's efforts do not but take more off of their legs for future games. Luckily, the team has a week to deal with a long night of sitting in (a dark?) locker room waiting for the weather to clear and the lights for the stadium to start working again, which they didn't and is what was the ultimate decision maker to postpone the game.

So here I sit just after midnight writing a recap of a game that didn't officially happen.

Onto the next one, that will hopefully count.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

From the first half of action, I would have given the GBGB to Moon. His continued energy and crosses were causing the OKC defensive problems the entire time. In 45 minutes, Moon had 1 chance created, 1 shot on goal, and 2 crosses.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Atlanta United 2 - 08.12


- Opponent: Atlanta United 2
- Location: Fifth Third Bank Stadium
- Attendance: 638
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Dick, Buckmaster, Timmer, Cochran, Seagrist, Koffie, Gutjahr, Law (C), Vassell, Wild, Hamilton
- Substitutions: Moon 45' (Wild); Smith 64' (Vassell); Arteaga 65' (Hamilton); Sissoko 73' (Gutjahr)
- Unused: Edwards, Malic, Ouimette

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Hamilton 64' (assist Moon)
ATL2 - Stanley 73'

- Bookings:

- Referee: Sergii Demianchuk
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Apparently having a grass playing surface in the south means that you're playing on patches of grass and heaps of sand. Much like Indy's foray into the beaches of Birmingham, Atlanta didn't want to be outdone. The field looked slightly better, but only marginally than the field in Birmingham.

Then Rogers threw out every lineup we've seen this season and went with what I could only describe as a very fluid 4-2-3-1. All of the guys have played in games, but not generally together or to the extent required for a starting lineup. This was clearly another example of squad rotation during a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday, but, and we're all family here, this seems like playing the "B" team and playing down to a "2" team that had players playing up with the 1st team. 

Anyway, with so many adjustments to the lineup, Indy started the game exactly like you would expect from a lineup that has so many new pieces (at least new to official game minutes). 


Like a team that was willing to get a draw from the night on another garbage grass field. Which is how I expected the game to continue. The halftime whistle sent the teams in with a 0 - 0 scoreline, and presumably, a discussion from Rogers that he wants guys to press and attack more. While I was surprised that Wild was the choice to come out of the game, Rogers replaced him with Moon immediately after the break and the spark that he provided was immediate. It took about twenty minutes, but the substitution paid off as Moon's hustle after a defensive mistake allowed him to run at the goal with minimal defense and then send in a cross into the box that Hamilton was able to latch onto and redirect into the goal. What followed was maybe the most subdued goal celebration in history. The rest of the substitutions were similarly more forward than the players they replaced as Indy pushed more in the second half than they did in the first half.

Atlanta's goal in the 73rd minute was, well, not much you can do about it. Sometimes a guy gets a ball in a tiny pocket of space and fires a ball through all the traffic into a location where the goalkeeper isn't standing. That's just some good effort combined with some good or bad luck depending on which team you want to win. 

If I'm trying to be optimistic, the team came away with a point on the road. It was good to see the coaching staff and the players make the adjustments at halftime. If I'm being pessimistic, this was a winnable game that didn't need all the drama of a drastically different lineup and the slow start. 

Indy continue their road trip with a stop in Oklahoma before heading back to Carroll for a rematch with Memphis. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Less than two weeks after joining the squad, Eric Dick picked up his first start as part of the rotation and Edwards' seeming ability to pick up knocks every game. With very limited time with the team, Dick picked up 7 saves and some front office play on words with his last name on Twitter. The first of those is worth the GBGB. The second just makes him a good sport.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion FC - 08.11



- Opponent: Birmingham Legion FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 6,999
- Final Score: 1-0 L

- Starting XI: Edwards, Ouimette, Cochran, Buckmaster, Timmer, Ayoze (C), Law, Moon, Wild, Smith, Arteaga
- Substitutions: Koffie 45' (Ouimette); Seagrist 74' (Moon); Hamilton 77' (Smith)
- Unused: Dick, Gutjahr, Malic, Vassell

- Scoring Summary:
BRM - Brett 8' (Penalty Kick)

- Bookings:
IND - Ouimette 7' (Yellow)
BRM - Lapa 29' (Yellow)
BRM - Servania 69' (Yellow)
IND - Ayoze 76' (Yellow)

- Referee: Jervis Atagana
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

USL Stats - Ayoze & Law Distribution
I suppose we should start with the good news. Indy Eleven have Ayoze and Nicky Law on their roster. We have known for a long time that Ayoze may be ageless, that he has one of the best touches in the league, and regularly makes opposing players look silly as he weaves out of trouble with the ball attached to his foot. The addition of Nicky Law to the roster, and his recent push further up the field under interim manager Max Rogers, has created a dynamic force on the left/center of the field. Ayoze and Law accounted for 135 of the team's 559 passes, or 24% of the passes, completing 84.8% and 91.3% of their passes, respectively, often in very tight conditions. I found myself not focused on the larger parts of the game because I got lost in watching the movement of these two players. If we can't enjoy wins at Carroll Stadium, make sure you are appreciating the level of soccer these two guys display for us. 

Photo Credit: Don Thompson
(not the PK goal, but look at that commitment)
Now for the bad news. Indy lost, once again, at home, giving Indy a 1W-1D-4L record at home this year, losing the last three home games. It's starting to feel like the next win is going to end up being a cathartic storming of the field moment like in 2014. The team just doesn't look as confident at home. Despite holding a 2 to 1 advantage in possession, Indy had half as many shots on target as Birmingham (6 to 3) and, once again, gave up an early goal. Indy have been scored on 14 times so far this year (including both home and away games). Nine of those goals have come in the first half, but 5 of those have come in the first 15 minutes, and 4 of those have come in less than 8 minutes of game time. This team continues to put themselves in early deficits and this was no different as Birmingham was awarded an early penalty kick that Nico Brett (another #11 player...5 of the 14 goals against Indy have come from players wearing the #11) calmly placed into the left side of the goal as Bobby Edwards guessed the wrong way and went to the right. 

Eight minutes in and the chasing of the game began. It's a bad trend. In those games where they have given up early goals, the team has finished with a 0W-1D-3L record, with the draw being the 3-3 fireworks against Louisville. Other than the LOU anomaly, the only other goal scored in the three losses was the stoppage time goal from Ouimette against Memphis. It's almost like the "here we go again" reaction from the fans is being said by the team as well. Combine that with the added pressure of continuing to feel like they are underperforming for the home fans and it seems to cause a ripple effect where they look disconnected and out of sync. How many unforced errors, turnovers, and misplayed balls did we see for a team in their 11th game together?

Maybe Rennie was right and it is the field. Yes, both teams have to play on it, but maybe it just seems to affect Indy more. I don't know, but the scoring prowess we saw from Indy against SKCII and LOU was not on display last night. Or maybe it's a mindset in the tactics. Watching the game last night, I felt like BHM's first touch pushed them in an offensive direction, whereas Indy's first touch is regularly in a defensive direction. Also, Indy seem to routinely send in crosses where the guys in the box are never going to get to the ball over their taller defensive counterparts. We've already established that I love Ayoze and Law, but they're much better at sending in crosses to Arteaga, Moon, and Hamilton than trying to be on the receiving end of those crosses. That being said, one of the better sequences of the night was when Arteaga took his defender to the endline, picked up his head for a split second to look to see who was in the box, fired a ball across the goal face that Law narrowly missed, and then Ayoze laid out to try and put it back across the goal. It ultimately lead to that disheartening crescendo and wane of the fan's cheers, but the hustle from all three guys was enjoyable to watch.

My last thought for the game (season) is to ask why Hamilton is stuck on the bench until the late portions of the game? Part of me really wants to see he and Arteaga up top again together. They have shown sigs of not being on the same page with each other in the early parts of the season, but hopefully they are getting that worked out. I want to see Hamilton as the target forward with Arteaga's energy playing off of that. I understand Wild's energy and his desire to attack the defense, but it seems like there is something missing. There have only been two games where they started the game together and therefore had extended minutes with each other (SKCII and Memphis). While I described above how the Memphis game went, in the SKCII game, both guys scored. Coincidence? Probably, but it's still a partnership that I think the team needs to explore to find more goals.

Indy heads to Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday and OKC next Saturday. Two teams lurking just below Indy in the table, waiting for their chance at an early goal to put Indy on the back foot and a chance to take over Indy's spot above the playoff eligible line.     

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I should stop apologizing for this, but Law and Ayoze are on a different level this year. In a game where it's difficult to pinpoint another player as having a truly standout performance, I have to give the GBGB to these two guys. 

Jokingly, I want to give it to Hackshaw, because it is depressingly clear how much he is missed when he is away with Trinidad & Tobago.


If you watched the New Mexico United versus El Paso Locomotive game last night, you saw three goals. Former Indy Eleven players Brian Brown scored the first goal for NM in the first half and then Dylan Mares scored the game tying and game winning goals in a span of less than 2 minutes in the second half. Oh, and some guy name Tyler Pasher scored for Houston as well, with a gorgeous one-touch shot. It's fun to watch the guys have success. 

Additional Photos