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)

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