Sunday, August 29, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Real Monarchs SLC - 08.21


- Opponent: Real Monarch SLC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 5,999
- Final Score: 2-0 W

- Starting XI: Farr, Timmer, Cochran, Hackshaw (C), Koffie, Gutjahr, Seagrist, Moon, Law, Wild, Arteaga
- Substitutions: Buckmaster 70' (Moon); Ayoze 70' (Seagrist); Sissoko 75' (Gutjahr); Vassell 75' (Law); Haworth 86' (Wild)
- Unused: Edwards, Ouimette

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Arteaga 26' (assist Moon)
IND - Arteaga 45'+4'

- Bookings:
SLC - Flores 44' (Yellow)
IND - Gutjahr 45' (Yellow)
SLC - Adams 79' (Yellow)
IND - Arteaga 79' (Yellow)
IND - Ayoze 84' (Yellow)
SLC - Iloski 90'+5' (Yellow)

- Referee: DeShun Beard
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I may have finally become a jaded sports "reporter." Indy Eleven win, at home, with a clean sheet, and I'm disappointed with the result. After Indy's 4-1 embarrassment at Loudoun and 6-2 fiasco at Atlanta, a nice solid win at home should make me happy. I was happy. For a half.

This was Indy's third game in their stretch of playing the teams at the bottom of their respective divisions and came into the game with a 0W - 1D - IL record after the aforementioned 4-1 loss to Loudoun and a 1-1 draw to SKCII when Indy couldn't score late in the game to get the full three points. So a win, at home, against a very young Monarchs team was an absolute necessity if Indy want to make the playoffs. 

Indy started well, with good possession in the Monarch's half of the field. Indy must have seen something in the video on the Monarchs, because despite having Moon and Wild together on the right side, who have been Indy's most dynamic players offensively, Indy looked to be making a conscientious effort to attack the left side of the field. Regularly in the early stages of the game, Moon or Wild would remain wide and unmarked, while the ball was pushed back to the left side of the field by the back three of Hackshaw, Cochran, and Timmer. Seagrist and Law had 34 and 22 touches, respectively in the first half, while Moon and Wild each only had 15. It's ironic, or maybe genius managing by Max Rogers, that despite those few touches Indy's first goal came from a pass from Koffie out to the right side to Moon, who did what he has been doing, and attacked the goal before crossing to a sprinting Arteaga at the 6-yard line giving Indy the lead in the 26th minute. 

First Half Heat Map

Based on all of the above, it's further interesting to me that Indy's second goal happened because Wild was playing on the left side of the field. Koffie sent a long ball that Wild chased down, took on players, passed to Law, who fed back to Wild, who was fouled in the box for the penalty kick attempt by Arteaga. Indy's goals were scored as a result of the two players who were at the bottom of the team for touches in the first half.

First Half Shots
Indy was outshot by the Monarchs in the first half, 5 to 4. The difference was that Indy's shots came from inside the 18-yard box and the Monarch's shots were all from distance. Notable of those shots was an absolute screamer from around 25-30 yards away from Iloski that forced Farr into a save as he looked west into the setting sun. Even Farr joked after the game that he probably should have gone with the baseball hat like Jon Busch used to do in those situations.

So Indy went into the halftime locker with a 2-nil lead and Arteaga on a hat-trick watch, having scored both the run-of-play goal in the 26th minute and the converted penalty kick in stoppage time.

Real Monarch's starting lineup consisted of 7 Monarch's players, 3 players on Real Salt Lake contracts, and a goalkeeper so young (and apparently new) that he didn't even show up on the team's Game Notes. Oh, and he isn't even 16 years old. That's right, the Monarch's starting goalkeeper for this game is 15 years old.


Second Half Shots
Yet, Indy came out of the halftime locker with a guy on a hat-trick watch and a 15 year old opposing goalkeeper and looked to park the bus. It wasn't quite a Rennie Bunker because Indy still some opportunities on goal, but the field was definitely tilted in the Monarch's favor for the majority of the second half. At one point, the Monarchs had 4 or 5 corner kicks in rapid succession.

Indy's defense was stout and still limited the Monarchs to long-distance shots and half chances, but they also had some really good opportunities to get themselves on the scoreboard. 

Yes, Indy won.

Yes, Indy kept a clean sheet.

Yes, it helped their standings in the Division thanks to other results.

I just wanted to see them put their foot on their opponent's throat in the second half. As close to each other as the teams in the middle part of the table are to each other in the Division, goal differential is likely going to come into play and Indy still has a -5 goal differential. This was the kind of game where the opportunity was there to put some goals on the scoreboard like Atlanta and Loudoun did to Indy. Neither of those two teams bunkered and Indy's goal differential suffered because of it.

Maybe it was the heat and the age difference. Real Monarch's oldest player on the gameday roster is 27 and he was subbed out at halftime. Maybe the Monarchs adjusted better during the halftime break and used their youth and fresh legs (they hadn't played a game since August 7th) to take it to the older Indy team.

Maybe I'm just asking too much of this team.

Indy are now finished with their out-of-division opponents so every game from here on out take on a different meaning. Indy face Atlanta next Saturday at Carroll Stadium, sitting 4th and 5th in the standings and straddling the playoff line. There will be a lot to play for for Indy, including showing that the previous 6-2 loss to Atlanta was just a bad day at the office.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Arteaga finished the game with a brace and the game winner. That's good enough to get the GBGB by itself. The fact that he caused an opposing player to retaliate against him (Adams probably should have been issued a red card) and send Hackshaw (and others) sprinting to defend him means that Arteaga is well-liked in the locker room. 

Closing Comments

It has happened at other games and I should have taken the time then to acknowledge it, but I think it's great that we're starting to see more female referees in the USL at Indy Eleven games. Other than the yellow card on Adams that I thought should have been a red, I thought this group of referees did a good job. The AR on the main spectator side of the field was Rachel Smith and I just wanted to take a minute and thank her for doing a great job and breaking through the glass ceiling.

Thank you Rachel for being an example that I can show to my daughters.

And for the cheeky over-the-shoulder smile...

Additional Photos

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Indy Eleven - What's Goin' On?

In the past, I have generally done a mid-season review through the use of the various graphics that I create. However, I didn't think that was enough this year. There's just too much to discuss that can't be captured in a graphic. Where to start though? How about we go back a bit?

In the offseason, there was a massive turnover in players as Martin Rennie, who I suspect was lucky to keep his job after missing the playoffs last year, let most of the guys go and picked up a new set of guys in the hope that he could get them to buy into his system. Rumors are that he was losing the locker room. So since he stayed, players were sent on their way. Couple that with the fact that starting goalkeeper Evan Newton and leading goal scorer Tyler Pasher were transferred to MLS squads, and Indy fans were, once again, wondering how the team was going to lineup and who was going to score under Rennie Ball.

Indy announced they were moving back to Carroll Stadium, citing scheduling concerns of dealing with Lucas Oil Stadium. Given the number of games that Indy had to reschedule since 2018 due to the Colts (and probably others) getting first preference at that stadium, this wasn't that surprising.

In January, the team announced that there would be an announcement by the end of March on the Eleven Park development. The last update on Eleven Park in late March was an announcement that the announcement wasn't going to happen and that a future announcement would happen regarding the location and details of the development. 

“It is great news that the Indiana General Assembly recently took action to provide Indy Eleven additional flexibility as we complete plans for Eleven Park,” reads the club’s official statement. “While no organization has been immune to the effects of the pandemic, it’s clear that enthusiasm for this transformational neighborhood development remains high. Eleven Park is more than just a stadium, and this extra time will allow Indy Eleven to finalize the site as well as other critical pieces of the project. This includes substantial private development that will have a large economic impact – creating jobs and investment for the City and State. We thank our fans for their support and urge them to stay tuned in the coming months for an update on the location and details of Eleven Park.”

On June 16th, Indy Eleven and Martin Rennie announced they were "mutually parting ways" after Rennie had a very calm and collected on-air meltdown with Rakestraw and Hauter after a 1-nil loss to Pittsburgh. Assistant Coach Max Rogers became the face of the coaching staff until a new coach was to be selected.

From the time that Coach Rennie became "former coach" and assistant coach Max Rogers became "Interim Coach," the team has had a 3W-4D-4L record and the league's Power Rankings currently have Indy sitting in 27th place out of the 31 teams in the league. Indy has a 6W-5D-8L record. Notable is the fact that two of the three teams in Indy's current streak of games are above Indy. These are teams that are still in last place in their respective divisions. The comment for Sporting Kansas City II, who just drew with Indy, states, "the playoffs are almost certainly out of reach now, though." They just drew Indy...albeit with a starting lineup that included 8 players from the parent team.

At the roughly mid-point of the season, Indy sits just outside the playoff line, having been outscored 12 to 6 in the last four games. 

That basically brings us up-to-date on the season. 

So, Indy Eleven, "What's Goin' On?"

Indy is struggling on the field, there hasn't been an announcement about the stadium since March, and there hasn't been any word on a new coach since Rennie's departure. Everything fans know have been through hearsay or outside sources.

I have been able to gather that there were over 100 applicants for the coaching job, some of which were major names in American soccer and that there were also major names who turned down the position. Where the process stands today is anybody's guess because I continue to receive the same information from the FO when asked. The last time Indy let go of their coach during the season (2015, Coach Sommer), Indy rode out the season with interim coach Regan and then hired Coach Hankinson in the off-season. Given the results and the amount of schedule left, it wouldn't surprise me if the same thing happens this year. We haven't received an update to know if that is the case though. Nothing saying that they have narrowed it down to a dozen candidates or down to 3 or 4. Nothing to say that they have made any dent whatsoever in the 100+ applications.

Indy has struggled at Carroll Stadium, sitting on a 2W-2D-5L record in the seemingly "unfriendly confines" of the Greatest Dive Bar in American Soccer. Maybe Rennie's post-game rant before his departure about the crappy field at Carroll was warranted. Nicky Law backed up that assessment of the field in an interview with the Soccer Snobs that "it's bad. It's probably as bad as I've played anyways...Struggle to walk for next few days after." Indy is playing their home games on a terrible field and Indy continues to remain silent about the new stadium. I was able to confirm (as of mid July), that the Indy Eleven/Keystone Group were not targeting the IUPUI campus when a member of IUPUI's Capital Planning & Facilities group informed me that "Indiana University is not currently in any discussions with Indy Eleven and/or the Keystone Group regarding a stadium development at IUPUI" despite some on-going rumors during that time.

I certainly can't speak for every Indy Eleven fan, and I won't claim to be the definitive pulse of the fans, but I know what responses I get from my Twitter posts about my articles, and I pay attention to the Indy Eleven subreddit. Fans are unhappy and are becoming more vocal about it. Indy fans have dealt with a lot of being kept in the dark on many of the team's plans and initiatives over the years. It's easier to handle being in the dark when the team is at least moderately successful. However, Indy's on-field struggles this year have exacerbated fans' general frustrations with the club. When the team struggles against the bottom teams in the league, despite a roster than is generally considered, on paper, to be extremely talented, all of the other frustrations about the stadium and the coach are made more apparent..

For myself and the rest of the fans, as it relates to the on-field and off-field situations, again I ask:

"Indy Eleven, What's Goin' On?"

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Sporting Kansas City II - 08.20


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

- Starting XI: Farr, Ouimette (C), Cochran, Hackshaw, Koffie, Gutjahr, Seagrist, Moon, Law, Vassel, Hamilton
- Substitutions: Wild 60' (Vassell); Timmer 61' (Gutjahr); Arteaga 73' (Hamilton); Sissoko 73' (Koffie); Ayoze 82' (Seagrist)
- Unused: Dick, Ayoze, Buckmaster

- Scoring Summary:
SKCII - Harris 40' (assist Pierre)
IND - Hamilton 51'

- Bookings:
IND - Hamilton 58' (Yellow)
SKCII - Barber 65' (Yellow)
IND - Seagrist 69' (Yellow)
SKCII - Dia 88' (Yellow)

- Referee: Greg Dopka
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

In Indy's second game in a three-game stretch where they play the team that currently sits at the bottom of their respective division, the Eleven needed to shake off the horrible 4-1 result against Loudoun United, the worst (by record) team in the league. With 7 of the 8 Central Division teams playing today instead of yesterday, a lot of movement was available in the table for a Sunday afternoon game. Given that 5 of the 8 teams were within 4 points of each other before the start of the games, with 3 (including Indy) sitting at the same point total on the playoff line, the chance to remain in a playoff spot was important. Sidenote: How Indy is even close to the playoff line after their run of games is amazing. As somebody on Twitter indicated, "maybe the Central Division isn't that good." With the exception of maybe Louisville...

So a win was vital; maybe more vital than the Loudoun game since today's game was against a divisional opponent. Albeit, a divisional opponent 8 points behind them and 2 games ahead of them. Making it all that more important to get points from teams that they should beat.

It was notable that the SKCII starting lineup had 8 players on loan from the parent club. Indy has struggled with USL teams, much less one that is composed mostly of MLS level players. As a result, Indy spent the majority of the first half on the back foot, much of it defending in their own half. 

Indy did have a good chance on goal in the 8th minute after a cross from Seagrist found Hamilton just near the penalty spot that Pulskamp managed to get a hand on and smothered. Eight minutes later from that, Indy had a nearly similar chance of Seagrist to Hamilton, who headed it wide.

First Half Average Position
Then it became a game in the middle of the field with both teams trying to keep possession, but not much coming from it for either team. The final third for each team looked to be a struggle until the hydration break in the 31st minute. After the hydration break, SKCII put themselves ahead in the 40th minute when the Indy defense played their "olé" defense and watched a cross come all the way across the box to an unmarked Harris.

Indy started the second half with more pressure than they showed in the first half and an extra effort from Moon (no surprise there) took a ball from a SKCII defender that made its way to Law who decided to take a shot on goal from an acute angle. Unlike his effort in the first half with Hamilton's shot, Pulskamp was able to get a hand on it, but not keep it under control and the rebound went straight to Hamilton who easily put it in the goal from inside the six-yard box.

Indy's finishing touch in the second half was lacking, otherwise Indy would have been ahead by a couple of goals. And it was a lack of finishing in the final seconds that prevented Indy from leaving Kansas City with three points. 

This result feels exactly like what we have come to expect from this Indy squad. Give up a goal right before halftime, find an equalizer, but unable to finish off teams through an inability to finish their chances. Even when they have a numbers advantage and beat the keeper in the final seconds of the game. 

As I've said before, there are glimpses from this team that make you think they are going to turn the corner with the talent that is on the roster. Yet, those glimpses don't seem to lead to enough goals for themselves or prevent enough goals from the opposition. My heart wants to believe this is a playoff team, but my brain says that it just isn't going to happen. Going into the Loudoun game, I thought a win streak would be possible given the opposition, but Indy has started this three game stretch with a 0W-1D-1L and at no point in the two games did I think they were the team most likely to win. 

Indy heads home on Saturday to face Real Monarchs to try and put at least one win in their win column against the last place teams in their divisions. At this point, I'm not optimistic that will happen, and because of other results on Sunday, Indy once again find themselves looking up at the playoff line rather than moving up away from it.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I think I'm going to give this one to Patrick Seagrist. He had Law type numbers in this game, and I've clearly stated this year what I think of Law. Seagrist's effort, particularly in the heat, was impressive and his crosses nearly led to two goals. In one of the only times I can ever think I've thought this, when Seagrist was subbed out FOR AYOZE, I thought to myself, "I'm not sure about that substitution." That's how highly I thought of Seagrist's performance in this game.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Indy Eleven vs Loudoun United - 08.19


- Opponent: Loudoun United
- Location: Segra Field
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 4-1 L

- Starting XI: Farr, Buckmaster, Ouimette, Cochran, Hackshaw, Sissoko, Gutjahr, Ayoze (C), Law, Wild, Arteaga
- Substitutions: Moon (Buckmaster 59'); Koffie (Sissoko 59'); Hamilton 72' (Arteaga); Vassell 72' (Sissoko); Seagrist 80' (Ayoze)
- Unused: Dick, Malic

- Scoring Summary:
LDN - Sergi 43' (assist Dambrot)
LDN - Sergi 45'+1'
LDN - Pas 73'
LDN - Ku-Dipietro 76' (assist Paz)
IND - Ouimette 80' (assist Wild)

- Bookings:
IND - Cochran 33' (Yellow)
IND - Ouimette 34' (Yellow)
LDN - Dambrot 47' (Yellow)
IND - Moon 63' (Yellow)
LDN - Saravia 85' (Yellow)

- Referee: Matthew Franz
- Adage goals: Three

Thoughts and Opinions

This game started a three-game stretch where Indy play the team that currently sits at the bottom of their respective divisions. Given Loudoun's record this year coming into the game (2W-1D-14L), this was a game that Indy had to win; to help their position in the Central Division standings, and to provide confidence to themselves that they can beat the teams that they should beat.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

Interim Coach Rogers went with the exact same lineup that he used this past Saturday against OKC. The only tweaks were that Koffie and Moon returned to the bench in place of Liu and USL Academy signing Revolorio. 

Indy started the game holding possession and pressing Loudoun into bad mistakes in their own end. Around the 15 minute mark Indy held a 60/40 possession and had the only two shots in the game. Then the energy level seemed to change. As a result, the last 30 minutes of the first half looked completely different than the first 15 minutes as Indy stopped controlling the ball and looked for more long passes as Loudoun grew into the game. The two team's ended the half with a 50/50 split in possession and that possession by the home squad lead to a goal by Loudoun right before halftime. A goal where Sergi ran onto a ball as the entire backline watched the cross run lazily behind all of them and into the goal with a simple redirect. Indy, the victim of another adage goal.

But wait, there's more.

Instead of going into the halftime locker room down a goal, Indy gave up another goal. A poor play on the ball by Farr that should have been an infield fly rule bounced off his hands, off the crossbar, and right to the feet of Sergi. Again, as the defense stood around and watched.

Ball-watching defense, "Wild is offside yet again," and Indy not finishing their own chances sent the Eleven into the locker room with a deep hole to climb out of on the road. As anybody will tell you, if you want to get out of the hole, you have to stop digging.

Yet, Indy leaned into their digging and let Loudoun continue to dominate them on both sides of the ball. Loudoun would eventually make them pay in rapid succession, scoring in the 73rd and 76th minutes before a Ouimette header off of a Wild corner kick prevented the Loudoun clean sheet. That's about the only solace that Indy can take from this game, losing to the (by record) worst team in the league. If Indy players and coaches were embarrassed by the Atlanta loss, this one should sting worse. Loudoun came into the game having scored 15 goals all season. They put more than 25% of that on the board tonight.

I don't know how an unbiased person can look at the way Indy is playing and think that a spot in the playoffs is a viable option. I honestly can't look at the schedule and think that any of the games are going to be wins and that includes the upcoming ones against the aforementioned bottom of their divisions Sporting KC II and Real Monarchs SLC. There are still a lot of games to play in the season, but this is the kind of result and effort that makes you think the season will be over long before they play their last game.

Sunday at Sporting KC II. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Indy Eleven vs OKC Energy FC - 08.18


- Opponent: OKC Energy FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 5,999
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Farr, Buckmaster, Ouimette, Cochran, Hackshaw, Sissoko, Gutjahr, Ayoze (C), Law, Wild, Arteaga
- Substitutions: Seagrist (Ayoze 72'); Vassell (Sissoko 72')
- Unused: Dick, Hamilton, Liu, Malic, Revolorio

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Law 26' (assist Arteaga)
OKC - Batista 37' (assist Wynne)
IND - Arteaga 53' (assist Law)

- Bookings:
IND - Sissoko 10' (Yellow)
OKC - Adekoya 45' (Yellow)
IND - Arteaga 90'+3' (Yellow)
IND - Wild 90'+4' (Yellow)

- Referee: Joshua Encarnación
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Let's be honest, a win doesn't change everything immediately. Indy is still mired in a very crowded middle of the Central Division table and just outside of the playoffs. Despite Farr's return to the lineup, Columbus Crew loanee Eric Dick was still in the 18 because Bobby Edwards is on the Injury Report. Speaking of the Injury Report, Haworth is finally off of it, but Timmer and Moon took his place. An issue of depth in the back became apparent when recent USL Academy signing Revolorio was included in the game's 18.

But damn a home win feels good.

The Indy Eleven players went nearly 3 months without celebrating a win with their fans and had just come off of a 6-2 drubbing from Atlanta United 2, that was described by interim coach Rogers as "embarrassing." So to find the goal twice and keep OKC from getting a second goal helps everybody get a little more confidence moving forward. With a very winnable game on Wednesday against a struggling Loudoun team (2W-1D-14L), Indy could see their first win streak since the end of May.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. 

This was a game of interim coach versus interim coach as OKC is also working on finding a permanent coach. Some of which could explain why the majority of the first half felt like it was mostly played between the 18-yard lines. Both teams went into the halftime locker with 2 shots on goal and a goal a piece, but there was also a lot of action in the middle and wings of the field that didn't lead to much. I've described Indy's success when they attack the middle of the field and Indy's first goal by Law was another example of that. Ayoze attacking the middle, to Arteaga in the middle, to Law in the box with a cheeky little chip over the keeper to put Indy ahead. It was gorgeous inter-play between three of Indy's best (and in Manu's case, maybe most energetic) players. Arteaga had another shot later in the game that followed the same script of Indy attacking the middle of the defense instead of the wings.

As far as OKC's goal from a corner kick, what can you do? Jordan Farr was blocked from getting to the ball and OKC's 6-foot 5-inch tall Batista outjumped everybody and put the ball on goal. Credit to them for signing a basketball player. Unrelated to the goal, Batista went over after the halftime whistle and talked crap to Arteaga who was sitting on the ground after being fouled (but not called), which the Indy bench didn't appreciate. As I watched them all walk off the field to the same spot, I noticed that Law was walking briskly behind, and towards, Batista. Once he caught up with him, Nicky slowed down and had a word with Batista, then gave him a quick fist bump to Batista's chest. I would love to know what Law said in that moment.

Indy's second goal early in the half resulted from a recycled ball from Law after a free kick. Law's class showing again as he put the ball in a location where the keeper couldn't get to it, but game his teammates a chance to do something with it, which Arteaga didn't spectacularly in the tiny little window he had between the post and the keeper. With the speed at which Arteaga was making his run, his head could have very easily been sent into the wrong side of the side netting, but luckily for Indy, the ball found the back of the goal just before Arteaga took out the advertisement signs behind the goal.

After Indy scored the second, I don't know if I could describe Indy's play as a complete bunker, but there was a drastic difference in possession between the two teams after that point. The average position of the starters for Indy was definitely skewed heavily towards OKC's goal. While Indy managed to out-shoot OKC after the goal (4 to 3), the average location of OKC's substitutes was well within Indy's defensive half of the field. Indy was just able to do more with their opportunities, with 6 of their 8 shots being on target and a blistering 75% shooting accuracy.

After Rogers made two of his five available subs at the 72nd mark, and despite having Hamilton on the bench and Arteaga frequenting the field in pain, Rogers didn't make another substitute. Felt like a Hoosiers "My team is on the floor" moment. I don't know why Rogers decided to not make anymore subs, but that was what popped into my head.

Indy celebrated with their fans. Smoke was cathartically released after the win. It may not solve all the issues, but a good solid win on a nice August nice certainly helps the confidence.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I think I'm going to have to give this to the trio up top in Arteaga, Law, and Wild. The trio accounted for 5 of the team's 6 shots on target, both goals (and assists), and had 5 chances created between them. 

Additional Photos

Former Indy Eleven player Kyle Hyland during the pregame Cheers to Indy