Saturday, March 26, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City FC - 09.03


- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Lynn Family Stadium
- Attendance: 8,551
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Panicco, Rebellon, Jerome, Cochran (C), Timmer, Ingram, Brown, Law, Fjeldberg, Briggs, Pinho
- Substitutions: Michael 73' (Pinho); Ouimette 89' (Fjeldberg); Ault 90'+6' (Briggs)
- Unused: Trilk, Iaccino, Revolorio, Warhaft

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Pinho 22' (assist Law)
LOU - Totsch 53' 

- Bookings:
IND - Timmer 35' (Yellow)
LOU - Ownby 85' (Yellow)
IND - Briggs 86' (Yellow)
LOU - Dia 89' (Yellow)

- Referee: Eric Tattersall
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

With a loss tonight, Indy would have started the season with 0 wins and 3 losses. El Paso lost an absolute crazy game on Wednesday to start their season with 0 wins and 3 losses, two of which were at the fortress they call Southwest University Park. A trip to Louisville was starting to look like the hiring of Coach Lowry wasn't benefitting either team. At least this early in the season, both teams sit near the bottom of their respective tables, and unfortunately, until tonight, Indy looked like they belong there. The good news for Indy fans is that, as they indicated on the telecast, Lowry's first two seasons at El Paso were also slow starts. While Indy picked up a much needed point tonight, the three games are still a long way from the optimism we all felt just a few weeks ago. 

A draw on the road in Louisville in the first game of the 2022 iteration of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest series is something to build upon though, particularly given the number of players that were unavailable for this game. Starters Hackshaw and Powder were out with Trinidad & Tobago, and Arteaga and Ayoze continue to be out with a knee and ankle injury, respectively. While the second half of the game was tilted more towards Indy's defensive side, the first half had a much better showing from Indy on their ability to put Louisville under pressure than we saw throughout any part of the Loudoun or Tampa Bay games. 

Louisville came into this game getting 9 points from their first 3 games, having not conceded a goal yet this year. Indy's goal in the 22nd minute was a result of Indy attacking, and attacking in numbers. When the series begins, Indy had both forwards and three of the four midfields going forward, with Ingram quickly following behind the play, against just two Louisville defenders (more did manage to make their way back by the end of the play). Fjeldberg's cross was not ideal, but because Indy was attacking with so much pace, Bone was at a dead-sprint towards his own goal and couldn't get much on his clearance, which went directly to Brown. Brown quickly found Law, with Bone out of position. Then Law abused Bone further with the fake cross with his right foot, bringing it back to his left for the cross in front of goal that Pinho latched onto with his diving header. This was the kind of attacking football that I thought we would see.

Indy nearly doubled their lead eleven minutes later after Law managed to get his foot to a clearance from Bone that ricocheted into the middle of the pitch and Fjeldberg. With Louisville's defense slightly out of position after the ricochet, Fjeldberg immediately turned towards Louisville's goal and put one in the upper corner that Morton managed to push just enough to get the ball to bounce off the cross bar. 

Louisville made some adjustments after halftime and Indy found themselves defending much more in the second half, but it was a scramble on a Louisville corner kick in the 53rd minute that found Totsch, who made no mistake of putting it into the back of the goal. At that point, momentum clearly felt to be on Louisville's side, but Indy settled back into the game again and managed to thwart Louisville's frequent pushes forward. Including another scramble on a corner kick where Panicco didn't get a good punch to the ball and second half substitute, and recent signing, Michael managed to get a boot to the ball as it bounced towards goal, only to kick the ball up into the bottom part of the cross bar and back out off of Cochran's shoulder. Despite pleas from the Louisville players and fans, it looked like the correct no-call to me. 

Given the way Indy looked in their first two games, this draw in Louisville feels like a win. It moves Indy off of the bottom of the table, if only just barely, to give the team and fans some confidence moving forward. After three games, Indy finally come home to The Mike next week for their first home game of the season against LA Galaxy II, and then get a quick turnaround for an Open Cup game on Tuesday against Saint Louis City SC 2. Getting a point tonight against Louisville is going to make those games a little less stressful.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

In contract to the past two games, I think I could actually give the Game Beckons Game Ball to a couple players. Obviously I could give it to Law because he was mentioned a couple times in my recap and 4 chances created. Brown was worthy because of his presence in the attack and defense. Timmer has been moved all over the starting lineup recently as needed due to the injuries and suspensions and has been great. However, given that Indy hadn't scored a goal before tonight, I think I'll give tonight's GBGB to Pinho. His movement to stay onside as Law abused Bone was absolutely vital to the Indy goal. Indy needed to see the ball go into the goal and Pinho provided that tonight.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Tampa Bay Rowdies - 09.02


- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Al Lang Stadium
- Attendance: 5,192
- Final Score: 2-0 L

- Starting XI: Panicco, Timmer, Jerome, Ouimette, Hackshaw (C), Rebellon, Law, Fjeldberg, Powder, Aguilera, Pinho
- Substitutions: Briggs 67' (Rebellon); Brown 74' (Pinho); Ingram 74' (Law)
- Unused: Trilk, Cochran, Warhaft, Ault

- Scoring Summary:
TBR - Tejada 1' (assist Guenzatti)
TBR - La Cava 51' (assist Tejada)

- Bookings:
TBR - Scarlett 11' (Yellow)
IND - Aguilera 18', 59' (Yellow + Yellow = RED)
TBR - Wyke 39' (Yellow)
TBR - Guillen 45'+2' (Yellow)
IND - Pinho 53' (Yellow)
TBR - Etou 76' (Yellow)

- Referee: Jeremy Scheer
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

THIRTY-SIX SECONDS. It took 36 seconds for Indy Eleven to be playing from behind. Amazingly, by my records, that's only the third fastest goal given up by Indy in their history. In 2014, Indy let Fort Lauderdale score in 28 seconds, and last year, Indy let Atlanta United score in 10 seconds. Indy, eventually, settled into the game a bit, but as was stated on the broadcast, the "speed of play, just miles apart at the moment."

For the second time in two games, the announcers for the games have stated that Mark Lowry has said that he isn't as concerned about the "aesthetics" of how Indy plays. That's probably a good idea to get into the Indy Eleven's ear holes, because at this point in the season, the aesthetics are a bit rough. They remain compact in defense, but there continue to be poor passes, questionable decisions, and no significant pressure moving forward. In some ways, this looks exactly like what Indy fans saw last year under Martin Rennie. 

Indy finished the first half with TBR holding a 70% to 30% advantage in possession and with a 4 to 0 advantage in shots on goal. If it wasn't for two late shots on goal by Indy, those percentages and differences would have remained the same.

The second half didn't look any different. Tampa picked up a second goal, early in the half and Indy looked stagnant afterwards. No intensity moving forward. Minimal possession. Just two late shots on goal.

Once the second yellow card was presented to Aguilera in the 59th minute, Indy had no chance in this game. Indy went an entire season last year without getting a player getting thrown out of a game, but Indy is two for two this season, as Aguilera joins McQueen as players to make their way to the locker room early. 

Two shots on goal; both in the closing minutes with one in the 84th minute and the other in the 88th minute from a corner kick. Tampa Bay had a >92% success rate on their passes.

I don't know what else to say about this game. For the second week in a row, Indy was completely outclassed, nearly in all positions. The team that I thought we would see this season is not the team that we are seeing so far. Again, in some ways, this feels like an extension of the Rennie era, and that isn't necessarily a good thing.

This is a new group of guys and so the typical, "it's going to take time to gel" mentality is true, but next week in Louisville has all the signs of an 0-3 start for Indy to start this season.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I could give this to Panicco again, but I'll spread the wealth a little. You know what, I can't give it to anybody but Panicco. I can't look at how the game went and the player stats and really think of another player that deserves it more. GBGB by default maybe, but for a guy that I don't think had many minutes with the team during preseason, he has looked good.

Closing Thought
Congratulations to Karl Ouimette for being the first player in Indy Eleven club history to reach the Century Club in starts. 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Loudoun United FC - 09.01


- Opponent: Loudoun United FC
- Location: Segra Field
- Attendance: --
- Final Score: 1-0 L

- Starting XI: Panicco, Cochran, Jerome, Hackshaw (C), Powder, McQueen, Law, Rebellon, Ingram, Briggs, Pinho
- Substitutions: Brown 62' (Rebellon); Fjeldberg 62' (Ingram); Aguilera 90'+3' (Law); Ault 90'+3' (Briggs)
- Unused: Trilk, Timmer, Ouimette

- Scoring Summary:
LDN - Smith 43' (Ku-Dipietro)

- Bookings:
IND - Hackshaw 20' (Yellow)
LDN - Greene 62' (Yellow)
LDN - Hope-Gund 70' (Yellow)
LDN - Lilliard 84' (Yellow)
IND - Briggs 87' (Yellow)
IND - McQueen 90' (RED)
LDN - Smith 90'+5' (Yellow)

- Referee: John Matto
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

The Mark Lowry era starts with a whimper and an uninspiring 1-0 loss to Loudoun United, that also watched McQueen exit to the showers early on a late game red card. Luckily for Indy fans, there are 33 more regular season games before this season is in the books, but this was not the game that Indy expected with the hiring of Mark Lowry and the off-season signings.

To paraphrase Devon Kerr on the telecast, Lowry has indicated that what separates his preferred style of play now from his early coaching days is that he is less concerned with the aesthetics of how the game "looks" as long as the guys are playing the style he wants from them. This was certainly true in the game as Indy didn't maintain much position, finishing the first half with Loudoun holding a 67% to 33% advantage in possession, and that only got slightly better by the end of the game. More importantly, Indy went down 1-0 in the 43rd minute on a counterattack from Loudoun that didn't get slowed down, despite there being sufficient defenders back to handle the attack. Indy's only shot on goal in the first half came from local product, Justin Ingram, in the 2nd minute, and it was easily saved by Loudoun's Zamudio as Ingram didn't get much on it. Indy only managed one more shot on goal the rest of the game, in the 76th minute by Fjeldberg. That's a long stretch of the game where Indy couldn't put anything on frame. As can seen by the 1st half average position chart, it was a crowded midfield and Indy didn't have any answers on how to break through it.

This looked markedly different than the Lowry led El Paso games I watched last season. Possession was nearly non-existent, passes were not as accurate, and significantly more long passes. If we're being honest with ourselves, this looked like a Martin Rennie bunker and hope game on the road. I have full faith that this isn't what we're going to see every game, but this was not the start to the season that I wanted to see. With upcoming road games against Tampa Bay and Louisville, this has all the markings of Indy being in a 3-game hole before they ever see the home confines of Carroll Stadium.

Loudoun was awarded a penalty kick in the 78th minute on a questionable call on a shoulder tackle from second-half substitute Brown. Panicco went the correct direction and pushed Hopkins' ball away from the goal, maintaining Indy's ability to stay in the game. A scramble ensued before Indy finally cleared the ball. "Ball don't lie." 

However, better play does, and Loudoun deserved this win. They were the more dominant and more composed team. They created more chances, while limiting Indy to almost nothing. They took it to Indy from the start and Indy never found an answer against them.

Indy are going to need to figure some things out in the coming week, because a trip to Tampa Bay is on the docket for next week. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

In a game that looked like this, the GBGB came down to a single moment. To my knowledge, Panicco didn't get many moments during the preseason games, but stopping a penalty kick doesn't require you to have much time on the field with your teammates. It just requires you to guess correctly on the penalty kickers direction and then have a strong enough hand to it to push it aside. Panicco did that, keeping Indy from going further in the hole late in the game.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Indy Eleven Season 9 Preseason vs Chicago Fire

- Opponent: Chicago Fire FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: Closed Door
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Timmer, Jerome, Guest DF #1, McQueen, Aguilera, Hackshaw, Ingram, Rebellon, Briggs, Guest FW #1
- Substitutions: Ault 45' (Guest DF #1); Guest FW #2 72' (Ault); Brown 72' (Guest FW #1)
- Unused: Everybody else

- Scoring Summary:
CHI - 13' (unassisted)
IND - Briggs 51' (assist Ault)
IND - Guest FW #2 84' (assist Briggs)

- Bookings:
IND - Hackshaw 22' (Yellow)

- Referee: ??
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I managed to make it to two of the Indy Eleven's preseason games. The first was against the University of Indianapolis and the other was this game against the Chicago Fire. However, the average age of the two opponents was probably similar as this was not the Chicago Fire first team, but rather some version of its Academy. Admittedly, I don't know what level the Chicago players fall within the Fire system, but they were a talented group of players. They pressed hard at all levels and consistently put Indy into difficult decision-making positions, often coming out the better of the challenge than their older professional counterparts in Indy. Nicky Law has seen a lot of players over his career, and I overheard him saying, "this guys are good. They were good last year too." While Indy came out ahead with a couple of second half goals that negated the 13th minute Chicago Fire goal, the result of this game, like most preseason games, was not the main focus.

As can be seen from the substitution list, this game was about getting guys 90 minutes of game action to make sure that everybody is match fit. A game the next day in Columbus likely saw the same kind of arrangement with limited substitutions. It also meant that the lineup I saw against the Fire was not the starting lineup that I expect to see this coming Saturday against Loudoun United. 

So how much can I take from this game? Maybe minimal, but there are some key things I noticed.

  • As I mentioned on Twitter, Trilk's voice CARRIED throughout Carroll Stadium. There weren't any fans to drown out his voice, but from where I was sitting 25 rows up and at midfield, I could hear every command he was giving his backline (and Hackshaw...more on that in a second). Trilk is really vocal and was constantly in communication with the defense. Maybe a little worrisome was that they didn't always listen to him, but hopefully, that was just some preseason "I'm going to try and do this against these kids" mentality. If there are breakdowns on defense this year, it won't be because Trilk wasn't offering advice. 
  • I like Hackshaw in the defensive midfielder role. It gives Indy all the things we like about Hackshaw (defensive prowess, his ability to go forward, his ability on set piece headers), but allows him to go forward more without his worrying as much about his defensive responsibilities, while also serving as a protector ahead of the centerbacks. Hackshaw received an emphatic warning from the referee, and then proceeded to get the game's only yellow card 15 seconds later on a hard (but probably legal) challenge. If he had waited 10 minutes, he probably wouldn't have received the card for the same challenge. It was funny to watch though, and you knew the card was coming out of the pocket as soon as Hackshaw did the challenge.
  • The offense that I saw in this game is not what I would expect from a Lowry coached team, but I think the tactics by the Fire players dictated that to some degree. As I said, the Fire players pressed hard at all levels and with a lot of pace. So there were more "long balls" from Indy than I expected or saw during the UIndy game, but they were often necessary as Indy tried to break the wave of Fire players coming at the ball. 
  • With that, Briggs fits the mold of a good target forward. At 6'-4", he towered over most of the Fire players and was able to receive the ball with his back to goal and distribute. So balls over the top weren't necessarily lost. 
  • I'm calling it now that Palmer Ault and Justin Ingram will quickly become fan favorites due to their ability and their energy.
  • The goal from Chicago was the kind of goal that fans hate to see. It was just good individual effort, but Indy should have had it covered. 
  • My only substantial concern was that the forwards and midfielders seem to be a bit too unselfish during this game. I know it was just in my head, but I could imagine the chant, "shoot the ball!" reverberating around the stadium. It's one thing in a preseason game, but I hope these guys don't translate their unselfishness to the regular season games when they are within the box like they were in this game. We can expect Arteaga to take shots, but I hope the rest of these guys do as well.

Other than being a bit colder than I expected it to be, I think this was a good outing for Indy. It checked some boxes as far as fitness, seeing how some guys play together, and maybe more importantly, was a good test against a team that was fast and pressed hard. 

I don't know how Indy did in the game on Saturday against the Columbus Crew's academy team, but the next game counts as they play Loudoun United on Saturday at 6:00 at Segra Field.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I'll give this one to Briggs for his goal and assist. 

Additional Photos (Courtesy of Don Thompson Photography)