Monday, April 25, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Orange County SC - 09.07


- Opponent: Orange County SC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 5,906
- Final Score: 3-1 W

- Starting XI: Panicco, McQueen, Jerome, Cochran, Timmer, Ingram, Law, Aguilera, Ayoze, Fjeldberg, Pinho
- Substitution: Hackshaw 25' (Jerome - injury); Arteaga 45' (Ayoze); Powder 53' (Law - injury); Briggs 70' (Pinho)
- Unused: Trilk, Michael, Ouimette

- Scoring Summary:
OC - Kuningas 13'
IND - Powder 54' (assist Pinho)
IND - Pinho 64' (assist Arteaga)
IND - Briggs 90'+2' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
OC - Henry 45'+3' (Yellow)
IND - Powder 54' (Yellow)
IND - Aguilera 90' (Yellow)

- Referee: Elijio Arreguin
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I've already conveyed a few times this year that I lean pessimistic and so I'm going to start out that way here. I won't end that way though. 

A 3-1 win is great and it sends fans home happy. As can be seen in the graph to the right, Indy's five-game unbeaten streak and three-game win streak, has Indy trending in the right direction. Which is good.

Sliding towards pessimism, with the exception of the draw against Louisville, AT Louisville, Indy's undefeated streak hasn't come against the USL world-beaters. However, clawing my way back towards optimism, you can only play the teams in front of you and get positive results from those games. Indy has found itself at home, against (on paper) "lesser" teams, while Indy gets used to each other and a new coach, and recovers from some key injuries. If you win your home games and beat the teams you are supposed to beat, you'll likely make the playoffs where anything can happen. That's exactly what is happening for Indy right now. They're winning the games they are supposed to win, even if they aren't doing themselves any favors at times.

Orange County's goal is a good example of that last statement. They're a big team who started the first half playing long balls over the top to avoid Indy's midfield. In one of the rare example where Cochran (or Timmer or Hackshaw or Ouimette) didn't win a header cleanly, the ball made it over all the defense putting Kuningas in a 1v1 with Panicco and he nicely finished through the five-hole. Seven games into the season and a clean sheet continues to elude the Eleven. Which is a bit frustrating, but Panicco also didn't have to make a save. Having your goalkeeper finish the game without a save, and win, is always a good thing. 

There were also some close calls where OC crosses narrowly missed being placed into Indy's goal by Indy players. Yet, Coach Lowry confidently told the broadcast at halftime, "we're going to win this game." When I asked him why he said it so confidently, he said, "I thought, the goal aside, the first half was fine. We finished the first half really well...with the subs I knew I had in my back pocket on the bench, I just felt like we were going to win this game."

Look at the stats. In nearly every category, Coach wasn't wrong. Indy won this game. For me, this is one of those times when the stats and the eye test agree. Did OC have some chances? Sure. Did I think they played at a level to win the game? No, not really.

I still have my doubts about a couple of the players (I'm not going to name them right now, but I know others disagree with me), but this team took the hit in the first games as they worked their way into the system and gained familiarity with each other. As they have gained experience together and with Lowry's system, they have been able to play games at home and against struggling or tired teams (remember, OC played LAFC midweek in the U.S. Open Cup). That's not an unimportant fact. Playing at home is supposed to be an advantage. An advantage the 2016 and 2019 versions of Indy Eleven understood and rode to, and into, the playoffs. That can be the case here and Coach Lowry knows it:
"I feel we have the environment to do that. The fans are obviously fantastic, The BYB make the energy superb. Sometimes having this type of field [editor's note, yes, that is yet another reference to the crappy Carroll Stadium turf] an advantage because teams don't enjoy coming here. So we have to embrace that and find ways to win here. And I think we're doing that. Teams don't want to come here and play here. So you know what, we'll make them miserable for 90 minutes as well, beat them and send them home with zero points. We have to keep doing it. We can't lose games at home. If we do that, at the end of the season, we'll be in the playoffs. That's how football works."

What doesn't help are injuries. Getting Ayoze and Arteaga back has taken this team from "ok, let's see where this goes" to "yeah, this team could be dangerous." More on Arteaga later...hint, hint. Yet, Lowry's substitution pattern was thrown completely out of the window last night with two more injuries, both key injuries. The first one was Jerome in the 25th minute when he rolled his ankle chasing down a high-bouncing ball and came down wrong. Fortunately, Hackshaw has returned and seems to be healthy again and slotted in the backline in his old left back role, and Timmer took over the CB role vacated as Jerome sat down early. The versatility of the guys on the roster makes that change easier, but Jerome is still a major loss depending on the extent of his injury. The second injury was Nicky Law who left the game in the 53rd minute. I've had two years of telling you what I think about Nicky Law, so I'll save that today. So just as Indy is getting two very important pieces back, two more very important pieces left this game early. Oh, and Fjeldberg left with cramps, further hampering Lowry's substitution patter in this game. 
"Nicky should be fine... Jerome rolled his ankle over in the corner...the next couple of days will let us know how quickly it goes down. We got a home game next weekend against Hartford and then we got a week off. So that week off might come at a good time. ... looking back at Nicky's [injury] at halftime, we probably should have taken Nicky off at halftime and kept Ayo on for another 10 minutes, that would have saved a sub, but the plan was to try and win the game and get Manu and Ayo quality minutes with some thought to it."

I might have the next statement from Coach placed somewhere permanently on my site. With the possibility of Jerome maybe missing some time, I asked Coach if he thought it was going to be beneficial that Hackshaw, Timmer, and Cochran all had time together last year along the back line? "Yeah, that's a good point." 

That's it. I had an Indy Eleven coach tell me I said something worthwhile. I could retire now and go out on top.

Or I'll just keep going, like I seem to do... Back to the game...

This version of Indy Eleven has attacking options for days. Even with the affected sub pattern, Indy is able to bring on Arteaga, Powder, and Briggs. That's some serious firepower to have in Lowry's back pocket, and you can see why he was confident about winning this game. As I said last week, it's not always the team that starts the game, but the team that finishes it, and with back-to-back 90'+2' goals, Briggs is showing he can absolutely destroy a back line that is tired of dealing with Pinho for the first part of the game. And Asante is still to arrive! 

Look, I'm prone to pessimism, but in some ways this team is setup like what it feels like how many of the Western Division conference are setup. Indy, undoubtedly, has the ability to start getting clean sheets, but they definitely feel like they are close to being able to try and outscore some teams. They're not there yet, but having Arteaga back in the mix feels like the piece that was missing and Asante is just going to make that attacking threat greater...and deeper.

Indy gave up an early goal, absorbed pressure towards the end as OC were looking for a game-tying goal, and yet Indy not only hung on, but found a third goal through Briggs. Indy remain home for another week against a bottom of the table Hartford and a chance to stay in the top half of the table. 

Win your games at home. Beat the teams you're supposed to beat. Make the playoffs.

I know Indy has some struggles and some things to fix, but even my jaded pessimistic self is starting to see that Indy has the ability to follow that formula.  

An opposing goalkeeper with his hands on his hips in a cloud of smoke from the BYB.
The way it should be.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
This is another game where I think several guys deserve the GBGB. Ingram was spectacular in an unassuming way. Pinho, Briggs, and Powder all had goals. Fjeldberg was inches from having his own. Hackshaw came into the game so early he had to take his earring off and give it to Gabe right before he went onto the field. Ayo looked like Ayo. All that being said, I have to give it to Arteaga.

He just changed what OC had to deal with when he came on at halftime. He had 2 chances created, 1 assist, won 11 of his 15 duels, won 6 of his 7 aerial duals, and was 80% accurate with his passes in ORANGE COUNTY'S HALF. 

This likely won't be the last GBGB for Arteaga this season, but I also think that it isn't going to be long before Ingram gets "rewarded" with a future GBGB.

Additional Photos (Courtesy of @DLTPhotog)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Atlanta United 2 - 09.06


- Opponent: Atlanta United 2
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 5,906
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Panicco, Rebellon, Jerome, Cochran (C), Timmer, Powder, Brown, Law, Aguilera, Fjeldbert, Pinho
- Substitution: Ingram 45' (Brown); McQueen 78' (Rebellon); Ayoze 78' (Powder); Arteaga 78' (Fjeldberg); Briggs 88' (Pinho)
- Unused: Trilk, Ouimette

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Law 12'
ATL2 - Conway 68' (assist Howard)
IND - Briggs 90'+2' (assist Law)

- Bookings:
ATL2 - Chukwuma 10' (Yellow)
IND - Cochran 14' (Yellow)
IND - Brown 26' (Yellow)
IND - Fjeldberg 29' (Yellow)
ATL2 - Howard 90'+5' (Yellow)

- Referee: Calin Radosav
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I'll get to my thoughts of the game in a minute, but as Peter Wilt once said to me in my article titled "The game is beckoning, but it's complicated," "Yours is not to break news or even always to analyze news. Sometimes it is to share experiences and perspectives unique to you. And that is a gift to me and all your other readers." So I'm going to share an experience and perspective that is unique to me.

Before this game, I was talking to Robbie Mehling, the excellent photographer for SocTakes, and he thanked me "for being the splash of cold water on the Asante signing." For those that don't want to follow the link to what he is referencing, I tweeted, 
"Call it my pessimistic nature, but this is the kind of signing that Indy have done over the years that never seems to pan out. Indy have had other prolific scorers (e.g. Dane Kelly) that struggle here. I really hope this player in Lowry's system bucks that trend."

Which I still stand behind. Indy has a history of guys who had no difficult putting the ball in the goal before they arrived here and had no difficulty putting the ball in the goal after they left here. Yet, Indy fans watched them struggle to do that here. So until I see it actually happen, I'm going to continue to guard my expectations. Can it go well? I hope so. Can it go poorly? History would say yes.

However, I realized that I have been kind of a wet blanket lately on this team, including a series of tweets directly to Coach Lowry after the Open Cup game loss to St. Louis City SC2. Last night, I was the only press involved in the press conference that was not connected to the telecast with Rakestraw and Hauter. While that's not necessarily unusual, what is unusual is that Coach Lowry was willing to talk after the official part of the conference. So my unique experience and perspective comes from the fact that I was the only media around to be able to hear what Coach had to say.

I don't know if I would call it "off-record" thoughts, but of of respect for him, I'm not going to relay all of it. What I will say is that I was before, and I definitely am now, a fan of Coach Lowry. I think he is a great coach and his successes at other places is indicative of that fact. I have watched a lot of El Paso games over the past two years and I am excited by his hiring and the potential of seeing an Indy team play like those ELP teams. 

What I can tell you, and this is no surprise or secret if you've been reading this site, Coach thinks the turf at Carroll Stadium is garbage. We all know Coach Rennie thought so, Nicky Law has expressed his frustration with it, and Coach Lowry said it at least twice last night, and not as an excuse. Coach wants to build a winning culture, appearances of how the football looks right now be damned. Getting positive results is more important to him right now, and under that lens, you have to evaluate the Indy games to date differently. He was happy with the result of last night's game, but I could tell he wasn't happy with all aspects of how the game progressed. There was definite frustration with moments (and maybe some players) in the game. Coach is looking at the success of this team in the long-term, and that might not necessarily mean as much success this year as fans may want, but he is convinced that it will happen. 

We may not truly see the benefits of his hiring until next season. I can't guarantee that I'm not going to continue to be the periodic wet blanket on team news and performances, but my discussion with Coach Lowry last night has me feeling better. 

A late game winning goal, obviously, helps with that. However, I think there were some very good things with last night's game beyond just the result that pushed Indy up to 8th in the table. So let's get into my thoughts about the game.

ATL2 Heat Map
Pay no attention to the possession percentages. Coach said, at least right now, he doesn't care about that as an indicator for how the game is going. Yes, he would love to have more possession of the ball, but as long as guys are making the right decisions when Indy does have the ball, that's more important right now. Besides, Atlanta had possession, but it wasn't always in threatening areas, with a significant amount of it happening in their own half of the field. Coach Lowry will live with that possession battle "lost," particularly on the turf at Carroll Stadium.

For me, there were several things that happened last night that were interesting, were important factors, or were what changed how this game was different than in recent games.
  1. Panicco is starting to look more comfortable and confident in his decision making and his execution of those decisions. My game notes had two specific examples of this in the game. The first was in the 52nd minute, on a cross from the right side of the field. The ball appeared to be drifting comfortably out of bounds and over the crossbar, but it was close enough that Panicco had to go ahead and push it over. Yes, it conceded a corner kick that might have been a goal kick, but it was the right decision (the subsequent corner kick was long over everyone and went harmlessly back out of bounds). The second was a punch on the ball a couple minutes later. His punches haven't been consistent this year, but he left no doubt on that one.
  2. The decision to move Nicky Law to the right side of the field in front of Rebellon. There was an obvious uptick in the cohesive thought processes in both attack and defense when these two together. Obviously, Law scored off a set piece and picked up the assist on the Briggs goal, but there were times when it felt like Law and Rebellon could do whatever they wanted against the ATL2 defenders.
  3. Mechack Jerome Pass Chart
    Mechack Jerome had nearly as many long ball passes as he did short passes (21 to 25, respectively). "We were getting a lot of success in the first 20 minutes because their back four set really high. We got Nicky in a bunch of times, Jonas a bunch of times." - Lowry. This was clearly something that they saw in video review of ATL2 and thought that they could exploit it and Jerome heard the commands of his long-time coach and took it to heart. So why didn't it continue? Coach was as confused about that as I was. "Oh yeah, we want to pass the ball, but if something is working, you gotta kind of stick with it and keep going and the guys stopped doing that and they became hesitant in their play...and then Atlanta started getting chances in the first half."
  4. Arteaga and Ayoze - Oh how I'm glad they are back from their injuries and can help the team moving forward during games. 
    1. I know we all think of Ayoze as the ageless wonder, but a good 20 to 30 minute shift from Ayoze at the end of the game might just be enough. If Indy is trailing, he has the ability to push the ball forward and get centering crosses into the forwards in dangerous areas. If Indy is winning, he has the ability to slow the game down and limit the other team's possessions. Him being healthy changes the dynamic of this team.
    2. Arteaga Pass/Shot Chart
      Speaking of dynamic, Arteaga might be the single piece that has been missing from this team. A piece that is going to get complimented when Asante arrives. Arteaga brings a poachers mentality, is unafraid to shoot the ball from nearly anywhere, and is willing to outwork every defender. In the 12+ minutes that Arteaga was on the field, he had 12 passes, 2 shots on target, and 2 shots off target. That means, once every three minutes, Arteaga was testing ATL2's goalkeeper. Yes, Indy was in full attack mode at that point, which can skew stats towards a forward like Arteaga, but we've all watched him this past year. We all love Zayed, but I (still) honestly think that Arteaga has the potential to be one of the top scorers in Indy's history and last night was another display of that potential.
    3. "...has quality in those areas. And they make everybody around them better. That's the difference as well. When Ayo and Arteaga came in, Raul got better, Nicky got better, because the quality of the passes into them was better and the movement around them was good." - Lowry. 
  5. Ingram - He came in at halftime for what I suspect was a hobbled Brown and was effective. His versality and ability made that a seamless like-for-like change in the holding midfielder role. I know that John Morrissey of USL Tactics is high on J.I., and the ability that I saw with Ingram during preseason is translating into the regular season. 
  6. Briggs Pass/Shot Chart
    It's not always how your start and who is on the field at the start of the game, but how and who is on the field when you finish. With Arteaga getting healthy and closer to match fitness, and Pinho, and forthcoming Asante, Briggs is likely going to find himself in a reserve role. "Hopefully can just keep doing it and starting the games, but if not, then I'll come on and give my 110% and try to see a result for us." - Briggs. With his height and his ability, a fresh Briggs is going to be a dangerous weapon at the end of games if Indy is chasing a goal. In the past two games, he has the game-winning assist and the game-winning goal. I like it. BYB, he's thinking about you too: "My only regret is not jumping into the fan section and celebrating with them more."
  7. I like everything about this quote from Coach during the post-game press conference as to why there was so much push with his subs at the end: "I like to make attacking subs, whether win or lose, I like my subs to be attacking players to keep the energy going further forward. We knew we had quality on the bench. We felt it probably always going to be like that. Games are actually close here for obvious reasons [this was another reference to the field condition], there's usually a parity in the scoreline for awhile so if you have quality off the bench, you can always go win the game later on. The guys did great in the last fifteen minutes to do that." 
This recap is a complete rewrite from what I thought I was going to write after the closing events of the game and the post-game discussions. This was a game Indy deserved to win. As can be seen from the tweet from GameFlowxPG, Indy was clearly the more threatening team. 

However, I had already started writing in my head that this was going to be one of those games where a draw felt like a loss, and history has shown us could have finished as an actual loss. Yet, Lowry's late-game attacker mentality and the ability of those late-game attackers meant that we all went home a little happier after Brigg's 90'+2' stoppage time winner. Indy takes on the defending USL Championship winner Orange County SC on SUNDAY at Carroll Stadium. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Come on?! He's my favorite player on this roster, and he had a goal and the game-winning assist. Coach once said that he has a hard time knowing where to play Nicky Law because he's so good at so many things. Not every team is going to play like ATL2 that work towards Law's abilities, but Law may have been his most effective as he has been all season. I was able to interview him afterwards and then talk to him a bit about Motherwell too. 

That's a little more of my personal experience...

Plus that free kick...A free kick that was 18 seconds away from becoming the club's first goal ever scored or conceded in the 11th minute of a game...

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

Additional Photos (Courtesy of @DLTPhotog)

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Rio Grande Valley FC - 09.05


- Opponent: Rio Grande Valley FC
- Location: H-E-B Park
- Attendance: 3,357
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Panicco, Rebellon, Jerome, Cochran (C), Timmer, Powder, Brown, Ingram, McQueen, Aguilera, Pinho
- Substitution: Law 68' (Powder); Briggs 68' (McQueen); Michael 86' (Ingram); Ayoze 86' (Pinho); Arteaga 90'+4' (Aguilera)
- Unused: Trilk, Ouimette

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Pinho 69' (assist Jerome)
IND - Pinho 78' (assist Briggs)
RGV - Lopez 83' (assist Coronado)

- Bookings:
RGV - Nodarse 25' (Yellow)
IND - Rebellon 35' (Yellow)
IND - Pinho 40' (Yellow)
IND - McQueen 58' (Yellow)
RGV - Ruiz 73' (Yellow)
IND - Aguilera 90' (Yellow)

- Referee: Gerald Flores
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

Wind Chart for Edinburg, TX
from Weather Underground
Let's be honest. This was a game of two teams that are sitting towards the bottom of their respective tables, struggling to get positive results. At some point, one of them had to break through get a win, right? In the first half, I thought that team was going to be Rio Grande Valley. They controlled possession, they had more shots, and they were going with the wind. For the second league game in a row, wind was a factor as clearances and long passes were held up in the 22 mph winds and 35 mph wind gusts. The second half brought about a change in direction for Indy and fewer passes being affected by the wind.

RGV had a 56% to 44% advantage in possession at halftime, and expanded that to 62% to 38% by the end of the game. Indy didn't have a shot until stoppage time of the first half and didn't have a shot on goal until the 68th minute. Yes, that coincides with Pinho's first goal. Indy's ONLY other shot on goal happened in the 78th minute, which yes, coincides with Pinho's second goal. If you're only going to get two shots on goal, a 100% conversion rate is required if you want to have any chance of winning the game. 

This team is a mystery to me at this point in the season. Indy struggles with teams that press hard (see St. Louis), but are generally dominant in the aerial duels. Yet, between the 60th and the 63rd minutes, Indy had four consecutive corner kicks and walked away from that stretch of play without a single shot on goal. How is that possible?

After Indy gave themselves a two-goal cushion in the 78th minute from Pinho's second goal, my gut feeling was telling me that the goal-scoring was done for Indy, but not for RGV. Five minutes later (the old adage goal rearing its head), a pass was threaded through a channel between Rebellon and Aguilera who couldn't keep up with Coronado, who one-touched a centering ball to Lopez who had made a run off of Cochran's shoulder and beat him to the spot in the 6-yard box where he found the ball and just needed to redirect it on goal away from Panicco. Despite pretty good defense for the majority of the game, Panicco continues to wait for his first clean sheet of the season.

I know it's early in the season, but I'm starting to worry about McQueen and Powder. I feel like I have seen a number of times where McQueen and Rebellon aren't on the same page and Powder seems to be struggling in the midfield as well. In this game, McQueen was less than 53% accurate with his passes, neither provided any positive stats for the attack, and both conceded more fouls than they won with McQueen picking up a yellow card (plus his red card in the first game against Loudoun). The Lowry offense I saw in El Paso last year utilized crosses from the wings to get balls into the box, but Powder has just two crosses in his four games played. Yes, there are a number of factors that go into their numbers, but I think Indy are going to need more out of these two guys moving forward.

Indy return home to Carroll Stadium for a much needed homestand as they play 5 of their next 6 games in Indy. The trip to AutoZone Park to play Memphis 901 FC on May 14th is the only away fixture in the months of April and May. Indy needs to take advantage of the BYB support as Indy plays on the road for every game in the month of June. Indy begin the run of home games next week against Atlanta United 2, who sit just ahead of Indy in the table and just took a 4-nil beating from Detroit City FC.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This is a season where Indy has had a hard time scoring goals. A combined lack of composure and a hesitancy to shoot the ball has lead Indy to scoring just 2 goals in their first four games. Indy, through Pinho, doubled that total last night, giving him 3 of Indy's 4 goals. In honor of the team's first brace (that didn't include a penalty kick as part of the brace) since Tyler Pasher accomplished the feat in the first game of the 2020 season, today's Game Beckons Game Ball goes to Stefano Pinho. Pinho's first goal was the kind of goal that can be used to demonstrate how to perfectly control a ball off your chest to your feet. We routinely see that kind of ball fall into a spot where the player can't do anything with it. His second goal involved two pinpoint passes ahead of it from Ingram to Briggs and then from Briggs to Pinho, with Pinho again making the correct and deft touch around a charging Miller coming off his line to have a simple shot on goal. I really like Brigg's effort lately, but seeing Arteaga come on in second half stoppage time makes me excited to see what a top line of Arteaga and Pinho can do moving forward.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Indy Eleven vs St. Louis City SC 2 - 2022 U.S. Open Cup


- Opponent: St. Louis City SC 2
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: --
- Final Score: 2-0 L

- Starting XI: Trilk, McQueen, Ouimette, Cochran (C), Powder, Law, Brown, Fjeldberg, Aguilera, Briggs, Michael
- Substitutions: Pinho 63' (Fjeldberg); Rebellon 69' (Michael)
- Unused: Svetanoff, Ingram, Jerome, Revolorio, Timmer

- Scoring Summary:
STL - Armstrong 18' (assist Yaro)
STL - Kuzain 72' (assist Pompeu)

- Bookings:
STL - Kuzain 70' (Yellow)
IND - Rebellon 84' (Yellow)

- Referee: --
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

With three games in the span of a week, Indy Eleven adjusted the starting lineup across all levels for their first U.S. Open Cup game in three years. Trilk replaced Panicco in goal; Ouimette, Powder, and McQueen started along the backline; Fjeldberg dropped into the midfield; and Michael replaced him up top with Briggs. Interestingly (at least to me), when Indy played STL during the preseason, Indy’s starting lineup was fairly similar to the one that started tonight. 

While not an issue during this past Saturday’s game, the setting sun was a little bit of a factor in the early part of the game as Indy forced STL’s goalkeeper, Creek, to look into the sun. Unfortunately, Indy didn’t provide any meaningful threats on goal when the sun could have been a factor. In fact, in the 18th minute, STL put themselves ahead thanks to a shot by Armstrong that was blasted by Trilk after McQueen lost Armstrong and Yaro sent a looping ball over the rest of the defense. Down a goal early, Indy found themselves staring at an unfriendly deficit, bringing back nightmares of the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Open Cup losses against the Michigan Bucks and Mississippi Brilla FC, respectively. 

Indy controlled possession through the majority of the beginning of the first half, but St. Louis’ press kept that possession in safe areas for them, including a significant portion of the possession being in Indy’s own half of the field. Indy could not figure out a way to break through STL’s high press and energy, and as the half progresses, possession began to tilt more and more towards STL. 

Zero shots. Not zero shots on target… Zero shots, of any kind, for Indy in the first half. STL’s compact line of defense was just impenetrable in the first half (photo to the right is from the second half, but the compactness of STL's defense was like that the entire game). As much as I was starting to feel optimistic about Indy’s offense on Saturday, I reverted back to how I felt when Indy played Loudoun in the first game of the season. To say that the offense was absolutely anemic is a gross overstatement. The offense was basically non-existent in the first half.

Immediately after halftime, it was clear that Lowry used some strong words and Indy responded with quicker passes and more urgency to get between or over the STL defense. Indy had more diagonal balls from Powder to Rodney. However, by the 60th minute, STL had weathered Indy’s initial post-halftime push and they settled into the adjustment.

In the 72nd minute, Indy’s backline again didn’t track properly and Diaz had an easy and clear shot on goal that Trilk had no chance of stopping. Despite Indy being able to generate more opportunities for themselves after halftime, STL still looked like the better team and found themselves with a two-goal lead. 

Admittedly, STL isn’t your typical third division team (as an example of that, there were five STL staff members in the press box, which is an absolute rarity for away teams against Indy… and that includes Louisville who doesn't have to travel that far), but it's not like Indy didn't know what to expect from STL since the two teams played to a 1-1 draw during the preseason. Indy looked uninspired during the first half, slower than STL in the second half, and just generally out of sync. I lost count of how many times passes were sent out of bounds as players weren't on the same page with each other.

Indy’s inability in the U.S. Open Cup has reached an absolutely frustrating level. Different players, different coaches, different schemes. The results continue to be the same for Indy Eleven when it comes to the Cup. An early exit. Unfortunately for fans who would like to see Indy succeed in the Cup, the trip ended tonight. Fortunately, it doesn't further dig themselves in the league table hole that they are currently digging. "If you want to get out of the hole, you have to first stop digging." The past two league games looked like Indy was at least slowing down on that dig, but after tonight's game, it looks like they might have started digging again.

The guys have a short rest and then travel down to Texas for an intra-conference clash with Rio Grande Valley FC, who is also mired in their own poor start. After winning their first game, RGV is on a three-game losing streak. After tonight's performance, I hope the guys are fired up to show that they just have a rough night against a good, fast, and organized opponent.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I could probably give somebody a game ball, but mostly only for their effort in the second half. At halftime, I would have been hard pressed to find any player that I would say stood out, positively, enough to get the GBGB. I think I'll give it to Briggs, for his desire (in the second half) to actually shoot the ball towards frame. 

Photos (Courtesy of @DLTPhotog)