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)

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