Sunday, May 29, 2022

Indy Eleven vs AFC Ann Arbor - 01.04


- Opponent: AFC Ann Arbor
- Location: Saline High School
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2-2 D

- Starting XI: Wood, Chester, Kraszula, Leonard, Chatterton, Isger, Bahr, McLaughlin, Lynch, Soderstrom, Bulatovic
- Substitution: McCarthy, Ro 40' (Isger - injury); McCalligett 69' (Bahr); McCarthy, Ra 69' (Bulatovic); Williams 69' (Lynch); Rogers 69' (Chester)

- Unused: Phillips

- Scoring Summary:
ANN -  Grabias 1' (17 seconds) (assist Berrah)
ANN - Akiror 53' (PK)
IND - Williams 76' (assist McCalligett)
IND - McLaughlin 82' (assist McCarthy, Ro)

- Bookings:
ANN - Akiror 80' (Yellow)

- Referee: ??
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

In just three games into their history, we have come to expect Indy to be the team that scores the goals and rarely concedes, but Indy conceded early goals in each half and had to claw their way into a result. Conceding early is describing it lightly, as Indy allowed the third fastest goal conceded in club history, allowing Ann Arbor to score in just the 30th second (the clock on the screen indicated it was the 17th second, but it didn't start on time. The 30th second is based on my timer when the referee blew the opening kick whistle.). This unfortunate early goal ranks behind the 10 second goal that the 2021 men's squad conceded against Atlanta United 2 and the 28th second goal that the 2014 men's squad conceded against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, but ahead of the 36th second goal that this year's men's squad conceded against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Interestingly (or not surprisingly), every single goal that the club has conceded in the 1st minute of a game has happened on the road. 

Indy then conceded a penalty kick goal in the 53rd minute, putting them into full scramble mode the rest of the game. I'm going to need to do a better job when I watch these games for the key statistics, because the opposing team's twitter feeds, the league's website, and the telecast are woefully inadequate and delayed, but it seemed like Indy had the majority of the possession, the majority of the shots on goal, and yet found themselves in a 2-nil hole. 

Fortunately, this team is built to score goals, and from multiple people. There was no indication from the stream that Indy ever substituted during the game, but given the long pause in the 64th minute, Coach Dolinsky utilized every single one of his remaining substitutes that don't wear goalkeeper gloves. I don't know who all came in for whom, but Indy brought on Williams, McCarthy (Rachel), Rogers, and McCalligett, who have now accounted for 5 of the team's 13 goals, while keeping in Soderstrom who accounts for another 5 of the team's goals. If Indy lost this game, it wasn't going to be because they weren't fighting for it.

Williams brought the game to within a goal from a long-distance cross from fellow second-half substitute McCalligett, with a header around the 6-yard box where she simply wanted the ball more and got higher than her defender. She headed it back across the goal, leaving the Ann Arbor goalkeeper without any chance to get back to it. The dreaded 2-nil lead was reduced to a single goal with Indy having all the momentum. 

Sometimes with that momentum, a player takes a shot where we all shout, "NO! NO! NO! YES! YES! YES!" That was exactly the case when McLaughlin gathered a ball from Robyn McCarthy, took one touch to push the ball to her favored left foot, and released a blast from 35-yards out (football lines are good for something...) that the Ann Arbor goalkeeper couldn't handle, and spun its way over the goal line. Comeback complete. There were two things that I noticed about the sequence. McCalligett gets the ball in a recycle of an attack and you can see McCarthy signal to get the ball to McLaughlin. McCalligett (could we have a couple more Mc's on the team...) instead passes to McCarthy who immediately puts the ball in a place where McLaughlin can do something dangerous with it.
However, it looks like in the replay, that McCarthy is actually looking at McCalligett when she passes to McLaughlin. This is key because a couple minutes earlier this same sequence of passes took place, but because the defense wasn't pulled over towards McCalligett or McCarthy enough, McLaughlin had to keep the ball moving to the other side of the field. The no-look pass from McCarthy froze the defense enough for McLaughlin to be able to do something with it. Subtle thing from McCarthy, but highly effective. The other thing that happened on that play is that when McLaughlin releases her blast, Williams is making a curving run to keep herself onside. I'm not sure that she was successful, but after the goalkeeper spills the ball, it wouldn't have mattered. So Williams was the only player, from either team, to follow the shot from McLaughlin. Had the goalkeeper spilled the ball forward, rather than backwards, Williams would have had an uncontested shot on goal. That's all about effort, and this team has it in abundance.

Given the hole that they found themselves within the first 30 seconds of the game, and the deeper hole they dug for themselves with the 2nd Ann Arbor goal, to get any kind of result from the game would have been daunting for any other team. However, the amount of chances that this team can generate from their players gives the impression that they might not ever be out of a game. There were a few ill-advised shots that might have been better served to look for a pass to a teammate, but you can't fault this team for its desire to score goal. 

Photo Credit: Raj Mehta (AFC Ann Arbor site)
I'm not going to do this forever, but I, once again, want to highlight one of the opposing players. If you kept hearing the, very excitable, announcer yell the name Ricketts and noticed her speeding past and around the Indy defense, this is a big deal because "Chloe Ricketts Becomes Youngest Player to Join AFC Ann Arbor at 14." You read that correct. She is 14 years old. So again, the opposing team has a teenager that held her own against college and beyond opponents. That's extremely impressive and highlights the benefit of what league's like the USL-W can do for young women as they move forward in their soccer careers.

Indy head back home with a well fought point from a game, and the promise of playing in front of the Brickyard Battalion. Tonight's game showed a slight chink in the armor, but this team is fun to watch. So make sure you're part of the crowd Friday night at Grand Park when the women take on Midwest United FC.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This is another game where it is difficult to narrow it down to just a single player because a comeback like they had tonight requires a full team effort. However, I think the header by Williams, and her effort to get that header, breathed life into the attack. With the goal, Indy could see getting a positive result from the game and it spurred them forward. So tonight's GBGB goes to fellow Purdue grad, Maddy Williams.

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