Sunday, May 1, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Hartford Athletic - 09.08


- Opponent: Hartford Athletic
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 4,695
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Panicco, Hackshaw, Cochran, Timmer, McQueen, Ingram, Ayoze (C), Aguilera, Powder, Arteaga, Pinho
- Substitution: Fjeldberg 63' (Ayoze); Law 63' (Powder); Briggs 87' (Aguilera)
- Unused: Trilk, Michael, Rebellon, Warhaft

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Ayoze 40' (assist Pinho)

- Bookings:
IND - Aguilera 21' (Yellow) - yellow card accumulation already starting to become an issue here.
HFD - Johnson 38' (Yellow)
HFD - Boudadi 50' (Yellow)
IND - Cochran 74' (Yellow)
IND - Fjeldberg 90'+1' (Yellow) - same comment as above for Aguilera. Both have three yellows in 8 games, plus a yellow/yellow/red for Aguilera in the second game of the year.

- Referee: Greg Dopka
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Coach Lowry took to Twitter after the game to say, "We are not happy with the performance. But it was a difficult night with lots of weather delays & interesting decisions." I'd like to think Indy fans are smart enough to know that a game that's weather delayed at the start, then weather delayed again at halftime, and finishes close to 11:00 in the PM know that it's the kind of game that you just have to survive. The ball is going to do weird things. Players are out of their gameday rhythm. Referees are going to interpret poor footing for fouls. It doesn't have to be pretty. Get a win and cherish it. 

Like most Indy home games, it was supposed to start at 7:00. Around 6:00, the team announced the game was going to be delayed. Given how the radar was looking around that time, a 7:42 PM start seemed like a blessing. 

That delay in the start also affected the starting lineup, as the initially announced lineup included Rebellon back in it. However, as the game started, Rebellon was missing having picked up a knock in the pregame warm-up, with McQueen in his place. That meant, no Jerome, no Brown, and Law starting on the bench. However, it's nice to be able to have a player with Hackshaw’s ability coming back into the mix. While Indy might prefer to have Brown (or Hackshaw) in that holding midfield role, the depth of Indy in some key spots is definitely helpful. If Indy was going to lose some guys to injury, hopefully temporarily, it’s definitely nice that Ayoze and Arteaga entered back into the fold right before Jerome, Brown, and Law picked up their injuries. Pregame, I saw Jerome walking around and he was without a boot or the crutches that he was using after the Orange County game. There might have been just a bit of a hitch in his gitty-up, but overall looked like he was in good shape. I would bet that this upcoming two week break in games is coming at the right now and all the guys will be available for the game against Memphis. With Asante in the mix too...?

Speaking of having Arteaga back, this was the first game at having Pinho and Arteaga up top to start and for extended minutes, as in all 90 minutes. The two of them together provide an added dimension that the other forwards don't bring. That's not to say that those other guys aren't talented, but Pinho's and Arteaga's work rate, and their desire to press the opposing defense means that Indy's defense starts with their forwards. The guys have the ability to make good defenders make bad decisions. In a game where the elements were a major factor, they can make an ugly game even uglier if you're a defender.

Speaking of ways to make a game ugly...

Hartford started the ball with the kickoff. They proceeded to blast it down the field and managed an early cross within the first 10 seconds. I’ve often asked why teams who like to play possession style soccer (which is most teams these days), take the opening kick-off and immediately blast it down the field, foregoing possession. That was an example of why it is done. They got an early cross out of it and what could have been an early goal. The wet and poor turf at The Mike probably didn’t hurt that decision as things can skip in weird ways.

Right before the halftime whistle, lightning from the west gave the game a different turn. It takes 70 minutes and a 3 goal lead for a game to be official, otherwise the game starts completely over on a different day. With every new lightning flash, and the requirement to wait 30 minutes after it before the game can get restarted, the odds of the game reaching a finishing point seemed less and less likely. As puddles formed on the field, those odds continued to get worse, giving the prospect of an ugly finish even if the game did get restarted. Yet, as 10:00 PM rolled around, the teams were back on the field finishing their second warm-up routine of the night, and the ball was once again kicked in anger.

With all the rain, the field became ever slicker than in the first half and the second half started in a little more direct fashion for both teams. The idea being that if the game is going to be ugly, let it be ugly in your offensive half of the field. Indy’s opportunity by Pinho immediately after the second half whistle was from a kick from Panicco, to a header extended up the field from Arteaga, putting Pinho in on goal by himself. A different finish from him and the game takes a different appearance if Hartford had gone down 2-nil. Again, it doesn't always have to be pretty, particularly in these kinds of weather conditions.

In addition to Ayoze's 40th minute goal, there was a moment in the 57th minute where Ayoze was in a rare full-out attack mode. He can often seem like he is looking for a pass option first, but he was not going to be denied a shot in that moment. I think it's good to see him thinking about taking a shot. The mentality out of him, and frankly others, gives Indy a different threat for teams to consider when Ayoze isn’t looking to pass first.

Hertzog was a new signing for Hartford this week, having minimal training sessions with the team before this game. He became a thorn in Indy’s side in the second half as Hartford pushed for an equalizer and started playing a significant amount in Indy’s half of the field. He honestly reminded me of the bullshit that Lancaster and Hoppenot do during the Louisville games. I was glad to see him leave in the 80th minute.

As the game wound down, Indy continued to absorb pressure as Hartford sent in cross after cross in search of the equalizer. The backline of McQueen, Timmer, Cochran, and Hackshaw dealt with them well, allowing just a 21% crossing accuracy (compared to Indy's >44% accuracy). However, as Hartford pushed, the Indy defense held strong and rode the game out.

I like the fact that Coach Lowry felt it necessary to apologize for the way the team played AFTER. A. WIN. and AFTER. TWO. SEPARATE. RAIN. DELAYS. It shows that he and the team know they can play better and are striving to get better in how the play "looks," which has not been his concern in the early part of this season. Getting positive results was his priority for this team. Now that results are starting to be achieved, he is starting to want the play to look more like what he wants to see from the guys. Having sat through my share of rain delays at Carroll Stadium over the years, they become a crap shoot and you take a win however you get it and you go home happy. I have a feeling I'm not alone in that thinking in the Indy Eleven fan base.

The Boys in Blue have the weekend off this coming weekend, but that just means that I can focus on the Women in Blue who kick of their, and the USL-W league's, season on Friday night at Grand Park. Much like the days of conditioned air (sometimes) at Lucas Oil Stadium, the W-Indy Eleven will be playing in the Event Center at Grand Park so any rain in the forecast shouldn't prevent you from getting out and supporting the women. Tickets are just $8 or free if you have a season ticket for the men. Let's see if the club can extend the undefeated streak across teams.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I want to reward Ayoze for getting a goal. He doesn't get many from the run of play like he did tonight. I want to do it, but I have to give it to Ingram. You can call this a GBGB based on accumulation over a single game performance, but Ingram is worthy of receiving the GBGB. His stats aren't eye-popping in this game, but it just felt like when there was an intervention that needed to take place in the midfield, he was there to take care of it. In the second half, Hartford stepped up their press and Ingram put out a lot of fires in the midfield or put enough pressure to force Hartford to retreat, even if just temporarily, to give the rest of the Indy defense time to adjust. His engine is off the charts and he covers so much ground sideline to sideline. He has spectacular vision for someone his age and professional level. Ayoze is worthy, but the youngster gets my vote for this game.

Additional Photos (Courtesy of @DLTPhotog)

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