Saturday, May 7, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Kings Hammer - 01.01


- Opponent: Kings Hammer FC
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: 1,571
- Final Score: 3-1 W

- Starting XI: Wood, McCarthy (Robyn), Leonard (C), Cherry, Isger, McLaughlin, Bahr, Lynch, Soderstrom, Williams, McCarthy (Rachel)
- Substitution: Barnett 45' (Isger); Rogers 60' (Williams); Lindley 73' (McCarthy, Ra); Dewey 73' (Lynch)
- Unused: Reason

- Scoring Summary:
IND - McCarthy, Ra 8' (assist Soderstrom)
IND - McCarthy, Ra 17' (assist Williams)
KH – Mandy Schlueter (unassisted) 40’
IND - Soderstrom 78' (assist Barnett)

- Bookings:

- Referee: 
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

In 2014, Indy Eleven began their foray into the Indianapolis soccer landscape with a 1-1 draw against the Carolina Railhawks on a goal from Mike Ambersley in front of more than 11,000 fans. Eight years later, Indy Eleven have expanded to include a group of championship winning Academy teams, and now a USL-W team. A USL-W team that kicked off their inaugural season, for both the team and the league, last night in the event center at Grand Park. While that original men's team needed 10 games before they achieved their first win of the season, this new addition to the club needed just a single game to achieve that same result. While the +1,500 fans who were in attendance at this game may be significantly less than those in attendance at that first game in 2014, the indoor nature of the Grand Park event center provided more than enough noise as the BYB, once again, continue to turn Indy venues into home field advantage for Indy Eleven teams. The only difference between the feel of this game and the men’s games was that there was a simultaneous game taking place on Field 3, with their own set of fans adding to the noise in the facility. Oh, and the fact that the USL League office had a few more folks here for this game than most other games, including Amanda Vandervort, the President of the USL Super League and Betsy Haugh, the Directory of the USL Super League. With a Lauren Holiday tifo behind the team bench, players from the men's team (Ayoze, Arteaga, Pinho, and Michael) in the stand, and rumors of former coach Martin Rennie in the facility, Indy Eleven found the back of the net three times in route to a 3-1 victory over visiting Kings Hammer FC from the Cincinnati area.

As I said on Twitter during the game, I don't know the statistics, and they are not available as I write this (likely a function of a pre-professional league), but Indy Eleven were dominant for large stretches of this game, despite having just a single practice as a team before last night's game. The men's team took 9 games to have a player score a brace, but Rachel McCarthy managed that feat in the women's team's first game. Afterwards, she indicated that she didn't arrive to town until 3:00 AM on Wednesday morning, went to the practice later that day, and then scored the first two goals in the team's and league's history. Not a bad start for the BYU junior who decided to try and make the Indy Eleven because she enjoyed the thought of playing with her older sister, starting defender Robyn McCarthy. 

A single win does not make for a successful inaugural season, but it definitely makes for a successful start to that season. Indy Eleven is coached by Paul Dolinsky, who recently coached amateur side Lady Victory FC last season. By my count, there are 8 players on the Indy Eleven roster who were on that Lady Victory roster last year. Five of those were in last night's starting lineup. When asked if his familiarity with those players weighed into his decision to start those players, he responded, "100%. This first game, we don't know what to expect. From ourselves, from the opponent. Having that ability to have some cohesion on the field and even putting Soderstrom, Isger, and Molly all on the right side of the field, I thought was important to have girls that have played together was huge." Of those 8 women that Dolinsky pulled from Lady Victory, they composed the team captain (Leonard), the goal scorers (McCarthy and Soderstrom), the starting goalkeeper (Wood), and two of three subs, including the pacey player on the right side that set up the third goal, Barnett. As teams are still trying to get the full complement of their players in town (Indy only had Reason remaining on the bench unused, and KHFC only brought 14 players), having some consistency in what to expect from the players was an important part of last night's victory for Indy Eleven. 

Of course, it also doesn't hurt to have a starting lineup with three solid defenders, four active midfielders, and three forwards who are completely unafraid to shoot. Indy's first shot happened within the first 15 seconds. As evidenced by her two goals, McCarthy is not afraid to shoot and does it effectively. Soderstrom and Williams were unafraid, and more than willing, to take on players 1v1, which set up shots for themselves and for McCarthy. At times, Soderstrom looked like the prototypical “beat people, get to the end line, and cross the ball into the box” type player. From what I saw from her, it’s an effective strategy. Periodically, just to keep the KHFC players off guard, she took them on herself, looking for her shot. Though that could be said for all Indy’s forwards. If you’re looking for players who aren’t afraid to shoot the ball, this squad is for you. 

Indy's first goal in the 8th minute (I think it was the 9th, but we'll go with the official sources that indicate 8th) from a break. Soderstrom's initial shot was blocked, which McCarthy blasted the rebound to the right side of the keeper. The excitement of the crowd pushed both teams in the early part of this game as KHFC stepped up their own pressure after Indy's goal and nearly had their own chance in the 10th minute. In back-and-forth action, Indy took off down the field in the opposite direction and were fouled 25 yards away from goal. In one of the first moments where the potential lack of cohesion and limited time together showed, the ensuing free kick was, uh, ineffective.

Moments before KHFC pulled the game back within a goal, Indy had a nervy moment in the 33rd minute as a well-orchestrated break from KHFC after a giveaway near midfield led to a shot. The shot went through Wood’s arms and her legs, but luckily for Indy, she slowed the ball down enough for it to be pulled off the line by Leonard, keeping KHFC off the board. The relief of preventing the goal was short-lived as KHFC found their own goal in the 40th minute. KHFC's Schlueter put Leonard into the spin cycle to find just enough space to get her shot off and beyond the outstretched arms of Wood.

Moments before KHFC scored their goal, there was a moment in the 37th minute where Cherry made a run up the field and started a give-and-go with Maddy, but didn't get the "go" part correctly. It was still only the 2nd or 3rd time that I can remember where it seemed like the Indy players weren’t on the same page. Given the short duration that they have had training together, that’s the kind of play that would have been great to see pulled off, but it will get there soon. I can promise you that.

KHFC came out in the 2nd half with much more purpose on getting shots. Not all of them were effective shots, but they definitely decided to attack Indy’s defense more and forced Indy to make a few more defensive decisions. Indy still had the better of the chances at KHFC’s goal, but it was obvious that KHFC were not going to take the loss without a fight. The frenetic pace of the first half, buoyed by the atmosphere of the BYB, began to give away to tired legs, cramps, and a slower paced game in the second. Both teams had chances, but there was a little more control of the ball for both teams as they looked to unlock the defenses differently than they had in the 1st half. After Indy's goal scorer's cramps took her out of the game in the 73rd minute for Cassidy Lindley (yes, the sister of former men's team player Cam Lindley), Soderstrom found her own goal in the 78th minute and the game clinching goal. From there, the moment that I remember most was in the 80th minute when the BYB chanted V-A-R after they felt that Soderstrom's corner kick was an Olympico, crossing the line directly from her kick. In the replay, I think the second official was in a good spot and the BYB's chants were unwarranted. Funny given the preprofessional level of the USL-W league, but unwarranted nonetheless.

I know this is a site that discusses the Indy Eleven, but I need to properly acknowledge that despite their loss, the Kings Hammer FC had their own chances and are a good team. Given their limited available substitutions, their ability to chase the game late wasn't feasible because they just didn't have the stamina nor the available people to do it. That shouldn't take away from the game that they were able to play before that point. I want to also give a special recognition to KHFC’s CB Abby Unkraut, who prevented so many chances from Indy with her speed and recovery. Several times Williams or Soderstrom had their attack or momentum stopped as she stepped in front of passes, or just hustled enough to prevent anything from Indy’s attackers. For much of this game, Indy looked to be the dominant side, but KHFC have some very skilled players too; Unkraut just stood out for me because of how much work she had to do against Indy’s attacking players and the important interventions she was able to do. She's also a junior in high school... This league is designed to help girls and young women get better and work towards a future in soccer. Watching Unkraut hold her own against college players and Williams, who has played professionally, there is a lot of talent in this country that we, as fans, aren't seeing. We get to see the USWNT and the NWSL, but this league is going to be able to highlight the talented players around the country. Great game Abby!

Right now, it's a good time to be an Indy Eleven fan. Last night's win means that Indy Eleven's win streak is now extending between teams. The women play again this coming Thursday at Flint City AFC and the men play Saturday at Memphis. Can the win streak extend for another weekend or beyond? 

Let's hope so. Winning is fun. 

Maybe the women can force the league to bring back the trophy that was in the building last night. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

As a Purdue fan, there has been a running joke of "Thank God for Mama Anthrop" as there has been an Anthrop son involved in the Purdue sports program since, I think, 2009. With Rachel and Robyn's performance on both ends of the field last night, Indy may fans find themselves saying, "Thank God for Mama McCarthy." With a brace in the first game of the season, the GBGB goes to the younger of the two McCarthy's, since Rachel's quick and accurate shots allowed Indy to absorb the pressure from KHFC, and then ride out the win late when the teams were wearing down. Based on what I saw last night, the GBGB could go to any number of players in upcoming games.

Additional Photos (Courtesy of @DLTPhotog)

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