Saturday, June 4, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Midwest United FC - 01.05


- Opponent: Midwest United FC
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Wood, McCarthy (Ro), Kraszula, Leonard, Chatterton, Bahr, Dean, Rogers, Lynch, Soderstrom, Williams

- Substitution: Bulatovic 45' (Dean); MacNab 62' (Lynch); McCarthy, Ra 62' (Soderstrom); McCalligett 70' (McCarthy, Ro - injury); Barnett 80' (Williams)

- Unused: Reason

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Lynch 41' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
MUFC - Eli 87' (Yellow)

- Referee: ??
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Combine a month away from the Grand Park Event Center without the voice of the BYB behind them, and a slow start to the last game versus AFC Ann Arbor, and Indy came out tonight looking like a team that was on a mission to prove that the result in Ann Arbor, a hard-fought draw, was an aberration and not the norm. While not as quick as Indy's first shot on goal in their first home game, their first shot came in the 4th minute from midfielder Chatterton that went just wide. Midwest United, however, showed why they are in the top portion of the Great Lakes region as they held a good portion of the early possession.

Indy knows how to show up when the cameras are on and in the national spotlight, which they did when the league was in attendance last week. With the league staff not around, Koluder lost the tie, the Indy Star did what they do, and attendance dropped a little. It wasn’t quite up to the 1,500-person level of the opener, but Indy fans still made sure that the teams knew they were there.

In stark contrast to the teenagers I’ve featured the past few games, MUFC had a 26- & a 29-year old starter. I’m not going to say that they looked, physically, like the adults that they are in comparison, but I’m not going to not say it either. That’s the thing about this league. It’s going to cover the full gamut of individuals who are either trying to get games during their high school summer vacation or before going to college, trying to make a pro team, or just aren’t ready to give up the game. Or in this case, are the head coach for Davenport University in Grand Rapids. Don’t fear, they did still have a 17-year old defender in the starting lineup.

It looked like Midwest United was going to be the first team in Indy club history to score in the 11th minute, as a result of a break that forced McCarthy (Ro) into perfect defending as she pushed one attacker to the center while also preventing the pass to the player that she was her main defensive responsibility. The shot was ultimately blocked by McCarthy and the follow-up shot was pushed just wide right of the goal.

A 19th minute over-the-top pass from Bahr to Williams was defended perfectly by the 29-year old defender Eli. While Williams was ultimately thwarted in her effort, the sequence seemed to wake the Indy offense a little more and they started to put Midwest on their heels. A minute later, Rogers ripped one from 25-yards out that the keeper spilled, but was able to collect. Another minute later, and Chatterton forced her defender into making a play, which she was able to do. At this point in the game, Chatterton was overwhelming her defender with pace, but just couldn’t seem to get the final shot or pass correct. Had the look of “going to happen sooner rather than later.” While Chatterton was blowing by her defender, I'm not sure that she's even the fastest player on the team. Coach Dolinsky indicated that he believed Barnett and McCarthy (Ra) have been clocked with their GPS devices as the fastest two, with Williams as the third. Chatterton's defender couldn't keep up with her all night and she might just break into the top 5 in speed for this team. 

In the 30th minute, Lynch attempted another 25-yard shot that forced the Okoroafo (the MUFC keeper) into a save. Three minutes later, Williams put her defender into the spin cycle before putting a shot at the near-post that Okoroafo was able to slow down just enough to keep it out of the goal, despite spilling the initial shot.

As the game crept closer and closer to halftime, the game had leveled out with both team getting chances and possession. It had the feel that a goal was going to happen, giving that team a significant advantage after halftime. Less than 5 minutes before the halftime whistle, that goal came in the 41st minute as Lynch sent a rocket to the right side of the goal after collecting a ball and then finding some space in the MUFC defense. Lynch becomes the 7th Indy player to score a goal this season, and brings her point total to 5 with her 3 previous assists, making her tied for 2nd on the team in points this season (Soderstrom's 5 goals has her out front with 11 points).

I think Indy’s first corner of the game happened in the 51st minute. The ball was played back where Bahr sent one in from 35-yards that went screaming by the post. I don’t think Coach Dolinsky puts any restrictions on shooting the ball from any player from any distance. If they have an open look and think they can test the goalkeeper, they are allowed to do so. A shot on goal from Wood doesn’t seem out of the question the way that this team plays. Talking to Coach Dolinsky afterwards, "they're individually gifted, they're individually smart. Sometimes they make good decisions, sometimes they make, I don't want to say bad decisions, but after they make the decision, they realize they had a better option if they would have passed. But no, my main message to them, especially in the final third, is 'be who they are.'" "Who they are" is a collection of attack minded players, hell bent on breaking defenders wills.

The goal scorers are, obviously, going to get the attention on this team, and deservedly so. Second half substitutes Bulatovic and McCarthy (Ra), are a terrifying prospect for other teams. Bulatovic had a shot in the 55th minute shot that required a save from Okoroafo, who threw her body backwards from the way she was running to get to it. In the 56th minute, Bahr sent in a long distance dime that was headed back against grain from McCarthy (Ro), the starting right back, on a restart while the team's leading goal scorer, Soderstrom, fell back to the midfield line to cover for defense. The team is stacked.

BUT... the value of McCarthy (Ro) and Leonard was evident tonight as they faced a Midwest United team that attacks with pace and in unison. Much like the Indy defense starts with the forwards, the Indy offense starts with the defenders as they’re always looking to push the ball forward as quickly as possible. When you have Chatterton, Lynch, Rogers, Soderstrom, and Williams ready to put the opposition’s goalkeeper under pressure at every chance they get, the longer the defenders keep the ball, the fewer opportunities the team would see, so it makes sense to regain possession and push the ball. Bahr, Leonard, and McCarthy realize this and push the ball whenever they can. They also made some key interventions all night as the MUFC offense generally attacked straight through the middle of the field. MUFC's Blitchok was a definite target forward and a lot of their offense went through her. I don’t have information on size/weight, but visually Leonard was giving up some size in both categories. Given their height advantage over the Indy defenders, MUFC crosses might have been more effective and provide less congestion with the Indy defenders, but Indy's pace on the wings might have prevented that from happening much too. I have the impression that many of the players don't play a back 3 arrangement much in their other teams, but the back three of Bahr, Leondard, and McCarthy were spectacular tonight.

McCarthy, Ro began cramping in the 68th minute. This makes back-to-back home games the McCarthy sisters have been subbed out for leg cramps. Somebody find out where they are staying and send them some bananas and electrolytes for game days. Only good part for Robyn's cramp was that her face wasn’t plastered on the telecast as she was in pain like Rachel's was in the home opener.  

Indy professionally saw out the end of the game with a bit more possession, but also with the key subs. Barnett, MacNab, McCalligett, and McCarthy (Ra) all came in after the 60th minute with fresh legs and pace. Some periodic long-balls over the top to McCarthy stretched MUFC's defense, while also giving the Indy defenders some time to recoup. A couple of the balls were debatable about their logic as they were in the air, but somehow McCarthy was able to get to them. She really is fast and it's much more obvious in person than it has been on the away game streams I've watched.

Indy finished the game like they started. The last play of the game was a shot by McCarthy (a bit off target). Even as other teams might walk it to the corner flag, that just doesn't seem to register as an option for Coach Dolinsky's forwards. Attack, attack, and attack some more.

Indy return to Grand Park next Friday night for the return match with Flint City AFC, who Indy beat 6-1 on May 12th in Flint. That loss set off a string of 4 losses for Flint, by a combined score of 16-4, before righting the ship on Wednesday with a 4-0 win against Kings Hammer. Indy will look to duplicate their effort from that earlier game in front of their home fans.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Grace Bahr as player-coach makes more and more sense the more I watch her play. Tonight, she was playing the CB role, where as the last few games she has been a holding midfielder. She doesn’t fluster, she makes good decisions, and her head is always up looking for the next pass. Leonard is the team captain for a reason. She commands the back line, regardless of who is beside her. She was consistently being backed into by Blitchok, like a center in basketball, and constantly stood her ground enough to disrupt Blitchok or give time for her teammates to get in positions. McCarthy is about as stable a player defender in the back 3 system as you're going to find. She makes good decisions. She passes well. She defends even better. I know Lynch got the goal tonight, but I have to give the love, and the GBGB to the trio on the backline tonight. Congrats Bahr, Leondard, and McCarthy!

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