Sunday, August 7, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds - 9.22


- Opponent: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 9,839
- Final Score: 2-0 L

- Starting XI: Lewis, Ayoze, Vazquez, Jerome, Timmer, Hackshaw, Ingram, Rebellon, Arteaga, Asante, Tejada
- Substitution: Pinho 64’ (Rebellon); McQueen 72’ (Timmer); Danbrot 83’ (Ayoze); Rivera 83’ (Ingram)

- Unused: Trilk, Brown, Cochran

- Scoring Summary:
PIT – Cicerone 13’ (assist Rovira)
PIT – Cicerone 52’ (assist Dikwa)

- Bookings:
IND – Arteaga 43’ (Yellow)
PIT -Ybarra 44’, 54’ (Yellow, Yellow - RED)
IND – Indy Bench 48’ (Yellow)
IND – Ayoze 77’ (Yellow)
PIT – Kelly 87’ (Yellow)
IND – Vazquez 90’ (Yellow)
IND – Hackshaw 90’+1’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Eric Tattersall
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

With tonight’s appearance, Ayoze ties club legend Brad Ring, with 115 appearances for the club. Ayoze’s next start will put him to within two of the Games Start record held by Karl Ouimette, and entry into the exclusive Century Club in starts. When the club finally creates a “Ring of Fire” (no pun intended), one or all these guys could be in the inaugural, or second, class. I don’t know how Ayoze’s body is holding up with this many games on the proliferation of turf fields on which he has played the last several years in the NASL with the New York Cosmos and in the USL with Indy Eleven, but I wish he would spill the secret of where the Fountain of Youth is located. 

Indy’s starting lineup tonight looked very similar to last week’s lineup against Tampa Bay, with notable adjustments as Aguilera watched from the stands due to yellow card accumulation, and Arteaga slotted back into the front line after his injury. Vazquez’s addition to the club has pushed Cochran to the bench as Lowry feels that the CB pairing of Jerome and Vazquez is a better combination at this stage of the season. Recent signing, and former Riverhound, Danbrot also made the bench tonight, and saw the field in the 83rd minute.

The starting lineup also brought back Rebellon, who has been struggling with injuries all season. Coach Lowry brought him from El Paso for a reason, and has routinely stated that the team has missed what he brings to the right side of the field. "Bryam gives everything in every single moment. That's why, whenever he's fit, he will always be on the field for me. He's always been on the field the last four years. He's in my best team because he gives everything, every single moment, every single second. Doesn't take a play off, doesn't lose concentration. He fights. He makes mistakes, but it's just through a desire to try, and triers and doers make mistakes." If you want to be on the field right now for Coach Lowry, he just told me how you do it. Whether you stay there will be a function of your performance, but it sounds like it is always going to start with your effort.

Pittsburgh put themselves on the board in the 13th minutes because nobody stepped to the ball as Rovira advanced up the field. With as much time as he wanted, Rovira found Cicerone near the six who had separated away from Vazquez. With Indy's first significant defensive mistake of the game, Indy was forced to begin chasing the game. Minutes later, Arteaga missed a shot high from the 6-yard box after the ball bounced slightly and threw off his connection with the ball. It’s the kind of shot from Arteaga that you don’t see him miss very often. Arteaga had enough time to actually take a second touch on it, but in the moment, you can see why he was trying to put the ball on target with his first touch. 

At that stage of the game, and the way the season has progressed, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to Indy fans that down a goal early, Arteaga missed a shot from that distance. It's the way this season has gone. If it can go badly, it seemingly has done so. I keep stating it, and mentioned it on Twitter this week, but Indy is last in the entire league in shots. While Indy managed 13 shots tonight to PIT's 7, there was only a single Shot On Target. That shot occurred in the 90'+6' by Asante from a set piece after a foul. For all the things Indy did right tonight, and there were a lot more than we've seen lately in this string of bad results, Indy's margin for error is basically zero when they only put a single shot on target. For the season, Indy is averaging just over 3 shots on target per game. Indy has to be more clinical with their shots and their shot selection. Going the entire game without forcing the opposing goalkeeper to make a save is never going to get it done. Indy has too much attacking talent for this to even be a thing, but it's where we find ourselves twenty-two games into the season.

Around the time of the first half hydration break, the level of physicality in the match made a noticeable uptick, and both sidelines were not happy about it. Apparently, the referee didn't take the opportunity during the hydration break to consult with his colleagues about his calls, and he didn’t alter his opinion on what did or did not constitute a foul as the physicality remained, and maybe even turned up another notch or two as bodies began to pile up around the field. Each time a player found themselves on their backside, there was an exacerbated look towards the referee that was met with a blank stare or the ubiquitous “play on” hand motion. Yet somehow, both teams were not able to go into the halftime locker room without a single yellow card being shown, as Arteaga picked up a card in the 43rd minute and Ybarra got one a minute later, on tackles that didn’t look any different than most of what had proceeded before it.

Ybarra picked up his second yellow card in the 54th minute, which should have worked in Indy’s advantage. However, just before Ybarra saw the yellow card from the referee, PIT had put a second ball into the goal on a break. This time is was Timmer who lost track of Cicerone and a centering pass was easily directed past Lewis by an on-rushing Cicerone. With Ybarra's departure from the game as his collection of yellow cards in the game turned to red and gave him some early time in the locker room, Indy should have felt like a positive result from the game was still attainable. What Ybarra's exit actually did with Indy's 2-goal deficit, was put Pittsburgh into bunker mode for the last 36 minutes. A bunker that took a normal five-player backline of PIT, and made it a 9-player block with former Indy Eleven player Dane Kelly as the lone outlet up top. That Lilley Bunker(TM) was too much for Indy, who managed to spend the majority of the 2nd half in PIT’s half of the field, but PIT's organization and effort kept Indy off the board, and, again, without a single shot on target until the 90'+6' mark.

A missed call in the 87th minute by the referee and the assistant referee helped with that, as video replay indicated that a Pinho header crossed the line ricocheted off the crossbar, over the line, and spun out. With bad memories of the Memphis game last year, Indy fans once again feel like the calls, the fortunate or lucky bounces, just aren't going the team's way. Since Indy have such narrow margins due to their lack of shots on goal per game, when they do get one, it makes it even more difficult to watch knowing that Indy finally broke through the Lilley Bunker(TM), and yet the score board continued to read 2 to 0.

Yet, if we zoom back from that image, we see yet another issue. Coach Lowry has regularly said that he wants his teams to take multiple bites out of the proverbial apple when they get shots. In that sequence, and I don't necessarily fault Rivera for the cross, there was little chance for more than one bite. Arteaga didn't make it into the box until after the shot, McQueen is 25-yards out, Asante must have been having a chat with the bench, and four PIT defenders are ready and waiting to clear the ball. Admittedly, at that point in the game in the Lilley Bunker(TM), I'm surprised there are only four PIT players visible. And if we're honest about Asante's location on that cross, at 5'2", he wasn't going to be winning any headers against PIT's backline, which included Jelani Peters at 6'5". Asante isn't winning most of those balls.

Coach Lowry was happy with the way the team played. Obviously not the result, but he liked the effort, the possession, the style of play, the chances they created, the limited chances that PIT had, and the way that he thinks they showed they can compete with the best teams in the league. Yet, Indy made two major defensive mistakes in this game, and Pittsburgh capitalized on both. Indy had a man advantage for 36 minutes, and managed a single free-kick shot on goal in late stoppage time. I said it before and I'll say it again, Indy has shown they can compete with the best teams for stretches, but they are still not able to do it for an entire game. The good news is that the games against the top 4 teams in the conference are nearly complete and maybe Indy can pull enough points from the other parts of the bottom half of the table to put themselves in the conversation for the final playoff spot. The bad news is they are running out of games to do that, as well as the fact that getting into the playoffs in that last playoff position means playing one of those top four teams in the first game. Unless the shots, and some luck, start to happen more frequently, Indy's season could be winding down early.

Tonight's game also included another induction of Century Club members. A full list of members can be found here

The Game Beckons Game Ball

It's easier to give the GBGB when the team is successful, and much harder with losing results, but I can't keep saying I'm not going to do it. The team played better. They did. Not good enough, but there was some progress tonight. Tonight's GBGB goes to Ayoze. He's been one of the more consistent good things for this team, particularly after his early season injury, but he regularly put good balls into the forwards, giving the team opportunities for chances on goal. Those opportunities didn't always pan out, but Ayoze was effective getting up and down the left side. 

Additional Photos (@DLTPhotog)

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