Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Atlanta United 2 - 09.31


- Opponent: Atlanta United 2
- Location: Fifth Third Bank Stadium
- Attendance: 693
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Revolorio, Jerome, Cochran, Dambrot, Brown, Ingram (C), Aguilera, McQueen, Arteaga, Rivera

- Substitution:  Timmer 45' (Revolorio); Pinho 67' (Arteaga); Asante 67' (McQueen); Tejada 76' (Rivera); Ayoze 76' (Aguilera); Hackshaw 87' (Ingram)

- Unused: Vostal

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Dambrot 23’ (unassisted)

- Bookings:
ATL2 – Tiente 28’ (Yellow)
IND - Revolorio 40' (Yellow)
ATL2 - Centeno 56' (Yellow)
ATL2 - Carleton 88' (Yellow)

- Referee: Alyssa Nichols
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I'll be honest with you. A midweek game on the road against the, by record, second worst team in the conference, a day after I received my Covid booster and flu shot, a detailed discussion of this game wasn't on the top of my to do list. So we're going to be a little sparse tonight. It's the end of a long, less than ideal, season. Try not to hold against me that I phone this one in a bit.

ATL2 gave a 16 year old his first start in goal. Indy gave Revolorio (a 19 year old) his first start on the backline. Indy gave Rivera (an 18 year old) his second start of the season. Indy made multiple changes to their starting lineup, giving Asante, Ayoze, Hackshaw, Pinho, Tejada, and Timmer a break with reduced minutes knowing that the team in front of them in the table comes to Indy on Saturday while ATL2 had 11 days since their past game. ATL2's bench was made up entirely of teenagers.

So both teams weren't exactly going at this with their first teams either, even though Indy needed the win more than ATL2 to achieve their stated end-of-the-season adjusted goal of being the top team of the non-playoff teams. Were they trying to win? Sure. This looked like a game that was exactly like it was. Two teams trying to get to the end of the season on as much of a high note as possible, while also keeping everybody healthy, and building for the future. 

In the end it was some really good goalkeeper play from the ATL2 teenager, and a moment of brilliance from Robby "when I score I score game winners" Dambrot. Dambrot continues to remind me of former Indy Eleven player Nemaja Vukovic, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. He is unafraid to take on players, is more than willing to get into the attack, and generally looks frustrated and pissed off when another pass goes backwards instead of forwards. 

The game finished with ATL2 trying to get the equalizer, and Indy defending. Indy's last shot of the game came in the 57th minute. Indy's second half substitutes, the normal starters and veterans, did exactly what you want them to do in this kind of game; kill off the ATL2 attacks, counter at appropriate times, and get out of Kinnesaw, Georgia with a win. At this point of the season, that's about as much as you can ask for from the team. 

Indy return home on Saturday to play FC Tulsa, to try and solidify their "best of the rest" standing after being able to give many of the starters some rest during a 3 game in 7 day stretch. If Coach Lowry is to be believed after Sunday's game, the team will be attempting "to try and entertain the fans," and an attempt at an attempt at a multi-goal game might be in the works.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I would be remiss if I didn't give props to Justin Ingram for his first captain armband of the season. Clearly, Coach Lowry was rewarding him for the play that J.I. has demonstrated this season. I think he should be one of the players that returns next year.

However, the GBGB goes to the goal scorer in Dambrot. His left-footed curler in the 23rd minute was a thing of beauty. He looks like a guy that knows one level of way to play, and that's all out. Like Ingram, I would expect his is on the short list of players that Lowry will want to return next season.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Loudoun United FC - 09.30


- Opponent: Loudoun United
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 8,575
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Dambrot, Vazquez, Cochran, Timmer, Brown, Rebellon, Ayoze (C), Asante, Tejada, Pinho

- Substitution: Ingram 58’ (Dambrot); Jerome 58’ (Cochran); Arteaga 71’ (Ayoze); Aguilera 71’ (Tejada); Rivera 80’ (Asante) 

- Unused: Vostal, Revolorio

- Scoring Summary:
Ayoze 68’ (Penalty Kick)

- Bookings:
LOU – Landry 37’ (Yellow)
IND – Rebellon 41’ (Yellow)
LOU – Smith 44’ (Yellow)
IND – Training staff 61’ (Yellow)
IND – Arteaga 82’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Austin Saini
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Before anything related to the game, I want to express my condolences to the Hankinson family after Coach Tim Hankinson passed away this past week after a fight with cancer. The Game Beckons family will keep the Hankinson family in their thoughts as they transition to life without Tim. Coach Hankinson was a good guy who always took time to answer questions from the grassroots media that were a major component of the press coverage during the Hankinson period of Indy Eleven. There are a lot of stories from supporters about their interaction with Coach Hank, and I’m no different. I remember a season ticket holder event and I wore a pair of red, white, and blue Adidas shoes, and Hankinson’s attention to detail meant that my shoes caught his eye in that they were the correct Indy Eleven color. It’s weird that the interaction stuck with me, but maybe it was because of how funny it was to me how detailed oriented he seemed and that he was that invested in Indy that he thought it was good that my shoes matched the Indy colors. Coach Hankinson brought the club their first, and only, trophy to date and he will always be remembered and revered for that fact. 

For the first time this season, Indy started the game knowing, officially, that they were unable to make the playoffs. Their opponent, Loudoun United, found themselves also playing in the same position as they too had been eliminated from the playoffs. Playing for pride and future roster spots was just enough to make this an interesting game, but maybe not overly exciting if you ask Coach. "Not happy with the excitement level of the game. I guess that's just par for the course it is right now, and neither team need to win that game." Loudoun United started teenagers, the youngest being Gavin Turner, who is a whopping 15-years old. Though a Sunday afternoon game when the Colts are playing Kansas City at Lucas Oil Stadium meant that not as many people saw the game as in recent weeks, but it was still a good crowd.

Indy had a couple of changes in their starting lineup, as Jerome started on the bench, and Hackshaw wasn’t included in the 18 due his international duty with Trinidad & Tobago. In their place were Cochran, who has only had one start in the previous nine games due to his hamstring injury, and Rebellon. Otherwise, it looked like Coach Lowry is looking to finish the remaining part of the season with all intent to finish as strongly as possible. Now that Indy has "a good enough squad now with players back from injury. McQueen wasn't involved tonight, he'll be involved on Wednesday. The subs will play, so we can, as long as we don't get any injuries or suspensions, we can get through the week fine with the amount of players we have right now." 

The first half was a back-and-forth affair with neither team capable of grabbing the game and putting their stamp on it and making it their own. Both teams had periods of possession and chances, but it was for short runs, and not for extended periods. As a result, the first 45-minutes ended with a couple of goose eggs on the scoreboard, but with a few yellow cards, one for Indy and two for Loudoun. Both coaches might have gone into the locker room simultaneously happy and upset with the play. Possession was about even. Shots were 5 to 3 in favor of Loudoun, with Loudoun credited with a single shot on goal, which wasn’t that threatening. So Coach Lowry was likely happy with that. However, Indy countered that by not having a single shot on goal on three shots. Coach Lowry was likely less happy with that statistic, despite some decent opportunities headed towards Loudoun’s goal. 

As a result, both teams came out after the halftime break with Loudoun making two immediate substitutions and stepped up their pressure. Both teams also made an adjustment to their tactics. According to Coach Lowry, "At halftime, they actually went from 2 sixes to 1 six, and then when we made changes, we went with a true #10 and 2 sixes. It kind of matched them up a little bit. Ayoze went to the 10 spot so he could press their 6 and then we're out to protect our space in front of the centerbacks with Justin and Same. So that was kind of a tactical little adjustment that happened during the 2nd half that I think helped us kind of keep the pressure on. The second half we were just good."

Yet it was Rebellon’s scissor-kick shot in the 55th minute that finally put a shot on target for Indy. After finally putting a ball on target and forcing Jacomen to make a save, Indy stepped up their own pressure and began to tilt the field towards their offensive third. By the end of the game, Indy doubled their shot output in the second half, bringing their total to 9, with 4 shots on target. All while limiting Loudoun to just two more shots and none on goal in the second half. If it were not for the pace of Loudoun’s second half substitute Zanne, Indy's pressure likely would have lead to more opportunities. As it was, an Ayoze attack (doing Ayoze things) directly at the Loudoun goal forced Zanne to get off-balance and run into Ayoze, knocking him down in the box for a penalty kick attempt. The 68th minute goal from the penalty spot by Ayoze would end up being the game-winner. 

Asante, Ayoze, Pinho, and Rebellon all use the full extent of their veteran experience to crumble like a house of playing cards when they feel pressure on their back. I would hate to play against them, but it often sets Indy up for good restarts and often bails them out of bad positions. However, in real-time, and even slowed down to 0.25x playback speed in the YouTube highlights, it does look like Zanne catches Ayoze's foot, causing him to trip. Loudoun players were not happy about it, but it looked like the correct call to me, partial spectator or not. 

Ayoze’s successful penalty kick was nearly his last action of the game as Arteaga replaced him just a few minutes later. It was good to see Arteaga back on the field and the injection of energy and effort that he brings to the squad. The second half subs were impressive from top to bottom. Arteaga, Aguilera, Ingram, and Rivera all increased the pressure on Loudoun with their pace and desire to stifle any of Loudoun's attack. While Loudoun managed to get some late shots, everything was going over-the-top to the forwards, who were finding tiny windows to get those shots or crosses. Indy would have liked to not have those shots and crosses, but most of them weren't on-frame, with Trilk finishing the game with just a single save and a clean sheet.

When asked what he liked most about the game, Coach Lowry had an extended pause, and then simply said, "We won." 

Coach was also asked about the goals for the rest of the season now that the playoffs are officially off the table. "Goal is to finish 8th. Finish unbeaten at home. We're four unbeaten, for wins in a row, get the next two games. Win them so we can start making this place a little bit of a fortress. ... Just try to keep the energy high and try to entertain the fans a little bit. The fans haven't been given a lot of success the past few years. There will be next year. I can guarantee you that." 

Indy have a long week ahead of them, with a trip to Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday before returning to The Mike next Saturday to play Tulsa. Obviously, the game against Atlanta should be a winnable game. If they do, that will put them ahead of Tulsa and into 8th place, in prime position to finish the season there if they can beat Tulsa on Saturday. With the final two games of the season being against Charleston and Birmingham, Indy would like to get at least 9 of those final 12 points to secure that 8th place. While not where anybody on Indy's staff or Indy fans wanted to finish the year, getting to that point will take some of the sting out of the 12 game winless streak by having Indy finish strong, and looking forward to next year.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
There were a lot of bright spots for me in this game, particularly compared to the previous game against Monterey Bay. However, Ayoze's dribbling and flawless penalty kick are going to push him to the GBGB for tonight's game. There were some moments when I wish Ayoze had continued to push the ball up the field to a streaking Timmer, but I'm seeing the field from the press box and not from his vantage point. Conversely, he made some spectacular cross-field passes to Pinho. And at 36 years-young, he continues to make other pros look silly as he dribbles his way out of 1, 2, and 3 defenders. Also, with tonight's effort, Ayoze now creeps to within 10 minutes (unofficially by my count) of surpassing Ouimette for the club's all-time minutes leader, and he leap-frogged Mares to sit in 4th place for Total Points. We don't know if the ageless wonder will retire this year or if he is in Coach Lowry's future plans for the team, but Ayoze is set to be the club's all-time leader in Minutes, Appearances, Starts, and Assists; is 4th for Points; is 6th for Goals (2 behind Mares), and is 2nd in Yellow Cards. Ayoze has written himself into the top of the club's entire record book. 

Photos (Courtesy of Don Thompson)

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Monterey Bay FC - 09.29


- Opponent: Monterey Bay FC
- Location: Cardinale Stadium
- Attendance: 3,804
- Final Score: 5-0 L

- Starting XI: Trilk, Dambrot, Vazquez, Jerome, Timmer, Brown, Hackshaw (C), Ingram, Aguilera, Asante, Pinho

- Substitution: Ayoze 56’ (Ingram); Rebellon 56' (Hackshaw); Tejada 56' (Aguilera) 

- Unused: Lewis, Michael, Rivera

- Scoring Summary:
MB – Boone 31’ (unassisted)
MB - Own Goal 43' (Dambrot)
MB - Murphy 49' 
MB - Gleadle 50' (assist Dawkins)
MB - Volesky 66' (assist Gleadle)

- Bookings:
MB – Boone 28’ (Yellow)
IND - Timmer 40' (Yellow)
IND - Dambrot 55' (Yellow)
IND - Tejada 62' (Yellow)
MB - Gorskie 74' (Yellow)
IND - McQueen 79' (Yellow)

- Referee: Gerald Flores
- Adage goals: Three

Thoughts and Opinions

As the game started in Monterey Bay, the team that was sitting in front of Indy in the table, Hartford Athletic, had already been eliminated from the playoffs despite winning their game tonight against their own Western Conference opponent in Las Vegas. Proof of the razor-thin margin that kept Indy mathematically alive for the playoffs. Indy's loss solved the math.

Indy came out on the front foot and really put Monterey Bay under pressure in the opening minutes. That was a different team than we saw in the middle of the season. The effort was greater, the press started higher, and the touches were fewer with one and two-touches being the norm. The play out of Indy in the first 20 minutes is getting much closer to what Indy fans had hoped to see this year, and that seems more like a Mark Lowry coached team. Then Hack got hacked down resulting in a yellow card for Boone in the 28th minute, and then the mistakes started happening in the backline of Indy. Vazquez and Jerome were on different pages multiple times, leading to chances and goals. Boone picked up a goal minutes after his yellow card, and would have finished the half with a brace if the goal in the 43rd minute hadn't been deemed to be an Own Goal conceded by Dambrot. As the halftime whistle blew, Indy found themselves down 2-nil and looking like a completely different team than the one that had started the game. 

Then the wheels fell off. 

Monterey Bay scored twice within minutes of coming out of the halftime locker, and Indy's season went down in a whimper. By the end of the game, Monterey Bay had scored a total of 5 goals, kept Indy off the board, and Indy tied the second worst loss in their history. One of those happened earlier this year against San Diego. Yeah, Indy has lost twice this season by a 5 goal differential, 5-nil. The progress that was felt in the previous four games went out of the window tonight in an absolute poor showing. You can try to find some positives, but you're going to likely only find them in that first 20 minutes of action. After that, Indy didn't stand a chance in this game. Monterey Bay had 8 shots on target and put 5 of them past Trilk. His teammates put him into bad situations, and his goals against average took a serious hit tonight.

Indy come home from their west coast debacle to play Loudoun next Sunday, then have their next three games against other non-playoff teams before finishing with Birmingham. At this point, Indy is playing for pride and for next season. There are going to be some changes next season. I could probably pencil in a few names, maybe a couple in pen, but there are going to be some changes. A season like this will do that. I'm sure that Lowry and Co. already have a list of players they want to pursue at year's end, and a result like tonight makes those potential changes seem even more important, and even more obvious.

At the conclusion of Indy's game with Monterey Bay, the Eastern Conference playoff schedule is entirely confirmed; with 3 to 5 games remaining for each team. Conversely, the Western Conference has only confirmed San Antonio and San Diego as playoff bound, but everybody else is still mathematically alive. That's quite a difference, and shows how top heavy the Eastern Conference was this year. Lowry has stated a couple times recently that their run of form was going to show the other Eastern Conference teams that they won't be looking down at Indy after this year. A 5-nil drubbing from the middle-of-the-pack expansion side Monterey shows that there is still a lot of work to be done between now and next season before the top teams in the East this year need to work.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Not tonight.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion FC - 09.28


- Opponent: Birmingham Legion
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,104
- Final Score: 4-3 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Dambrot, Vazquez, Jerome, Timmer, Brown, Ayoze (C), Hackshaw, Asante, Tejada, Rivera

- Substitution: Aguilera 57’ (Ayoze); Rebellon 67’ (Hackshaw); Ingram 68’ (Tejada); Michael 90’+6’ (Asante)

- Unused: Lewis, McQueen, Rivera

- Scoring Summary:
IND – Hackshaw 11’ (assist Asante)
IND – Hackshaw 16’ (assist Asante)
IND – Tejada 31’ (assist Dambrot)
BHM – Martinez 35’ (unassisted – rebound from penalty kick)
BHM – Marlon 62’ (assist Martinez)
BHM – Marlon 71’ (assist Balarabe)
IND – Pinho 78’ (assist Asante)

- Bookings:
IND – Tejada 25’ (Yellow)
IND – Trilk 34’ (Yellow)
BHM – Marlon 38’ (Yellow)
BHM – Agudelo 40’ (Yellow)
IND – Brown 45’+5’ (Yellow)
IND – Ayoze 52’ (Yellow)
IND – Rebellon 73’ (Yellow)
BHM – Martinez 87’ (Yellow)
BHM – Crognale 90’+2’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Jeremy Scheer
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

Coming into tonight’s game, 8 of the Eastern Conference playoff positions were determined; 5 teams were already confirmed for the playoffs and 3 teams had already been eliminated. Birmingham had officially qualified as one of those five for the seven available playoff spots. By the end of the night, 2 more teams joined the eliminated ranks as Loudoun and Hartford joined Atlanta, Charleston, and NYRBII as teams who will be watching the playoffs from their couches. Indy is still, officially, capable of making the playoffs based on the math, but the realistic chances have dwindled with every non-Indy win, and every win by the other three teams remaining in the fight for the final playoff spots; Miami, Detroit, and Tulsa. In talking to, and listening to, Mark Lowry, he looks at every remaining game as much as a step towards next year as it is for any result achieved this year. Indy wants to win, but Lowry is trying to solidify the culture and the style of play that he expects to see from this team. That is not a short-term goal for Lowry:
"We're not a team yet. This is the harsh reality. We're a young team. It's almost like a first-year club with the rebuild that we're going through. We're not mature enough, or frankly good enough yet, to go and see games out 4 or 5 to zero. We're not there as a group. What we do have to show is the heart and desire to keep digging in, and moments of quality from some players to get us to the victory in the end. ... I thought the first 30 minutes were great and that's what we're capable of, but we're not a team that can do it for 90 minutes. We're gonna get there. I promise you we're gonna get there, it just takes time."

Photo Credit: Don Thompson (@DLTPhotog)
For the first time in the history of the club, a team has scored in the 11th minute of a game. Neveal Hackshaw becomes the answer to a club trivia question as he headed in the opening goal of the game from a corner kick from Asante. It took nearly the entirety of the 9th season, but the minute of the game that is symbolically important to the Eleven fans has finally received the goal treatment. Fortunately for Indy, it was the home squad that broke the seal. Five minutes later, Hackshaw and Asante combined for the exact same corner kick to goal scoring effort as Indy put a second goal past Van Oekel within just 16 minutes. Indy have struggled for the majority of the season, but they are starting to finally string together more of the good moments in a game than the bad ones. It isn’t going to change where Indy spends the postseason, but Indy is finally playing better soccer and getting good results to show for it.

The two-goal lead didn’t get Indy thinking about being defensive as they extended their lead in the 31st minute as Dambrot continues to bring energy to the squad and attacked multiple Birmingham defenders, and found Tejada. Tejada turned, found himself with space, and put yet another ball past Van Oekel. Dambrot reminds me of Nemanja Vukovic's time here in Indy. Sure, you can call him a defender if you want, but he’s just as comfortable pushing into the opponent’s defensive third and attacking the opposition's centerbacks as he is defending his own third.

With a three-goal lead, Indy continued to not take their foot off the gas, which created opportunities for Birmingham over the Indy backline. One of those balls allowed Martinez to get in uncontested on Trilk, who had to reach out and caught Martinez’s leg in the process, taking him down in the box. Trilk saw a yellow, while Martinez saw an opportunity to score from the penalty spot. Ultimately, Trilk saved the initial effort from Martinez, but the ball went right back to Martinez who was able to casually put the ball past a sprawled out Trilk. Trilk put an effort towards getting back to the ball, but was unsuccessful, bringing the game back to within a two-goal lead.

The 35th minute goal energized Birmingham and the game started spending more time in Indy’s defensive half as the game wound towards the halftime whistle. Birmingham nearly pulled another back in the 45’+5’ as BHM’s attack continued to tighten the screws, and a centering ball was pushed back the opposite direction and nearly found the net. Luckily for Indy fans, the ball slide harmlessly past the post and out for a goal kick. The whistle finally blew for the halftime break, with Indy holding a two-goal advantage and a rare halftime lead. 

Play after the break ratcheted up even further as the two teams added three more goals to the box score; BHM with two and Indy with a fourth. The first 5 or so minutes continued to be played in Indy’s defensive half as BHM exploded out of the half hoping that Indy would come out of the locker room a little too relaxed. Indy weathered the initial press from BHM and began to provide their own attacking opportunities. Yet, it was BHM that found the next goal in the game in the 62nd minute as Marlon slipped in behind Dambrot and Vazquez on a perfectly timed and weighted pass from Martinez, and then put a ball in the tightest of spaces between Trilk and the post. 

Indy controlled the first thirty minutes, BHM controlled the next thirty minutes, and the last thirty minutes was controlled by both teams with just enough of it controlled by Indy to get the win. Indy made life difficult for themselves due to a poor header from Timmer that allowed a break by BHM that tied the game at 3 after Marlon's second goal of the game in the 71st minute. 

How did Indy find themselves in the position after such a quick start? Part of it goes to Lowry's quote from above, but as he said later in the post-game interview, "that's the ebbs and flows. We're up 3-zero, they start pushing more, go 3-3. Got to 3-3, then they stopped because they got content with the score, and now we're pushing again." 

Photo Credit: Don Thompson (@DLTPhotog)
That push allowed Indy to find the game winner in the 78th minute. Pinho gets the goal, and Asante got the assist, but the goal was set up from the vision of Rebellon to get the ball to Aguilera, and then pure effort and desire from Aguilera to push the ball at BHM's defense before laying the ball off to Asante. Asante could have taken a shot on goal, but instead passed it across goal to an on-rushing Pinho. Good, pretty, effective soccer.

"Confidence is growing, belief is growing. Which is such an important thing in soccer. Once you have that belief and can back it up with a plan and the guys go out execute it, that's a really dangerous thing." - Lowry

Again, Indy aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Yet. However, the 12-game winless streak has put them into a position where their fate doesn't rest in their own hands. If Indy could win out, they could get to 50 points. If they did that, they would leap frog Tulsa. Detroit would need to get a win and a draw in their remaining 6 games to meet that total and/or Miami would need to get a win in their remaining 5 games. It's not the easiest run of games for Detroit or Miami, but keeping them under that 50 point total seems unlikely. 

Indy is playing for next year and everybody knows it. Yet, it's good to see they're still going out there and competing with and getting positive results against the top teams in the conference and in the league. I don't know which players on this year's roster are going to be returning next year, but all the guys should view the next 6 games as an extended tryout for next season. Indy head to Monterey Bay next week to try and extend their winless streak and work their way onto next year's roster. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I want to give it to Hackshaw. Of course I do. A brace doesn't happen that often for Indy, and definitely not for a defender.

However, Asante was really good tonight. Three assists, 3 shots on target, 4 chances created, 83% accurate passes, +5 in duels won, and drew 5 fouls type of good. He's been good this season, but his corner kicks on Hackshaw's goals were spot-on. Not only did he do it once, he put the ball in the exact same spot minutes later. That's pin-point accuracy. His assist to Pinho at the end was in the only place it could go to keep it out of Van Oekel's reach, but still in front of the defender.

I feel bad about not giving Hackshaw the GBGB, but Asante deserved it just a bit more tonight.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Detroit City FC - 09.27


- Opponent: Detroit City FC
- Location: Keyworth Stadium
- Attendance: 6,078
- Final Score: 0-0 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Dambrot, Vazquez, Jerome, Timmer, Brown, Ayoze (C), Ingram, Michael, Tejada, Rivera
- Substitution: Asante 45’ (Michael); Pinho 58' (Rivera)

- Unused: Lewis, Revolorio, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:

- Bookings:
DET - Williams 33' (Yellow)
IND - Michael 43’ (Yellow)
DET - Hoppenot 88' (Yellow) 
IND - Trilk 90'+5' (Yellow)
IND - Vazquez 90'+7' (Yellow)

- Referee: Melvin Revis
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

If you're only looking at this game, Indy's performance looked like an attempt to get a draw on the road with a bit of a "parked bus" mentality, which is how the ESPN+ commentators tried to make it seem. However, in full consideration of all the facts, Indy played about as well as they could. With the third match in 8 days, limited bench available for selection (Indy only suited 16 players, three of which were listed as questionable in the Injury Report), an away game after playing the top two teams in each conference, and a hot & humid evening, necessity is the mother of invention. Or at least the mother of tactics in this case. Indy was forced into playing a more defensive game, and picking their moments to counterattack. Did they need the win to make Tulsa (who lost against ATL2) and Detroit nervous about that final playoff spot? Obviously. Indy just couldn't go at Detroit like they needed or would normally want to do. I don't think Indy was "waving the white flag on their season" as the commentators REPEATEDLY stated, they just didn't have the bodies to press the ball like they would want. Whatever your mind wants to do, sometimes your body is just unable to do it with so many games and an inability for rotation in such a short time frame.

At some point, you just have to realize that what you are seeing from Indy, right now, is not necessarily about making the playoffs, but more about trying to keep the remaining pieces available for selection available for selection, and playing for next year. The guys put a ton of miles on their legs in the last week against top opponents and to come out of the week with 7 out of 9 points seems like something that would have been unfathomable after the 12-game winless streak. A 3-game undefeated streak after playing San Antonio, Louisville, and Detroit is a successful week, even if not a playoff making streak. The hole was dug too deep in June, July, and August for there to be an room for non-win results at this stage of the season.

Admittedly, when you look at the stats, it doesn't look good to have a 37 to 7 disadvantage on crosses with a 0% crossing accuracy of your own crosses, or a 62% to 38% disadvantage in possession, or that Indy's first shot on target came in the 90'+6'. Again, though, looking at those facts by themselves, those facts aren't great. However, neither team had a shot on target in the first half, and DET had just two official shots on target in the second half. So for all of DET's possession and activity around Indy's goal, not much truly dangerous situations came from it. Maybe if they had been more clinical around the goal, this would have been a different story, but I think Indy's defensive effort provided enough pressure on DET to frustrate their shooting efforts.

Indy return back to Carroll Stadium next week to face Birmingham realistically, if not mathematically further out of playoff contention. After a difficult three-month stretch, and a continued short bench, Indy needs to find and celebrate successes where they can. A 3-game undefeated streak against playoff-bound opponents is a good way to feel good about things.

Congratulations are in order for two people. First, Detroit's Head Coach Trevor James (who served as Indy Eleven’s Technical Director and Assistant Coach across the 2017-18 seasons) coached his 100th game for DCFC in their previous game against Charleston Battery. Congrats Coach.

Ayoze is now the club's leader in Starts at 102, and now just needs 174 minutes (unofficially by my count) to hold the Minutes record. At which point, Ayoze will hold the Minutes, Starts, Appearances, & Assists records. Congrats Ayo! #IndyForever

The Game Beckons Game Ball

The GBGB goes to the back four of Timmer, Vazques, Jerome, and Dambrot. Any time the opposition gets 37 crosses, you're doing a lot of defending. Any time your backline has a combined 41% of the passes, which were not guys casually knocking it back-and-forth in possession, you're doing a lot of defending. Detroit managed two shots on goal. That's a solid defensive effort from Indy.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City FC - 09.26


- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 8,275
- Final Score: 2-10 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Dambrot, Vazquez, Jerome, Timmer, Hackshaw (C), Asante, Ingram, Aguilera, Tejada, Pinho
- Substitution: McQueen 45’ (Timmer – injury); Rivera 71’ (Aguilera); Michael 78’ (Tejada); Ayoze 90’+1’ (Asante)

- Unused: Lewis, Revolorio, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:
LOU – Serrano 8’ (assist Dia)
IND – Pinho 28’ (unassisted)
IND – Pinho 78’ (Penalty Kick)

- Bookings:
IND – Pinho 12’ (Yellow)
LOU – Mogel 13’ (Yellow)
LOU – Gonzalez 24’ (Yellow)
IND – Dambrot 45’+6’ (Yellow)
LOU – Charpie 57’ (Yellow)
IND – Hackshaw 68’ (Yellow) – will miss the game against Detroit due to yellow card accumulation
IND – Ingram 85’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Elvis Osmanovic
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

In a week where Indy plays the number one team in the Western Conference and the number one team in the Eastern Conference before going to Keyworth Stadium to play Detroit City, the breaking of a 12-game losing streak looked difficult. Getting the win against San Antonio in the first game of the stretch meant that Indy could continue to focus on improving and getting better results without the added weight of not having won a game since June. However, between the Injury Report and Sam Brown’s suspension due to yellow card accumulation, which totaled 7 players (Arteaga, Ayoze, Briggs, Cochran, Meredith, Lewis, & Brown), the plan to rotate players took a little bit of a hit, but Coach Lowry was able to get a few changes as Ingram, Pinho, Timmer, and Vazquez found their way back into the starting lineup. The bench looked a little younger, and even though Ayo was shown on the Injury Report, but was listed as available off the bench and made a brief appearance at the end of the game.

The fact that Louisville City were also coming off a game on Saturday, at least both teams came in with the same amount of lack of rest. Louisville’s loss on Saturday to Miami FC meant that LOU came into Carroll Stadium motivated to get that result out of their system. Indy’s win against San Antonio meant that Indy came into Carroll Stadium motivated to prove that the result against SA was a trend towards better results and not just an “on any given night, any team can beat any team,” kind of result. Throw a blanket of LIPAFC over the entire thing, and the home fans and the traveling LOU fans were ready to see an exciting game despite the teams' two drastically different locations in the table. 

What fans saw was everything they hoped it would be. A good game that was competitive from start to finish. 

The start to the game was a back-and-forth affair with both teams getting some spells of possession and reasonable attacks. That all changed in the 8th minute, when a deflection off of Hackshaw allowed the ball to continue up the field, where Dia tracked the ball down and sent in a cross that Serrano flicked past Trilk to open the scoring. "The first ten minutes, we were a little late on things, a little hesitant. They got a little bit of rhythm, we really couldn't get going. ... They got the goal. That kind of woke us up and from there, we started to implement the plan a little bit better."

After that, the yellow cards also started flying and the field tilted towards LOU’s offensive side of the field for a little bit longer. LOU was intent on pressing Indy’s backline with every single touch in hopes that it would spring the attack. For a stretch, as much as it helped, it also led to LOU being called offside a total of 6 times in the first half alone. LOU played right on the edge with their offense, with Indy toying with disaster each time. Those offside calls and Indy's defense after the LOU goal limited LOU to just two shots in the first half, both before the goal. Louisville didn't have another shot until after halftime. Indy actually put more shots on target than LOU. When was the last time that was the case?

Hustle and Effort.

That should be Indy’s unofficial motto at this point in the season. Whatever happens in the results column, hustle and effort should dominate how the rest of this season is judged. With that in mind, Pinho’s goal in the 28th minute was all of that personified. He hustled to a ball that looked like a ball he shouldn’t be able to get to, hustled to the next ball after the mishit from Soler, and then hustled and provided Deadpool level “maximum effort” to get to the ball before the LOU defenders. With the game all square again, Indy looked like they had grown into the game, were competing again, and tilted the field towards their offensive end. All because of hustle and effort.

Both teams had solid opportunities within the first 5 minutes of the second half, but neither managed to get the ball past the opposing keepers. The second half started much the same way that the first half started. Both teams in a back-and-forth effort without either team truly exerting themselves against the other. Louisville continued their accrual of offside calls compiling another 5 in the second half for a total of 11. The game spent the middle part of the second half in an end-to-end affair. Only moderate opportunities resulted from all the running though, with both keepers making good saves when called upon.

Then more hustle and effort put the game within reach of an Indy win. Tejada’s effort created a penalty kick in the 77th minute, which was taken by Pinho, and sent to the left side of the goal. Despite Morton reading the kick the correct direction, he was unable to get to the ball. With Indy up a goal and time running out, the game tilted to Louisville again as they attempted to salvage a point from the game. Indy saw the game out with team defensive effort, and just enough possession to frustrate LOU. 

Look, Indy dug themselves a massive hole. If you want to get out of the hole, you have to stop digging. Indy did that once against Memphis and then started digging again until this past Saturday. A 12-game winless streak during the middle portion of the season creates an air of impossibility of making the playoffs. Yet, if you told me before this string of three games that Indy would come out of it with 6 points, I would have been pleased. The fact that Indy could, in theory, come out of this stretch with 7 or 9 points with a positive result in Detroit seems miraculous. While the playoffs still seem like a longshot, with the run of games that they have, and the run of games that Tulsa and Detroit have, for the first time in weeks, I thought to myself, "what if?" They have a lot of points to make up, and need a bunch of games to go their way, but "what if?" I didn't think two wins from San Antonio and Louisville was possible five days ago, but here we sit.

Hustle and Effort.

"They're showing that if you play with some heart and desire and hunger and passion, that can take you quite far. ... We wanted it more and the foundation of that can take you a long way. ... It feels great to win games, but it hurts sometimes physically to do that. So they're learning that it's not all fun out there. It's not easy. You can't just jog around and expect to win. You gotta fight. You gotta get hurt. You gotta put your body on the line. They did that and they got the result." - Lowry

How do you go to Detroit with a depleted bench, short rest, and with more guys leaving tonight's game with knocks than when you started the night?

"We gotta find a way. We'll have 11 players and those 11 players have to go out and use this momentum, use this confidence, and start the game in Detroit well. Dig deep, find a way to get it done. ... We're going to be tired. Even the guys that are technically not injured are going to be tired. We have to be true to who we are and what's made us successful the last two games. That's being aggressive, pressing, getting after it, and see if that can take us to through the 90 minutes. These two wins, this 6 points, may have come a little bit too late. Obviously it's still possible for us to be in the playoffs. We're never going to give that up. But, unfortunately, it's taken the guys this long to learn and figure out this is what it takes." - Lowry

I promise you, Coach talked during the post-game for a solid 8 minutes and he gives me confidence that this team is moving in the right direction. I doubt that it will be into the playoffs this year, but this is the most confident I have been talking to the Indy Eleven coaches over the years that this is the one that can take the team to the next step. With the gamut of injuries this team has had this season and the way that has limited the depth, Indy is going to gut out the rest of the season. In gaining some much needed confidence in the past two games, I now have more confidence that it's not just going to be surviving the end of the season, but actually getting some good results to try and end the season on a high note, even if not in the playoffs.

Coach has said that the team can compete against the top teams. They proved it to me the past two games with Hustle and Effort.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
It seems obvious when he scores a brace, but I'm giving Pinho the GBGB because it was his hustle and effort that sparked everything that came after it. Down a goal to the top team in the Eastern Conference, Indy could have rolled over and said, "here we go again." Pinho's hustle and effort that led to his first goal lit the fire under the rest of the team and pushed them over the line. It took a bunch of group defending, including from Pinho, late in the game to secure the victory, but it all started with Pinho's equalizing goal in the 28th minute.

Additional Photos (@DLTPhotog)