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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Asante has been great !!!
Man of the match for sure. I’m also excited on confidence boost Tejada will have.

Other unsung heroes this season include Aguilera, Dambrot, Vazquez and Trilk for the last 4+ games. Keep up the good work with these reviews