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)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I’m skeptical as to how next year will be any different. The lack of speed on this team is astounding. Zero creativity or movement off the ball, and trouble beating defenders on the ball.