Sunday, March 26, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Detroit City FC - 10.02


- Opponent: Detroit City FC
- Location: Keyworth Stadium
- Attendance: 6,893
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Oettl, Boudadi, Diz Pe, Vazquez, Rebellon, Lindley, Blake, Quinn, Martinez, Asante, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution:  Tejada 80' (Martinez); Robledo 87' (Quinn); Jerome 90'+8' (Asante)

- Unused: Trilk, Fjeldberg, Rissi, Torres

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Rebellon 62' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND - Boudadi 14' (Yellow)
DET - Ballard 16' (Yellow)
IND - Asante 21' (Yellow)
IND - Martinez 33' (Yellow)
DET - Matthews 39' (Yellow)
DET - Williams 48' (Yellow)
DET - Matthews 74' (Yellow - RED)
DET - Carroll 90'+6' (Yellow)
DET - Lehland 90'+9' (Yellow) 

- Referee: Jervis Atagana
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

In Indy Eleven's previous 9 seasons, they have started with positive results in the first two games (all away games each season) 5 times, only one of which culminated in a trip to the NASL or USL playoffs. So, Indy's four points out of their first two games is no guarantee of season success. However, Saturday night's match in Detroit looked like an Indy team that was in control of the game for the majority of the game. Despite the blustery conditions in Keyworth Stadium where the cold and the 30+ mph winds consistently pushed the ball everywhere, Indy was able to hold onto the ball, move it around the field, and set up good chances.

Indy had a 2 to 1 possession advantage, and were much more effective at controlling the tempo of the game. They struggled to translate that to a significant number of shots, but executed a short corner style set piece in the 62nd minute to perfection, which Rebellon blasted through so much traffic that Steinwascher could do nothing about it but watch it go past him as he was rooted to his spot. 

As I watched the game, every Tactical Tuesday that the team has released recently, came flooding back to me as Coach Lowry has explained the tactics of this team. When to high press. How to high press. Playing against a direct team. Why to high press. Exploiting wide areas. Lowry's explanation of Indy's system was in full display on Saturday afternoon against Detroit. 

The only deviation from his lessons on "when to high press" was a few moments when I thought the forwards were exerting a bit too much energy chasing the ball when Steinwascher had the ball. He's pretty good with the ball at his feet, which goes against Lowry's Tactical Tuesday lesson. Detroit certainly met the "playing against a direct team," though with more than 30% of their passes being of the "long ball" variety with a less than 60% accuracy (42% in Indy's half of the field). Many of Detroit's unsuccessful passes came from the back as the defense was forced to relieve some of the pressure. 

Detroit did manage to keep Indy to a 28% accuracy rate on their shots, and a paltry 17% on successful crosses, so those are some definite points the team would like to improve upon moving forward. It was also clear that Indy also felt that the team had an advantage attacking Detroit's left side of the field. There were many moments were Rebellon, on the left, was staying as close to the sideline as possible and was without any pressure, but the ball would swing back to the right side of the attack. I'm not sure what it was that Indy thought they could exploit, but it happened frequently enough that Rebellon's raised arms in the air caught my attention each time as he begged to have the ball swung his way from the center backs.

This was a good win, in a difficult place to play, during miserable weather conditions (despite what you might believe from the streaker that ran onto the field late in the game). Once Indy took the lead, and then had the man advantage after Matthews' 74th minute second yellow card sent him to the locker rooms to warm up early, Indy very professionally saw the game out. This felt like a different result than what last year's team would have accomplished.

There are still a lot of games to be played, but this felt like a different team from even last week's team, despite its positive result last week in Tampa Bay. Indy returns home to play their home opening next Saturday against Las Vegas Lights, and former players Justin Ingram and Andrew Carleton. I suspect the two players will receive different welcomes from the BYB, but maybe I'm wrong. It should be a win for Indy, but to this point in the season, Las Vegas is also undefeated, having played to a couple of draws against Rio Grande Valley and Orange County.  

My final thought on the game is that at some point during this season, Oettl is going to allow a goal from 40+ yards out when a player chips him after a bad giveaway from a player in front of him. He definitely played the "sweeper-keeper" role in this game (in line with the tactics laid out by Lowry in the Tactical Tuesdays), and it nearly cost him twice in this game. The first time, Detroit did find the goal after a giveaway by Lindley, but there was an offside call to negate it. The second time, it took all of Oettl's 6'-2" frame to stop the ball from going over his head. The play was ultimately stopped for another offside call, but my worry that this will eventually happen this season increased. I won't go so far as to say I guarantee it, but after watching it happen twice against Detroit, it seems highly likely.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Other the Rebellon's goal, this felt like a solid team win, so awarding the GBGB feels difficult to do. As a result, Rebellon gets it for putting his shot low, hard, and through traffic in a spot away from the keeper. With the amount of traffic in the box and the weather conditions, it's a shot that could have gone somewhere else, but his strike found the back of the net, giving Indy their first win of the season.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Tampa Bay Rowdies - 10.01


- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Al Lang Stadium
- Attendance: 6,893
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Oettl, Rissi, Diz Pe, Vazquez, Boudadi, Lindley, Quinn, Blake, Fjeldberg, Asante, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution:  Rebellon 59' (Rissi); Tejada 68' (Fjeldberg); Robledo 84' (Lindley)

- Unused: Trilk, Jerome, Torres, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:
TBR – Areman 57’ (assist Dalgaard)
IND - Quinn 90'+6' (Penalty Kick)

- Bookings:
TBR – Dennis 2' (Yellow)
TBR - Guillen 27' (Yellow)
TBR - Dalgaard 38' (Yellow)
IND - Blake 63' (Yellow)
IND - Tejada 89' (Yellow)
TBR - Lasso 90'+4' (Yellow)

- Referee: Elvis Osmanovic
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

It's been 130 days since I have written anything at all on this site related to soccer or Indy Eleven, taking the full amount of opportunity available to me during the off-season to do other things, including using my writing chops to work on a novel that I've been trying to write for a couple of years. I was unable to make it to any of the preseason games, so my first look at this Indy Eleven team came tonight when they stepped on the field to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies. 

While I may have spent the team's offseason doing other things, Indy have been busy. There were only three starters that were on last year's roster, two of which weren't on the team at the beginning of 2022 (Asante and Vazquez), and the other (Fjeldberg) finished 2022 with a different team. Throw in the fact that Indy debuted their brand new red away jerseys, and to say that this is a "new look" Indy Eleven would be an understatement. Even the coaching staff has a slightly different look with the addition of Ayoze as an assistant coach, as he transitions from being a player. 

New goalkeeper. Vazquez was the only holdover for the back four. A new midfield. A new forward up top. This team has been rebuilt entirely with players that Coach Lowry feels fit ideally into his preferred 4-4-2 diamond/4-3-3 possession heavy, high-pressing lineup. Indy took that new lineup into a tough environment to play a perennial powerhouse in the Eastern Conference and came away with a 1-1 draw.

With all that being said, Indy stole this point from Tampa Bay. I know Coach thinks that the Indy deserved the point, and while there is some validity to that statement, Indy were fortunate to get a penalty kick in the dying minutes of the game. Yes, Guenzatti was fouled, but it occurred outside the box and shouldn't have been awarded the penalty kick. Not sure why it had it, but the game's Match Center after the game indicated a VAR review and a penalty not awarded. That has since disappeared, but it's like somebody in the league HQ disagreed with the call. Also makes me wonder if the league is considering the use of VAR, and testing it behind the scenes.

So, the team heads back to Indy with a fortunate point on the road due to some good fortune and some less than clinical finishing by Indy. Indy finished with 3 shots on target and 8 shots, but the late game drama should have never occurred if Fjeldberg had put away a point blank rebound shot in the 32nd minute off of a Blake shot from outside the box. Fjeldberg was active, but wasn't as clinical as he should be in front of the goal. 

We can chalk that up to this being the first game of the season, as both teams had moments where they looked disjointed and didn't know where their teammate was going to be or where they should be. Both teams are going to improve, but this game definitely had moments where it looked like they were playing a step up in competition from their preseason opponents.

During one of Coach Lowry's Tactical Tuesdays segments, he discussed a teams ability and need to not always win the first ball, but always win the second ball. If Indy is going to continue to win aerial duels at the rate they did against Tampa Bay, they better work hard to get to the second ball. Indy won just 18% of the aerial duels in the first half, and managed to get that to just 22% for the game. With the aerial presence we've seen out of past Indy teams, I can't remember ever seeing a discrepancy that large.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Oettl's save of Cal Jennings' 20th minute penalty kick attempt kept Indy in the game early as both teams settled into the game. He looked confident with the ball at his feet. As the team works to settle into their press and attacking, having his presence in goal certainly helped in this game.