Sunday, April 2, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Las Vegas Lights - 10.03


- Opponent: Las Vegas Lights FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 9,091
- Final Score: 0-0 D

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

- Substitution:  Robledo 81’ (Blake); Dambrot 85’ (Rebellon); Tejada 90’+1’ (Lindley)

- Unused: Trilk, Jerome, Rissi, Torres

- Scoring Summary:

- Bookings:
LV – Bushue 21’ (Yellow)
IND – Lindley 76’ (Yellow)
LV – Ayimbila 79’ (Yellow)
IND – Rebellon 81’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Calin Radosav
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

As I settled into my normal seat in the press box at Carroll Stadium (spot #11 of course) last night, I was glad to have the warmer temperatures of the press box, but also intrigued to see how Indy Eleven looked in person. Watching the previous two games on ESPN+ is nice, but you naturally lose some of the way the team is arranged due to the limited camera angle. So I was anxious to see exactly how far Oettl is playing out of his box (a long way... at one point, I saw him run all the way past the midfield line to give some instructions to Lindley before Cam went over to take a corner kick), how wide are Rebellon and Boudadi staying when the ball isn't on their side of the field (very wide), and would the weather affect Coach Lowry's tactics from everything he has been teaching us this season in the Tactical Tuesday series (not really, though I don't remember if any of them explicitly discuss how to play his preferred pressing style against as compact a bunker arrangement as Las Vegas employed last night). Getting to write about the team, in person, is a different writing experience for me than watching the games online through ESPN+. 

The USL Championship season is going to provide some new opponents with the league’s arrangement of having each Eastern Conference team play the other teams in the conference twice, while also playing each of the Western Conference teams one. So while Indy Eleven is playing Las Vegas Lights for the first time in club history, the team is not without some familiar faces. LV’s roster includes not one, not two, but three former Indy Eleven players, including two that were on tonight’s gameday lineup. Last year’s rookie, Justin Ingram began the game on the bench, but came into the game in the 60th minute. Andrew Carleton was in the starting lineup, and showed what everybody has known about him for a long time. His skill and effect on the game can't be denied, but it's his off-field life that has continued to get in the way, which is partially why he is on his 8th team (counting ATL and ATL2 as one team) since signing with Atlanta United as their first homegrown player in 2016 as a 15-year old, including stints in the NPSL, USPL, and Costa Rica. Lastly, Las Vegas's roster includes Emmanuel Ledesma, but he did not make the trip back to Indy. 

Indy's former players head back to sunny and warmer temperatures than what they experienced on Saturday night with temperatures and wind gusts in the 40s, and unluckily for Indy fans, the former players headed back west with a point as the two teams played to a scoreless draw.

Despite being at home, Indy Eleven decided to forego the home blues, and instead showed off the new away red jerseys to the home fans. I'm still hoping to see a mix of the red and blue at some point this season, but the reds looks good. It's a nice change of pace. 

Photo Credit

Coach Lowry rolled out the same starting lineup as was used last weekend in Detroit. Too early to tell if Coach is setting into his preferred starters, but back-to-back games leads me to think that it might be a possibility. Robbie Dambrot was back in the 18 after getting injured during preseason, which is good to see. His presence pushed Fjeldberg out of the game day roster. With the upcoming Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday schedule due to the US Open Cup game at The Mike this week, there will be some adjustments to the lineup on Wednesday. Indy's small roster has better depth this year than in year's past, so the lineup against Michigan Stars on Wednesday should still be a formidable one.

Indy’s width this year is drastically different than last year. It’s not consistent, but there were rare moments that either Rebellon or Boudadi weren’t hugging the sideline. Las Vegas, however, maintained a very compact 4-4-2 core in the middle of the pitch, both horizontally and vertically. Stretching the field forced Las Vegas to cover a lot of ground in defense, which I thought would have helped wear them down towards the end of the game, but Las Vegas looked fine at the end of the game. The cool temperatures probably helped with preventing the Vegas players from being gassed at the end. This might have been a different game in a few months. Las Vegas's low block is a bit of a change from recent visits from opponents. Las Vegas came to Indy with a definite plan in mind to sit low and force Indy to work the ball around to find the opportunities. That bunker was on a different level as Indy had a nearly 80% to 20% advantage in possession in this game, with Las Vegas not getting a single shot on goal. 

Admittedly, Las Vegas is a different team than they were in the past, due to their connection with L.A. Galaxy coming to an end, so it’s difficult to describe them as a pushover at this point in the season, but Indy controlled this game from start to finish, with the exception of a couple of close shots, including an extremely close opportunity from LV at the end of the first half when Boudadi failed to get the touch on a free kick that allowed LV’s Botello Faz to get a shot. LV came out of the halftime locker with renewed energy. Indy continued to hold possession, but it was sloppier and less in control than it was in the first half. Around the 60th minute, LV seemed to get a hold of what they wanted to do in the game. They still weren’t highly successful with it, but they looked like a team that were more inclined to snag a goal against the run of play then they did in the first half. 

Despite all of Indy's possession and control of the game, this had the appearance of a game that if it didn't end 0-0, was going to end 1-nil, either way. As if it was going to be just as easy for Las Vegas to get a goal on a break as it was for Indy to break through Las Vegas' bunker.

Around the twenty-minute mark, LV had a free kick on the left wing and I thought to myself, “Indy continues to do it, but what’s the point of putting Asante in the wall? I know he needs to go somewhere and he can cover the kicker, but has he EVER stopped a free kick at his height?” 

Then, literally, about two minutes later, he wins a header on a corner kick that he directed off the woodwork… Proving, once again, that I don’t know crap about this game.

What I do know is that Indy’s speed of thought, footwork, and passing are on a different level this season. I don’t know what the salary increase is to get to this level, but it’s apparent that this team is at a different level than any team Indy has previously fielded, and Indy has had some good teams. Indy only has two goals in three games, one of which came from the spot, but my early impression of this team is that the defense is going to keep the team in some games until the goal scorers figure out some things. If Indy had found that early 22-minute goal from the Asante header, this could have been a much more open game with Indy scoring 3 or 4 goals on the night. As it was, Indy continues the season on an undefeated run, with two consecutive clean sheets. I would have loved to see the possession translate to a goals, but at this stage of the season, I'll take the draw in the poor weather conditions. 

FRISBEE DOGS AT HALFTIME! Love to see a fan favorite make their return this year. Would guess it won't be the last night the dogs entertain us this year.

Indy returns to The Mike on Wednesday for the Open Cup game, and then face off against Oakland Roots on Saturday, again at Carroll Stadium. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

In a game like this, where the opponent comes in with such a defined plan to bunker, and executes that plan as well as Las Vegas did, preventing a goal on the counterattack is vital. The Match Center stats for the game indicates that Las Vegas was credited with just 184 passes, 61 of which were considered "long" (33%), and which they were only successful at 54% of the time, and down to 40% in Indy's half of the field. This means that in back-to-back games, Indy's opponents have attempted more than 30% of their passes as "long" passes. When that is the game plan, it's vital that Indy have a center back pairing capable of withstanding the over the top counters that are going to occur when Rebellon and Boudadi are streaking forward on attacks. Vazquez and Diz Pe provided that stability in spades tonight. As a result, Indy's CB pair receive the GBGB. 

Additional Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

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