Sunday, April 30, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds - 10.07


- Opponent: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,009
- Final Score: 1-1 D

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

- Substitution: Martinez 63’ (Rebellon); Blake 63’ (Lindley); Tejada 72’ (Robledo); Rissi 90‘ (Vazquez)

- Unused: Trilk, Jerome

- Scoring Summary:

PIT – Dikwa 18’ (assist Biasi)
IND – Blake 81’ (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND – Boudadi 20’ (Yellow)
PIT – Blackstock 24’ (Yellow)
IND – Lindley 25’ (Yellow)
PIT – Dos Santos 80’ (Yellow)
IND – Diz Pe 87’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Jeremy Scheer
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Indy Eleven entered this game needing a win and needing it badly. The team finally saw a ball go into the opponent’s goal last week against Monterey, allowing the BYB to release their first goal scoring smoke of the season. However, as that smoke dissipated into the chilly April air, so too did Indy’s chances of getting their first home win of the season after conceding two goals in the second half to lose 3-2. Indy came into the game with a 3-game league losing streak, and a 4-game losing streak in all competitions after falling to a better Columbus Crew side in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night. Needing a win, a game against the physical nature of Lilleyball and Pittsburgh, was a daunting prospect when a win was needed as badly as it was coming into this game. 

Indy and Pittsburgh play drastically different styles of game, with Indy first in the Championship with a 64% possession rate, while Pittsburgh ranks third from the bottom with 43%. Where Pittsburgh gives up possession, they make up with physical play, leading the Championship with 115 fouls committed. Both teams also came into this game after a string of games against Western Conference foes; Indy a four-game stretch against Las Vegas, Oakland, Orange County, and Monterey Bay; and Pittsburgh a three-game stretch against Colorado Springs, Rio Grande Valley, and El Paso. Indy finished that stretch with a 0W-1D-3L record, and Pittsburgh finished their Western Conference stretch with a 1W-0D-2L record, so a game against an Eastern Conference opponent was a welcome change of pace for both teams.

Pittsburgh’s goalkeepers are coached by former Indy Eleven player Jon Busch, and Pittsburgh had not conceded more than 1 goal in any of their games until last week’s loss to El Paso. Pittsburgh has always been a stingy team when it comes to conceding goals, but having Busch sharing his knowledge with the goalkeeping core in Pittsburgh can only make them better.

Pittsburgh’s 18th minute goal meant that Indy’s frequent refrain of “chasing the game” occurred once again. For a team that doesn’t concede much like Pittsburgh, getting down to them makes for a difficult chase. Indy nearly gave up a second within five minutes on a counter when Lindley couldn’t come up with a header and then fell a little too easily with minimal contact. Pittsburgh never slowed down and an Oettl kick save maintained the one-goal deficit.

Indy Eleven want to play the beautiful game beautifully. However, in the offensive third of the field, near the opponents’ goal, I would like to see Indy play ugly. I want to see them stop looking for the beautiful pass, or beautiful assist, or beautiful shot, and just put a ball into the mix to see what happens. Allow the other players to work off a deflection or a parried ball from the keeper, or just let the number of players in the box block the goalkeeper’s vision. Guenzatti and Asante hinted at doing that in the 38th minute with a long-range shot from Asante after a blocked shot from Guenzatti, but Indy came up short as Waite pushed the ball to the side. The idea, though, was what I want to see. Stop trying to get the ball to within 6-inches of the goal line. Make the defenders and the keeper do their jobs and force them to make a good play or force them to make a mistake. With the team struggling to score goals playing beautifully, I think it’s time for Indy to play a bit uglier at times. Everything is too slow and trying to be perfect. It’s almost like the talent level of this team has risen to a point where they forget that it’s okay to play gritty, to play ugly, to play “below” themselves. At this point, with results not consistent with how dominant the team is in every statistic except the scoreline, what does it hurt?

You could have timed Pittsburgh’s attacks with a stopwatch. You could have timed Indy’s attacks with an hourglass. Touch. Pass. Switch by Pittsburgh’s defense to get in position. Touch. Pass. Switch by Pittsburgh’s defense to get in position. Rinse. Repeat. With a team like Pittsburgh, you have to move the ball faster. Pittsburgh is just too disciplined defensively. Until time was absolutely running out of the game, Indy’s defense was predictable and patient.

Seriously, I don't understand the fight over
the ball after a scored goal. It really doesn't
speed the game any to get the ball to the
center circle, and could/should result
in a yellow card more often.
Indy’s equalizing goal in the 81st minute? Dambrot sent a cross in that forced Waite to make a decision and came off his line to parry the ball away, but only as far as Blake who one-timed it with his left foot in the wide-open goal that was left available with Waite laying on the ground between his six-yard line and the penalty spot. Blake’s shot was not an easy one, but when the goalkeeper is out of position, your chances increase. Again, put the ball in a position that forces the defense to make a good play or forces them to make a mistake. 

Indy Eleven pulled a point out of the game late to help stem the season bleeding, but Coach Lowry said it after the game, and it’s a fair assessment. A draw at home with the control that this team is able to do with games is a “disappointment.” In game after game this month, somebody in the post-game interviews has said something about “a lack of concentration in the moment” or “lack of discipline.” Indy has definitely been punished for nearly every single defensive mistake they have made, and at some point, water will find its level so that Indy doesn’t have to play a perfect game to be able to get positive results, but until that happens, Indy can control their concentration and their discipline and they need to do that.

While Indy Eleven’s offense is patient, their fans are going to quickly become impatient with how this season is progressing with its most, on paper, talented team. Indy had 2 shots on target to Pittsburgh’s 5 (out of 6 total shots for an 83.3% accuracy for the Riverhounds). With the amount of possession that Indy has every game, they have to be able to convert that control of the game into more than two shots on target in 90 minutes. If they do, they increase their odds to score goals, and the odds that a mistake costs them points decreases. Right now, through 7 league games, Indy is averaging 9 shots and 2.5 shots on target, while their opponents, who are seeing significantly less of the ball than Indy, are averaging 6.5 shots and 3.29 shots on target. Indy's opponents are doing a lot more with a lot less.

Indy heads on the road the next two weeks to play Loudoun and Sacramento. Given Loudoun’s early success this year and Indy’s recent lack of success against California teams, Indy’s return to The Mike against Colorado Springs may mean Indy will be in desperation mode before we reach the month of June.

Parting Thoughts
Last night's game against Pittsburgh marked the final duties of John Koluder...again. John was one of the first four employees of the team, took a break for a bit, and returned the past few years. John's departure leaves very few remaining people from those early days. By my count, I know of two full employees remaining, at least one more that was around but not officially employed by the team. It's getting much harder to find people in the organization where we can discuss "the old days." Which is why it's important for the fans (the BYB and writers like me) to help keep track of the history of the club. Thanks John for all the help over the years and being patient with my endless questions, complaints, and discussions. It has been a pleasure.

Post game, for probably 20 minutes, Bob Lilley pulled the Riverhounds team into a group near midfield and either coached or belittled his players. I was unable to hear all that was said, but there were definitely individual players and plays being discussed. I received mixed opinions on whether that is something that should be done on the field in front of all of the opposing team's fans or whether that is better to take place in the locker room. I understand the idea that all players are to be held accountable for how they played, but I'm not sure that diving into ALL the mistakes the team made on the field after a road draw is ideal. Lilley has players on the roster that have been playing for him for multiple seasons so it's clearly not a deterrent to a certain type of personality, and is not an unknown thing about him at this point. He has been doing this for as long as I've watched Indy play Pittsburgh. However, it still periodically catches me off guard though on how long his post-game lessons last.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Was Jack Blake the most important player on the field tonight? Maybe not, but he was definitely the most impactful player due to his high level shot on goal that salvaged a point for Indy late. I know my GBGB's this season have been underwhelming, but I think it is a function of the team. This is the kind of team where every player's credentials coming into Indy are well known and documented. As Brad Hauter has stated, "this team doesn't need any single player to play above themselves, they just need to play to their reputation, and the team should be successful." Tonight, the player that did his job, and allowed Indy to walk off the field with the point was Jack Blake.

Additional Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

No comments: