Sunday, May 28, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City FC - 10.11


- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 9,532
- Final Score: 1-0 L

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

- Substitution: Jerome 6’ (Boudadi – INJURY); Molina 68’ (Rissi); Robledo 80‘ (Lindley); Tejada 80‘ (Guenzatti)

- Unused: Trilk

- Scoring Summary:
LOU – Harris 20’ (assist Serrano)

- Bookings:
IND – Lindley 11’ (Yellow)
IND – Vazquez 29’ (Yellow)
IND – BENCH 52’ (Yellow)
IND – Jerome 77’ (Yellow)
IND – Martinez 81’ (Yellow)
LOU – Pouwels 90’+3’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Elvis Osmanovic
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Indy’s Eleven’s 11th league game of the season was an important one to the team and the fans, with LIPAFC dominating the discussion from fans, and trying to build on last week’s success against Colorado Springs for the team. With the top of the Eastern Conference table trying to pull away from the rest of the conference, it was vital for Indy to get points out of the game to stay in the playoff race now that they have worked themselves back into that position with a 2W-1D-1L record in the last four games. However, to say that Indy has figured things out would be incorrect, as it just takes a look at their results timeline to see that this season has been an up-and-down affair. 

Louisville came into the game after a mid-week home loss to Tulsa, despite leading at halftime. Louisville also came to town with some of Indy Eleven fans’ favorite former players in tow. Tyler Gibson started the game despite being listed as “questionable” in the Louisville match notes, and Dylan Mares came off the bench in the 77th minute. I would love to have either of these guys back on the roster, but for the 90-minutes of this game, they’re just like any other opponent and I hoped they were going to head home unhappy. Unfortunately for Indy fans, that’s not what happened, and our former players made the trek back down I-65 with three points and the first step in claiming the Barrel (TM).

Indy’s short bench continues to limit Coach Lowry’s options with both Rebellon and Dambrot out with injuries, and King picking up a knock ahead of the game. With just 4 available field player subs available, it’s fortunate that Louisville had fewer days rest between games than Indy. I understand the logic behind quality over quantity, but it’s inherent that the players stay healthy to make that work. Otherwise, you continue to see what Indy is facing this year, which is limited substitutions, and forcing the majority of the starting lineup to go the full 90 minutes. When you’re facing a team like Louisville that has quantity AND quality, you’re really forcing a lot out of the team. Compound the injuries coming into the game with the fact that Boudadi grabbed his shoulder after a tackle within the first minute (see above photo...seems innocuous enough), forcing an extremely early substitution. Indy’s depth issue was exacerbated, and completely ruined the anticipated substitution pattern. Coach Lowry and the training staff are holding this team together with bailing wire and duct tape, trying to put guys in positions to get results. It's a good thing many of these guys are veterans, and talented enough players to do it, but there is still an aspect of "round hole, square peg," right now with some of the guys. Lowry has succumbed to a back 5 the last two games just to be able to solidify the defense and not give away goals.

However, just before the 20th minute mark, Louisville put together a couple of opportunities, that eventually lead to a goal by Harris on a corner kick from Serrano. Indy, once again, found themselves behind early and chasing the game. Against Louisville, that is not a good place to be, despite having 70 minutes to try and get back into the game. The injuries along the backline meant that, in essence, Indy fielded 4 centerbacks, affecting how Indy attacked the Louisville defense. Instead of having King or Boudadi or Dambrot attacking up the wings to put pressure on Louisville’s back three, Indy resorted to more long balls over the top of Louisville's defense to try and get Martinez, Guenzatti, or Asante onto the ball, or get opportunities on goal through set pieces. That method of attack has an inherent assumption that you’re going to be able to outrun the defender, time your run better than their offside step, or have an error by the defenders. That’s a difficult assumption with a team like Louisville, but they did have a few uncharacteristic miscues.

Indy came out of the halftime locker room and immediately put a shot on goal in the 48th minute from a Guenzatti header from a Blake cross. The ball had to be parried over the goal by Semmle, and the resulting corner kick was stopped nearly as soon as it began due to a called foul. The next 15 minutes was spent with both teams getting opportunities, but moderately tilted towards Indy. Molina’s substitution in the 68th minute created another level of creativity as he looked to attack Louisville’s backline every chance he could get.

Louisville didn't outright park the bus the last 20 to 30 minutes, but with a quick turnaround from Wednesday's game against Tulsa and an early lead in this game, they were more comfortable staying behind the ball with 9 guys and letting Harris chase balls between Indy's defenders to slow down Indy's attack.  I often don't know what to expect from Coach in the post-game interviews. I have waited for Coach to return to the field for the post-game interview after a loss, only to leave the stadium without getting any kind of reaction from him. He was pumped after this loss. He walked up, ready to talk, ready to express how much he was exciting about the way the team played:
"They go home with the three points, but our performance was superb. That's the reality. With not a single fullback available, Younes goes off after three minutes, Jack playing out here coming inside. The tactical intelligence was superb. Gustavo playing left wingback, doing the best he could. I'm so proud of the guys and if anybody left the stadium, and not feeling proud of that then I want to speak to them because that performance was superb, against a really good team. They didn't get out of their half in the second half." 

I agree that the effort was there, particularly given the early injury and the adjustments in personnel that have been made as a result of the other injuries, but Louisville didn't have to take unnecessary risks and they didn't. Louisville got an early lead, and let Indy chase the game; something they haven't been very good at doing this season. Indy gave themselves opportunities to get a point (or more) out of the game, but the spot that is still missing from the squad is a true number 10; a guy who can, and will, turn and attack the defense to set up easier shooting lanes for the other Indy players. Coach agreed with that sentiment after the game, while praising the effort from Molina, who was a massive attacking spark at the end of the game. 
"We don't have many guys that can go 1v1, that can create things. Something I've said for awhile about this group. It's one of the reasons I changed the system because I don't feel like we have a #10 in the middle that can turn and beat players. I'm not saying he's a #10, but he's a guy that can go 1v1, at wide with his left foot, gets the crowd on their feet. He's exciting. He's got quality. He's a great sub to have right now. He's got to still grow and understand the defensive side of the game, but I think we saw tonight that he's an asset to this group."

For his part, Molina was ready to do exactly what the coaching staff wanted him to do, "first and foremost, you have to take what the coach gives you and what he wants. That's something they told me, to go at them, go 1v1, get services into the box. ... I love to dribble, that's always been me. I'm never going to go away from that."

With a 1/3 of the season in the books, Indy still has a high ceiling, but not if they can't keep guys healthy, or don't bring in some other guys to fill the gaps that keep growing as guys succumb to injury week after week. Indy's quality over quantity approach to the season has forced Lowry to also throw out his preferred 4-4-2 diamond arrangement using players he selected to play it. Indy selected great players to fit the system (with the aforementioned lack of a true #10), but are now having to find out if those players are great positional players, or great players. From Coach's perspective, with a tactical adjustment, and an increase in effort from his players, "what I saw tonight gives me hope and I can roll with that."

"They've got a great squad. I mean, they have 22, 23 top players now. That's where we need to be. Unfortunately, we don't even have 18. That's the difference in the clubs. Right there. So they're able to managed 2 game, 3 game weeks. The subs they bring in are experienced players. I thought my subs were great, but you have two 20-year olds on the bench. ... But that performance against them, I'll take that every day of the week."

Indy return to action at conference leading Charleston on a rare Friday night contest. With both the men's and women's teams playing on Friday night, at the same time, fans will try to spread their attention to both squads. Fans attending the women's game at Grand Park will be keeping one eye on their phones to keep track of what is going on at the men's game, and the fans watching at home are going to want to double monitor the evening's activities. With the current injury bug, we'll see if there will be a new face announced this week for the Boys. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
When a player goes down with an injury within 90 seconds of the starting whistle, and an already depleted bench due to other injuries, guys have to step up and play outside of their normal roles, and definitely outside their projected role coming into the season. To hold a team like Louisville to a single goal, from a set piece, means that guys all over the field put in a solid shift. However, the guy that seemed to keep standing out for me was Quinn. He seemed to be all over the place, making good decisions, with some timely defensive interventions. So while I thought about giving the GBGB to Jerome for his solid effort in an emergency near-starter role, Quinn was the player who kept standing out to me. 

Additional Photos (Don Thompson Photography)


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