Saturday, June 24, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Hartford Athletic - 10.15

Summary

- Opponent: Hartford Athletic
- Location: Trinity Health Stadium
- Attendance: 4,784
- Final Score: 2-0 W

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

- Substitution: Jerome 68' (Robledo); Martinez 82' (Asante); Molina 82' (King)

- Unused: Trilk, Dambrot, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:
IND – Lindley 73’ (assist Boudadi)
IND - Martinez 90'+5' (assist Molina)

- Bookings:
IND – Boudadi 4’ (Yellow)
IND - King 49' (Yellow)
IND - Robledo 65' (Yellow)
HFD - Saydee 70' (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 74' (Yellow)
IND - Rissi 87' (Yellow)
HFD - Rito 87' (Yellow)
HFD - Amoh 90'+5' (Yellow)

- Referee: Amiel Aleman
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Between injuries, suspensions, departures, and acquisitions, there is a legit core of starters, but what the rest of the starting lineup looks like from game to game is anybody's guess. One of those core players, Blake, was supposed to start, but picked up a knock a couple hours before the game. Rissi in, Jerome out. Diz Pe back in. King back in. I don't know if all the adjustments are why Indy looked out of sync at times, but there weren't many moments where Indy looked like the better team, playing against the team at the bottom of the table. 

Every single one of the below comments came from the Hartford telecast staff about the Hartford team:

"You are what your record says you are." - Bill Parcells (to be fair, this reference was kind of directed towards both teams)

"I don't think they are far away."

"Hartford fans have been really loyal this season. If they [the team] can get back to winning ways..."

"Performances don't matter if you keep losing games."

Every one of those comments could have easily been about the Indy Eleven throughout most of this season. Coach Lowry came into this game with yet another adjusted lineup, with guys who have been injured and may not be fully match fit. He also came into this season with the mindset of attacking, which he has done throughout most of his career, playing pretty soccer with a majority of possession. It's not a complete 180, but Coach Lowry has become a much more defensive minded team in recent weeks. He was tired of conceding goals, and has begun to set up the team to stop losing games because of mistakes in the back. 

While Indy has still held the possession advantage in recent games, that was not the case tonight. There were moments in this game where I fully expected to be writing about an Indy Eleven loss. Indy's first shot on target was when Lindley shot an absolute rocket into the upper 90 from 30 yards out for the team's first goal...in the 73rd minute. They managed just two more shots on target the remainder of the game, both in stoppage time. The second shot on target by Guenzatti forced the only save made by Sanchez, and the third shot was the Martinez goal in the 90'+5'. I mean, it's hard to argue with 3 shots on target and two goals, but it took long enough to happen.

This comment isn't only about Indy, but it's such a routine thing that I yelled out loud tonight about it. Indy had a free kick in the attacking third, late in the game. Everybody was up for the kick, and instead of putting a ball into the mixer, a "training ground" kick was attempted, that went backwards first, then backwards again, then all the way back to Oettl. For a team that has been struggling to score goals, wasting free kicks in prime position like that seems pointless.

As Coach Lowry has said in the past, and was said tonight on the telecast, this is a results oriented business. To that goal, Indy had a successful trip to Hartford. They also brought their season (in league play) goal differential to 0, making them just one of 4 teams in the conference with an even or positive differential. At some point, the pogo-stick season will level out though, right? Or is Indy exactly what their record says they are? An inconsistent team still trying to figure out how to win in this conference with the players on the roster. 

Indy return to the Mike next weekend to take on San Diego on Indy-pendence night.

Make sure you head to Grand Park the night before though to support the women's team as the look to get a win and wrap-up the division and be the Valley division's representative in the playoffs.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
There's a reason why there are 11 players on the field. Oettl was credited with 3 saves, but there were timely interventions and punches that kept Indy in the game until they finally could breakthrough with the game-winning goal. Indy spent the majority of the game in their own half, and Oettl was key to all of the Hartford possession in that half leading to nothing. 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Lexington SC - 02.09

Summary

- Opponent: Lexington SC
- Location: Toyota Stadium
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 3-0 W

- Starting XI: Reason, Kugler, Creel, Bahr, Chatterton, Hershfelt, Rogers (C), Dewey, S., Soderstrom, K., Chester, Williams

- Substitution: Watson 45' (Creel); Kraszula 45' (Kugler); Soderstrom, K. 62' (Dewey, S.); Lynch 62' (Williams); Sexton 66' (Hershfelt), Slimak 76' (Soderstrom, K.)

- Unused: Edwards

- Scoring Summary:
IND – Dewey, S 29’ (assist Hershfelt)
IND - Soderstrom, K. 43' (unassisted)
IND - Williams 45'+1' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
NONE

- Referee: ?
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Some new names for Indy in this game with Creel getting the start, and Lynch and Susie Soderstrom on the bench. Lynch is a returnee from last season with 6 starts and a goal last year, scoring the game winner in the 5th game of the season against Midwest United, and playing her last game in the 7th game against Kings Hammer. For 14-minutes tonight, we were able to see both Soderstrom women on the field at the same time. From what I saw tonight in her limited time in the second half, let's hope the younger Soderstrom takes over the Soderstrom mantle on the Indy Eleven USL-W team if her older sister finds a pro team in Europe.

Indy and Lexington split the possession early in the game until about the 20th mark when Indy seemed to settle into the game and became more patient and picking their spots in the attack. Indy had several crosses throughout the first half that went to the back post when the runs were going to the near post. Eventually in the 29th minute, Hershfelt dropped a ball near the 6-yard box that Josephson couldn't come off her line to get and Dewey ushered the ball around Josephson to get the well-deserved first goal of the game. With the exception of the first 15 minutes of the game that looked like the Lexington that I saw against Racing Louisville, Indy were in complete control of the first half with dangerous attack after dangerous attack. If the crosses had been on the same page a couple more times, this game would have been put away much earlier.

As if Lexington wasn't having a hard enough time with keeping possession and out of Indy's feet, they shot themselves in the feet twice in the dying minutes of the half with poor defenses touches that let Soderstrom and Williams in on goal. Soderstrom put a couple of shimmies and shakes on three separate defenders and then shot back across her body and away from the way that Josephson was leaning. Minutes later, another poor touch by a defender and an individual effort by Williams to get around said defender put Indy up 3-nil at halftime when Williams calmly slotted the ball to the opposite side of the goal under Josephson. 

The halftime graphics indicated that Indy had 7 shots, 4 on target, and 3 goals. That's efficient. And could have been worse for Lexington based on the possession advantage and the number of crosses that went a bit wasted by Indy. The first half was the kind of game we know Indy can provide against many teams, but I'm a little surprised it happened against Lexington. Lexington have shown signs of putting it together, particularly that game against Racing, but for now, there's still a pretty decent gap between 1st/2nd and 3rd in the Valley Division.

Indy came out of the locker room just a little more conservative and not as clean as they were in the first half, but a three-goal lead can sometimes do that to a team. Additionally, the substitutions immediately out of the locker room changed the early dynamic as it pushed Hershfelt into a centerback role. There were some weird events as Slimak missed a shot from 6-inches when she didn't get her foot turned enough and the ball went back in the direction it came instead of taking the perpendicular direction into the goal. 

The result is ideal even though the second half wasn't as high scoring as the first half. Again, the math remains easy. Keep winning, and they'll keep playing into the playoffs. Indy return home to close out the regular season with a game against St. Charles, the only team to have found a win against Indy in two seasons. Win and their in, and looking to exact revenge against that losing result, I fully expect Indy to come out and try to put that game away early.

Williams is now averaging 1 goal every 35 minutes for the past two games. I suspect we might see her in the game next Friday against St. Charles. Indy has 6 different players that are averaging a goal in less than 90 minutes, with 3 of the top 4 goal scores (3+ goals each) averaging a goal in less than 75 minutes.
  • Dewey, S - a goal every 59.5 minutes
  • Soderstrom, K - a goal every 148 minutes
  • Whitsett - a goal every 71 minutes
  • Williams - a goal every 55 minutes
There are some other higher scoring teams in the league, but I wouldn't want to face this team in the playoffs. You can't defend just one player, though I think some teams have tried to throw multiple players at Soderstom this year in that "let's not let her beat us" mentality, and eventually somebody is going to find a look to beat the defense and the goalkeeper.

One more game. That needs to be the mentality the rest of the season, and hopefully it finishes with a trophy for the club.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

You can call this a cumulative award if you want, but I think I'm going to give Reason tonight's GBGB. She has a stellar 0.2 goals against average, 4 clean sheets out of 5 starts, and played solidly tonight when called upon to do so. She had a very early poor pass that led to a giveaway and a shot by Lexington, but Reason settled in after that. It's easy to give praise to the plethora of scorers on this team, which I did just before this, but the defense might be what sets this team apart from many others and that defense was anchored by Reason tonight (Edwards is no slouch herself at 0.5 GAA and 3 clean sheets out of 4 starts). Reason played tonight, so she gets the official GBGB, but Edwards can take a piece of it if she wants. #GKUnion

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Kings Hammer - 02.08

Summary

- Opponent: Kings Hammer
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 4-0 W

- Starting XI: Reason, Chatterton, Watson, Bahr, Sexton, Kraszula, Rogers (C), Dewey, S., Whitsett, Chester, Williams

- Substitution: Soderstrom, K. 45’ (Williams); Matsuhisa 45’ (Dewey, S.); Slimak 57’ (Matsuhisa - injury);  Houweling 72’ (Whitsett - injury); Kevdzija 72’ (Kraszula); Kugler 72’ (Chatterton)

- Unused: Edwards

- Scoring Summary:
IND – Williams 9’ (assist Chester)
IND – Williams 19’ (assist Sexton)
IND – Slimak 65’ (assist Sexton)
IND – Bahr 74’ (from direct free kick)

- Bookings:
NONE

- Referee: ?
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

With the end of the USL W League’s compacted regular season quickly coming to an end, and Indy coming off a less-than-desirable result against St. Charles, the team wanted, and needed, to come into this game to show that they are still one of the top teams in the division and the league. Indy made a couple changes from their Sunday starting lineup, notably player/coach Maddy Williams started the game up top, with Soderstrom off the bench, Hershfelt not in the team’s 18 (late scratch), early goal scorer Dewey (Sam) back, and Reason back in goal in place of Edwards. Kings Hammer has historically played Indy well, with all the games been tight affairs. Indy wanted to come out today and prove that Thursday was an aberration.

Williams made an impact within 2 minutes by putting a header on frame that Kowalski managed to deflect enough to send it off the crossbar and down on the field side of the goal line instead of the goal side of the line. But her veteran presence was immediately apparent. A few minutes later, she put a perfect cross into the box that Chester couldn’t finish. A few minutes after that, she put a chip over the keeper that also found its way over the crossbar. Then, "finally," she found a looping header that looked like it was going to go wide, but managed to drop under the bar with the keeper leaning the wrong way to get the scoring started in the 9th minute.

The pressure continued and Dewey put a ball off the post that bounced to Williams, who put the ball wide. The waves of attack from Indy in the early stages of the game were persistent, as Kings Hammer continued to absorb pressure, but struggled to keep any possession, and when KH lost the ball, Indy were quick to attack. In the 19th minute, Sexton took a look up field, and put a ball over the top to, you guessed it, Williams. Kowalski started to come out to get to the ball, but didn’t do so with any conviction or confidence, and Williams got a boot to it to put it up and over Kowalski and into the goal to extend the lead.

After the second goal, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Kings Hammer figured things out, but the game settled in a little bit. Indy continued to pepper the Kings Hammer defense with attacks, but couldn’t quite find the finishing touch again. Given the frustration of Thursday night’s game, heading into the halftime locker room with a 2-nil lead is an acceptable way to regroup after the team’s first regular season loss. 

Sitting on a potential hat trick, Coach Dolinsky went ahead and pulled Williams at halftime, which was the plan coming into the game. I’ll give that a subdued “boo” to coach, but in her place was just last year’s top goal scorer in Soderstrom. How’s that for a perfect indication of the plethora of riches available to Dolinsky? Coach has the players in the starting lineup, and on the bench, so that "whether we're chasing the game, again going back to Thursday, I felt we made changes that gave us a chance to win the game, and today making the changes, we were protecting the lead, but we also expanded the lead. So very confident regardless of who the 18 are." That's how a coach can confidently pull a player that was as dominant in the first half as Williams was, knowing there are still games remaining where Williams will be valuable and not put undue strain on her body. 

However, Indy lost some of their sharpness after coming out of the locker room, and Kings Hammer had some of their best possession of the game. Not completely in  threatening positions, but they were definitely more on the front foot than they were in the first half. The BYB lost some of their voice in the second half and the difference in atmosphere was palpable. I don’t know if that was part of the change in energy from Indy, but there was a definite change in the game dynamic in the second half.

Almost against the run of play, Indy scored a third through Sexton as she put a cross through the six that Slimak nicely tucked inside the right corner post. The third goal helped the tension that was forming with the dreaded 2-nil score line. Unfortunately for Indy, shortly after the goal, Indy picked up their second concerning injury as Whitsett tried to attack a kick from KH's goalkeeper Rehberger, who was a little slow with her kick. Matsuhisa had gone out about 15-minutes prior with her own injury. Both held their left knee and had to be helped off the field. Whitsett was seen walking around after the game without ice, and just the slightest of limps, so hopefully she'll be okay going forward. The word from the team was that Matsuhisa was the "more serious of the two," but that nobody knew much more than that at this point. As well as she has been playing in her limited role, it would be unfortunate if she was injured for the remainder of the season and into her return back to VCU after the summer.

Shortly after the injury, Bahr put a 35- to 40-yard free kick into the upper 90 and out of the reach of Rehberger. The former player/coach further settled the game with the game's fourth goal in the 74th minute. Both teams were coming off a short turnaround from the previous game (Wed for KH, Thurs for Indy) and KH only dressed 16 players. The fourth goal, the two injuries to Indy players, and the dwindling fresh legs meant that players were starting to cramp even in the air conditioned confines, and the game slowed down. Indy saw out the game with possession, and by keeping the ball in their offensive half of the field.

Indy next go to Lexington on Thursday before having more than a week off to prepare for the revenge match against St. Charles the following Friday. The math remains the same; win out and they have a spot in the playoffs waiting for them. St. Charles played Racing Louisville today to a 2-1 loss, so their confidence is high with a win against the top team in the division, and a close loss to the 2nd place team in the division. The path to the playoffs is still in Indy's control, but it suddenly became an interesting final two weeks. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

If you have to ask, you didn't watch the game. Maddy Williams was a difference maker, and an easy pick for the GBGB. She joked after the game that it's different starting than coming off the bench, where you're not fully warm, "especially at my age," but she looked like the best player during her time on the field. There's something about the refined runs she's able to make that her younger counterparts haven't quite figured out as evidenced by the nearly double digit offside calls last game. It's hilarious to say after scoring two goals in a ten-minute span in less than 20-minutes of game time, but if she had been a little luckier (or Kowalski not as fortunate at getting her hand in the way), Williams probably could have surpassed her first half hat trick from last season's game against Flint City. Her presence up top, and her early goals, put the confidence back into an Indy team desperate to prove that Thursday was a fluke.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion - 10.14

Summary

- Opponent: Birmingham Legion
- Location: Protective Stadium
- Attendance: 
- Final Score: 2-1 L

- Starting XI: Oettl, Boudadi, Jerome, Vazquez, Quinn, Lindley, Blake, Robledo, Molina, Asante, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Martinez 62' (Robledo); Rebellon 69' (Boudadi); Dambrot 88' (Molina); Sanchez 88' (Guenzatti)

- Unused: Trilk, Chavarria, Velasquez

- Scoring Summary:
BHM – Nwegbo 55’ (assist Asiedu)
IND - Guenzatti 56' (assist Robledo)
BHM - Martinez 89' (assist Brett)

- Bookings:
IND – Boudadi 8’ (Yellow)
BHM - Alves 21' (Yellow)
IND - Vazquez 24' (Yellow)
BHM - Crognale 62' (Yellow)
BHM - Asiedu 64' (Yellow)

- Referee: Olvin Oliva
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Indy and Birmingham came into the game with the same number of points on the season, with BHM edging Indy in the table due to the tiebreakers. The two teams, however, have been on different trajectories lately. Birmingham started the season reasonably well, but were on a five-game losing streak, while Indy came in with a 2W-1D-2L record (two game undefeated) in that same timeframe. One team wanted to change their fortunes, while the other wanted to try and build upon their recent successes.

Yet...

Indy's consistent ability this season to allow a goal on a defensive breakdown that keeps them from getting any points reared its head again tonight. Indy conceded in the 55th minute when Nwegbo took a shot through traffic that Oettl saw too late to be able to stop, and Indy, once again, was playing from behind. Though to be fair, at least it happened in the early stages of the second half and not in the early stages of the first half, which has been their issue earlier this season. 

They also immediately found their equalizer in the 56th minute by attacking and attacking quickly. Lindley put a ball over the top of the BHM midfield, where Robledo headed the ball to Asante, who quickly put the ball to the wings for Blake who one-touch crossed the ball towards the six-yard box. Robledo had continued his run and, I think, had a poor touch that worked its way directly to Guenzatti who was trailing the play, who one-touch shot the ball that, I think, he was trying to put to the left side of the goal, but it deflected off of Crognale to the right side of the goal, and away from the way that Van Oekel was leaning. 

Two minutes of intense action and goal celebrations, and things were right back where they started.

After the flurry of goals, Indy managed just two more shots, while Birmingham had 8. Indy continued their trend of having the possession advantage, but they weren't able to translate that to shots or goals; the on-going trend of the season. 

To counteract the goal scoring from the opposition, Lowry switched to a back 5, which seemed to stem the early goals and was giving Indy a chance in games. As the injuries and suspensions in the back line mounted, Lowry was forced to field a 3-5-2 tactical lineup to varying degrees of success. At least a few times, I watched Indy's defenders (including Blake, Quinn, and Lindley in that) raise their arms requesting an offside call, that was not going to come because there was another defender somewhere on the line easily keeping players onside. 

That includes a BHM attempt in the middle of the second half where the arms went up and players stopped. If it hadn't been for some poor shot attempts by BHM, the game would have been lost earlier. As it was, the same thing happened again in the 88th minute and Martinez put the ball over an on-rushing Oettl who did all he could to make himself big, but to no avail. 

Indy tried to see out the game, and instead head back to Indy with zero points and hovering just above the playoff line with two other teams who have the same point total. Both those teams have played one more game, but unless Indy can start to acquire points, the end of the season is going to be a nerve-wrecking one of fans.

Indy return to action next weekend to play Hartford Athletic for the second time in two weeks, though this time it will be in Hartford. The team will have Diz Pe and Rissi back, and the Dambrot and Rebellon both made it into tonight's game. So the team is starting to get players back to give Lowry more options, and Indy have a schedule that will allow guys to get back to match fitness before the games come fast and furiously in July. As we creep closer to the halfway point, Indy need to remain healthy, and stop shooting themselves in their own feet.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
This is a difficult game for me to pick a winner for the GBGB. Having watched my second Indy loss in the past two days, I don't really feel like working hard to find one. So, on a night when Indy needed to not concede for just a few more minutes but couldn't do it, I think I'm going to forego the GBGB tonight. 

Friday, June 16, 2023

Indy Eleven vs St. Charles - 02.07

Summary

- Opponent: St. Charles FC
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2-0 L

- Starting XI: Edwards, Kugler, Watson, Bahr, Sexton, Kraszula, Rogers (C), Hershfelt, Isger, Chester, Soderstrom, K.

- Substitution: Whitsett 45’ (Isger); Chatterton 45’ (Sexton); Matsuhisa 61’ (Soderstrom); Slimak 69’ (Kraszula); Kevdjiza 71’ (Chester)

- Unused: Kile, Houweling

- Scoring Summary:
STC – Baca 54’ (unassisted)
STC – Adams 72’ (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND – Hershfelt 45’+1’ (Yellow)
STC – Imming 56’ (Yellow)
STC – Adams 70’ (Yellow)
IND – Whitsett 82’ (Yellow)

- Referee: ?
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Before I get into tonight’s game, there was something that I noticed during my watching of the Louisville/Lexington game that I want to discuss. Lexington’s Utley was highly effective against Louisville with her speed & skill. Watching her against Louisville, especially in the first half, made it clear how well Indy, and particular Chatterton, defended her when Lexington played here. Lexington kept trying to get Utley the ball when they played here, and Chatterton kept her at bay, which was even more impressive after seeing how effective Utley was against Louisville.

As I watched the first half of the Lexington versus Louisville game, it looked like Lexington was going to make life a little easier for Indy Eleven, as they went into the halftime locker room with a lead. They were unable to maintain that lead as Louisville scored 2 goals in the second half to take the win and stay within arms-length of Indy on the table. Yet the math was still fairly easy for Indy. Keep winning, and they make the playoffs. It’s only if they drop more points, and particularly if they lose, that things get interesting again. Louisville followed up their win against Lexington with a 6-nil blow-out win over Kings Hammer. So their goal differential took a massive step up. Indy knew those results coming into tonight’s game, and knew they needed a few goals tonight to help their cause in the goal differential category, just in case something went poorly in the remaining three games after tonight. 

Unfortunately, something went poorly tonight.

After a delay in the start time for tonight’s game due to transportation issues with St. Charles, Indy couldn’t get themselves in the goal scoring column. Indy was called for being offside several times in the early going as the front line couldn’t quite get their runs timed correctly. They continued to put St. Charles under pressure, but the final pass and the final touch was missing in the early stages of the game. Near the 20-minute mark, Soderstrom found herself with the ball and, amazingly, no defender near her. Uncharacteristically, Soderstrom decided to go for a cross, when a 1v1 on the goalkeeper was available to her. Miller read the cross appropriately and held onto the ball to stifle the attack. 






That was how the first half progressed; with a 0-0 score line and Indy dominating the chances. Indy was the only team significantly challenging the opposition’s keeper, but were just unable to break through. Soderstrom even had another shot in the 28th minute that made it through the uprights behind the goal, even though she was only about 10-yards out, and probably had enough time to take a second touch to settle the ball instead of the one-touch ball that she caught while leaning back. Much like some of the other games, this had all the feel of a game that was going to break wide open if Indy could get a goal. 

They just couldn’t find that goal.

It was probably not visible from the telecast/stream, but Indy was maintaining a very wide midfield, with the players nearly touching the sidelines on both sides of the field at the same time. Watson continued to try and put balls over the midfield to the opposite side of the field, but Indy couldn’t turn those field switches fast enough once they brought the ball down, as St. Charles looked like they came into this game with the mindset that they were going to defend with everybody and hope for a counter or a set piece. Coming off an 8-nil drubbing in the first meeting between the two teams, their goal looked like they just wanted to not be beaten by 8 goals again.

Like the game against Lexington, Coach Dolinsky had players warming up during halftime (Whitsett and Chatterton), and both were immediate substitutes after the players returned from the field. Dolinsky returned to the sideline a few minutes earlier than the players, and I had to wonder if there was a moment where the players wanted to take responsibility for their results without the coaches present. It had all the appearances of the team leaders putting the team on their back and wanting the coach to leave. When I asked him about it, he said he was just done talking. He told them what he wanted, which was basically "get it done." They were the better team, who just couldn't get the ball in the goal.

If you let a team hang around, bad things can happen and that is exactly what happened. St. Charles had their first decent counterattack in the 54th minute, put the ball on frame, which Edwards spilled. Baca continued running to the goal, and tapped the ball past Edwards. For the second time this season, Indy found themselves down a goal at home. The difference is that the first time it was against a team that had a chance to be in the playoffs. St. Charles, on the opposite side of the spectrum, were already eliminated from that possibility coming into this game. After the goal, Indy began to look concerned about the result, and St. Charles had a minimum of 7 or 8 players behind the ball whenever Indy got close to the 18-yard box. 
 
If you let a team hang around, and then gain confidence, bad things happen. Another counter and Indy found themselves down 2-nil, having watched all their chances go wide and St. Charles’ chances find the back of the net. Then the concern was exacerbated, and for the first time in two seasons, I saw a team that looked panicked. Down two, and with such an effective offside trap from St. Charles that Indy could not figure out how to beat it, the players on the field looked rattled, and unsure of how to turn the game in their favor.

Sometimes it's just not your night. Much like the men's first team this season, dominating in all the stats didn't matter when the game played out as if there was an invisible force field preventing anything from going into St. Charles' goal. Indy had chances, and just couldn't capitalize on them. If they had put one in early, this game would have likely been another blowout. 

Instead, Indy notched their first loss in regular season play in club history, as well as being the first time that the team has been held scoreless in a game. Coach Dolinsky hopes that the frustration from this result motivates the team moving forward since "we're in a must win situation from here on out." "If you can learn from your failure, you're better because of it." 

As it is, Indy now have a challenging three games in front of them to make the playoffs. Fortunately, they still currently hold the tiebreaker with Racing Louisville, thanks to the win and draw against them. The margin, however, just became much thinner. While Racing took Kings Hammer to the woodshed on Tuesday, Kings Hammer have played Indy close in both seasons the teams have been in the league. Sunday won't be easy, and playing Lexington for a third time won't be an easy task. What happens the rest of the season will likely come down to Indy finding the finishing touch around the goal, which was just not there tonight.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

"I thought the girls played well, all things considered." That was something that Coach Dolinsky stated after the game, and I would agree with him. I think they became a bit too flustered after St. Charles scored, and it became even worse after the second goal. However, overall, they played well. They were called offside somewhere between 8 and 10 times, and they outshot St. Charles 25-2. That's 35 opportunities that could have easily switched the tide of the game. As the game was closing, there were three of us in the media area that said, out loud, and nearly in unison, "when it's not your night, it's not your night," and that personified the result. There were good moments from every player, but the one that stood out to me tonight was Matsuhisa. When the team is down a goal, it seems strange to sub out last year's leading goal scorer in Soderstrom, but Matsuhisa was able to break down St. Charles' left back in a way that Soderstrom hadn't been able to consistently do. Some of that could have been tired legs towards the end of her shift, but Matsuhisa's substitution sparked more crosses and 1v1 wins on the right side of the field. So, even in a loss, and in substitute minutes, I'm going to give tonight's GBGB to Matsuhisa.

Additional Photos - Don Thompson Photography







Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Could Indy Eleven's inaugural season been different?

If it's not obvious, I didn't go to school to be a journalist. Yet, in my now 10th season of writing about soccer and Indy Eleven on this site, I've learned a few things about "on record," "on background," and definitely a lot about "off record" conversations. Maybe more importantly than that, I've learned that if you act professionally, people will treat you professionally. I might just be a bozo blogger, but the relationships I've created over the years means that some people value the things that I say and, periodically, tell this bozo blogger things that are "on record," and that are pretty damn cool.

About two years ago, I received an email from Peter Wilt that said that Gonzalo Pineda's hiring by Atlanta United reminded him of how close Indy was to signing him for Indy Eleven's inaugural 2014 roster. The subsequent conversations were deemed to be "off record" at that time, but Peter has decided that being into the tenth season of Indy Eleven means that we've reached the statute of limitations on the discussions, and I can now share with you what he shared with me. 

Pineda's Wikipedia page indicates that "In 2013, after his loan deal expired, he went into free agency after not finding a new club. Following his release, Pineda joined Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer on a preseason trial. He signed with the club on March 5, 2014." Obviously, that timeline is right in line with when Indy was looking to fill out their inaugural roster. 

Peter shared with me that in addition to Pineda, there were 10 other high profile players that the club was in advanced negotiations with leading up to, and during, the 2014 season that ultimately didn't sign for various reasons. Peter also readily admitted that some of the players on this list were probably using Indy as leverage, and that Indy couldn't have afforded nor signed all of them due to salary and international spot availability issues, but the fact that the players were at least in conversation with Indy sets off all kinds of "what if?" scenarios for me.

The 11-person list includes 10 international players, and the NASL rules only allowed 7 on the roster, so at most six of them could have been signed since Nicht was already signed. As Peter conveyed to me, signing the players on this list would have most assuredly meant that Kleberson wasn't on the roster, as well as no Norales, or Pena, or Jhulliam, or Jermaine Johnson. Those last three were late season additions to try and shore up the roster as the season continued to progress through its home winless streak. Would any of the other players been enough to turn the tide differently than the signed players? The Magic 8 Ball would certainly respond with a "Reply hazy, try again," and we would also have been deprived of this banger from Pena.

So who were all these players? Here's the list and how Peter described each of them (circa 2014):


I know! That list is crazy. If the list didn't come to me from Peter Wilt, I would have said that it was a wish list from a supporter. Now we can see what Peter meant about how the team could have never been able to afford all of them. 

Peter shared that the budget for that 2014 team was $1.2M, with Kleberson eating around $180k of that budget (and probably up to $200k with benefits). It was always fairly well known that Kleberson was a significant portion of that year's (and 2015's) budget, but just over 15% of the team's budget was a hefty amount. If you assume $1M remaining between the other 29 players on the 2014 roster meant that the rest of the roster was making $34.5k, on average, per person. That's quite a difference.

Peter also told me that the team was mostly working with 8 months contracts, and the guys on the list would have been making roughly the same kind of salary as Kleberson. For numbers, if you assume six of them would have been signed due to the international players rule, that would have added another $1.1M to the original $1.2M budget, which would have been a healthy ask of a fledgling club in its first year of existence. 

Peter expects that, at best, the team could have signed seven of the players:

  1. Simao or Alesandro Del Piero instead of Kleberson
  2. Joan Capdevila or Carlos Marchena
  3. Jorge Claros
  4. Rony Martinez, Victor Nunez, or Javier Chevanton instead of Jhulliam
  5. Gonzalo Pineda
  6. Lionel Ainsworth - instead of JJ
  7. Eriq Zavaleta

However, Peter described Simao and Del Piero as "marquee player" candidates who would have been signed instead of Kleberson, but the salary would have been approximately the same. He also indicated that Martinez, Nunez and Chevanton were fall season forward candidates before the team signed Jhulliam. Ainsworth was close to signing before the deal fell through, and Jermaine Johnson was the player that the team signed instead. "Pineda and Claros were preseason negotiations that were VERY close to being finalized. We had Claros in our conference room in March." 

I asked Peter what happened with those guys and why they weren't signed. Peter indicated that: 

"All of those names ultimately declined our offers for what they deemed better opportunities. Some of the decisions were simply financial, while others were family or personal decisions. Convincing international stars to relocate to a lower division team in the American Midwest is not always easy. Ersal and Juergen were very, very supportive of the efforts to sign these players as were Tom Dunmore and Tian Liang in creating the pitch piece we used. We succeeded with Kleberson, which did not work out on the playing side. I wish at least a couple of the others would have worked out. We also made a good run at DaMarcus (Beasley) for the 2014 fall season with a creative eight year offer (four years playing and four years TBD playing/other roles). But that's another story for another day!"

It's interesting to think about the guys that did get signed in place of the guys on the list. Jermaine Johnson didn't play the last few games of the season, but scored twice in his time in Indy. As a reminder, Kleberson also didn't play the last few games because he ruptured his Achilles tendon, and then played in just one more game in an Indy uniform. In 2015, Kleberson played a total of 7 minutes at the end of the game of the final game of the season, and spent the season as an assistant coach (and as head coach for a game when interim head coach Tim Reagan was suspended due to a red card). So he occupied $400k of the team's player salary budget for the two seasons he was here, but played less than a season's worth of games. He scored 8 goals that first season, but 5 of those were from the penalty spot. Could Simao and Del Piero have stayed healthier than Kleberson? Could Ainsworth have provided more than two goals and would he have signed for more than the half season that Johnson was here? 

Peter shared with me one of the pitch packets he mentioned above that was given to Del Piero to describe the BYB, the team, the plans for an 18,500-seat multi-purpose venue, and the club's vision for him that indicated he would be signed for "a 5.5-year contract ... to be the club's franchise player and begin a new era in NASL as its brightest Star." Indy was looking long-term with some of these players. Based upon what we've seen with players' frequent departures from Indy Eleven in far less time than 5 years, it makes the idea of a 5+ year contract seem like a false promise, but I'm sure Indy wanted to give him that kind of contract. I seriously doubt that any of Indy's actual signings were offered more than a 2-year contract. 

That first season's roster has created some of the club's legends in Dylan Mares, Don Smart, and Brad Ring (to name just a few), and created some of the historic moments in the club (raise your hand if you remember the field storming in the fall of 2014 after the Minnesota game and the first home win?), but could a few more of those players been enough to push Indy to a better start than they had the first year? Could that talent have prevented the need for the field storming altogether? Could the world-class talent of that list been enough to overcome Coach Sommer's coaching inexperience or would that list's experience only exacerbated his inexperience at the professional level? 

For a long time, I have said that people like Peter have helped me learn about the business side of the soccer business that I never knew when I was just a player. In fact, Peter might be the single most helpful in helping me with that side of things. He's forgotten more than I will ever know, but I'm glad he values my contributions to the club's history enough to share these kinds of things with me over the years.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Hartford Athletic - 10.13

Summary

- Opponent: Hartford Athletic
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 9,073
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Oettl, Vazquez, Jerome, Diz Pe, Blake, Lindley, Quinn, Molina, Robledo, Martinez, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Rissi 18’ (Robledo); Velasquez 68’ (Lindley); Asante 68’ (Molina); Tejada 89’ (Guenzatti)

- Unused: Trilk, Chavarria, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:
HFD – Edwards 11’ (unassisted)

- Bookings:
HFD – Hoppenot 6’ (Yellow)
IND – Diz Pe 6’ (RED)
HFD – Hodge 45’+1’ (Yellow)
HFD – Hodge 49’ (Yellow, RED)
IND – Lindley 50’ (Yellow)
HFD – Merrill 58’ (Yellow)
IND – Martinez 64’ (Yellow)
HFD – Barrera 77’ (Yellow)
IND – Rissi 90’+3’ (RED)


- Referee: Joshua EncarnaciĆ³n
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Both Indy and Hartford came into the game feeling good about themselves. The last time out for both teams finished with good results. Indy took it to conference leading Charleston, in part due to a 19 second red card and a 2nd minute converted penalty kick by Quinn. It took them 70 minutes to see the ball go into the goal again, but once they did, they came in rapid succession for a 4-nil win. Hartford, sitting at the bottom of the table, came into Indy with not a win, but an acceptable draw against Louisville. As the team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, Coach Tab Ramos wanted to take the point and build upon it. While Indy’s recent games have been an up-and-down affair as it relates to the results, Coach Lowry also wanted to take the most recent successes and translate it to beating the teams they should be beating.

Before the game had already started, Indy already had a moral victory. For only the third time in the past two months, Indy fielded a full 18 players in the game day roster, thanks in part to some of the Academy players getting healthy, and in part because Indy signed Sebastian Velasquez, who played for Coach Lowry in El Paso. Admittedly, the guys on the bench are probably still getting back to match fitness, or aren’t yet familiar with the rest of the players on the roster, but it did, in theory, give Coach Lowry with some late game options that have not been available to him in recent weeks due to the rash of injuries. Those subs went for not because of the way the game progressed, but maybe it's a glimpse at the light of the injury tunnel.

Look, you all know I try to be professional on this site, but I’m still a fan first. So, please pardon this rare deviation from my normal attempts at being professional.

Fuck Antoine Hoppenot. 

Seriously, I hated that guy when he was in Louisville, and my opinion isn't improving over time.

Look, I'll admit that Diz Pe was a bit crazy with his legs and feet when he went to ground after being forcefully pushed to the ground, but he was put into that position because Hoppenot did what Hoppenot does, which is be a pain in the ass. The red card against Diz Pe was devastating, as it led 5-minutes later to a goal by Hartford (first goal in club history by an opponent in the 11th minute of a game...the answer to the trivia question is now Hackshaw for Indy and Edwards for Hartford as the only players to score in the 11th minute in Indy club history). The card also affected Indy’s substitution pattern as Coach Lowry had to bring off Robledo so that he could get Rissi in to shore up the already thin back line. Indy started the game in what looked like a 3-5-2 because of the injuries to the backline, but the early card forced Indy into a 5-3-1 to stem the bleeding that was happening as Hartford looked like they were trying to put the game well out of reach early. For a team that is sitting at the bottom of the table, Hoppenot’s typical antics and a basic yellow card called against him made Hartford’s process much easier. Hoppenot instigated the contact on a routine play on a ball with the keeper, and yet was able to walk away from the kerfuffle he started relatively unscathed, but managed to put his team in an ideal position. I think Hoppenot's instigation in the incident deserved more than a yellow, and that will come back to hurt Indy again later.

After the card, and Indy’s change in tactics, Hartford looked more inclined to sit back, absorb pressure, and counter. So Indy managed to maintain a possession advantage through much of the first half, though couldn’t find a way through the Hartford defense. Indy and Hartford went to the locker room with Indy down a goal.

After a red card and two penalty kicks last week, you had to wonder if the soccer gods over-corrected all at once on the bounces going for/against Indy. An early red card in this makes it seem like that over-correction did indeed happen and Indy was back to not getting the good bounces. 
“It seems like something different every week. Typically it has been injuries, but this time it was a red card. We’re going to be out another defender for next week. We just can’t catch a break.” – Lowry at halftime to Rakestraw

The second half was barely underway when the game turned on its head again. A ridiculous reaction from Hodge to a professional foul from Lindley gave Hodge a second yellow in the matter of minutes of game time having picked up his first in stoppage time of the first half, as he swung a roundhouse towards Lindley, suddenly sending both teams to level at 10v10 as the yellow turned to red. Once again, based on the offense, I think it should have been a straight red, but the result was the same; Hartford was down to 10 men as well. 

The result of the yellow turned the game into a back-and-forth affair, as both teams looked to find a goal to either pull a goal back or put the game out of reach, depending on your perspective. With things at level terms, at least from a personnel perspective, Indy continued to look like the better team, and like the one who would pull a goal back, and then use that momentum to press for the game winner.

Unfortunately for Indy fans, that tying goal didn't happen until the 85th minute, leaving minimal time to get the goal that would have given Indy all three points. The goal they did get was from a long throw-in from Martinez that bounced through the box to Guenzatti who saw an on-rushing Blake, who one-timed it through traffic and beyond the reach of Rice.

Indy managed just one more shot on target and one more off target in the remaining part of the game, and both teams walked away with a point. Not the point total that I thought they deserved from their play, and not the point total that Hartford thought they were going to get after an early red card and early goal tilted things (results wise) in their favor. This was one of those results where both teams felt like they could have left with more. 

But this is the USL and you never know what you're going to get. Unless you're Indy Eleven. Then you know that Coach Lowry is going to have to pull a rabbit out of his magic hat to make things work, because you lost two more defenders in this game. That's right folks, Diz Pe wasn't the only one who received a red card in this game, as Rissi, who came on early to help solidify the backline after Diz's departure, picked up his red card in the 90'+3'. How did he get his red card? Rissi misjudged an angle, and Hoppenot put a ball around him and they were off to the races. Rissi caught up just enough to serve as Johnny like he had been told to "sweep the leg."

Straight red, and Indy Eleven walk away with a point and two less defenders. 

In the grand scheme of things, I'm not sure if losing another defender was worth the potential saving of the point. Indy is now without five of their listed seven defenders plus no Rebellon when they head to Birmingham, unless one of them (maybe Dambrot???) is ready, but even then none of them would be full-match ready. I honestly don't know what kind of lineup Coach Lowry is going to be able to cobble together next week to survive and hope for a point out of a game on the road. 

After an early red card that dismissed Diz Pe and the late red card that dismissed Rissi for next week, Birmingham should send a "thank you" fruit basket to Hoppenot for making their life a little easier next week. He, himself, was responsible for exacerbating Indy's current depth issues by getting two separate players tossed from the game.
 
So I say again, fuck Antoine Hoppenot.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Much like my awarding of the GBGB to Chatterton from Friday night's women's game against Lexington, my eyes kept being drawn to a player who I thought was putting in a good shift and effort. I was going to give it to him either way, but then he went and scored the game tying goal, making it much easier for me to rationalize it. He just looked like he knew he had to step up his game even more than normal when they were down a player. "I'm here to do a job, whatever the gaffer asks of me, and the coach staff, is what I'll do. I'll play goalkeeper if they want me to." It may not be goalkeeper next week, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him along the backline in some way next week against Birmingham.

Additional Photos - Don Thompson Photography