Sunday, June 18, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Kings Hammer - 02.08


- 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:

- 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.

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