Saturday, June 10, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Lexington SC - 02.06


- Opponent: Lexington SC
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2-0 W

- Starting XI: Edwards, Sexton, Martin, Bahr, Chatterton, Kraszula, Rogers (C), Vanegas, Matsuhisa, Chester, Watson

- Substitution: Whitsett 45’ (Kraszula); Soderstrom 45’ (Matsuhisa); Hershfelt 45’ (Vanegas); Kugler 61’ (Sexton); Williams 61’ (Watson); Houweling 79’ (Chester)

- Unused: Reason

- Scoring Summary:
IND – Soderstrom 61’ (assist Chester)
IND – Whitsett 81’ (assist Soderstrom)

- Bookings:
LEX – Kiesling 35’ (RED)
IND – Watson 56’ (Yellow)

- Referee: ?
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

When you are playing your third game in a week’s span (Fri – Tues – Fri), lineup rotation was bound to happen. If there was going to be a moment when the plethora of riches available to Coach Dolinsky as it relates to roster depth was going to make itself known, this game was it. Coming OFF THE BENCH, were Soderstrom, Hershfelt, Kugler, Whitsett, and Maddy Williams. The starting lineup still consisted of Chester, Rogers, Chatterton, and Watson. I don’t know the Lexington players, but to look at a scouting report and know that you are going to have to prepare for Indy’s top scorer last year, their leading scorer this year, and Hershfelt, and then realize that they are going to be coming off the bench as a late burst of energy has to be deflating.

You still have to play the games though, and despite the rotation required due to the number of the games in such a short period of time, Indy knew that they had to come out an play hard. Otherwise, the draw and win against Racing Louisville will go for naught if Indy can’t close out the rest of the season ahead of Racing by losing one (or more) of their remaining games against the bottom portion of the table. 

In the opening minutes of the game, Indy controlled the tempo, but Lexington worked their way into the game with some steady pressure of the Indy backline. Lexington pushed the line of pressure forcing Indy deep into the defensive third to try and play out. Lexington managed a couple of shots out of the pressure, forcing good saves from Edwards. Indy tried to take back control midway through the half, forcing their first corner of the half in the 28th minute. The corner led to a header from Matsuhisa that was kept off the line by a Lexington player before a follow-up shot from Martin that was eventually cleared by Lexington. 

A straight red card to Lexington’s Kiesling in the 35h minute changed the entire complexion of the game. Lexington had been physical to that point, but was way too physical off the ball and it cost them as the infraction did not go unnoticed by the lineswoman even though the center ref hadn’t seen it. It was always going to be a difficult task for Lexington to come into Indy and get points, but being down a player only made it more difficult. Lexington spent the remaining 15 minutes killing off the game where they could and with desperation defending, just trying to give themselves time to regroup in the halftime locker. It just felt like a goal, or more, were going to come.

Watching the game, you would like to think that Indy would have broken through before halftime, but just couldn’t get past a very stingy Lexington backline. As mentioned before, Coach Dolinsky had a plethora of available high-powered substitutions in his back pocket, with a woman advantage to help tilt the field towards Indy’s favor. Lexington’s defense proved to be stout, particularly after going down a player. The question coming out of the halftime break was whether they could continue that effort for another 45-minutes. As Dolinsky gave his halftime speech, Hershfelt, Soderstrom, and Whitsett began their warm-up process, and made their way onto the field immediately after half.
"They [Lexington] came out with everything they had. We kind of expected it. We could throw out excuses and reasons. They were playing on more rest than we were. Our third game in eight days. And I think they had a point to prove after the first meeting against them. Again, they gave us their best shots in the first half, and we absorbed them, and I think fortunately, we were able to regroup at halftime. As I told the girls [at halftime], get a little bit of the arrogance or the let down after a big win out of our system, and fortunately we didn't get punished for it."

Watson had been playing striker in the first half, but moved out to the left with the appearance of Whitsett up top, who is a more natural striker, and as we’ve seen, a goal scorer. With fresh legs up top and a player advantage, Indy began to pour on the pressure in the opening minutes. Lexington was doing everything they could do to hold some possession and counterattack whenever possible, but it felt like there was going to be a moment when their defense wouldn't be able to withstand the Indy pressure. As the game neared the 60th minute, it looked like a matter of time as Indy’s pressure was unyielding and if not for good saves and timely defensive interventions, the game looked like it would break open. It was at that point that Chester recycled a ball to a perfectly timed run from Soderstrom, and the near miss she had minutes before was not going to be duplicated as she slotted the ball below Josephson and in the far corner. 

After that, Indy kept their foot on the gas, but just struggled to find the back of the net. Indy fans began to worry that a goal for Lexington against the run-of-play was going to undo the effort. It wasn't as if the quality from Indy wasn't there though. The quality of the passes between the midfield and the forwards was spectacular. The men's team have been quoted recently saying they're a new team and are still gelling. These women played their first game together a month ago today, and they have come together much quicker than the men. There were moments in the second half that the midfield and forwards looked like they had played together for a long time, not just over a month and a half. Admittedly, there were still some wayward passes, but I'm going to blame some of that on the tired legs. As good as this team can be, there were definite moments when they looked like the week had taken something from them. I remember one ball over the top to Watson, and you could just tell that she wanted to get to it, but knew she wasn't going to make it. It's a nice problem to have that you can take Watson off and bring on Maddy Williams.

When Williams came on, she took over Whitsett's striker role, which allowed Whitsett to fall in behind Williams and distribute. I say all that, but the roles between the forward and midfield lines of Indy during the latter stages of the game was very fluid. Williams would drop back and defend for a bit and Whitsett or Soderstrom would go forward. Hershfelt and Rogers would drop back between the centerbacks to receive a ball and then find themselves in attacking positions. Even on tired legs, they were fun to watch.

Just past the 80th minute, an inch perfect ball through the lines by Williams found Soderstrom streaking up the right side, who then to proceeded to put her own first time inch perfect cross to the far post that Whitsett headed home past Josephson. After that, the main focus was holding onto the clean sheet until the final whistle. In the dying minutes, Indy had a corner kick that didn't amount to much, but instead of recirculating it back into the mixer, Indy calmly went one pass backwards, then another, all the way back to Edwards. Then Indy played keep-away for the next few minutes. The second goal took the sting out of the game, and Indy's high IQ understood time and space, and maintaining possession at that point in the game was more important than their usual attacking mindset.

Indy finish a long week with a 2W-1D-0L record and sit at the top of the table, with four games remaining. I would expect to see a rejuvenated squad next Thursday when Indy return to Grand Park to face St. Charles in the first of another 3 games in 8 day stretch (Th-Sun-Th) where they will again face Lexington on short rest. The difference will be that Lexington will have played two days prior so Indy might not see the same fight as they saw in tonight's first half.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

If you've been paying attention to my GBGB awards, it's not always the goal scorers. Sometimes it's just the player that stands out for me. Somebody who I keep thinking to myself, "they're having one hell of a game, tonight." Look, the second half substitutes changed the game, and that's nothing against players like Matsuhisa, who continues to impress me. Yet, it was one of the starters that gets tonight's GBGB. Jenna Chatterton had the task of defending Lexington's Utley for large portions of the night. Utley was fast, good with the ball, and one of the main focuses of Lexington's attack. Chatterton was faster, better with the ball, and didn't really allow Utley to get many good looks, either at goal or with passes. It's no surprise that Chatterton is fast; we've seen that from Day 1. She also takes the Becky Sauerbrunn approach to wearing her jersey's sleeve in that she would wear a tank top with the Eleven crest on it if you let her. Yet, her game IQ was on full display tonight (and not just her biceps), and combined with her lighting speed allowed her to anticipate a pass and be able to get to it to intercept to stifle a Lexington attack before it happens. 

Additional Photos - Don Thompson Photography

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