Saturday, June 3, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Racing Louisville - 02.04


- Opponent: Racing Louisville
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Reason, Chatterton, Bahr, Martin, Watson, Kraszula, Rogers (C), Hershfelt, Lindley, Soderstrom, K., Matsuhisa

- Substitution: Whitsett 45’ (Lindley); Chester 45’ (Matsuhisa); Kugler 64’ (Karszula); Sexton 64’ (Chatterton); Isger 75’ (Rogers)

- Unused: Edwards, Kevdzija

- Scoring Summary:
LOU – Rhodes 38’ (assist Dardano)
IND – Soderstrom, K. 60’ (assist Whitsett)

- Bookings:
IND – Kraszula 19’ (Yellow)
IND – Hershfelt 86’ (Yellow)

- Referee: ?
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Due to a higher goal scoring effort from Racing Louisville against Kings Hammer than Indy was able to muster against them, Louisville came into this game with the same record as Indy, but with a slightly better goal differential, putting them on top of the Valley Division. As I suspected coming into the season after seeing the division breakdown, the female version of the LIPAFC will likely be what determines which one of the teams makes it out of the division and into the playoffs. If both teams are going to continue to put up large goal differentials against the other teams in the division, a split of this series will make this an interesting affair as the season comes to a close. Both teams realize how important this game, and the subsequent, pseudo doubleheader when the teams play again on Wednesday, and came out trying to control the game from the start.

While this is the fourth game of this season, in a game of this magnitude, Coach Dolinsky went with a starting lineup heavy on players from this season and more experienced players. The team’s centerback pairing were players both in the last millennium in Bahr and Martin, the former of which was an assistant coach last year for the team. Dolinsky didn’t want to have any excuses about what he wanted from his team and how to defend Racing, who play in a manner that mirrors the 1st division NWSL players. Both teams came into this game knowing the other team, which Coach reiterated after the game, saying, "I think we saw tonight what we expected from both groups. They had an idea of how we were going to press based on how we played against them last year, and unfortunately, the youth organizations that's attached to them, that's attached to us, we know each other really well. They were making adjustments on the fly in the first half, and we were able to match them. I think adjustments are natural. We know what their identity is. " 

The first ten minutes were pretty much what we expected from this game. A back-and-forth affair with decent attempts towards each other’s goals, but neither team was capable of putting shots on target in the early going. You could probably have given the early possession battle to Racing, but not really in many dangerous positions. That possession advantage stayed with Louisville in the first half, but it didn't really end that way.

For Indy, Watson put a couple shots towards goal that just crept over the crossbar. I talked about her a couple of games ago, but she’s quickly becoming my favorite player this season. I finished my playing days as a midfielder, but apparently I appreciate a good defender when it comes to this Indy Eleven W-League team. Don’t get me wrong, Hershfelt is running neck-and-neck with Watson for me. She finds herself in good positions and makes good decisions when she gets there. Tonight, she controlled the center of the midfield, completely unafraid to take on the opposition’s midfield. Hershfelt wanted to make good defensive decisions, but picked her moments to attack the Racing midfielders. When your midfield consists of Hershfelt and Rogers, you’re getting maximum effort and supreme soccer IQ.

While Indy probably had the better of the chances in the first half, Louisville were the ones that opened in the scoring in the 38th minute when Reason couldn’t get to a long cross that Rhodes headed over the former Noblesville goalkeeper and into the goal. After the goal, Indy tried to put more pressure on Louisville, but Racing were content in the dying minutes to just kick it between their centerbacks. However, neither team were able to put another ball behind the opposing goalkeeper, and the teams went into the half with a slim 1-nil lead.

Indy immediately made subs coming out of the locker room, with Whitsett and Chester replacing Lindley and Matsuhisa, respectively, trying to get fresh legs up top to attack the Louisville defenders. The fact that they’re proven goal scorers doesn’t hurt either. However, Indy came out a little flat for the first few minutes, nearly allowing Louisville to extend their lead. Once the two teams settled back into the rhythm they had in the first half, the dog fight in the midfield resumed. Soderstrom then found a gift in front of her in the 60th minute when a Whitsett cross made its way through the box and surprised Soderstrom, but who managed to get enough of a touch to direct it towards goal and out of the reach of Castaneda. It might not have been the most spectacular looking goals, but I think that when you're a goalscorer, sometimes the ball does bounce your way, even when you have had some shots that were not up to your standard. This was one of those goals. Kind of like a reaction save by a keeper, this was a reaction goal by a forward.

At that point, it felt like Indy thought they had another goal in them and Indy continued to ramp up their pressure, shifting the field closer and closer to the Louisville goal. Castaneda didn’t have an official save in the first half, but Indy drastically increased that number as the game progressed, and I think she, unofficially by my stats, finished with four saves. Indy wasn’t going to go down without a fight, but couldn’t get over the hump to get the winning goal.

So Indy and Racing Louisville finish the game in much the same place as they were when they entered; tied on points, with Louisville having a slight edge in goal differential. However, the players felt confident that they could now go to Louisville on Tuesday and come away with a win. Coach Dolinsky echoed his players, stating, "We now have 90 minutes playing against them, and what their individual strengths are and what their weaknesses may be. But I think we put them in vulnerable situations, especially in the first half. I think we go out [on Tuesday] with the same mindset and approach as we did tonight." 

Indy don't have to go to Louisville on Tuesday and come away with the win, but it will go a long way towards the division title. I've seen the other teams play, and while Kings Hammer continues to give Indy a harder game than expected, I still think this comes down to Indy and Louisville. If the two teams draw again, it's just going to be all that more important to score as many goals as possible in the remaining games against Lexington (2 games), St. Charles (2 games), and Kings Hammer (1 game). It's not something that Coaches like to say out loud, but it's difficult to not think about these two teams as the division contenders and the ramifications of Tuesday's game now that Round 1 finished in a draw. "I always want three points, but if we can go down there and snag another point and make it a goal differential race, then so be it. But, hopefully, three points."

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This photo makes me laugh.
"Whatever you say ref." - probably...
I know I've already given her on GBGB this season, but Hershfelt stood out for me again today. Her work rate was top notch, and Coach Dolinsky and I talked after the game about her effort and her being the engine in the midfield. I don't know if it was because she was playing a team that she knows is connected to an NWSL team, or whether it was because this was my first opportunity to see her in person and could see her movements off the ball, but she seemed to have a bit more motivation in a game where motivation wasn't lacking. I can recall her making a 40 yard sprint to chase down a Louisville player and funnel the player towards other Indy defenders who made the stop. When Indy makes the move to the USL Super League, Hershfelt is another one of those players that I hope Indy can attract to play here, even if she finds a team before that, which seems like a realistic option with what I saw tonight.

Additional Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

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