Friday, June 16, 2023

Indy Eleven vs St. Charles - 02.07


- 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

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