Saturday, July 29, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City - 10.21


- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Lynn Family Stadium
- Attendance: 13,248
- Final Score: 2-0 L

- Starting XI: Oettl, King, Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, Dambrot, Blake, Quinn, Velasquez, Martinez, Pinho, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Boudadi 58; (Pinho); Jerome 58' (Chapman-Page); Robledo 70' (Dambrot); Asante 70' (Velasquez); Molina 85' (Blake)

- Unused: Trilk, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:
LOU - Wynder 28' (assist Jimenez)
LOU - Lancaster 65' (assist Jimenez)

- Bookings:
IND - Dambrot 58’ (Yellow)
IND - Quinn 68' (Yellow)
IND - Diz Pe 86' (Yellow)
IND - Boudadi 90'+4' (Yellow)

- Referee: Ricardo Fierro
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

In the preceding three games before tonight's LIPAFC matchup between Indy and Louisville, Indy played Charleston (3rd in the table at the time), Tampa Bay (3rd in the table at the time), and Pittsburgh (1st in the table at the time), and have come out of stretch with one win and two draws, and a +2 goal differential. In the preceding three games before tonight's matchup, Louisville played Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Birmingham, and have come out of that stretch with zero wins, zero draws, and three losses with a -4 GD. Indy has been firmly rooted to 7th place in the table until recently where they dropped below the playoff line, but have found their way back above it with their recent run of form, while Louisville have made a steady decline down the table due to their form and came into this game in6th place. Louisville's three-game losing streak has happened just once in their club's history in league play, all the way back in their inaugural season in 2015. 

These were two teams coming into a rivalry game in completely different forms. 
Indy/Louisville started at the same time as the El Paso/RGV game. Within the first 20 minutes, Indy/Louisville was 0-0 with 3 shots (none on target and all by Louisville), while the ELP/RGV game was 2-2 with 11 shots (8 on target). To say that the IND/LOU game was a game between more defensive-minded teams is an understatement. Both teams are in the top of the league in goals conceded (5th and 8th best for Indy and Louisville, respectively), while also being at the bottom of the league in goals scored (19th for IND and second to last for LOU).

First Half Heat Map, nearly all in Indy's defensive half
Yet despite LOU's inability to score (amazingly, one of two of the top team's in the Eastern Conference with a negative goal differential on the season), it was LOU that found the first goal of the game. Indy held a 70/30 possession advantage at the time of the goal, but it was nearly all within Indy's defensive half of the field. Indy didn't get their first, and only, shot in the half until the 37th minute. The first half looked much like the early part of the season for Indy where they maintained possession, but couldn't do much with it. Another lapse in defending on Wynder put LOU ahead at the break. The two teams combined for a single shot on goal, though LOU put a free kick that doesn't count as an official shot on goal, but ricocheted off the crossbar indicating it was clearly a shot ON goal. If you were looking for high flying soccer, you should probably have been watching the ELP/RGV game that finished the first half at 3-2 with 17 shots (10 on target) and finished the game at 5-2 with 23 shots (13 on target). By contrast, this game had 21 shots (14 to 7 in favor of LOU) with 5 on target (all by LOU). While the Western Conference game was high octane, this game was a grind that LOU out-grinded.

Photo: David Mucker
Indy love to play out of the back with Lowry calling Oettl the best all-around goalkeeper in the USL. With consistent pressure from perpetual pain-in-the-asses Ownby and Lancaster, Indy nearly paid for their inflexible desire to play out of the back through the LOU's forward's pressure on the ball. In a clear example of a desire to "play our game," it's also a complete refusal to consider that how you play every team shouldn't be the same way. Ownby's and Lancaster's pressing is on a different level than many teams and nearly cost Indy a couple of times including the chance captured by a Louisville photographer when Ownby's effort nearly took the ball directly off of Oettl's foot. Indy's defenders are seem so comfortable with Oettl's ability with the ball at his feet that they often put him in situations where things could go sideways really easily, particularly with a player like Ownby. 

In the end, it was the Wynder goal in the first half and a corner kick header from Lancaster that brought Indy's 3-game uptick in results to a screeching halt in a 2-nil loss. The loss also meant that The Barrel remained in Louisville after winning the season series of the LIPAFC.

This game looked like the kind of game that exemplifies "how" Indy wants to play; with possession and in control of the tempo of the game. However, this game also exemplifies that Indy can't consistently create any chances from all the possession. There just isn't a constant ability to convert all of the possession, touches, and passes into legitimate shots, and definitely not legitimate shots on goal. Despite Indy having so much of the ball, there were really only a few times during the game when I thought they might turn it into chances on goal. There were even fewer moments when I thought that Indy was going to come away from this game with a win. The two teams looked like they were completely flipped on who was in the better form coming into this game.

Given the 3 games in 8 days situation for Indy against the top teams in the league, the fact that this was the only loss of the week is impressive. Even with the loss, Indy continue to hover around the playoff cut line with games in hand. Memphis comes to The Mike next weekend, in their own stretch of rough results, with a 0W-2D-4L record in their last six games. Regardless of Memphis' form, Indy are going have to find a way to create more chances to score than they did tonight or they're going to see a similar result as they saw in Louisville.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I know I've done this more times this year than I have in the past, but as I think about this game, there isn't a single player that stands out to me as having an exceptionally good game, even in the loss. The closest I can come is Oettl's save on Totsch shortly after Louisville's second goal that would have made it 3-nil. That's about it, and I don't think that is worthy enough to be given the GBGB. So once again, we're going to forego awarding it tonight.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds - 10.20


- Opponent: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Location: Highmark Stadium
- Attendance: 4,218
- Final Score: 3-1 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Boudadi, Jerome, Chapman-Page, Dambrot, Lindley, Quinn, Robledo, Asante, Pinho, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Diz Pe 45' (Chapman-Page); Martinez 61' (Pinho); Velasquez 78' (Robledo); King 78' (Asante); Molina 90'+4' (Dambrot)

- Unused: Oettl

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Quinn 13' (unassisted)
IND - Guenzatti 35' (assist Lindley)
IND - Robledo 73' (assist Martinez)
PIT - Showunmi 89' (assist Ybarra)

- Bookings:
IND - Lindley 34’ (Yellow)
PIT - Ordonez 43' (Yellow)
PIT - Showunmi 90'+3' (Yellow)

- Referee: Matthew Thompson
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Three games in 8 days meant that Coach Lowry played with the starting lineup with Chapman-Page getting his first start since coming to Indy, as well as Trilk getting his first start of the season. Pinho and Asante remain in the starting lineup after getting the start against Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh also made 6 changes from the one that played, and lost to, Charleston last Saturday. Within the first minute, it looked like he was going to have to make another change when a Pittsburgh defender caught Asante square in the chest. Asante's lack of movement was concerning, but it slowly looked like he just had his breath knocked out of him and not something more concerning like a cracked rib, which was my initial concern when he didn't move.

Indy had four players down on the Highmark turf requiring visits from head athletic trainer Josh Frankham within the first 10 minutes of the game, including an elbow to the throat to Pinho that wasn't called. For a team that has struggled with injuries this season, Pittsburgh must have decided that being physical with Indy was a good tactic to use.

"The audacity to take the shot" from Quinn from a yard or two from the center circle as he blasted a shot from distance that was on rope. The last time Indy beat Pittsburgh, it was a stunner from Pasher that secured the victory. Apparently, Indy like to periodically make the highlight reels while in Pittsburgh. Indy finished the half with two shots on target and two goals. Playing in Pittsburgh, Indy will take that kind of efficiency, even if one of the shots was from ~40ish yards away. Kind of makes you think that maybe it's a good thing to put the ball towards the goal to see if something can happen from it instead of always trying to walk it into the goal, doesn't it? Lindley and Guenzatti combined later to give Indy a rare 2-nil lead going to the halftime locker.


Anybody else not surprised that Indy will have to, once again, shuffle their lineup due to a suspension? Thanks to Lindley's late challenge and subsequent yellow in the 34th minute, he will miss the game against Louisville due to yellow card accumulation. Because of course Indy can't go more than two games in a row without having somebody unavailable.

Indy weathered an early onslaught from Pittsburgh just after returning from the locker room as Pittsburgh made three immediate offensive-minded substitutions trying to get themselves on the board. Pittsburgh missed their best opportunity when Showunmi redirected the ball wide of the goal. The missed chance would come back to haunt Pittsburgh as Indy found their third goal of the game just minutes later. 

The third goal took all the air out of the game as Pittsburgh came to the realization that a win wasn't in the cards for the night, and Indy were playing for the clean sheet. Pittsburgh found a late goal when Ybarra sent a ball to Showunmi who had just given Boudadi just enough of a nudge in the back to clear the space for him to receive the ball. A step later and a deft outside-of-the-boot shot to Trilk's left side, and Pittsburgh found the goal to ruin Indy's clean sheet, but not their night.

Indy went into a venue not known for conceding many goals and walked away with three well-played goals and are headed back to Indy with 3 vitally-needed points. The win moves Indy back into a playoff position with games-in-hand on the teams immediately on both sides of them. With the LIPAFC game on Saturday in Louisville, Indy still has their work ahead of them. However, Louisville is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, so it might be the right time for Indy to get some points down there.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Despite his short time on the field, Chapman-Page was immense in the first half, with the telecast commentators routinely calling out his name in praise. Any number of guys could have been in line for this, including Quinn for his wonder goal, but given Indy's issues with defenders either not being healthy or not being available due to suspension, it's good to see another defender play solidly, even in a limited role. I know Indy scored 3 goals (or more) goals for just the second time this season, but I have to give the GBGB to Chapman-Page for his effort in such a short time in Indy.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Tampa Bay Rowdies - 10.19


- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 11,117
- Final Score: 0-0 D

- Starting XI: Oettl, Boudadi, Jerome, King, Quinn, Lindley, Velasquez, Asante, Pinho, Martinez, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Robledo 69’ (Velasquez); Chapman-Page 89’ (Pinho)

- Unused: Trilk, Molina, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:

- Bookings:
TBR – Areman 12’ (Yellow)
TBR – Lasso 16’ (Yellow)
IND – Velasquez 27’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Greg Dopka
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

The nightcap for a day at Carroll Stadium after a championship winning game for the women involved the men against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. However the game finished, the men's game was going to be anticlimactic after watching the women defeat the North Carolina Courage U23 by a 2-1 score line thanks to a 99th minute goal by Alia Martin in the first half of extra time. 

Due to the injuries and suspensions, Coach Lowry had to get creative with the starting lineup, with Martinez playing the right wing. Asante, who has been coming off the bench, also found his way into the starting lineup. There wasn’t much depth in this game with only four players on the bench not named Tim Trilk, and one of those four was Callum Chapman-Page who has been in town for just a couple of days, and another was Sanchez, an Academy player who has played a total of 2 minutes all season. It’s a good thing the game was the nightcap and not the afternoon heat that the women had to deal with in their game, because the majority of the starters were going to have to go the full 90-minutes tonight.

Seeing the way the team lined up, and knowing some of Jerome’s mistakes this season, having him and Martinez on the same side next to each other kind of worried me. Much of Tampa Bay’s early advances up the field were coming up the left side of their attack, so they too must have noticed the change. After Tampa Bay’s second yellow in the 16th minute, Lindley dropped back into the defense as Martinez crept forward along the byline. Indy then put a ball long to Martinez that ultimately led to a cross, but nobody was able to latch onto it and it rolled all the way through. That’s the tactical advantage of having a player like Martinez sitting on the back line. His preference is to plow forward with pace and around the defenders.

Early in the game, it seemed like the Indy men wanted to make sure that the women’s team wasn’t the only one with a victory in today’s doubleheader. Indy actually looked to be the better team in the first half, with more shots and shots on target than the Rowdies, but the teams went to the locker room in a nil-nil deadlock. However, given the roster issues of Indy Eleven and the required adjustments to the starting lineup, I think Indy was satisfied with, if not happy with, the empty score line. The question coming back out of the halftime break was whether the Eleven had the legs in them to play out the game with the limited substitutes available. 

There are teams where their first thought is to move forward towards their opponent’s goal. That is not this team's first thought for most of the players for most of the game. Velasquez was the only one tonight who reluctantly passed backwards as he wants to attack, not methodically break down Tampa Bay, which was the general effort from Indy for much of the second half. The urgency going forward just wasn't there for stretches of the game. Martinez continues to go forward, but as soon as he gets into a position to send in a cross or attack with the dribble, he stops, puts his foot on the ball, and passes backwards. I'm not sure why a guy of his ability goes backwards so frequently where there are players like Guenzatti and Pinho in the box eagerly waiting for a cross.

I would like to tell you exactly how Coach Lowry thought of the performance, but he no longer comes back out to address the media. He did go Twitter to commend the BYB for their effort today in the doubleheader, where he also said he was happy with his team's effort. That's the extent of what I know from his perspective.

From my perspective, at this point in the season, Indy hasn't shown much chance of moving up the table into a better playoff position, and, in fact, dropped down after tonight's results. If Indy want to remain in a playoff position, they need to be as concerned with how the teams below them are performing and both Tulsa and Detroit have leap frogged Indy in recent weeks. There are some games in hand with those teams, but Indy is currently headed in the wrong direction from a playoff perspective.

After watching the women's team play an exciting game, winning a league championship in the process, the men's nightcap was always going to feel like a bit of a let down, regardless of the result. In front of 11,000+ fans, a nil-nil draw left me feeling like Indy managed the game despite having some opportunities to get more out of the game. Congratulations though to Quinn who became the league's all-time leader in minutes played.

Indy head on the road on Wednesday to play Pittsburgh, and then follow that up with a road trip to Louisville next Saturday. Diz Pe and Dambrot will be back from their suspensions giving Lowry some additional options with the starting lineup and substitutions. How much they do with the returning players will be seen.

One the downhill side of the season, Indy are going to need to start getting more points from games or Indy is going to be watching the playoffs from their homes yet again.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Velasquez stands out for me in this game with his effort and ability (and desire) to attack the Tampa Bay defense. That, by itself, is enough for me to give him tonight's GBGB.

Indy Eleven vs NC Courage U23 - 02.14 (Playoffs)


- Opponent: NC Courage U23
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 5,419 (new State of Indiana record)
- Final Score: 2-1 W a.e.t.

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

- Substitution: Johnson 67’ (Dewey); Whitsett 67’ (Williams); Kugler 67’ (Kraszula); Sexton 77’ (Chester); Soderstrom, S. 81’ (Chatterton); Ojongmboh 116’ (Bahr)

- Unused: Edwards

- Scoring Summary:
IND – Williams 64’ (assist Kraszula)
NCC – Martinho 75’ (assist Oliaro)
IND – Martin 99‘ (unassisted)

- Bookings:
NCC – Geigle 47’ (Yellow)
IND – Ojongmboh 120’ (Yellow)

- Referee: --
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

#ItsTime is this season’s hashtag for the Indy Eleven. It felt like it was meant to be for the men’s team, but the women’s team has set the bar high for this club by making the USL W League’s final in just the second season of the league. After a compacted season for the Indy women, #ItsTime was today.

It seems crazy to say out loud considering that today’s match is a league final, but it could be argued that Indy Eleven underachieved at times this season. Notably the St. Charles loss when Indy had 24 shots, but failed to score. If Indy had managed to be slightly more clinical around goal in a few games, they would have rivaled the goal scoring of the other divisional leaders around the country. As it is, Indy has been peaking at the right time, scoring 3 goals in 2 of the 3 playoff games coming into today’s final. Indy’s defense has helped solidify Indy as one of the best in the league, even when the offense was not as clinical as we’ve seen in the past. 

Indy was trying to break an Indiana state record for a women’s game that was set in 1996 by the U.S. Women’s National Team when they played Iceland at Kuntz Stadium. The club wanted to make a run at that record, as well as the W League record by making today’s Final a doubleheader with the men’s game against Tampa Bay. The W League record was 6,900 (held by Minnesota Aurora), while the Indiana record was 5,123 people for that game at Kuntz. Attendance was announced as 5,419 giving today’s game the new record. Just one more thing that this team has accomplished in its short tenure.

Talking to USL Super League President Amanda Vandervort before the game, one of the keys things she mentioned was the level of competitiveness present in the league: 
“The expansion of the W League going from 44 teams in 2022 to 65 teams in 2023 has established us across the country and I think that national footprint has raised not only the awareness of the W League in the fan excitement and anticipation of what we’ve built, but it’s also created a conversation among players about what the W League really is and the standard in which we play. As a result, you’re seeing the level of competitiveness increase and the amount of fans coming to games rise.”

The start of this game was exactly what you expected to see and exactly the high level of competitive that Vandervort mentioned; high level soccer from two teams that have outlasted and outperformed 63 other teams in route to this league Final. Indy held some possession, NC Courage held some possession, with each with an early foray into the other’s half, but close to the 12-minute mark, the game became wide open as Reason was forced into a save after a giveaway from Martin led to a break. Once the ball was pushed wide, the ball eventually found Williams who had parked herself at the halfway line and sprinted after the ball that was blasted up Route 1. The shot eventually went wide, but the game became very exciting for both keepers. 

The game became wide open around the 20th minute, as both teams settled in and figured out that both teams could possess the ball and that it might take a long ball over the top to break down the solid defenses. The 30th minute hydration break didn’t change that, but it wasn’t until the 38th minute that Indy forced Allen into a good save when Dewey finally broke through the NCC defense. NCC had their own opportunities as the half drew to a close, as well as a flurry of activity by Indy in front of the NCC goal right before the halftime whistle, but neither team could break through for the opening goal and the teams went into the locker room with a nil-nil scoreline. The first half played out kind of how you would expect two of the best teams in the league to play out.

The second half started with a flurry of activity, and a little more fire as both teams had some bruising tackles, including one on Reason that brought the game's first yellow card. Another one of those bruising tackles came from Chatterton in the 56th minute, which led to the first appearance of a team’s trainer. While the team tended to Graham, one of NCC’s other players were helped with a leg cramp by a teammate. After the announcement that the game would be held in the afternoon in Indy in July, I questioned whether a league final should be played in that kind of weather condition. While the weather was better than could it could have been for this time of year, the teams’ fitness levels had its first look of maybe being a part of the storyline of this game. NCC made their first subs of the game immediately after the injury.

Minutes later, Indy opened the scoring in the 64th minute when Indy’s press forced a turnover before Kraszula sent a ball through the lines to Williams who, true to my refrain all season, perfectly tucked the ball around Allen and into the right side of the goal. Smoke cued and Indy was a clean sheet away from bringing Indy their first championship. Indy remained in control for the next few minutes, but the clean sheet was not to be when NCC found their equalizer in the 75th minute when Oliaro put a crossing ball into the box that Martinho managed to get a head on and over Reason who was trying to get back. 

The teams battled back-and-forth for the next 15 minutes, but neither team could get the final breakthrough to win this game in regulation. With extra time looming, NCC had one final chance from what amounted to a short corner as NCC was awarded a free kick. Once the ball exited the field and into the side netting, the game was whistled complete, at least from a regular perspective. A short break and extra time commenced. 

Everything that I’ve described above continued during extra time. Until Martin mishit a header that bounced right back to her and did a version of a bicycle kick that looped over the defenders, over Allen, and under the crossbar for a very unlikely goal in the 99th minute to give Indy another lead in the game. The rest of extra time was defend, defend, defend for Indy, while NCC tried to, once again, find an equalizer. NCC had some decent chances, but Indy closed out the game with group defending that was impressive to watch. The only thing that spoiled the day was the late game injury to Grace Bahr as she tried to keep one of NCC’s attempts out of the goal. Winning the championship was exciting, but Bahr’s late injury took some of the joy out of the celebration. Maddy Williams was emotional fighting back tears, stating “I would love to say that it [the celebration] was awesome, but when Grace goes down like that, and I’ve done my knee before, kind of knew right away what was going on, and that’s our MVP of this game, of this whole tournament, and it’s my best friend. So it’s great and I’m happy to celebrate, but it would be a little bit better if Grace was there to celebrate with us.” At the time of this article, it was unknown the extent of the injury, but it was feared that it was an MCL type injury. 

A very special group of women claimed another trophy for Indy Eleven (that wasn’t an Academy trophy, which Indy has had success (Awards List here). On a hot day in July, a group of women, many of them from the Indiana area, came together in a short period and gelled to become the best team in the USL W League for the 2023 season. “We had young ladies that played in the NWSL, and a lot of girls somewhere between there that, to be able to gel in the manner that they did, and play for one another, and battle for one another. You know, I wish I could say that there was something specific that we did as a staff, but the girls have been fantastic and they’ve showed me something different about the game this year. … Look, they believed in each other more than anything else.”

As a fan who has watched this team succeed from that first game last season against Kings Hammer, there’s a culture that has developed with this team that helps make it successful despite the changing pieces season-to-season, and a portion of that can be credited to Coach Dolinsky and the coaching staff. Yes, Indy returned some key players this year, but those players helped solidify the expectations for the new players. It reminds me of how the U.S. Women’s National Team often describe their success. While Coach can’t point to something, I think that maybe the most important thing he did was find women in that first season with talent, but also with a certain attitude towards winning.

That attitude lead to a successful first season, which culminated in a league championship in just the second season of the team. While talent helps, fans of this club can tell you that talent only takes a team so far. The women have shown this year that talent, a winning attitude, a “do whatever it takes” mentality, and fighting for one another can lead to great things. Like a league championship... This team didn't win a single post-season award, and yet they're the ones hoisting the trophy. 

Enjoy your new tattoos ladies! You’ve earned them.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Maddy Williams called her the MVP and I can't disagree. When you're playing a team as good as the NC Courage are offensively, it's important that the defense is well organized. Grace Bahr has been a rock in the defense this year, consistently barking orders for where players need to be. Indy's player/coach last year seemingly eliminated some of her responsibilities this year by just having a player role, but all she really did was become a coach on the field. While I'm going to officially give Bahr today's GBGB, this was truly a team win as the midfield duo of Kraszula and Rogers were spectacular as well. And that's not even considering the gorgeous goals from Williams and Martin. Truly a team win, but Bahr literally put her body on the line for this win. I just hope she's okay and that she recovers well.

Game & Celebration Photos

(Don Thompson Photography)