Sunday, July 9, 2023

Indy Eleven vs FC Tulsa - 10.17


- Opponent: FC Tulsa
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 9,153
- Final Score: 1-0 L

- Starting XI: Oettl, Boudadi, King, Diz Pe, Jerome, Quinn, Blake, Lindley, Martinez, Robledo, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Asante 68' (Robledo); Pinho 68' (Lindley); Dambrot 68' (Boudadi); Velasquez 74' (Blake); Sanchez 75' (Jerome) 

- Unused: Trilk, Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:
TUL – Dyer 5’ (unassisted)

- Bookings:
TUL – Bonet 19’ (Yellow)
IND – King 35’ (Yellow)
TUL – McCabe 37’ (Yellow)
IND - Diz Pe 47' (Yellow)
IND - Quinn 83' (Yellow)
TUL - Bird 90' (Yellow)

- Referee: Benjamin Meyer
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Roughly two hours after watching the Indy Eleven women’s team win a conference championship against burgeoning rival Minnesota Aurora, the men’s team kicked off against FC Tulsa in a battle of teams near the playoff line. Tulsa brought with them former player/assistant coach Matt Watson, who is now an assistant with Tulsa. It was good to see his smiling face before the game. He was still smiling after the game, which is easier to do when you're headed back to Tulsa with 3 points in the suitcase.

Coach Lowry was forced to, once again, modify part of the starting lineup due to Rissi’s red card suspension last week. Jerome worked his way back into the starting lineup due to the suspension, and Robledo and Molina swapped starter/substitute roles for this game. Stefano Pinho made his first appearance off the bench, coming into the game in the 68th minute as Indy was behind and chasing the game. According to Coach Lowry, "Vazquez was meant to start tonight, but late last night he drops out because he got a scan back from his knee injury and doctor said he can't play for a month." The injuries, and specifically the injuries to the defense, continue to prevent any consistency and cohesion in the defense.

It didn’t take long for Indy to continue the familiar refrain of playing behind. Jerome attempted to clear a ball over his head, which he mishit directly to a spot where it looked like he was purposefully passing it to Dyer. Dyer beat Oettl to the ball and put it under Indy’s keeper for an early 5th minute deficit. Another Indy defensive mistake, and the game changes.

The game changed, but this season has been rinse and repeat. Go down a goal. Be the better team. Play most of the game from behind as the opposition has the advantage of sitting in and defending for as much as they want/need. Sometimes the deficits were saved to take losses to draws, most often the deficits have stayed as losses. Indy haven't put together a single win streak in the first half of the season. A couple of undefeated streaks, but those have never lasted for more than two games.

After the goal, Tulsa settled into what frequently looked like a back 5 in defense, forcing Indy to try and move things quickly in the offensive third. Indy tilted the field in the right direction, but struggled to move things fast enough to get too many good looks. When they did, shots were easily collected by Nelson or were off target. Despite all the possession (2 to 1 advantage) and all the shots (11 to 4; 4 to 1 on target), Indy went into the halftime locker room down a goal, with a 15 minute break to try and figure out a different and better way to get themselves on the scoreboard. 

Coming out of the locker room, Indy looked very similar to what they did before going into it. Possession mostly in Tulsa's half of the field, but not with enough pace to disorient Tulsa enough to create any space for effective shots. The urgency that fans saw from Indy last week during the San Diego game just wasn't there for large stretches of the game tonight. The substitutions, which put Indy into an even more offensive state, provided additional energy, but they couldn't find the breakthrough goal to salvage the points. Despite Tulsa going 60 minutes between shots, their early goal allowed them to bunker enough to make life difficult for Indy in the final third of the field.

Indy has made player changes. They have made formational changes. The results continue to remain the same. A defensive mistake allows an early goal, and the opposition's tactics can change, knowing that Indy has struggled to score this year. So Indy gives up an early goal, chases, and ultimately gets just a point, or as in the case of tonight, zero points. I'm not sure how to fix things, but neither does the team. After the game, the players and coaches had a team meeting that lasted so long that Coach Lowry didn't come out to talk to the telecast. I hung around for another 15 minutes to see what he might say.
"I have to look at myself, and we've spoken there with the whole team, there's not much I can do. All I can do is set us up to be the better team on the day, and we're the better team on the day. Doesn't mean we get three points. I think the problem now is getting, it's the same players and same position every week that's costing us the game. So it's becoming glaringly obvious, by everybody in the locker room, and they're losing a lot of trust in certain players. It's inevitable. If you make mistakes and cost us goals, that's going to happen. That's just the way it is. ... So it's more now just trying to find a solution so that certain players don't play. That's the reality. ... It's the case of me finding somebody that can play there."

I have said it here before and I had written in my notes, "you are what your record says you are." Coach Lowry postgame, basically said the same phrase as it related to specific players. "I don't think some of these guys have the capacity to earn that trust from the group. They are who they are. I just have to find guys that can play there." Right now, the player and team record indicates a group that consistently makes a least one costly mistake per game and a team that is middle to bottom of the table team that is going to struggle to make the playoffs. With the upcoming string of games Indy is going to face, they really needed points out of this game, but they came up short. 

Indy plays again on Wednesday against Charleston who is sitting at the top of the table. The team you saw tonight will be the same team you see on Wednesday, with some minor adjustments of the starter/substitute roles. If Indy follows their season trend, Indy manages a win or draw in the game. If Indy gives up another early goal, the result will look just like this one.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Coach Lowry didn't agree with me, but I'm still sticking with my GBGB player being Macca King. 

Coach Lowry stated, "he turned the ball over too much for him. He looked a little slow on the turn. I didn't think it was his best game tonight. The two turnovers from him in the first half are unlike him. I know it was only twice, but he's better than that and he knows he's better than that."

I kept hearing, "for him." Yes, he made a couple of mistakes, but at times tonight, Macca King looked like the only player with any urgency and fight. That fight also gave him his 3rd yellow card in 3 consecutive games, but I don't think you can argue with his effort. King doesn't take off plays and works his ass off for every ball. I'm willing to forgive a couple mistakes because I can see the effort and the frustration with others who aren't giving that effort. I'm sure a rewatch or the stats might tell me I'm off, but it feels like King played in a way tonight that said, "what can I do to get the ball forward to somebody who can score or how do I get to a position to cross." Just felt like he is thinking forward first, and goes backwards when forced.

Despite Coach Lowry's assessment, I'm sticking with giving King the GBGB.

Additional Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

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