Sunday, August 27, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Loudoun United - 10.27


- Opponent: Loudoun United
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,137
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Boudadi, Jerome, Diz Pe, Reveno, Blake, Lindley (C), Quinn, Velasquez, Martinez, Asante

- Substitution: Dambrot 45’ (Reveno); Guenzatti 45’ (Blake); Molina 68’ (Velasquez); Pinho 68’ (Martinez); Rebellon 86’ (Asante)

- Unused: Crawford, Vazquez

- Scoring Summary:
LDN – Williamson 1’ (unassisted)
IND – Quinn 73’ (Penalty Kick)
IND – Guenzatti 81’ (assist Asante)

- Bookings:
IND - Blake 22’ (Yellow)
IND – Asante 42’ (Yellow)
LDN – Landry 45’ (Yellow)
IND – Pinho 90’+4’ (Yellow)

- Referee: Brandon Stevis
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

As I mentioned after the Memphis game, Indy need to get points, preferably all three points, from every game against teams below them in the table. They also need the teams above them to take points from the teams below them to give Indy the best chance to make the playoffs. Getting to a top 4 place on the table to be able to host a game suddenly, and surprisingly given the up-and-down nature of this season, looks possible with a lot of math and results going for Indy, but their main focus just needs to be staying in a playoff position. Once the playoffs get started, where teams finished in the table becomes less important in a one-off win-or-go-home scenario. 

Indy needed to start this game strong so they could play this game they way they want to play; with possession and then put a team behind them on the table into predictable situations. It took all of 38 seconds for that plan to go out of the window as Loudoun scored another gifted goal when Diz Pe misplayed a ball allowing Williamson behind him and onto goal, which he slotted to the far corner past Trilk. In under a minute, the old Indy playing from behind scenario reared its head again.

After the goal, Indy held possession and had the bulk of the chances, but couldn’t break through. In the 27th minute, Loudoun had another break opportunity that looked like Jerome was going to get put into the spin cycle to set up a second goal. Jerome found his footing and the right angle and managed to poke the ball away to keep the team within reach. As the ball started back towards the Indy offensive side of things, Martinez was put in 1v1 against Koanda, who had a heavy touch. The heavy touch forced Jacomen to make a decision to come out of his box to help. Koanda and Jacomen bungled the interaction putting the ball behind Jacomen. Martinez had enough time to walk the ball in, but instead one-timed the ball directly into the side netting. Indy’s best, and clearest chance at that point, went harmlessly out for a goal kick. Indy had a few more good forays into the Loudoun box, but they were unable to make good on their effort and the teams went into the halftime locker room with the regular refrain of being down a goal and needing to chase the game in earnest in the second half on tired legs and minds.

Needing the points, and needing to spread the tired legs around, Dambrot and Guenzatti came out of the locker room during halftime to start warming up, signaling an immediate change after the break. They replaced Blake and Reveno to create a more attack-minded lineup in an attempt to change the scoreboard into Indy’s favor. The move is right in line with a Mark Lowry tactical adjustment when he thinks Indy are the better team and wanting to put the pressure on the opposition as soon as possible after the break to make a multiple game second half more feasible.

As the game neared the 60th minute, it felt like a goal was coming for Indy. Indy had tilted the field firmly in their direction and just needed the final touch beyond Jacomen. Attempt after attempt went wayward or was stifled by Loudoun’s defense or Jacomen. 

That is until the 72nd minute when Boudadi was taken down in the box. Up stepped Quinn who calmly put the ball to the left side of the goal while Jacomen went the opposite direction. The penalty kick goal puts Quinn tied with Ayoze for the club lead in made penalty kicks in just the span of 27 games. For whatever reason, Indy has been really good at creating penalty kick opportunities this season and Quinn’s ability to finish them has been exceptional. Quinn's ability to connect from the spot is impressive at this point. It's not like there isn't film on him taking them, and yet, goalkeepers continually guess wrong, or he's just that good at disguising his direction, or he's just that good at reacting to wherever he thinks the goalkeeper is going to guess. Whatever it is in the penalty kick chess match, goalkeepers have proven this season that they can't keep up with him.

The goal was officially from the spot, but it was a well-deserved goal for Indy resulting from the constant pressure they were putting on Loudoun. Once the game became level again, the game became wide open for the remaining 20 minutes. It was fitting this game was played at the Michael Carroll Track and Soccer stadium because it became a track meet in the closing minutes as Indy attacked trying to get the game winner, and Loudoun looked to counter with Indy so stretched. 

Indy found that game winner in the 81st minute when another Indy attack allowed Solo to dribble straight down the middle of the pitch towards the Loudoun goal, which drew defenders towards him. Asante laid the ball off to his right to Guenzatti who had just enough space between him and the defender that had stepped towards Asante, and then rocketed a shot between Jakomen and the post that was so close to the post that it kissed off of it before going into the goal. The goal completed Indy's third comeback for a win in three games (2 at ELP & 1 vs LDN).

After going down a goal within the first minute, Indy had found their game winner to keep themselves undefeated in 5 games and keep themselves in a good position on the table. If not for a 90’+8’ winner by Louisville against Oakland Roots, Indy would have found themselves in a 3-way tie (on points) for fourth place in the Eastern Conference (would have still be in 6th due to the tiebreakers, but to be even on points with Louisville and Memphis would be a huge boost to everybody’s confidence about the playoff push). With the injuries, the suspensions (Robledo missed this game due to his red card and Chapman-Page missed due to yellow card accumulation), and the defensive mistakes that have lost to dropped points in the early part of the season, the fact that 4th place is even a possibility is a testament to how this team has fought through diversity and are finally getting healthy and in form.

The undefeated streak moves to 5 games and Indy return to The Mike next Saturday to face yet another team below them in the table, with a chance to further separate themselves from the team's below them. Another win over Miami would give Indy the season tiebreakers, further helping their playoff push. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Goal scoring is great so it would be easy to give the GBGB to Quinn or Guenzatti. Jerome has also played at a much closer level in recent games to what I saw from him when I watched El Paso's games the past couple of seasons, so he would be a good one to give the GBGB. However, my eyeball test kept coming back to Boudadi. He was an absolute pest up the right side of the pitch, making the Loudoun defenders look silly, blowing by them, and looking like he felt he could do anything in this game. It was his attack on the Loudoun goal that set up the penalty kick. Coach Lowry indicated postgame that they were considering Boudadi as one of the second half subs, but that his confidence and what he was able to do on the field just made it difficult to take him off. For a "doing the dirty work" performance, Boudadi gets tonight's GBGB.

Additional Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

Friday, August 25, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Memphis 901 FC - 10.26


- Opponent: Memphis 901 FC
- Location: AutoZone Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 0-0 D

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

- Substitution: Pinho 71' (Guenzatti); Reveno 72' (Dambrot); Rebellon 86' (Blake); Vazquez 90'+4' (Martinez)

- Unused: Crawford, Asante, Velasquez

- Scoring Summary:

- Bookings:
MEM - McFadden 44' (Yellow)
IND - Robledo 44' (RED)
MEM - Vom Steeg 54' (Yellow)
IND - Martinez 67' (Yellow)
IND - Chapman-Page 67' (Yellow)
MEM - Pickering 80' (Yellow)

- Referee: Elvis Osmanovic
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

A midweek game on a week where my day job included my industry's yearly conference means that I didn't watch the game against Memphis until Friday. That doesn't mean, however, that I didn't see all of the discussion on social media about the garbage field conditions or Robledo's red card or that Indy managed, despite being down a man for 50 minutes (plus the 8 minutes of 2nd half stoppage time), to leave Memphis with a draw.

Memphis should be ashamed of the field conditions. Every single player risked injury to play in this game and Memphis should be fined for thinking that the field was acceptable. I played on some horrible fields in my playing days, but I wasn't a professional thinking that I should be playing on professional pitches. As I watched this game and the regular occurrence of players falling as the turf gave way underneath them or having to take time to do some landscaping work mid game (and by the operation's crew during the hydration break and halftime and...), the thought occurred to me that if I was playing on that surface, I would rather play on the bare baseball infield than the turf that they put down. At least I would know that my footing was solid, even if it meant I had to adjust the way I passed or tackled. 

Turf Monster rising...

Just doing some landscaping work mid game...

What could get lost in mess of a field was that Indy played about as well as they could under the circumstances. After a game last weekend in a hot El Paso, Indy had transportation issues on their way back, then had to jump on a bus just a few days later to make their way to a hot AND humid Memphis. Then they found themselves playing on a grass covered slip-n-slide. Robledo added to the difficulties by making a mistake that young, easily frustrated, players make by kicking out at an opposing player mere yards away from a linesman, making it an easy straight red card. 

Robledo's red card, Indy's fifth on the season but the first for a player not lined up as a defender, allowed Lowry to make tactical adjustments at halftime without having to use any of his substitutions. Martinez's frequent play at right winger this season allowed him to noticeably drop further back on the field to help defend. If Indy was going to have a player get a red card, Robledo's might have been the least detrimental to the team. Rebellon was able to rest through most of the game. Asante didn't have to play at all, and Vazquez saw his first minutes in ten games in mop-up minutes of stoppage time, but was able to break a sweat even if he didn't touch the ball.

This game was one of the proverbial "draw feels like a win" kind of games. Forced to defend for much of the second half due to the man disadvantage, on the turf-covered infield side of the field, Indy's first half possession advantage vanished in a "bend but don't break fight for each other" effort from all the players. The Memphis crowd and commentators were not happy about Indy's end-of-game tactics to take the air out of the game, but Memphis forced Indy to play on one of the worst fields I've ever seen. So let's call it a wash and move on.

Indy return home to play Loudoun in the midst of an actual undefeated streak. Indy need to continue their good run of results, and if I'm being honest, probably want the teams above them to continue to win as many games against the teams below Indy as possible. With what remains of the season, Indy need to create their own successes, but their appearance in the playoffs may depend on the top teams in the league beating the teams in the bottom of the league so as to not catch Indy. Saturday's game against Loudoun checks both those boxes.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
When you have sat the entire season, it's not easy to be thrust into a starting role due to an injury. Trilk has started six of the last seven games in goal. In that span, Indy have gone 4W-1D-2L with Trilk and the team getting a clean sheet in 3 of those games and a 0.83 goals against average. Tim made some key saves in this game despite being mired in the turf monster all around him. That kind of effort deserves the GBGB.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Indy Eleven vs El Paso Locomotive - 10.25


- Opponent: El Paso Locomotive
- Location: Southwest University Park
- Attendance: 6,684
- Final Score: 3-2 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Boudadi, Diz Pe, Chapman-Page, Dambrot, Blake, Lindley, Quinn, Asante, Velasquez, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Robledo 66' (Velasquez); Martinez 66' (Blake); Pinho 85' (Asante); Jerome 90'+3' (Guenzatti); Rebellon 90'+3' (Dambrot)

- Unused: Crawford, Reveno

- Scoring Summary:
ELP - Calvillo 21' (assist Navarro)
IND - Guenzatti 53' (assist Blake)
ELP - Navarro 55' (assist Petrovic)
IND - Chapman-Page 64' (assist Diz Pe)
IND - Martinez 71' (assist Boudadi)

- Bookings:
ELP - Zacarias 32' (Yellow)
ELP - Calvillo 45'+3' (Yellow)
IND - Blake 47' (Yellow)
ELP - Diaz 58' (Yellow)

- Referee: Gerald Flores
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

The month of August has been a case of multiple games in short windows. Indy started the month with a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday series against Memphis, Birmingham, and Miami, respectively. After a week of training, Indy began another Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday series, starting with El Paso tonight, and continuing with Memphis and Loudoun, respectively. Indy finished the first August series with a 2W-0D-1L record and were wanting to match, or better, that record in the second series of August. With the win tonight, Indy start the second series of August on a good note and extend their win streak to three games.

Indy also came into this game against Coach Lowry's previous team with their names all over the league's News & Notes
  • Solomon Asante's three-assist night against Birmingham made him just the first player in league history to record three different three-assist games, two of which have occurred during his time here in Indy. The assist also meant that Solo became the first player in USL Championship league history to score 50 goals and have 50 assists. 
  • Three days later, Aodhan Quinn assisted Diz Pe's goal against Miami to bringing the 50/50 club to two members. Both players, amazingly, sit at the same number of assists and goals at 103 (53/50 for Quinn and 51/52 for Asante). 
  • In the BHM game where Asante moved into the 50/50 club, Guenzatti's goals on those assists put Guenzatti into sole place in 9th in the league's regular season goal scoring list.
  • Coming into tonight's game:
    • Quinn needed 3 more appearances to reach the 250-game mark in regular season appearances.
    • Jerome needed 1 more appearance to reach the 150-game mark (which he achieved tonight with a late game substitution, as he and Rebellon were able to get a few minutes of action in their previous home field).
    • Diz Pe was 192 minutes away from the 10,000 minute mark (now needing just 102 minutes after going the full 90 in tonight's game).
  • Callum-Page had one of his yellow cards removed under the Good Behavior incentive to remove him from the the potential of yellow card accumulation suspension.
  • Boudadi, however, is firmly at risk of being suspended after picking up his 8th card of the season against Miami (had previously had one card removed for Good Behavior), so he sits at 7 official yellow cards on the season.
Indy started the game doing what everybody thought they would do; hold possession. It wasn't a surprise to Indy fans, nor was it a surprise to the El Paso players, coaches, or fans. Also not a surprise to Indy fans was that despite all of the possession, and the early chances, it was El Paso that opened the scoring in the game even though ELP was on a 9-game winless streak and 4-game losing streak.  In their losing streak, ELP had been outscored 17-3, and yet they found themselves with the better chances and a lead going into the halftime locker.
Indy has just not shown an ability to get consistent results. I don't know if you can blame it on the later start, or the difference in altitude, but the urgency wasn't there for Indy throughout much of the first half. They maintained their deliberate approach to possession without overtly dangerous attacks. I couldn't have been the only Indy fan who was thinking at that point in the game that we were in for another round of the "we were the better team, but didn't get a result" speech from Coach Lowry.

Then the second half took a trip from El Paso to Crazytown. 

Indy equalized in the 53rd minute with a toe-poke goal from Guenzatti that slide under Diaz. About 90-seconds later, El Paso went back on top in the 55th minute from a rocket by Navarro that Trilk will likely think he could have done better parrying, after getting his hands to it, but unable to keep it out of the net. Chapman-Page redirected a corner kick that went through a swarm of people before finding its way to Callum who just needed to get his body in front of the ball to let it bounce off him into goal. Diz Pe was listed as the one who was credited with the assist, but I didn't see it touch anybody between Quinn's corner kick and Chapman-Page's touch. Finally, Boudadi sent a ball through the lines for second half substitute Martinez to run onto and toe-touch another ball under Diaz for the game winning goal.

The game finished as a 3-2 win for Indy Eleven with Trilk being credited with zero saves. ELP had 2 shots on target and two goals. Indy had 7 shots on target and three goals. Indy went into the halftime locker room with 1 shot on target and no goals. The difference in attack from Indy between halves was stark. It's almost like Indy was saving themselves in the first half knowing that if they could weather ELP's first half attacks, then Indy could throw the kitchen sink at the game to get the three points in Coach Lowry's first trip back to El Paso. 

I would have preferred to see more of the second half effort from Indy in the first half, but they managed to get the result. With the win, and the other results around the league for the night, Indy maintain their position on the table, but are now, amazingly, within 3 points of Louisville City for 5th place, and a win on Wednesday against Memphis would put Indy tied on points with MEM and needing tiebreaker levels to figure out who is above the other on the table (admittedly with MEM still having games in hand). I said it on Reddit this week, but a win against ELP and a good showing against MEM and I would have to reconsider my pessimism on this team's chances to make, and succeed in, the playoffs. Indy upheld the first part of that scenario tonight with the win.

Indy return to action on Wednesday against Memphis and then return home to face Loudoun who have lost 17 of the 27 games they have played. Indy squeaked by Loudoun in May thanks to a 73rd minute goal from Guenzatti and a 90th minute goal from Tejada. The teams are currently on different trajectories, but it's a game that Indy needs to win at home. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
In a game that went the way that this one did, there are a few guys who I think could get the GBGB. There were three goals scored from three different players, with each goal being assisted by three different players. Six different players were involved in the 3 Indy goals. The midfield trio of Blake, Lindley, and Quinn were pretty good too. I think, though, that I'm going to give Martinez the GBGB for the game-winning goal where he had to time his run well to get behind the defense and then get the ball past the keeper. The run was perfect, the shot wasn't ideal, but it was effective. His goal brings Indy home on a legitimate win streak. That's worthy of the GBGB.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Miami FC - 10.24


- Opponent: Miami FC
- Location: Riccardo Silva Stadium
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Boudadi, Jerome, Chapman-Page, Blake, Lindley, Quinn, Velasquez, Robledo, Martinez, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Diz Pe 45' (Jerome); Dambrot 64' (Velasquez); Asante 64' (Robledo); Pinho 82' (Martinez); Reveno 90'+1' (Blake)

- Unused: Crawford, Molina

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Diz Pe 51' (assist Quinn)

- Bookings:
MIA - Akinyode 12' (Yellow)
IND - Boudadi 47' (Yellow)
MIA - Rivas 62' (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 66' (Yellow)

- Referee: Rubiel Vazquez
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Indy and Miami come into this contest with identical results from their previous game; Miami beat El Paso 4-nil last Saturday and Indy beat Birmingham 4-nil on Wednesday. Miami benefitted from an El Paso red card in first half stoppage time to get to their 4 goals, whereas Indy had to deal with a 2.5-hour rain delay and a full Birmingham squad to get to their 4 goals. In theory, Miami came into this game as the more rested team, but Indy started the game with some early possession to help them control the tempo of the game, forcing Miami to chase the ball and allowing Indy to save their effort in the hot 98-degree Miami weather.

Martinez - 1st Half Distribution
With some squad rotation due to this game against Miami being Indy's third game in eight days, Martinez dropped back to the wing back role he has played for a good portion of this season. I don't know if it was his most recent turn in his more comfortable role as a forward against Birmingham, but to me, Martinez looked like he had a different mindset in this game. He looked to attack more than than what I recall him doing in his other recent wing back games. Once he received the ball in the attacking half, he mostly did just that. Attack. 

At the hydration break in the first half, Lowry pulled out the tactics board as he is want to do this season. I don't recall a previous coach, himself included, making those kinds of tactical discussions using the board. Lowry indicated during an early game post-game that soccer is different than many other sports where it's difficult to make many adjustments from the sideline during the run-of-play. However, and it's a bit surprising to me given the talent level on this team, Lowry barks changes during the entire game and uses every hydration break or extended injury stoppage to move the little magnets around to talk about what he wants done. 

Indy nearly had a couple goals in the first half, but a fortunate bounce for Miami after a deflection kept the ball from closing the line in the 17th minute, a deflection from a Miami defender that pushed a Blake shot just over the goal in the 41st minute, and a shot from Velasquez that rattled the crossbar in the 42nd minute kept the game tied going into the halftime locker room break. Indy wasn't officially created with a single shot on target in the first half, but they were the more dangerous team from a possession standpoint and from dangerous opportunities on goal.

Diz Pe replaced Jerome at halftime and within six minutes found his head to an Aodhan Quinn corner kick to finally put Indy ahead on the scoreboard. Quinn's assist allows him to join his teammate Asante in the 50 goal/50 assist club in the USL Championship record books, who put himself into that position with his 3 assist game against Birmingham. Quinn and Asante are the first two players in the history of the league to reach the milestone.

After a 66th minute scare from Miami when Salazar managed to get the ball into Indy's goal, but was deemed to have handled the ball before getting his foot to it, Indy was willing to concede some possession to Miami as they remained compact and disciplined in their defense to see out the game. It wasn't quite a park-the-bus situation, but with the lead, three games under their belts, and the Miami heat, Indy took the remaining air out of the stadium and forced Miami to try and break down the defense. Miami managed to get a couple shots off late, but Indy held on for their first win streak of the season, and their second consecutive clean sheet. Don't give up an early goal, score first, and hold on with good team defense. Seems like an effective strategy to push themselves higher up the table. Which it did, as the win pushed Indy up to 6th place on the table. 

Indy now head to Lowry's old stomping ground when they travel to El Paso. With the 11:00 ET start time, tonight's result for ELP isn't included in this, but after a 12 game undefeated streak for ELP in the middle of the season (7 wins in a row), they haven't been able to win since the undefeated streak ended. ELP are 0W-2D-5L in their last seven games (again, not counting whatever happens tonight against Phoenix). So they're susceptible to another poor performance when Indy visit, with a coach who knows the intricacies of Southwest University Park. If Indy can continue their recent run-of-form (minus the Louisville game), I might have to take back some of the things I've said about them recently.

It would be nice, though, if the guys that are near the yellow card accumulation suspension level would stop picking up yellow cards. Both Boudadi and Lindley picked up cards against tonight, and it's going to cost the team, again, if they're not careful.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Picking a winner for Wednesday's game was easy. Avoiding picking a winner on losses is easy too. Tonight it's a little harder because I thought a lot of guys played good, solid games. Quinn is edging his way towards Top 10 status in points in club history with his assist tonight. However, I think I'm going to give it to Diz Pe for his first goal of the season after coming in at halftime. Lowry doesn't often make a change with the CBs midway through a game so I don't know if it was a planned substitution at halftime because of the minutes on Jerome's legs, or if Jerome picked up a knock during the first half, but Diz Pe immediately fell into the rhythm of the game and was rewarded with a goal. Admittedly, not his best header in his career, but he directed it the right direction and it gave Indy the lead and the eventual win. So Diz gets the GBGB tonight.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion - 10.23


- Opponent: Birmingham Legion
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 7,194 (if you say so)
- Final Score: 4-0 W

- Starting XI: Trilk, Boudadi, Diz Pe, Jerome, Dambrot, Lindley, Quinn, Asante, Robledo, Martinez, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Blake 71' (Robledo); Velasquez 71' (Asante); Chapman-Page 82' (Guenzatti); Pinho 82' (Martinez); Molina 89' (Dambrot)

- Unused: Crawford, Reveno

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Guenzatti 24' (assist Asante)
IND - Guenzatti 63' (assist Asante)
IND - Martinez 65' (assist Asante)
IND - Molina 89' (assist Velasquez)

- Bookings:
IND - Martinez 41' (Yellow)
BHM - Martinez 48' (Yellow)
BHM - Nwegbo 49' (Yellow)
BHM - Brett 61' (Yellow)
BHM - Smith 90'+1' (Yellow)

- Referee: Adam Kilpatrick
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Photo Credit: Matt Schlotzhauer
When the U.S. Women's National Team were defeated in penalty kicks on Sunday morning, there were a lot of discussions about an unprecedented loss by them going out earlier than any other USWNT in any major tournament. Ever. However, there was also this underlying discussion and tone that the result didn't match the performance. As I listened to it over and over again as I tried to make sense of their exit, I kept hearing Mark Lowry's voice in my head. He said it the night before the USWNT's loss, after Indy lost to Memphis:

"Only one team deserved to win that game, and unfortunately, the team that deserved it, didn't get it. Tactically, technically, we were the better team."

He even reiterated it last night after the game against Birmingham:

"The results haven't reflected the performances this season."

I've heard the refrain from him so often this season that I compare it to the old standby of "we need time to gel" as the reason why the results aren't happening. It's an excuse. 

As I watched the RE-CAP show with Christen Press and Tobin Heath on Monday (a must watch if you want to see how former USWNT players took the loss compared to you, a fan, took the loss. Tobin was fired up...), Christen said, "Aren't results part of the performance too? ... Can you say that's a good performance if you're not scoring?"

It's a valid and legitimate question. Performance doesn't get you out of the Round of 16 in the World Cup. Performance (so far) doesn't get you in the USL Championship playoffs.

Results get you into the quarterfinals. Results get you into the playoffs. 

Photo Credit: Matt Schlotzhauer
Positive results are what happen when you have a complete performance. That, a complete performance, is what Indy fans saw last night as Guenzatti found the back of the net twice on very similar crosses and headers past Spangernberg. Martinez, playing more up top and unencumbered by his recent wingback role, looked much more comfortable and I had fewer concerns about his decision making. He did pick up a silly yellow after continuing to play the ball into the goal after being called offside. That gives him 7 on the season, but he might have had one of those taken off his record for a run of good behavior. After rattling off 4 yellow cards in 4 games, he had gone 9 games without a yellow. So he might not be on yellow-card accumulation watch just yet. 

Indy looked like the better team for the majority of the game, despite the rare instance where Indy lost official possession battle. They put 4 goals on the board, and kept a clean sheet. That's a performance, and one the guys can be completely happy about.

It's just a shame that the boys put a complete performance together on a night when a 2.5-hour rain delay forced the game to start at just after 9:30 and not finish until 11:30. On a night where dozens of fans were in attendance instead of thousands. The game I saw last night against Birmingham is the kind of game, performance and result, that I had hoped we would see all season. 

Birmingham have been a streaky team this year, coming into this game with a 9W-10L-2D record, where they lost 5 consecutive games in the month of May. They made the trip to Indy sitting on a two-game losing streak. They weren't rolling into The Mike with a ton of confidence, but Indy was on their own two-game losing streak so both teams needed the win as the season reached its 2/3rd mark.

Photo Credit: Matt Schlotzhauer
At times this season, I have felt that you could time Indy's fast breaks with an egg timer. Indy were much more effective in this game in going and going quickly. I still think there were moments when the ball was pushed back when they had a chance to test BHM's defense, but it was better. Indy found multiple gaps in the BHM midfield as Diz Pe or Jerome sent crisp, direct passes through the first line of forwards/midfielders, and once Lindley or Quinn or Asante received the ball, they had space around them to turn and immediately break up field to find Martinez or Guenzatti. Add Robledo's effort into the mix and it was a lot for the BHM midfielders and defenders to handle. 

Conversely, Indy's team defense was extremely effective as guys covered for other guys, and the defense started with the guys up top pressing the ball. Let's not forget Trilk who had to make three saves, each of them difficult, but that he dealt with perfectly. 

This was a good result for Indy from a complete performance. The win puts Indy back above the playoff line for the time being, with the team immediately on the other side of the line up next on the docket when Indy travels to Miami on Saturday. A win on the road would do wonders for Indy's confidence, and help them push through the final third of the season to stay above the playoff line or move up the table. Was last night a sign of things to come, or just another high note on the pogo season? We'll known in a couple of days if Indy can continue complete performances with positive results.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Tonight's GBGB goes to the duo of Guenzatti and Asante. Solo has had his role adjusted lately to come off the bench and provide a late-game spark, but was in the starting lineup due to some squad rotation with 3 games in 8 days. Asante made full use of his minutes with a hat-trick of assists thanks to his superb crosses. Guenzatti regularly starts, but was rewarded for the effort he has shown all season with the team's third brace of the season, and first for a player not named Quinn. Asante became the first player in USL league history to reach the 50/50 mark (goals/assists), edging out Quinn who is an assist away from joining Solo at that mileston. Guenzatti took over 9th place in league history for goals scored. Those are some accomplishments worthy of the GBGB.

But wait, there's more. 

The first ever FOGBGB (Front Office Game Beckons Game Ball).

The below photo was the field during the heavy rains before the game, nearly completely submerged under water, with just a small strip of field down the middle that wasn't affected. Senior Director of Venue & Game Operations Morgan Kuehnle and her crew did an amazing job getting the field into a condition that was playable by the delayed 9:30 start time. When I walked into the stadium around 8:30, there was still an armada of operations staff in rain gear (except for Morgan who was in her standard suit) with squeegees, working hard to get the last of the persistent water off of the field. Without their effort, this game would not have taken place. Without their result, the team wouldn't have been able to get their result. Congrats Morgan for receiving the first ever FOGBGB.

Photo Credit: Matt Schlotzhauer

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Memphis 901 FC - 10.22


- Opponent: Memphis 901 FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 13,248
- Final Score: 2-1 L

- Starting XI: Trilk, Boudadi, Diz Pe, Chapman-Page, Lindley (C), Blake, Quinn, Asante, Velasquez, Martinez, Pinho

- Substitution: King 58; (Blake); Dambrot 59' (Boudadi); Pinho 59' (Guenzatti); Robledo 74' (Velasquez); Molina 88' (Chapman-Page)

- Unused: Crawford, Jerome

- Scoring Summary:
MEM - Turci 38' (assist Molloy)
IND - Quinn 57' (assist Asante)
MEM - Ward 81' (assist Kissiedou)

- Bookings:
IND - Boudadi 49' (Yellow)
MEM - Vom Steeg 90' (Yellow)

- Referee: Eric Tattersall
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I hung out near the BYB tonight and only wrote some basic notes along the way instead of writing a good portion of my article from the press box. Between that and not feeling like writing, this might be brief again. As I stood in the area, the general consensus from everybody around me was a bit of a "blah" feeling. Nobody, and I mean nobody, had a good feeling about this game. Not a single person predicted a win from this game for Indy. Results ranged from a 1-nil loss to a 1-1 draw, to a 2-1 loss (which was correctly predicted as a MEM goal followed by an IND goal followed by a MEM goal - well done Robbie "Nostradamus" Mehling...). 

As the game commenced and the early glimpses of how this game was going to end began to show themselves, glances around me all said the same thing; "who's surprised it's going this way?" 

Twenty-second verse, same as the first!

Indy controls possession. Indy can't score (despite a nearly walk-in chance for Blake that went wide of the post). Indy give up the first goal, forcing them to play from behind. Indy plays well and doesn't get a good result from the game.

How many times have I written some version of that scenario playing out this year?

It has become frustratingly predictable to watch. Which means it's probably also become enjoyably predictable to scout against. Indy will want to hold possession at any point in the field (including deep within their own box with attackers making passes around them difficult), will get the ball into the final third, and will have difficulty shooting the ball. So the opposition's game plan is easy. Let Indy relatively leisurely pass around in their own half or near the half line as much as they want, shift sides as the ball shifts maintaining the defensive shape, and get someone close to a shooting lane because Indy don't like to shoot without a clear opening. Adjust to the new personnel who are going to happen around the 60th minute mark, a couple more in the 75th minute, and a final one/two after the 85th minute. Rinse and repeat until the Indy defense makes a mistake. Then hold on to the win. 

I continue to get asked the question of whether Lowry is on the hot seat. I continue to say no, particularly at this point in the season. If the team misses the playoffs again, then I don't know. My question is, "what then?" Lowry is a proven winner in this league; albeit in a different conference, which I'm going to come back to in a minute. If Indy gets a new coach, they are going to want to rebuild the team with the players that they think can fit their system. Not sure what this year's roster contracts look like, but there have been a lot of 1 and 2-year deals with options for a 2nd or 3rd year, respectively. Assuming the former, much of this roster could be gone and we'll be back to the old "we need time to gel excuse." I believe that this team was hand-picked by Lowry as guys that he wanted to play in his system, and had been watching for awhile. He has said some version of that a number of times on Soccer Saturday, including about Chapman-Page. There is young talent, experienced veterans, and guys with proven track records at other places. Injuries and suspensions have forced a ton of adjustments this year, but this team should be getting better results.

I watched a lot of El Paso's games the past few years when Mares and Lowry were there, as I would work on these game articles. El Paso was possession based, which Lowry has attempted to continue here. El Paso's players were attack-minded, which Lowry wanted to do. As Indy began to leak early goals, Lowry changed his preferred tactics to a back 5 to try and solidify the back so that Indy wasn't always playing from behind. When Lowry was in El Paso, he would like to have attack-minded players coming off the bench to be able to chase a result or put the foot on an opponent's neck. The leaked goals early in the season has led to a defense-minded Lowry, with a bunch of guys who seem hesitant to try and score goals through half-windows. None of it makes sense based on what I saw of Lowry in ELP or with the players that are on this roster.

As I said a couple of games ago, at this point in the season, and they way they are playing, Indy need to be less concerned with the teams above them and more concerned with the results of the teams around and below them. Miami, for example, is on a 4-game undefeated streak (3 wins in a row), and have leap-frogged Indy for the final playoff spot. Indy play Miami next weekend in Miami and a positive RESULT, not just a good performance. 

Before that though, Indy return to The Mike on Wednesday to play Birmingham who are on their own two-game losing streak after beating Tampa Bay and Louisville before their recent skid. Both teams are going to want to get all three points out of the game. At this point, unless Quinn scores, I don't know where Indy gets the goals to do that though, and that's assuming the defense doesn't leak a goal on a mistake.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I have to give it to somebody, right? The surprising team leader in goals scored again, right? How about if I just give Quinn the GBGB and move on with the night?

Quinn, maybe by default, but that's who gets tonight's GBGB

Friday, August 4, 2023

2023 Indy Eleven W League season - They Run This Mutha

Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography
It's been a couple of weeks since the Indy Eleven W League team went into Carroll Stadium as Valley Division and Central Conference champions and left as the W-League's Champions after a 2-1 victory over the Southern Conference's North Carolina Courage U23 team thanks to a 99th minute goal from Alia Martin. In the league's and the team's second season, Indy Eleven joined Tormenta FC as the league's first two league champions. Going into the game, Indy had not been selected for a single one of the league's player/coach awards. 

Not Coach of the Year. That went to Michele Krzisnik of Flint City.

Not the Golden Glove. That went to Bailey Herfurth of Tampa Bay United.

Not the Golden Boot. That went to Baylee Desmit of Christos FC.

Not the Assist Champion. That went to Katie Shea Collins of Tennessee SC.

Not Defender of the Year. That went to Tianna Harris of Minnesota Aurora FC.

Not Young Player of the Year. That went to Mia Oliaro of North Carolina Courage. 

And not Player of the Year (announced this week & not before the game). That went to Nadia Gomes of San Francisco Glens.

Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography
Indy Eleven dispatched those last three players in the playoffs in route to the league title, proving that a collection of talented players don't have to win individual awards to be able to win the team award. [Edit: there were 5 undefeated teams in the regular season; Tampa Bay United, Oly Town, Flinty City, Minnesota Aurora, & NC Courage; Indy beat three of those teams on their way to the league title and had to beat 2 of them just to win the Central Conference.] Indy had four different players score at least 6 goals (Dewey - 7+2; Soderstrom, K. - 6+1; Whitsett - 6, Williams - 7+2), had 13 different goal scorers, and had a combined 10 shutouts in 14 games (Reason - 5+2; Edwards - 3). There were 6 players that scored at least two goals in a single game (Chester, Dewey, Kugler, Soderstrom, Whitsett (x2), Williams) and one hat trick (Dewey). Seven different players were credited with the game-winning goal. All that to say that this team thrived by being a team. It didn't matter who scored the goals or who saved the shots, but somebody was going to score the goal and somebody was going to save the shots. 

This was a true team and had success because they bought in to being a team and played for each other. Coach Dolinsky made some tactical adjustments throughout the season to put the team in a successful position, and the team had the talent and the desire to carry out those adjustments. Most notably, last year's leading scorer in Katie Soderstrom was asked to play a more defensive role in the game against San Francisco to help neutralize what the coaches had seen on video of Nadia Gomes, the league's player of the year. That takes a special player that is completely bought into the team-first aspect to play that role and a special coach to have faith in his players that they can carry out those tactics despite them not being their normal playing positions.

It's not difficult to be a fan of this team. They are talented, exciting to watch, and clearly played for each other and the City of Indianapolis. Obviously winning helps, but they're just fun to watch. There are times when my coverage of the men's team feels like a grind, but I never have that with this women's team. The St. Charles loss just proved that they are human and can have an off game. It was sad to watch, but I also think that this group of women used that down game as motivation for the rest of the season and helped propel them to the League Final victory.

Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography
Indy made their run through the playoffs without players that had helped get them there. When the playoffs started, Indy was without Trinity Watson, who had played in 9 of the 10 regular season games, playing both defense and offense, because she had signed a pro contract in the Cyprus First Division. Hal Hershfelt had to return to Clemson before the playoffs started, and she had helped hold down the midfield for 8 games. Kanna Matsuhisa had been an exciting and dynamic sub off the bench before being injured with two games remaining in the regular season. Players like Rachel Dewey, Karsyn Cherry, Cassidy Lindley, and Kristina Lynch looked like they would have significant roles when the roster was announced, but played very few games due to injuries. That's how deep this team was that they could still make their way through the playoffs without so many key and talented players unavailable. 

Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography
This year, Indy announced that they would be joining the USL Super League, which is slated to begin next year. The anticipated first division league is set to directly compete against the NWSL for talent, fans, and money. Once Eleven Park is completed, hopefully in the summer of 2025, Indy will begin playing in that league. It wouldn't surprise me if Coach Dolinsky isn't already in the ear of some of the players we watched this year, or both years. I think the midfield duo of Ella Rogers and Greta Kraszula are both juniors this year at Xavier and VCU, respectively, meaning that they should be scheduled to graduate in 2025. That's fortunate timing if they're interested in trying to play at the next level and like the idea of having the BYB behind them. We can only hope that they, and others, are interested in returning in the summer of 2024 to try and repeat as W League champions.

So we know that the play on the field was good. What about off-the-field? Last year, I had some complaints about how the club handled the team as it related to the gameday experience. Obviously, Indy has one of the best television/streaming productions of any team I watched this year. Greg Rakestraw, Angela Berry-White, Brad Hauter, Ian Gilmore, and the ISC Sports crew are on a drastically different level than the other productions around the division, conference, and league. I didn't have any issues with that last year, and they didn't disappoint this year. I appreciate that the club has treated the games they way they have and use a professional production crew for the streams. Other teams (*ahem* Louisville) have a long way to go to get even close.

Last year, though, I had some complaints about gameday posters and programs, and spelled out my reasons for my, and my female family and friends', complaints. In essence, I felt that the team could do a better job of being equitable in their treatment, even when they couldn't be equal in their treatment. The club still only created a single two posters for the team for the regular season, plus one poster for the League Final. Not great, but I'm probably yelling into the wind on that one. I assume the USL Super League team will be afforded the same poster tradition as the men's team.

One of my other complaints was about the lack of a program for the women's games. I even spelled out how a program could work, even at its most basic level, including the idea of getting a sponsor to help defray costs. To the club's credit, the team did a much improved effort on this front. There were programs this year that very similarly matched my idea, including having a sponsor for the programs. They were double-sided 8.5x11 sheets of paper folded in half to create a four-page program, but they were in color, listed the players for the game, included the division standings and a schedule for the rest of the games, and listed upcoming men's games or club camps. The one for the Final was even printed on fancy paper. Overall, it wasn't "equal" to the men's team, but I'm going to give a good solid "A" for being an attempt at "equitable," and was a marked improvement from the first season. I don't know if my article last year helped, but I would like to think that it did.

Attendance felt slightly down from last year, but there were still good crowds for all the game. Obviously the Final at Carroll Stadium was heavily attended due to the fact it was a final and that the club made it a doubleheader with the men's team's game later in the day, but the semi-final game was a packed house in the Grand Park Event Center, rivaling the attendance of the team's first game of last year. I hope that winning a league championship translates to a bump back up in attendance next year, but I don't foresee the team losing the core group of fans that have been supporting this team from the beginning.

Emma Thompson
Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography (no relation)
I look forward to next year to see what that iteration of this team will accomplish. I suspect Coach Dolinsky will try, once again, to bring back a core group of players that were on this year's squad to help facilitate the continuation of the culture that surrounds this team now. We saw flashes of what is to come from Susie Soderstrom (I believe who is also graduating in 2025 at the same time as Rogers and Kraszula so could likely be persuaded to return next year) and Emma Johnson, who is still in high school. Susie may continue the streak of having a Soderstrom on the roster since her big sister Katie signed a pro contract in the Danish Superliga. 

I hope Bahr recovers from her injury and can play again. 

I hope Alia Martin and Maddy Williams can squeeze in another season in between their day jobs. 

I can't wait to see what other players Coach Dolinsky finds to add to the players that will be returning and replace the players that have moved onto other things.

2023 was an amazing season, and will be difficult to top, but I look forward to seeing what 2024 brings.

Photo Credit: USL W League Twitter