Sunday, October 29, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Charleston Battery - 10.35 (Playoffs)


- Opponent: Charleston Battery
- Location: Patriots Point
- Attendance: 2,972
- Final Score: 5-0 L

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

- Substitution: Molina 64' (Robledo); Pinho 64' (Velasquez); Vazquez 64' (Dambrot)

- Unused: Oettl, Chapman-Page, Reveno 

- Scoring Summary:
CHS – Ycaza 12’ (assist Rodriguez)
CHS - Williams 37' (assist Markanich)
CHS - Rodriguez 40' (Barajas)
CHS - Barajas 47' (Rodriguez)
CHS - Markanich 63' (Williams)

- Bookings:
CHS - Williams 16’ (Yellow)
IND - Boudadi 57' (Yellow)
IND - Vazquez 72' (Yellow)
IND - Diz Pe 76' (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 83' (Yellow)
CHS - Ycaza 90' (Yellow)

- Referee: Jeremy Scheer
- Adage goals: Two

Thoughts and Opinions

When this game started, I was walking around the National Mall in Washington D.C. with the family, but let my phone continue to keep me notified of what was going on in the game. I continued on with my vacation knowing that there wasn't going to be a home match in the second week of the playoffs after all the other high seeds in the Eastern Conference lost on Saturday. Despite knowing the result of the game,  I went ahead and actually watched the game now that I'm back, because, apparently, I'm a glutton for punishment after watching Purdue (football) lose to Nebraska on one screen and Purdue (men's basketball) lose to Arkansas in a scrimmage for charity in overtime to Arkansas. 

Before I watched the game, with full knowledge of the final score, I thought about what I might see. I wondered how Indy, one of the stingiest defenses in the entire league, could concede five goals in a playoff game. Indy hadn't conceded more than 3 in a game this season, even during the rough up-and-down stretch through the majority of the middle of the season. What I saw ran the gamut of issues.
  1. Charleston's first goal was a set piece corner kick.
  2. The second goal happened when Diz Pe was dispossessed 30 to 40-yards from goal, which led to a shot from outside the box that Trilk let bounce off his hands into the bottom right of the goal. Trilk nearly allowed a similar goal earlier in the game, but Diz cleared the ball off the line while being fouled.
  3. Just a few minutes later, 5 Indy defenders tracked 3 CHS attackers, but leaving the 4th attacker wide open in the middle of the box for an open header past Trilk. 
  4. Immediately after halftime, on a recycled corner kick, Charleston out-hustled the Indy defenders for yet another middle of the box shot through 5 Indy defenders that parted like the Red Sea.
  5. Finally, a cross past Diz went mere feet past Trilk across the goal mouth to an on-rushing Ycaza who beat Boudadi to the ball. 
Indy couldn't defend. When Indy had the ball, CHS defended in numbers and defended quickly, rarely giving Indy time nor space to effectively accomplish much. Indy couldn't attack. Indy managed just a single shot on target, a shot from Macca King that went straight to Muse. A shot that happened from just outside the box in the 19th minute. Not a single shot on target the rest of the game. Not even a 66th minute breakaway where Martinez seemed to be ahead of everybody, but Segbers overtook Martinez and prevented a shot. 

As good as Indy looked the week before during large stretches in San Antonio, they looked just as badly during large stretches in Charleston. When Indy lost Quinn with 6 games to go in the season, Indy took a few games to settle into not having him available. Indy went into this game without Asante due to his red card suspension in the San Antonio game, and Blake who had an ankle injury. As a result, Indy started both King and Robledo. Robledo had only started a dozen games before this one and had only played a total of 48 minutes in the past three games combined. Similarly, King had also only played just 48 minutes in a substitute role in the past two games combined after having not played for the preceding ten games. I appreciate Macca, but the midfield looked completely different than it has when Indy has looked its best. 

Indy struggled this year, with injuries and suspensions derailing any momentum that they managed to get going. It's probably fitting that two more (one injury and one suspension) factored into their performance against Charleston. As promising as this season looked coming into it, and as good as the team looked at times throughout the season, it's a bit disheartening to think that the team has such an issue with depth that just one or two players can have Indy go from looking like they did in the first half against San Antonio to a team that gets clobbered by 5-nil in the first weekend of the playoffs. It's something I'll likely discuss in my end-of-season recap, but not here.
As I thought about the game during my vacation, my pessimistic nature (and being a long-time Cubs fan) kicked in and Indy fans should have known that things wouldn't go well for the men's 1st team. The club isn't at a point where fans should realistically think that it's possible for the club to win an USL W League championship and win (or even make a run in) the USL Championship in the same season. We're just not there as a club where that seems feasible. Maybe some day.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I don't really want to finish the season without awarding the Game Beckons Game Ball, but does any player really deserve it when the team gets beaten by 5 goals and only manages one shot on target in 90 minutes of action? After arguing with myself that there had to be at least one good performance by one of the players, I just couldn't rationalize it in that kind of loss in that kind of game.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Indy Eleven vs San Antonio - 10.34


- Opponent: San Antonio FC
- Location: Toyota Field
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 3-3 D

- Starting XI: Trilk, Boudadi, Vazquez, Diz Pe, Dambrot, Blake, Lindley, Asante, Velasquez, Martinez, Guenzatti (C)

- Substitution: Robledo 59' (Velasquez); King 59' (Lindley); Pinho 77' (Martinez); Reveno 77' (Boudadi); Chapman-Page 85' (Diz Pe)

- Unused: Crawford, Molina 

- Scoring Summary:
IND – Blake 9’ (assist Lindley)
IND - Guenzatti 37' (unassisted)
SA - Patino 45'+4' (penalty kick)
IND - Diz Pe 54' (assist Lindley)
SA - Oluwaseyi 58' (unassisted)
SA - Taintor 88' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
SA - Taintor 8’ (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 24' (Yellow)
IND - Martinez 36' (Yellow)
IND - Boudadi 45'+2' (Yellow)
IND - Asante 45'+3'; 61' (Yellow, Yellow, RED)
IND - Diz Pe 67' (Yellow)
SA – Lamar Batista 74' (Yellow)
IND - King 90'+8' (Yellow)

- Referee: Elijio Arreguin
- Adage goals: Two

Thoughts and Opinions

The USL Championship is going to USL Championship. By that, I mean that things never really seem to go as expected. Coming into the weekend, the top of the table was set. Pittsburgh couldn't be caught for first. Tampa Bay couldn't be caught for second. Charleston couldn't be caught for third. However, spots 3 through 8 were unsettled. 

A Memphis draw would have given them 53 points and they would hold the tiebreaker over Louisville even if LOU won, giving MEM 4th place. A LOU draw would give them 51 points and would hold the tiebreaker over Indy if Indy were to win and get themselves to 51 points. If Indy drew and BHM won, they would be even on points, but Indy would take 6th due to the second tiebreaker. BHM would get 7th, and Detroit and Miami were battling it out for the 8th spot against Pittsburgh and Sacramento, respectively. So MEM, LOU, and IND just needed to draw their games and playoff positions would have been more or less set, with the exception of the Detroit and Miami battle.


MEM started the weekend's proceedings on Friday by floundering to a 4-1 defeat against New Mexico United in Isotopes Park in Albuquerque. That meant that the draw that LOU likely would have been working towards at home against TBR flipped on its head because a LOU win meant that they would leapfrog MEM and finish fourth to be able to host a playoff game. Knowing that LOU were going to be going all out against TBR meant that they would make themselves susceptible to a loss against a TBR team who didn't have anything to gain from the game, but also wouldn't want to roll over and let LOU win. So Indy went from considering a draw against San Antonio as fine to thinking that a win in Texas and a TBR win in Kentucky would mean that Indy would finish in 5th. Finishing there doesn't help Indy host a playoff game, but it does feel nice to finish ahead of the consistent winners of Louisville.

With the exception of the psychological advantage of finishing higher up the table than your rival, I kind of preferred Indy finishing in 6th. A 5th place finish would mean a return trip to the potentially atrocious field in Memphis that they saw last time Indy played against MEM. A 6th place finish means a trip to CHS, a team that Indy had success against this season. Admittedly, the first win (a 4-nil victory in CHS) was helped out by the 1st minute red card showed to Archer, but Indy found ways to score in that game. Indy has a 4W-2D-2L record against CHS since entering the USL, and a 3W-1D-0L record since the pandemic. Coming into the game, I was okay with a 6th place finish. 

So what could have been a ho-hum weekend at the top of the table turned into an absolute dog fight after Memphis' loss. As Indy were getting started, they would have already known that BHM had lost to CHS so there wasn't anybody behind them that could supplant their position in 6th even with a loss. So a move up the table was definitely possible if they wanted to go all out. They would have also been able to see that LOU v TBR was at halftime with a 3-1 score in TBR's favor after TBR scored in about 30 seconds after the starting whistle, and LOU was throwing the kitchen sink at TBR to get the win after going down early, getting gifted an Own Goal, giving up a penalty kick that was missed, and then conceding two goals from Jennings in rapid succession. Indy would have known that a move up the table was possible.

Whatever they knew coming into the game or whatever team they would have preferred to play, Indy came out against San Antonio and found an early goal in the 9th minute on a long cross from Lindley that ran through most of the 18-yard box before finding Blake who put the ball passed Marsman. Indy looked like a team that was wanting to win this game, results in the table be damned. San Antonio had their own chances early, finishing the half with 7 corners and 6 shots (3 on frame) to Indy's 1 and 9 (4 on frame), respectively. Yet Indy is setup perfectly to play on a a field like Toyota Field which has a natural turf surface, and Indy consistently, and easily, moved their possession style through the San Antonio midfield in the first half. San Antonio nicked a stoppage time penalty kick goal when Boudadi was charged with bringing down Bailone, who looked to me like he did as much of the pulling down as Boudadi did. Either way, the teams went into the halftime locker with Indy still up a goal to find that Louisville had lost to Tampa Bay. 

Then, as the USL Championship is want to do, the game descended into Crazy Town. Diz Pe scored a goal to give Indy their third goal on the night. Five minutes later, San Antonio found another goal on a scramble situation when Trilk had one of his rare mistakes on the night and was unable to collect the initial shot cleanly. A few minutes after that, Asante picked up a second yellow card on a fairly light call after getting his first yellow in stoppage time of the first half due to arguing the penalty kick call, forcing Indy to finish the game down a man. Now up a man and down a goal, it was a frenetic finish to the final 30 minutes as San Antonio fought for an equalizer, which they managed to do in the 88th minute. Indy closed out the remaining 2 minutes + TEN MINUTES of stoppage time (originally shown as 5 minutes) to see the game, somehow, finish in a 3-3 draw.

It's the kind of draw that feels like a loss that feels like a win. Let me explain. Indy should have won this game. Until Asante's untimely dismissal from the game, Indy controlled the midfield and looked like the team that we all expected them to be when the roster was announced so many months ago. So when San Antonio found their equalizer, it felt like a loss. Yet, by not picking up all three points, Indy drop back down to the position on the table where they have spent 8 of the last 9 weeks of the season, 6th place. That means they head to Charleston and not Memphis. Again, I don't know the team's preferred location, but I think going to Charleston is a better situation for Indy than Memphis.

Indy will be on the road to start the playoffs. With this season, just about anything can happen and likely will, but Indy are playing good soccer right now and will be doing so on another grass field in Charleston, where their style of play works well. Tonight's game followed much of this season's frustration of results that didn't match performance, but I don't think the result was necessarily a bad thing for Indy. With the obvious exception of losing Asante, who has been playing really well in recent weeks. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I don't normally like to give the GBGB to the same player in back-to-back games, but Trilk deserves it again tonight. San Antonio put 8 shots on target, many of them from close range, and Trilk made 5 saves. Down a man and trying to maintain the slim lead, there were moments where it felt like Trilk was on the wrong side of a firing squad and he made some spectacular reaction saves to keep Indy in the game. Feels strange to give the GBGB to a goalkeeper when the opposition scores three goals, but if it hadn't been for Trilk, it would have been worse.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Indy Eleven vs FC Tulsa - 10.33


- Opponent: FC Tulsa
- Location: ONEOK Field
- Attendance: 6,444
- Final Score: 2-1 W

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

- Substitution: King 73' (Lindley); Robledo 73' (Velasquez); Pinho 85' (Pinho); Vazquez 90'+7' (Martinez)

- Unused: Crawford, Molina, Reveno

- Scoring Summary:
TUL – Goodrum 34’ (penalty kick)
IND - Velasquez 62' (assist Lindley)
IND - Asante 82' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND - Velasquez 49’ (Yellow)
TUL - Goodrum 78' (Yellow)
IND - Robledo 84' (Yellow) 
IND - Trilk 90'+1' (Yellow)
TUL - Seagrist 90'+2' (Yellow)

- Referee: Sergii Demianchuk
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

By the time this game started, it was known that a draw did nothing for Tulsa. They needed to win the game to keep any chance of making the playoffs. Indy secured their spot last week. I wondered if Indy might rest some guys, maybe even play some of their Academy guys. However, knowing that there was at least a slim chance that Indy could finish in 4th place in the table to host a playoff game, Coach Lowry started the same lineup as was used last week against Detroit. Some might argue that "the integrity of the game" required Indy to play their best team given the fight that Tulsa, Detroit, and Miami are in for the final playoff spots, but that isn't me. We all saw what happened when Quinn dropped out of the lineup due to his injury. Keeping Indy's guys healthy is more important to me. If Coach Lowry had decided to play the Academy guys, I would have been okay with that. 

I hate soccer played on baseball fields. Coach Lowry has said that he can have a different opinion of those fields, depending on the field. The Memphis fiasco earlier this season was a field where we both agreed it was garbage. To be fair, everybody agreed that field was garbage. However, Lowry spent all his games in El Paso on a baseball field, so he knows how to coach a team under those conditions and circumstances. He has also said to me that he doesn't believe the phrase, "both teams have to play on the field," in reference to poor fields. A team that wants to hold possession, like Indy, is much more affected by a poor turf than a team that bunkers and counters. If the temporary infield turf is acceptable and the outfield turf is good, then Coach Lowry doesn't have a significant issue with a soccer pitch on a baseball field. Tulsa's field looked reasonable, and Indy played well on it. I still hate watching soccer on a baseball field.

At halftime, Indy would have been able to see that Hartford, yes bottom of the table Hartford, went into Lynn Family Stadium and took points away from Louisville, further cracking that door for Indy to finish ahead of Louisville in the table. However, Memphis took care of their business, and Indy would have also seen that the chance to host a playoff game no longer remained. 

I don't know if that knowledge had anything to do with it, but Tulsa looked like the better team in the early minutes of the second half with more possession and dangerous shots. It took a breakaway goal where Asante carried the ball 50 yards up the field before laying the ball off to his right to Lindley who had made a parallel run with Asante. Lindley one-touched the ball across goal across the six-yard box directly to Velasquez. Velasquez's first touch wasn't perfect, but he had enough space around him to get himself composed after his poor touch and promptly fired it past Nelson to bring the game level. 

With their playoff lives in the balance, Tulsa took the game up a notch as the game became wide open as the two teams combined for 35 shots, 9 on target (4 for Indy, 5 for Tulsa). Indy defended as a unit while Tulsa attacked. Tulsa defended as a unit while Indy attacked. Rinse and repeat for the next 20 minutes until Asante was able to poke Indy's second goal past Nelson in the 82nd minute. After that, it was Indy defending for everything they had to solidify the win, and Tulsa throwing caution to the wind and attacking, knowing that they needed goals.

Indy held on, stayed in 6th place in the table. The win means that depending on the results tomorrow (BHM plays on Sunday) next weekend, Indy could finish as high as 5th place and as low as 7th place. A 5th place finish could mean facing Memphis or Louisville. A 7th place finish means heading to Tampa Bay. Memphis plays in New Mexico, who are still fighting for their chance to make the postseason. Louisville plays Tampa Bay. Birmingham plays Monterey tomorrow and Charleston next week. 

It's impossible to guess how these games might go. I can see a scenario where Indy wins, MEM wins, LOU loses, and BHM get points out of both games but not two wins. That puts Indy in 5th. I can also see a scenario where Indy loses, MEM wins, LOU wins, and BHM win both, putting Indy in 7th. There's also the results that leave Indy in 6th place where they would face Charleston. 

Given the way the season has gone, and the teams that are making the playoffs, any team can win at home or away on any given day. I mean, at this point, two playoff-making teams in the Eastern Conference are going to do so with negative goal differentials (LOU at -2, BHM at -10), while CHS (sitting in 3rd) has a mere +3 GD and MIA (sitting in 8th) has a 0 GD. 

Indy did what they could to make the playoffs and are playing some of their best soccer going into the playoffs. As a fan, that's really all you can hope to see from them. Indy head to San Antonio knowing that no matter the results, they are playing the following weekend, and that no matter the results, they might not change your place in the standings.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
This is another game where I think a few players deserve the GBGB. Velasquez was lively all night. Diz and Jerome were solid in defense. Lindley's cross was perfect on Velasquez's goal. As I've said before, sometimes this just goes to the player who keeps standing out to me based on the eyeball test, regardless of stats. Tonight that was Trilk. I thought he made a couple of great saves on shots that were from close range. Edging out his teammates, Trilk gets tonight's GBGB. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Indy Eleven vs Detroit City FC - 10.32


- Opponent: Detroit City FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 12,531
- Final Score: 3-0 W

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

- Substitution: Molina 79' (Velasquez); Rebellon 90'+1' (Asante); Pinho 90'+1' (Martinez)

- Unused: Crawford, King, Robledo, Vazquez

- Scoring Summary:
IND – Martinez 45’ (unassisted)
IND - Velasquez 69' (assist Lindley)
IND - Molina 90'+3' (assist Pinho)

- Bookings:
DET – Fisher 33’ (Yellow)
IND - Velasquez 45'+2' (Yellow)
DET - Diop 74' (Yellow)
IND - Molina 90'+7' (Yellow)

- Referee: Katja Koroleva
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

The math was easy coming into Indy's final home game of the regular season. Win and get some help from Pittsburgh against Tulsa, and Indy would officially clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2019. If Tulsa managed to win against PIT, then Indy would have two games, one of them against Tulsa, to get over the necessary threshold. Pittsburgh took care of their business, leaving Indy just needing a single point to solidify their spot. Three goals later and Indy no longer need to wait until next year to make the playoffs. 

Indy is now down where they will play that first playoff game. It would take a lot for it to be at Carroll Stadium. Indy would need to win against Tulsa and San Antonio, bringing Indy's total to 51. If Memphis, currently in 4th place, lost both their games (at home against ELP and away at NM), they would be stuck at 49 points. If Louisville, currently in 5th place, lost both of their games (at home to Hartford and at home to Tampa Bay), they too would be stuck at 49 points. Under that scenario, Indy would finish in 4th, Memphis in 5th, and Louisville in 6th. To think that Louisville loses to Hartford, who are on a 9-game losing streak and have lost 16 of 18, is difficult to fathom. So while the new math indicates that Indy could host an initial playoff game, it seems like tonight's could be the last home game of the season. Unless, of course, some playoff upsets take place. Given the way the season has progressed in this conference, that isn't out of the question. 

Indy need to get through the rest of the regular season first before we figure out, if, and where Indy fans need to travel.

Tonight's game was one where the result matched the performance. Indy deserved the win. If it hadn't been for a great save from Steinwascher in the 6th minute when he pushed Martinez's shot up off the crossbar, Indy would have flipped the typical Indy script by them being the one with the early goal. There weren't many minutes where I thought Indy were going to concede a goal. Once Martinez scored what would become the game winner in the 45th minute, I didn't see many ways that DET were going to get points out of the game. Indy had a game plan against DET and executed it exactly like they wanted. 

Indy finish the regular season on the road against Tulsa, which is now a little less nerve-wrecking than it could have been, and at San Antonio, which is one of the two teams that have already clinched a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Whether San Antonio feel like going all out against Indy right before the playoffs when both teams are in and SA may already have their home playoff game clinched, will be seen in a couple of weeks. You may see a final game of the season where both teams are just trying to get out of it unscathed and without injuries. That might depend on what happens next week and whether a home field playoff game is still in the cards for Indy.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Martinez was active early and often for Indy. It started with the early 6th minute shot that was pushed off the crossbar from Steinwascher, but he accounted for half of Indy's shots on target. There seemed to be a concerted effort to get the ball to him over the top, and nearly all of them were successful. I thought that Martinez struggled at times with his decisions early in the season, but in this game, the decisions were easy. Attack the DET defense, often in 1v1 conditions, and then try to get it past Steinwascher. For the most part, Martinez was highly effective in this game play, resulting in his 45th minute goal. Some other guys deserve honorable mentions (Blake for dropping back more as Indy continue to adjust to life without Quinn, and Pinho for his unselfish play that allowed Molina to score his goal), but Martinez gets tonight's GBGB for being an absolute pest for 90-minutes.

Additional Photos (Don Thompson Photography)