Thursday, June 13, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Kings Hammer - 03.07

Summary

- Opponent: Kings Hammer
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Phillips, Martin (C), Darey, Bahr, Pelkowski, Otto, Chatterton, Chester, Mitchell, Whitsett, Soderstrom, K.

- Substitution: Rogers 64' (Whitsett); Jacomen 64' (Darey); Snyder 71' (Otto); Buels 77' (Soderstrom, K.); Cherry 77' (Mitchell); Unkraut 77' (Pelkowski)

- Unused: Weiger

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Mitchell 31' (assist Pelkowski)

- Bookings: 
IND - Jacomen 74' (Yellow)

- Referee: Erin Patterson
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Elite athletes can find motivation in any number of things. A perceived slight or a poor showing or just an internal drive that is higher than those around them. Indy Eleven is filled with elite players. If they needed to find motivation coming into this game, they just needed to look to the last game against Racing Louisville where it took a stoppage time penalty kick from Bahr to get the victory. If that isn't enough, they could have looked to the previous game against Kings Hammer where KH overcame a two goal deficit and being down twice to get a point from Indy. If all that isn't enough, thanks to a Lexington win in Racing over the weekend, a win tonight over KH would put them 9 points clear of KH who sit in second. Indy would sit on 19 points, with KH only able to get to 22 if they won out. A win tonight would take some of the pressure off from winning the division, with only the ability to host their first playoff game on the line for the remaining three games.

I'm sure they all knew this before the whistle blew. I'm sure Coach Dolinsky reminded them that KH didn't roll over in the first game even when they were down.

Kings Hammer arrived with the appropriate jerseys this time around so duct tape numbers weren't required tonight. So they looked the part this game, and continued to play the part of a team that wants to compete with Indy Eleven for the division title as well. It's clear that many of the KH players have played together for multiple seasons in their youth programs. They look very much in sync with each other and consistent with how they want to play. Like the previous game, they didn't come to Indy tonight and roll over. 

The first 20 minutes was back and forth. KH had the bulk of the possession, much of it in Indy's defensive half, but couldn't really do much with it. When Indy had the ball, their touch up to or by the forwards was just a bit off. Passes were too long or too short. Shots were too late or too soon. Indy managed a burst where they had a couple shots, but only one on target, and KH had an opportunity in the 21st minute that Phillips went down low to push to the side for Martin to ultimately clear. 

However, it wasn't until the 31st minute that the KH defensive effort made their first real mistake. Like good teams do, Indy made them pay for that mistake. Pelkowski put a ball through the lines and the KH defenders paused just long enough thinking that their offside trap was effective, but the flag stayed down and Mitchell touched the ball around Galley and put the ball into the far netting to open the scoring.

The goal for Indy didn't change how the two teams were playing. KH continued to hold possession, while not being able to figure out how to get the best of Martin and Bahr. Indy struggled to find the touches to unlock the back three of KH. As a result, the teams went to the halftime locker room with Mitchell's goal being the lone tally of the game. Coach Dolinsky knew he had options sitting on the bench that could change the tenor of the game like Rogers, but also knew that the experience of playing different players together will only benefit the team as they finish out the season and, now likely, into the playoffs.

The second half tilted itself firmly to KH's benefit as they lived in Indy's defensive half of the field. At one point near the 60 minute mark, KH rattled off three corner kicks as Indy could not clear the ball from their box. As good as Indy has looked at times this year, KH were getting good bounces, but they were also the aggressors. They were quicker to the ball. They played harder. They played like a team that wanted it more. Due to their place in the table and the first half goal from Indy, frankly, KH needed the result more, and they looked like the better team for large chunks of this game. 

They didn't, however, come away with a win. Sometimes it's called "winning ugly." I just think it was a gritty performance from Indy against a very good, organized, and motivated Kings Hammer squad. It's unrealistic to think that a team can win every game by scoring 3 or more goals, particularly with the squad rotation that is required in a league where players are unavailable for any number of reasons (White had to return to Penn State, for example). Yet, the capitalized on one of the few mistakes from KH and then gutted out a win. In a division where only one team makes it to the playoffs, you just have to get positive results, mostly wins, and do it however you can. Tonight, that was through grit and team defense. 

Indy don't play again until next Tuesday when they travel to Lexington, but tonight was Indy's final home game of this season unless they make the playoffs and host a game there. Tonight's win makes that more likely, but an away run of Lexington (2nd time playing this season), Kings Hammer (3rd time playing this season), and Racing Louisville (3rd time this season), also doesn't make it a guarantee. There's also the issue of the other two divisions in the Central Conference potentially snagging the hosting rights.
Please note that hosts will be decided based on host bid submission. Being the highest seed in your conference does not guarantee the hosting of matches, however, it will be one of the several contributing factors when deciding the host site(s).

It's fun to cheer for this team. It's fun to watch a group of girls/women come together for a summer and gel and come together quickly to play exciting to watch soccer. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I know that they just won the GBGB award two games ago, but this has to go to Martin and Bahr. If pressed, I might go with just Martin. The two veterans were rock solid tonight against a pressing Kings Hammer team with a speedy Taylor White and Lauren Donovan. Coach Dolinsky thought that the youthful legs of Kings Hammer showed tonight, but I think the importance of having Martin and Bahr holding down the line tonight was equally important. Their ability to see the game, defensively and offensively, allows them to overcome some of the difference in speed that they lacked tonight. A team doesn't get a gritty 1-nil win without somebody stepping into the leadership role and directing. It was a lot of team defending, proving that they could hold a team from scoring that had proven in the last game against Indy that they are capable of doing so, but that effort started with Martin and Bahr. So they get tonight's GBGB(s).

Photos - Don Thompson Photography





Sunday, June 9, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Birmingham Legion - 11.14

Summary

- Opponent: Birmingham Legion
- Location: Protective Stadium
- Attendance: 
- Final Score: 1-0 W

- Starting XI: Sulte, Ofeimu, Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, Stanley, Lindley (C), Mines, Blake, Guenzatti, Martinez, Williams

- Substitution: Wootton 45' (Martinez); O'Brien, J. 70' (Diz Pe); Collier 80' (Williams); Gibson 80' (Blake)

- Unused: Oettl, Boudadi, Schneider

- Scoring Summary:
IND - 34' Blake (penalty kick)

- Bookings:
IND - Indy Bench 90'+2' (Yellow)

- Referee: Natalie Simon
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Alex Crognale, Tyler Pasher, Stefano Pinho. The Birmingham roster has a definite Indy flavor, but #IndyForever only applies outside the 90-minutes of the match. However much Indy fans love the club's second highest goal scorer, Pasher, and a top 10 club scorer, Pinho, doesn't score against Indy, that's a success.

In the early stages of this game, Indy actually looked like last year's Lowry-coached team. Plenty of possession, balls cycled around the Indy back three, and the team probing the Birmingham defense instead of trying to go over the BHM backline. Birmingham held the early possession, but as Indy settled into the game, they brought the possession percentage closer as they looked to find a way through the BHM defense.

Shortly after the hydration break, Mines took a ball to the endline that the BHM defenders argued had crossed over the line before crossing the ball to the penalty spot. Stanley made an awkwardly acrobat half bicycle kick and went back in the direction from where it came instead of towards goal, but the ball bounced off Rufe's hand. So the cross that went over the penalty spot, finished at the penalty spot as referee Natalie Simon pointed to the spot. Blake stepped over the ball, sent Van Oekel the wrong way, and opened the game's scoring with his 8th league goal of the season and 5th penalty kick. 

Blake's penalty kick held for the rest of the half, giving Indy the lead going into the locker room. Despite Birmingham's protestations of Mine's cross that preceded the goal, the replay showed that the AR was in perfect position to see the play and, I believe, made the correct no-call. Wootton replaced Martinez immediately after the halftime break, which often indicates an injury of some kind. Diz Pe left the game in the 70th minute with an apparent hamstring injury, so Indy's injury list could be adding a couple players after tonight's game.

Second half shots
The teams finished even in the second half thanks to 5 saves from Van Oekel (8 total for the game) and a shot from Etaka that ricocheted off the crossbar and away from danger. Indy was the better team on the night and deserved the win to extend their win streak to 7 in the league, to 9 in all competitions, and their undefeated streak to 11 in all competitions. It's amazing how long the streak has continued for Indy and they still can't crack the top 2 of the Eastern Conference table because of how well Louisville and Charleston have started the season. However, after Indy's 1W-1D-4L to start the season, the fact that they are even within arms reach of those two teams proves how well they are playing right now.

Indy return to Carroll Stadium on the 15th to play San Antonio, who they have already beaten earlier this year in the U.S. Open Cup. San Antonio is entrenched in a very crowded middle of the table in the Western Conference, but they're going to want to make amends for their earlier season loss. Indy's recent form, particularly at home, should still give them the advantage despite having recently seen San Antonio. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
When the team is on the kind of run they are right now, it's clearly a team effort. To achieve one of their rare clean sheets, "defense starts with the offense," but sometimes "defense starts with defense." The back three have been an integral part of this run, with some adjustments to the starters between games. While O'Brien has played well, I think tonight's introduction of Chapman-Page added a level of physicality that edges him for tonight's GBGB. He had some timely tackles, some of them on the razor edge of being incorrect, but that's what we're going to get from him. He goes all out and sometimes he gets it wrong. Tonight, though, he got nearly all of them right. 3 tackles, 4 clearances, and by far the most touches of the back line. He even had a shot on target. So while this win was a good team win, I think Chapman-Page deserves the GBGB for a man of the match type performance. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Racing Louisville - 03.06

Summary

- Opponent: Racing Louisville
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 3-2 W

- Starting XI: Reason, Sexton, Cherry, Snyder, Chatterton, Pelkowski, Rogers (C), White, Dewey, S., Jacomen, Williams

- Substitution: Smith 63' (Dewey, S.); Bahr 63' (Snyder); Mitchell 63' (Williams); Otto 63' (Chatterton); Soderstrom, K. 63' (Jacomen); Darey 71' (Pelkowski)

- Unused: Phillips

- Scoring Summary:
LOU - Coffield 32' (assist Gibson)
IND - Williams 47' (assist Chatterton)
LOU - Own Goal 56' (Cherry)
IND - White 71' (unassisted)
IND - Bahr 90'+1' (penalty kick)

- Bookings: 
IND - Snyder 25' (Yellow)
IND - Sexton 70' (Yellow)
IND - Indy Bench 82' (Yellow)

- Referee: Race Williams
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

The first two seasons of this league and division for Indy Eleven have predominantly been a battle between Indy and Louisville to determine which club takes the one playoff spot from the division. Indy have come out on top each season, but it's always been Louisville fighting for that spot. While tonight's game for Indy is their 6th game of the short USL W League, this was just Louisville's 4th game so they while they came into tonight's game behind Lexington on the table, Racing had a games in hand, even after tonight's game. However, Indy's defeat of Louisville in the first game of the season put Indy in the driver's seat for this year's playoff spot.

Tonight's result only magnifies that advantage. Lexington may still have something to say about it, but Louisville and Lexington can help Indy out by fighting each other in an upcoming game. Indy has to also take care of their remaining games against both Lexington and Louisville to close out the season, with two games against Kings Hammer around the Lexington game, but the win tonight makes the division Indy's to lose. 

Like many of the games in this series, it was an even match, with Indy have the bulk of the good opportunities in the early stages. Williams had an early opportunity that she touched off the outside of the post in disbelief after beating her defender to the ball. Rogers also had an early shot that was blocked before Racing finally found their first shot around the 10 minute mark. Racing came out with a tactical change that they hadn't shown on video, and it took awhile for Indy to adjust to the new look from the visitors. The change from Racing forced Rogers deeper on the field from where Indy fans have seen her playing this season.

The next 10 to 15 minutes was a fight in the midfield as neither team could impose their will in the attacking third. It wasn't until Pelkowski put a shot on frame in the 24th minute that the teams were able to break through the defense. Then opportunities for Indy came in rapid succession as Williams found another shot a few minutes later when White used her pace to break the midfield line and then Rogers put a header on frame, but without enough velocity to significantly challenge Brandon. 

Racing was the first team to get on the board in the 32nd minute when a ball from the left side by Gibson was lofted over the defenders and in a location where Reason couldn't reach. The Indy defenders lost track of Coffield as she split defenders and redirected the ball into the goal. Indy's previous chances that didn't find their target came back to hurt them and forced a rare Indy deficit. The goal also imbued Racing with confidence as they began to tilt the game towards Indy's defensive half of the field for the next five minutes.

As the half closed, however, Indy began to remember they are the defending league champions and pinned Racing into the defensive half with attack after attack. As the shots, crosses, and opportunities began to increase for the home side, the Racing Louisville defenders proved to be stout with a number of clearances, preventing Indy from equalizing before the halftime whistle. Indy had more than double the shots, but couldn't get the ball past Brandon and went into the locker room with work to do in the second half to get back into the game.

It took less than 2 minutes for Indy to get the equalizer when Williams received a through-ball from Chatterton. Williams found the post once again, but this time the ball tapped the inside of the post and spun across the line to bring the game level. With the scoring even, the game turned into a back-and-forth physical affair. Racing again took the lead when a cross took an inadvertent deflection off Cherry and beyond Reason's reach.

Minutes after the goal by Racing, Coach Dolinsky said he couldn't remember doing a mass line change substitution, but assistant coach Brandon Kim did it against St. Charles in the last game and Dolinsky did a large sub change in the previous St. Charles game. So while he might not remember doing it, hockey line change has become a routine thing for this team. The mass substitution created a spark for Indy, and made an immediate impact in the energy with their fresh legs. 

It was one of the starters though that brought Indy back into the game. The subs brought a tactical change with it and White was moved to play the #9. Dolinsky thought she was looking winded having to recover to play defense and told her to just stay up top and showcase her blazing speed when the opportunity arose. Goalkeepers keep underestimating how fast she can close the space between her and the ball and she did the same thing to Brandon that she did in the first game of the year. Thinking she had time, Brandon held onto the ball a second too long and White attacked the ball before the keeper could react. White took the ball off Brandon's feet and ushered the ball across the line with Brandon falling down trying to get to the ball. 

The Eleven's absolute refusal to quit once again brought the game level.

The goal ratcheted the intensity even higher for the players and the supporters as both teams and fans knew that this game was there for either team. Racing knew they could score. Indy knew they could come back. 

Indy's persistent attack finally paid off when Mitchell received a ball in the Racing box and was fouled. The referee pointed to the spot and Indy had their lifeline to salvage a win out of a very intense battle with their long-standing rival. As the ball rolled out towards Bahr, she handed the ball to Mitchell, allowing her to take the penalty kick that she was awarded. However, it looked like word came from Dolinsky that he wanted Bahr to take it instead, knowing how vital the 3 points were for Indy's chances to make the playoffs. 

Bahr turned her first goal of the season into a stat stuffer, with a game winning penalty kick goal in stoppage time. The arguable best defender in the league last year stepped up and sent Racing back down I-65 without any points and keeping them in an unfamiliar location at the bottom of the table.

Brandon was credited with 11 saves on 22 shots from Indy, while Racing had 6 shots. Brandon's saves and some atypical less-than-clinical finishing from Indy players is what kept this game close. The games are always close, but Indy was deserved of the win.

Indy maintain their position at top of the table and will once again welcome Kings Hammer to town next Wednesday. Kings Hammer has used their earlier draw to Indy to position themselves firmly in 2nd place, so they will once again come to Indy with the intent to prove that the earlier game wasn't a fluke and that they can hang with Indy. Indy, as they have done in the past, will look to use that result as fuel to put the division out of reach.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

With so many clutch plays to get this win, I think I want to give the GBGB to Coach Dolinsky. It's been a tricky season for Coach in trying to get playing time for the next group of players, getting time for the veterans who are unable to play every single game, particularly the away games, and getting time with all those players intermingled so that they can all play well together in the playoffs. In the 63rd minute, he pulled out Chatterton, Dewey, and Williams, stars of this team, who had all be effective during the game. That, combined with the decision to let White focus on attacking instead of defending, was bold and smart. Not sure I've ever given the GBGB to a coach before, but I thought his tactical adjustments helped change this game in Indy's favor.

Photos - Don Thompson Photography







Sunday, June 2, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Lexington SC - 03.05

Summary

- Opponent: Lexington SC
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 4-0 W

- Starting XI: Reason, Martin, Darey, Bahr, Sexton, Chatterton, Rogers (C), Mitchell, Chester, Soderstom, K., Whitsett

- Substitution: Budish 62' (Whitsett), Otto 62' (Chatterton), White 62' (Chester), Pelkowski 62' (Rogers), Unkraut 62' (Darey)

- Unused: Weiger, Cuneio

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Rogers 5' (unassisted)
IND - Mitchell 6' (assist Soderstrom, K.)
IND - Rogers 19' (assist Soderstrom, K.)
IND - Soderstrom, K. 53' (assist Whitsett)

- Bookings: 
IND - Bahr 57' (Yellow)
LEX - Dawahare 69' (Yellow)

- Referee: 
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

The USL W League is a weird league. Lineups change frequently. Players are added to rosters all the time. Kings Hammer get a draw from Indy, but then give up St. Charles' first goal of the season. Coach Dolinsky is in North Carolina with the ECNL teams, and just like Indy has Abby Unkraut on the roster who played for Kings Hammer the previous two seasons, Lexington comes to town with one of our former players, Trinity Watson. Trinity played in 9 games for Indy last year, starting 8 of them, and was a steady defender. With many of the younger Indy Eleven players with Dolinsky in NC, the veterans from last year's team got to face off against their former teammate who is now captaining today's opponent. Dolinsky's presence in North Carolina also meant that in addition to the number of changes in Indy's starting lineup, assist coach Brandon Kim took the reigns for the day.

The early minutes of the game were a bit frenetic as both teams looked like they were fully aware of the magnitude of what this game could mean for the Valley Division standings. Both teams had several giveaways as they tried to settle into the game. Before either team was fully under control, Indy managed to put two goals into the Lexington goal from crosses on the right side into the box. The first one wasn't handled well by the Lexington defense nor goalkeeper Vukas and the ball fell nicely to Rogers to put it on frame and off of Vukas' hands. The second goal from Indy came from a cross from Soderstrom that Mitchell one-timed into the goal. 

The second goal also seemed to settle both teams down after the action-packed start, but continued to be played in Lexington's defensive half of the field. Lexington did manage to get a foray forward in the 16th minute that Woods pushed just to the side of the goal. However, it was just minutes later that Rogers found her second goal of the day and fifth in the past three games. Rogers had just two goals in the previous two seasons, but has found her scoring touch this season. 

Just before the 30-minute mark, Indy thought they had found a fourth goal, but it was called off by an apparent handball by the alleged goal scorer Whitsett. The referee made the call from a difficult position but checked with his lineup to confirm the call. Looking at the replays from the telecast, Indy and Whitsett had a legit complaint about the goal being taken off the board. Regardless, Indy took a three-goal lead into the halftime break.

Lexington came out of the locker room intent on getting themselves on the board and had an early chance when Martin didn't step quickly enough. The ball found a wide open Bookhard, but she dragged her shot wide, keeping Indy ahead by their three-goal margin. Indy extended their lead a few minutes later when Whitsett lofted a ball towards goal that Vukas had difficulty punching and the ball fell to Soderstrom who made no mistake with the ball to get it on her left foot and blasted it past the helpless goalkeeper from just a couple yards away. While Whitsett was officially credited with the assist, I'm not sure that I would have given it to her given the play on it from Vukas, but what do I know? I'm also splitting hairs, so I appreciate the score keeper leaning toward awarding the assist.

While Lexington had a much more concerted effort in the second half to be on the front foot and spent much more time in Indy's defensive half of the field, their final efforts continued to fail them. In the moments when they finally made all the right passes and shots, Indy's defense proved to be better and stifled the attack with last-ditch defending and saves from Reason. The talent is there for Lexington, particularly along the back line with Watson and Weeks, but it wasn't to be on this Sunday matinee.

Indy return to action on Friday in the season's second edition of the WLIPAFC when Racing Louisville come to town. Indy won the first round in Louisville by a score of 3-1, with goals from White, Cuneio, and Jacomen and missed out on the clean sheet after conceding an 89th minute goal. Racing will look to try and reel back in Indy to keep themselves in the division race while Indy will look to make make the division theirs to lose.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

On a team where the finest of margins can separate who can get the GBGB due the high level that every single one of these women play, I could easily give this to Katie Soderstrom because of her goal and two assist night or to Rogers for her brace and nobody would think me crazy. However, I think I'm going to give today's GBGB to the duo of Bahr and Martin, for a solid defensive effort that stifled all of Lexington's attacks, limiting the opposition to minimal good looks on goal. For a pair of players that have day jobs, and one that is coming off MCL rehab, I want to reward their effort and leadership in today's game.

Photos - Don Thompson Photography
















Saturday, June 1, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds - 11.13

Summary

- Opponent: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Location: Highmark Stadium 
- Attendance: 5,002
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Sulte, Ofeimu, O'Brien, J., Diz Pe, Stanley, Lindley (C), Mines, Blake, Guenzatti, Martinez, Williams

- Substitution: Gibson 61' (Guenzatti); Chapman-Page 61' (O'Brien, J.); Wootton 68' (Lindley); Collier 68' (Blake); Schneider 84' (Martinez)

- Unused: Oettl, Henderlong

- Scoring Summary:
IND - 23' O'Brien, J. (assist Stanley)
IND - 46' Guenzatti (assist Williams)
PIT - 56' Griffin (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND - O'Brien, J. 40' (Yellow)
IND - Stanley 51' (Yellow)
IND - Mines 59' (Yellow)
PIT - Busch 82' (Yellow) - Hey Jon!
IND - Collier 90'+2' (Yellow)
PIT - Diene 90'+3' (Yellow)

- Referee: Lorenzo Hernandez
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

After their 0-3 start, Bob Lilley's Riverhounds have somewhat righted the ship, losing just once in their last game against Memphis, and picking up 3 wins and 4 draws since those early defeats. Indy have also fixed their early struggles, currently sitting on a 5 game win streak in league play and a 9 game undefeated streak across all competitions. While the names on the jerseys change, the name on the Indy manager line changes, Lilley remains a constant in Pittsburgh, and these two teams always play a physical match. 

Pittsburgh dominated the first half in every way. To say that Indy's 23rd minute goal was against the run of play would be an understatement. Indy wasn't effective in their press, meaning that they weren't able to get their offense going, further meaning that they were defending through most of the opening frame. Pittsburgh held a 64% to 36% advantage in possession, and littered the Indy 18-yard box and goal with shots. Indy had just a single extremely wayward shot before they were able to get a corner kick goal from Josh O'Brien from an in-swinging kick from Stanley. With the goal, Indy continued their streak of getting at least one goal in every game this season. 

Indy immediately doubled their lead just after the halftime break when Stanley found Williams up the left sideline, who put a ball through the box to an on-rushing Guenzatti, who one-timed his shot past Dick. From looking like the better of the two teams to being two down within the first 47-minutes was not how Pittsburgh thought they would be coming out of the locker room to start the second half. 

If there's anything you know about a Bob Lilley team, they are not going to quit. As the game continued to be tilted in their favor, they cut the lead in half in the 57th minute when Griffin got Blake off his feet by faking a shot on his right foot, but pulled it back to his left foot. The shot from the right side of the box went through the box and past the outstretched arms to Sulte. Down a goal, at home, with the better run-of-play, Pittsburgh ratcheted up the pressure even further.

Surprisingly, Coach McAuley substituted out Guenzatti, Blake, and Lindley starting in the 61st minute and all before the 70th minute. With a pressing Pittsburgh team, removing all that experience in the midfield seemed like a surprising move for me. Gibson is obviously no slouch to come in to the game, but pulling all that experience, as well as changing out a centerback, was not one that I expected to see given how much Indy was defending in this game.

If you're a Pittsburgh fan or player, you can feel deservedly upset by this Indy Eleven win. The only places that Indy was better in this game was on the scoreboard and team defending. Indy managed just 6 shots, and only 2 on target. Luckily for them, Eric Dick didn't make a single save for the game. Otherwise, Pittsburgh looked like the more threatening team. Indy, on the other hand, will gladly take a victory in a difficult place to play, to continue their win and undefeated streaks.

Indy stay on the road next week at Birmingham before returning back to Carroll Stadium on June 15th against San Antonio, who they have already played and beaten earlier this year in the U.S. Open Cup. At some point, Indy will likely lose again, but when they are playing well, they play well, and when they aren't playing spectacular, they're getting fortuitous bounces and timely goals. That's a daunting proposition for opponents.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Josh O'Brien scores his first goal to get the scoring started against the run-of-play to build the confidence in the team that even playing poorer than they would prefer, they're still giving themselves chances to win games. Sometimes you just have to reward the young guys for the unexpected offensive. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Indy Eleven vs St. Charles FC - 03.04

Summary

- Opponent: St. Charles FC
- Location: St. Charles Field - Lutheran High School
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 9-0 W

- Starting XI: Reason, Otto, Cherry, Cuneio, Snyder, Unkraut, Rogers (C), Pelkowski, White, Jacomen, Mitchell

- Substitution: Adam 61' (White); Bagley 61' (Rogers); Budish 61' (Cuneio); Chester 61' (Mitchell); Darey 61' (Otto); Sexton 61' (Jacomen)

- Unused: Blair

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Jacomen 13' (assist Mitchell)
IND - Rogers 27' (unassisted)
IND - Rogers 31' (assist Pelkowski)
IND - White 45' (assist Mitchell)
IND - Mitchell 49' (assist Rogers)
IND - Jacomen 55' (assist assist Mitchell)
IND - White 58' (unassisted)
IND - Bagley 75' (assist Budish)
IND - Pelkowski 79' (unassisted)

- Bookings: 
STC - Hollingsworth 8X' (Yellow)

- Referee: Velimir Stefanovic
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

With a midweek game on the road, the veterans of the team stayed back home with their day jobs while the up-and-coming players returned to the starting lineup. St. Charles started the same four players up top, but from the midfield back to goal, Barcom was the only other holdover from last week's game. In the early stages of the game, the names and faces changed, but the possession and play was clearly still tilted in favor of Indy Eleven. With the exception of a single effective counterattack by STC that ultimately resulted in a shot from Hollingshead that rattled the crossbar, the ball rarely crossed the midfield line into Indy's defensive half. 

Mitchell and Jacomen broke through the compact STC defense to get the scoring started. That goal by Jacomen in just the 13th minute of the game was the game winner. Indy tacked on three more goals before halftime as Rogers picked up a brace, and White rounded out the scoring to go to the halftime break up 4-nil. After last week's game, when I asked him what he could take from the game moving forward, he stated, "not much really." The goal of this game was to show that the younger players could do the same thing as the vets did last week against an overmatched opponent.

St. Charles haven't scored on the season. They were outscored 4-nil in back-to-back games against Lexington, lost 10-nil to Indy last week, and gave up another 9 tonight, but have yet to score their own goal on the season. After tonight, they sit with a -27 goal differential and have just 4 shots on target.

St. Charles have the distinction of being the only team to have defeated Indy Eleven in regular season play, but these are two teams that have drastically different levels of talent. Indy dominated in the loss last year when they had one of those days when they couldn't capitalize on their chances and STC found the back of the goal twice in their only two real opportunities. With the exception of that result, this has been a completely one-sided affair. Since the loss, Indy has outscored St. Charles 35-nil. There were moments in this game when the camera didn't even bother panning to Indy's defensive half and just waited for the ball to return to STC's defensive half where the majority of the action occurred. 

The best defense St. Charles provided tonight was late in the game when Darey stepped up to take a penalty kick and the turf literally came out of the ground, forcing Darey to slip and send the ball skyward. Between the crappy camera work and a missed penalty due to turf issues, it will be nice to return return home to Grand Park on Sunday to play Lexington with reasonable turf and good television production. Lexington has started the season with two early wins against STC, but lost to Kings Hammer this past Saturday. Coach Dolinsky thinks the remaining home games (Lexington, Racing on the 7th, & Kings Hammer on the 12th) might determine who makes the playoffs from the Valley Division so Indy fans get out in force to support your Girls in Blue.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Like the last game, it's difficult narrow it down when three players score a brace, but the edge tonight goes to Mitchell who accounted for 4 of the goals before being subbed out in the 61st minute. She opened the scoring in the second half, but contributed a hat trick of assists. So Mitchell gets tonight's GBGB due to her ability to affect the game and put other players in positions to get their own goals.

Eleven Park AKA Titanic Park

 Let me start with some prefaces.

  1. I did not attend the City-County Council meeting on Tuesday May 28th, 2024. Nearly everything I gleaned from that meeting was obtained via X, and specifically, Kurt Darling of WIBC. I will reference his name throughout, but not all the links. Go to his X page and you'll find them all there. Thanks Kurt!
  2. My first article about an Indy Eleven stadium happened in December 2014 where I discussed the site near the Heliport. Does that make me an expert? No. Does it mean that I have spent a long time thinking about an Indy Eleven stadium? Yes. The location is not something new, even though it might feel that way right now.
  3. I don't know anything more than what most people know. The people that wouldn't talk to me before still won't talk to me. The people that I used to think would give me an honest opinion, I don't think will do that anymore. Certainly not on-record. Is that going to stop me from giving my thoughts now? Hell no.
Let's move onto the basics from tonight's meeting. The CCC approved the proposal to create a second Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA2) by a vote of 6 yea, 4 nay, 1 abstain. Per Mr. Darling:

Annee: No
Bain: Yes
Boots: Yes
Brown: Yes
Dilk: No
Lewis: No
Mowery: No
Neilsen: Yes
Perkins: Yes
Robinson: Abstain
Osili: Yes

Mr. Darling conveyed this little nugget that I will discuss more later: 
Councilor Evans asks Deputy Mayor Parker what's next if the MLS proposal is defeated.
"If PSDA2 is defeated, we will not be building a soccer stadium. Period," he said.

Many eggs versus two big eggs:
City attorney Scott Chinn explains that the new proposal has "more eggs in one basket" as opposed to only "two big eggs" with Eleven Park.  

He says the new proposal is a lot more diverse as a tax district and keeps city liability to fill in the "gap" at a minimum.

And finally:
Deputy Mayor Dan Parker says the city backed out of the Eleven Park proposal because it "presented too much risk to city taxpayers." He says the new MLS proposal has "much less risk."

He added the "gap" in fiscal liability the city would take on with Eleven Park was "too big."

Now let's move to my thoughts.

I absolutely agree with Deputy Mayor Parker that "we" (the City of Indianapolis) will not be building a soccer stadium. The passing of the proposal in all reality kills the Eleven Park stadium at the PSDA1 site. With the deadline for the financial portion of the PSDA law fast approaching, the City and the Mayor will now move forward at full speed trying to get the PSDA2 area finalized and Keystone/Ersal don't have enough time to come up with a PSDA3 site. What I suspect happens is that 1) the Mayor's Office somehow manages to get part of the way there but don't succeed in jumping through all the legal hoops, thereby killing the PSDA2 stadium, or 2) they do manage to make it through the hoops and MLS says, "nay, that's okay, thanks for playing our game though," thereby killing the PSDA2 stadium. Since the Mayor already killed PSDA1, Indy doesn't build a soccer stadium. Deputy Mayor Parker tells the truth. The MLS proposal has "much less risk" on "City taxpayers" because nothing gets built. No real risk when there isn't anything built.

As I discussed in my last article about the resolution, the Mayor's Office's plan definitely spreads around the PSDA2 throughout the 1-mile radius allowed by the law. That's the "many eggs" versus Keystone/Ersal's Eleven Park development "big eggs." Looking at all the locations that the Mayor's office included in the PSDA2, I question whether even the combined effort of all those locations would be enough to "fill in the gap" if the stadium doesn't make the money expected. However, I've read through earlier financial proposals for the stadiums, and nearly all of them are more optimistic about revenue than I would think prudent and that hasn't changed from the time the PSDA1 was discussed. It isn't like the Mayor didn't see those projections months/years ago. Moving the "other revenue" sources to dozens of sites from just the one Eleven Park site doesn't change the financials that much based on what I saw. 

If there were any grown-ups in the room, here's how I can see this thing moving forward that actually benefits everybody. 

Oh wait. One other thing that was mentioned in the meeting and that continues to be a sticking point for me is that the Mayor's Office has yet to publicly state who is included in this mysterious MLS investor's group. If you're using public funds for the stadium portion, contingent upon the success of those investor's ability to get into MLS, I think the public should have access to those persons, even if the soccer team to MLS is a private to private exchange. 

Okay, back to what I was saying. Grown-ups in the room. Nearly all of this is stuff that I have been saying for weeks, none of it publicly until I could get more information. Since that seems like that is going to be impossible to obtain, I'm just going to say it now out loud as my unsolicited thoughts.

The main points are as follows:

  1. PSDA1 and PSDA2 should merge. 
  2. The City should pay the cost to inter however many remains are found.
  3. MLS to Indy Eleven
  4. Punch your weight.

1. The concept of spreading around the tax base in the PSDA is a good idea. Having a stadium and a core development around it is also a good idea. I'm not sure that the original concept of the PSDA and the law was written around included using existing businesses, but rather was written more with the intent of providing new businesses and "transformational developments" to grow the City. However, best I can tell, it doesn't preclude the use of the existing businesses either. If the Mayor's Office didn't think that the rest of the Eleven Park development was going to be enough in a stadium shortfall, why not maintain that development and just add to it? The Mayor's idea isn't necessarily a poor one, just a poorly executed one at the moment. The stadium with the Eleven Park developments PLUS the other businesses should provide enough financial backstop. Why does it have to be either/or? Nearly everything associated with the stadium/MLS right now is hearsay, rumors, or lies. If nobody else has to say their sources, then my comments aren't any different, but I heard that the Mayor can't get his PSDA2 site. So he's on the verge of having a PSDA without a stadium site, which means no stadium, which means no MLS, which, ultimately, means this all has occurred for nothing, Unless you believe the conspiracy theorists out there that MLS is actively trying to kill off the "marquee" names in USL, in which case everything else in this article doesn't matter if that's true and Garber wins. Back to the point of this bullet item though, a combined PSDA1 + PSDA2 makes sense...in conjunction with below item #2. 

2. The very first time that the City allowed a development to occur on the Greenlawn Cemetery site without first having moved every single remain from it, the City made a mistake. The City then compounded that mistake over and over again. While some of those remains were likely considered "property" at that time, that's a mistake we can fix now. A mistake that no single developer (however hastily they purchased the property without fully vetting the site) should have to bear alone. The mistakes were our ancestors' and the bill has come due. Without properly interring the remains, the site will remain undevelopable and if that's the case, we might as well let Keystone sell the land back to the City, throw down some sod or seed, and put a sign by the road renaming the land Greenlawn Cemetery. Whether there is 1 remain, 650 remains, or the 15,000 remains that was mentioned in the meeting, the site is still a cemetery until the remains have been removed. That's on all of us. 

3. If MLS comes to Indianapolis, they should come to Indy Eleven. I, personally, don't care if that's with Ersal Ozdemir or some unknown investors with Ersal as a minority owner because he sells his team's name to the MLS owners for their use. There is no MLS talk in 2024 without Indy Eleven. That's a fact and one that shouldn't be overlooked by anybody on the MLS side of things. 

4. It's also okay to just punch your weight. John Cusack in High Fidelity provided me with that line that I'm going to adjust here for my use. "The thing I learned from the whole [MLS] debacle was that you have to punch your own weight. You see, [MLS], she's out of my class. ... Too much. I mean, what am I? I'm a middleweight. Hey, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but I'm certainly not the dumbest." Naptown, that's us. It's okay to be a middleweight. It's okay to be the best damn middleweight that you can be. That could mean the team stops thinking about MLS and just tries to be the best damn USL Championship (or USL Premier if the often discussed pro/rel version of USL ever happens) they can be. In the words of Stephen Stills, "And if you can't be with the one you love, honey love the one you're with." Utilize the new billionaire owner Chuck Surack to help privately fund a 15k seat stadium that can be expanded if that need arrives, sooner or later. Punch your weight.

Since I'm not seeing any grown-ups, here's what I think could (or does) actually happen:

  1. PSDA2 kills PSDA1.
  2. MLS kills PSDA2.
  3. Indy Eleven still without a stadium (more than a dozen years into its founding while new USL Championship side Rhode Island FC is already in the process of building a stadium) seeks other options that don't include a PSDA with an Indianapolis politician.
    1. See above discussion about punching your weight.
    2. Ersal/Keystone convince Mayor of Westfield that a stadium located in/around Grand Park makes for a good idea and synergy, hoping a different politician will be better.
      Narrator: "It won't."
  4. As best I can tell, while Indy Eleven can technically use Carroll Stadium for its women's USL Super League team (reminder, that's a Division 1 level league, on par with NWSL), the lack of their own stadium kills the women's professional team because fans don't want to sit at Carroll Stadium in the winter and the players don't want to play on the turf in the winter. Players like Katie Soderstrom, who came back to Indy from a pro career in Europe, I think partially intrigued by the idea of being part of Indy Eleven's inaugural Super League team, watch that dream remain just a dream.
I've said it before on this site. This club isn't perfect. It's owner(s) isn't perfect. 

Right now, though, me writing this article is starting to feel like I'm part of the band playing on the Titanic. Titanic Park.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Phoenix Rising - 11.12

Summary

- Opponent: Phoenix Rising FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium 
- Attendance: 10,066
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Sulte, Ofeimu, O'Brien, J., Diz Pe, Boudadi, Lindley (C), Blake, Stanley, Guenzatti, Martinez, Williams

- Substitution: Collier 61' (Williams); Gibson 61' (Lindley); Mines 61' (Boudadi); Wotton 71' (Guenzatti); O'Brien, E. 82' (Blake)

- Unused: Oettl, Schneider

- Scoring Summary:
PHX - 19' Hernandez (assist Zambrano)
IND - 26' Blake (Penalty Kick)
IND - 64' Blake (unassisted - free kick)

- Bookings:
PHX - Hernandez 27' (Yellow)
PHX - Scearce 32' (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 41' (Yellow)
IND - Boudadi 45'+2' (Yellow)
PHX - Wyke 50' (Yellow)
IND - Blake 57' (Yellow)
PHX - Rios Novo 62' (Yellow)
IND - O'Brien, E. 90' (Yellow)

- Referee: Calin Radosav
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

For everybody that managed to make it all 5 games for the club for both the women's and men's teams...

Congrats! We made it! We completed the #IronFan (thanks @Indy11SouthEnd for that hashtag!).

Phoenix come to Indy as the reigning USL Championship winners, but come into town with a similar record as the Eleven; 5W-2D-4L for Indy, 4W-3D-4L for Phoenix. Much like Indy, Phoenix struggled to find their footing early in the season after the departure of their manager, former Indy Eleven player, Juan Guerra after he left for an assistant coach role at Houston Dynamo. While Indy won on Wednesday in their USOC game, Phoenix fell to MLS side Seattle Sounders by a score of 2-1.

Momentum and belief are important factors for teams. After Indy's humbling defeats against Louisville and Charleston, Indy hasn't seen a defeat in any competition. After Phoenix lost to Pittsburgh in late April, they too have only the loss against Seattle. Home cooking for Indy is helpful, while Phoenix have travelled all over the country this week. Indy's "easier" win midweek also allowed them to manage minutes and legs, something that McAuley has mentioned multiple times this year regarding squad rotation being accomplished in game versus between games.

While the game promotion for Indy was Racing Indy Night, the game was by no means a track meet. Indy had just a few counterattacks as Phoenix held the possession, but did so with slow movements instead of many quick attacks of Indy's defense. The Rising eventually found a corner kick in the 19th minute that Hernandez put past Sulte in one of Hunter's recent rare mistakes. Sulte misjudged the corner kick and the ball floated over his outstretched 6'-7" frame directly to Hernandez on the back post. As well as he has played in recent games, he's still just a 21-year old who is here to get minutes and will be subject to the occasional mistake.

The goal for Indy picked up their pace, not wanting the undefeated streak to come to an end at home in front of their home fans. The resulting uptick in effort shifted the line of confrontation to much further in PHX's defensive half of the pitch. The additional effort quickly led to a foul from Phoenix in their own box when Blake was taken down as he made his run towards goal. A quick point to the spot from referee Radosav gave Indy an opportunity to get back into the game. Blake brushed off the turf, stepped up to the spot, and leveled the game with a shot down the middle of the goal.

Just before the halftime whistle, the racing theme began to show itself as the game went end-to-end for a stretch, but Phoenix realized that was not the way they needed to play this game on their tired bodies and resorted back to putting their foot on the ball to bring the game back to a snail's pace. Headed into the locker room, Phoenix had to believe that they were the winners of the half, despite the tied score line and conceding the penalty kick. They played the way they wanted to play, exactly at the pace that they needed. Coach McAuley thought the guys looked a little tired during the Detroit game on Wednesday, and I don't think the first half of tonight's game was going to change their impression. 

As the teams came out of the locker room, Phoenix made immediate substitutions. Indy, as expected, stayed with the starting eleven. Coach McAuley has shown all season that he is going to stick with his starters until around the 60th minute mark. As the pace continued to be dictated by PHX, the second half looked like both teams were tired and were just trying to see the week out.

Moments after the substitution, Collier put pressure on Rios Novo who left his box to try and eliminate the pressure from the 6'-4" New Zealander. When Martinez intercepted the ball and put it on frame, Rios Novo was judged to have handled the ball giving Indy a free kick about 25-yards from goal. Blake stepped up, put the ball low and around the wall, and snuck it between Rios Novo and the post to put Indy ahead for the game winner.

The win gives Indy a 5-game win streak in league play and 6 unbeaten. Including the USOC games, the team is on a 7-game win streak and 9 unbeaten. The 5-game league win streak matches the club record set in the 2019 season. The club record for league undefeated streak is still a bit far away as the 2019 team had a 10-game undefeated streak, and the 2016 team started the season on a 13-game undefeated streak, but extended that even further to 16 games if you include the two USOC games and a friendly against Pachuca. The friendly doesn't count towards official stats and the team lost the second of the USOC games in penalty kicks but it goes down officially as a draw. Regardless, the 2016 team was a hard team to beat. All that to say that the run this team is on is reaching club record streaks (on the men's side...).

Speaking of the 2016 team, with his minutes tonight, Tyler Gibson moved up one spot to 9th in club history for minutes played to sandwich himself ahead of Jon Busch and just behind Vukovic. He hasn't had the number of minutes this season that we've seen from him in the past, but I think part of that is just a crowded midfield with more players than positions. I'm extremely interested to see how things change when Quinn returns from his injury, further adding to that crowded midfield. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Blake. A brace on a perfect penalty kick and a stunning free kick from outside the box. That will get the GBGB nearly every time.

Photos (Don Thompson Photography)