Saturday, March 16, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Memphis 901 FC - 11.02


- Opponent: Memphis 901 FC
- Location: AutoZone Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Oettl, O'Brien, J., Chapman-Page, Barbir, Stanley, Gibson (C), Blake, Lindley, Williams, Martinez, Guenzatti

- Substitution: Henderlong 63' (Martinez); King 72' (Chapman-Page); Collier 72' (Guenzatti); O'Brien, E. 90'+2' (Gibson)

- Unused: Sulte, Klein, Molina

- Scoring Summary:
IND -  26' Blake (penalty kick)
IND - Martinez 42' (assist Stanley)
MEM - Cissoko 90'+1' (unassisted)

- Bookings:
IND - Chapman-Page 8' (Yellow)
MEM - Jimenez 15', 45'+1' (Yellow, Yellow, RED)
MEM - Tulu 25' (Yellow)
IND - Barbir 35' (Yellow)
IND - Martinez 57' (Yellow)
IND - O'Brien, E. 90'+3' (Yellow)
MEM - Cissoko 90'+4' (Yellow)
MEM - Ward 90'+7' (RED)

- Referee: Sergii Demianchuk
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

Allow this to be my first, but probably not last, complaint about soccer on a baseball field. Yeah, yeah, I know there are some, including Lowry last year, who have stated that there are actually advantages of playing on that kind of field. I'm not one of them. I'm also writing this before the game even starts because I don't care about the result to know that I don't like watching games on a field intended for baseball. The only advantage of this game from last year's field debacle in Memphis is that the field actually looked playable. 

It's probably going to be Indy's tactic most of the time this year, but early in this game on this field, Indy was playing a lot of Route 1 balls, trying to get the ball up to Martinez, Guenzatti, and Williams. When Indy was awarded a penalty kick in the 25th minute, Indy was at 30% long balls (finished the game at 25%). The ball to Blake required a perfect touch from Blake, which he was able to do, and forced Tulu into making a decision that was a split second late, catching Blake and not the ball. For his effort, Blake stepped up to take the penalty kick and promptly roofed it in a place and at a pace that was impossible for Deric to stop. It might be a different way to play than many of these players used last year, but Blake's penalty kick put Indy up relatively early in the first half. 

As the half closed, the game turned into Indy's to lose. Stanley made a run from his left back position to put the ball into a dangerous location in the box that Deric misjudged and fell to Martinez, who ultimately had to head the ball into the goal from within 3-feet of the goal line. Indy's tactic to concede possession, and get the ball to the midfield and forwards as much as possible, was much more successful in this game than it was last week in Oakland. With a two goal lead, Indy further benefitted when former Louisville City player Oscar Jimenez picked up his second yellow card in the first minute of stoppage time. Down a man and down two goals, Memphis found themselves in a difficult situation going into the halftime locker room. 

At the halftime whistle, Indy trailed in time of possession (37% to 63%) and in shots (8 to 6), but led in shots on target (4 to 0), and most importantly, led in goals (2 to 0) and men on the field (11 to 10). Indy's long ball percentage at halftime was 28%, which would have been unheard of last season, was enough to put them ahead at the break. It's only two games into the 2024, but it's clear that the tactics from McAuley's squad are going to be widely different than those of Lowry. If it remains effective as the season progresses, who am I to judge. 

Oh wait, I can judge. It's kind of what I can do with this site. 

Oettl Distribution
As I did with preseason results, I don't put a ton of stock in early results until I see a much larger sample size, but the game plan seems simple. Concede possession if needed, make strong defensive decisions that could include just blasting the ball back up the field, and get the ball into the opponent's box as much as possible to give the team a chance to make a play. Playing out of the back looks to be a secondary thought. While nearly every player on this roster has the ability to play the ball in tight quarters and keep the ball on the ground, playing out of the back isn't going to be the focus. I'll blame it on the field size, but Oettl's clearances and corner kicks in this game wasn't spectacular, and we know he can play short, so maybe playing long from him isn't always the best plan.

Even with the man advantage, Indy pulled the possession differential back some, but Memphis still finished the game with a 58% to 42% advantage. The man advantage didn't change the tactics. Indy didn't start resorting to keep-away using the touch that we know they have the ability to do. The game still remained with Indy conceding possession, despite having one less defender to deal with from Memphis. Eventually, all that possession and effort allowed Memphis to get a late corner kick. That corner kick forced a scramble in the box that led to a Memphis goal to rob Oettl of a clean sheet. 

Indy managed to see out the last of the 6-minutes of stoppage time, but playing 11v10 for the entirety of the second half, Indy should have put the game further out of reach. Am I nit-picking in a 2-1 win on the road? Maybe, but Indy did not close out this game in a confident fashion. They did not get another shot on target in the second half, finishing the game with the same number of shots they had at halftime. With a man advantage, and this team, that should have happened.  

Indy get the win by getting a couple of timely first half goals, and then hanging on in the end against a undermanned Memphis team that played harder than Indy in the second half. The team returns home next week against Sacramento Republic for Indy's third game against a Western Conference opponent to start the season, as well as Indy's earliest home game in the club's history. 
The Game Beckons Game Ball
Right now, there's a clear focal point for the team and that is Jack Blake. I thought Williams did some good hold-up play up top, but for a team that needs to midfield to do both offensive and defensive work while often having the ball bypass them, Blake stood out again for me. So for the second game in as many weeks, Blake gets the GBGB.

No comments: