Sunday, March 10, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Oakland Roots - 11.01


- Opponent: Oakland Roots SC
- Location: Pioneer Stadium
- Attendance: 5,146
- Final Score: 2-1 L

- Starting XI: Oettl, Boudadi, Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, Stanley, Gibson (C), Blake, Lindley, Williams, Henderlong, Guenzatti

- Substitution: Collier 66' (Henderlong); O'Brien, J. (75' (Boudadi); Molina 86' (Gibson)

- Unused: Sulte, O'Brien, E., Sanchez

- Scoring Summary:
OAK –  3’ Cedeno (unassisted)
IND - Blake 43' (assist Boudadi)
OAK - Tamacas 50' (assist Donasiyano)

- Bookings:
IND - Blake 24’ (Yellow)
IND - Henderlong 25' (Yellow)
IND - Chapman-Page 41' (Yellow)
IND - Collier 70' (Yellow)
OAK - Njie 89' (Yellow)
OAK - Donasiyano 90'+8' (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 90'+8' (Yellow)

- Referee: Elton GarcĂ­a
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

When I first started this site, I had intentions and goals of talking about soccer. World soccer. National soccer. Local soccer. Not having any team in the world that I cared about meant that talking about world soccer fell to the wayside fairly quickly. I did talk about the US National Teams for a bit, but even that trickled away and eventually stopped. Leaving this site to almost exclusively be about Indy Eleven. Game recaps, discussions about the stadium, and the regular changing of the head coach. Then the USL W League started and I had even more to talk about. More recaps and Championship winning teams to be excited about watching. The stadium finally settled on a location, which allowed for a few recent articles (A history of the site, a look at the groundbreaking from my perspective, and a fun In-Depth Look), but the site hasn't seem to change much in my past couple of visits past it so those have slowed down. I had an auction for The (Mini) LIPAFC Barrels that I created. After getting approval from Peter Wilt, I discussed whether Indy's first season could have been different based on players that the club was in discussions to sign, but weren't able to do so for one reason or another.

All that to say that I have learned over the years (like the men's team, this is now my 11th season covering the team) that I really need the break during the off-season. From March 12, 2023 to my annual season recap on November 6th, I wrote 57 articles. That's an average of 1.7 articles per week, but during those summer months when the women are in action, there were times when it felt like I was writing 3 or 4 a week. While it's nowhere near John Morrisey level of work at USL Tactics, I'm no longer at an age where I can grind that like, particularly since this isn't my day job and I want to have a life with my wife and kids too. So when the team crashed out of the playoffs in a 5-nil beat-down from Charleston, I moved closer to my hibernation mode. I did my season recap, but have generally been radio silent since that article. 
Consciousness is greatly diminished. This varies by species, but many hibernating animals are completely oblivious to their surroundings and are nearly impossible to wake up. If you were to wake up a hibernating animal midwinter, you would be effectively killing it. It would use up so much energy warming itself up in order to awaken that it would have no chance of making it to spring even if it could re-enter hibernation. - How Hibernation Works

I managed to awaken my consciousness long enough to write an article about the departure of Mark Lowry. I had an off-the-record conversation with Mark that will never see the light of day, and two articles around the hiring of current head coach Sean McAuley  (Will it even Matter? and the begin of the McAuley era), and watched Indy's Undrafted series. Beyond that, I've mostly done other things. I've worked on the novel I've been writing. I've watched college basketball. I've watched Taylor Swift learn to love football. I wonder what my life will be like when Indy Eleven officially take the field as part of the USL Super League, thereby providing club games year-round since they league is intending to be on the international schedule.

I avoided discussing Indy's off-season because I take very little stock in the results of those games, winning or losing. It's notable that Indy outscored their opponents 18-2, but there are a number of factors that can lead to that. So I tend to not value those results, and only managed to attend one of the preseason games since "closed" games were truly "closed" games this year, even to the media. 

Tonight/this morning though, my hibernation came to an end as Indy was officially back in league action against Oakland, a club that came to Indy last year and handed Indy a 3-nil defeat. Within 3-minutes of the start, I was looking to get my hibernation restarted as Indy conceded an early goal to begin the season in a negative fashion. Indy seemed to settle in after watching their league play begin with an immediate play-from-behind mode. McAuley's immediate pressing and desire to keep the ball in the offensive end became clear.

However, around the 24th minute, the match took at weird turn as Blake and Henderlong saw yellow cards shown to them in rapid succession, and it was announced that Guenzatti also received one, though that one didn't show up on the Match Center. Blake received his card for unnecessarily chirping at the referee, while Henderlong received his for a late tackle. Chapman-Page added to the yellow total in the closing minutes of the first half with a professional, but very necessary, foul as Rodriguez would have had acres of space in front of him on a counter if he had made it passed Chapman-Page. If the first game is going to be any indication, Indy isn't going to be in the running for any "fair play" tiebreakers as the season progresses.

Halftime Heatmap
Indy put significant pressure on Oakland after going down early, and finally found their break-through in the 43rd minute, when Blake first-timed a first-touch cross from Boudadi. The shot from near the penalty spot was low and through traffic that Blanchette couldn't stop to give Indy the equalizer in the 43rd minute. Indy finished the half with a nearly 60/40 advantage in possession, 16 crosses, a 13 to 1 advantage in shots (4 to 1 on target), with possession weighted heavily in Oakland's end of the field including in Blanchette' box. Indy was on the wrong side of the yellow card battle, but the equalizer had been coming and put Indy in a good position going into the halftime locker room. 

Then they put it all that good work behind them by quickly giving up a 2nd goal to Oakland in the 50th minute as Oakland worked their way through the Indy defense. Boudadi helped keep Tamacas onside, who worked his way through the line and had his choice of shots before sending it to Oettl's right side and out of his reach to put Indy back in playing-from-behind mode. The goal seemed to finally settle Oakland as they gained a better foothold on the game and the second half wasn't as one-sided as the first half felt. 

Fulltime Heatmap
In the end, Indy's inability to start quickly in each of the two halves and the preseason goal scoring that didn't follow the team westward were what ultimately doomed them to an early season loss, and perpetuating their struggles against the Western Conference teams. Last year's "results didn't match the performance" mantra has continued into a new season, at least to start, as the fulltime heatmap still shows the bulk of the game being played in Oakland's half. Whether it persists further into the season will be a discussion as we move forward, but for the Indy fans that stayed up past midnight Eastern Time, the new coach, new players, new sponsors, and new jerseys looked like the old 2023 frustrations. The team did finish with a 19% long ball rate, which is 7% points higher than last year's average of 12%, which may be the main indicator of McAuley's tactics versus Lowry's preferred play-from-the-back, possession-based style the past couple of years. The loss also brings Indy's opening match record to 3W-5D-3L. In Indy's previous two times where they started a season with an opening game loss, they made the playoffs once and missed the playoffs once, so it's not time to worry just yet. 

Indy return to action next weekend in the garbage field known as AutoZone Park so we'll see how McAuley's preferred style of play works within the confines of a baseball-housed pitch. For now, Indy ends the first weekend of league play at the bottom of the table with some things to figure out on how to start halves better.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
In a game that went the way it did, Jack Blake's continued run-of-form from a goal scoring perspective from the preseason is enough tonight to give him the GBGB. There were some other good performances despite the result, but in the season opening, Blake's late half equalizer gives him the nod.

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