Saturday, March 23, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Sacramento Republic - 11.03


- Opponent: Sacramento Republic FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 8,451
- Final Score: 1-1 D

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

- Substitution: Boudadi 60' (O'Brien, J); Diz Pe 60' (Chapman-Page); Ikoba 61' (Gibson)

- Unused: Crawford, Henderlong, Ivetic, King, McCoy

- Scoring Summary:
SAC -  31' Own Goal (Chapman-Page)
IND - 35' Williams (assist Schneider)

- Bookings:
IND - Diz Pe 71' (Yellow)
IND - Schneider 79' (Yellow)
SAC - Timmer 83' (Yellow)

- Referee: Joshua EncarnaciĆ³n
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

FIRST HOME GAME OF SEASON! Tonight's game signifies the earliest home opener in the history of the club. There have been games in March, but the previous two times that has occurred was when the team was playing in the environmentally controlled environment of Lucas Oil Stadium. Today's fans didn't have the same protections from the temperatures and the early wind as those games in 2018 and 2019. Indy has a good record the home openers, albeit not high on the winning side of things as Indy has a 2W-6D-2L record leading up to this game:

  • 2014 - April 12 - 1-1 D (Carolina Railhawks) - Carroll Stadium
  • 2015 - April 11 - 1-1 D (New York Cosmos) - Carroll Stadium
  • 2016 - April 9 - 1-1 D (Ottawa Fury FC) - Carroll Stadium
  • 2017 - April 1 - 3-3 D (Puerto Rico FC) - Carroll Stadium
  • 2018 - March 31 - 0-1 L (Cincinnati) - Lucas Oil Stadium
  • 2019 - March 30 - 1-0 W (Hartford Athletic) - Lucas Oil Stadium
  • 2020 - July 11 (Fuck COVID) - 2-0 W (Saint Louis FC) - Lucas Oil Stadium
  • 2021 - May 8 - 0-2 L (FC Tulsa) - Lucas Oil Stadium
  • 2022 - April 2 - 1-1 D (LA Galaxy II) - Carroll Stadium
  • 2023 - April 1 - 0-0 D (Las Vegas Lights) - Carroll Stadium
  • 2024 - March 23 - (Sacramento) - Carroll Stadium

If you notice there are a few more players listed in the lineup graphic, it's because the league has started a new "youth initiative" that allows the home team the option of including two additional players beyond the normal 18, as long as those players are Academy players. Indy's frequent signing of Academy players helps them with this new rule change. You might not see the players get much action, but Crawford and McCoy get the opportunity to see the game play out from field level in lieu of in the stands with the fans. Cayden had that chance a few times last year when Oettl was out with injury, but McCoy was announced just yesterday and already found himself getting a chance to be on the bench.

Indy gave up an early chance from Sacramento that found the back of the goal, but was deemed to be offside, which was fortunate because the build-up from Sacramento was very good leading to the shot. Much of the time to that point had been played in Sacramento's half due to Indy's desire to press all touches by the Sacramento defenders or goalkeeper as soon as possible. 

Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography
In the 12th minute, Oettl's long goal kicks weren't helped by being in a larger stadium than Memphis' small pitch. The 17th minute started a prolonged stretch of play for Sacramento in and around Indy's box, which nearly led to a goal from a free kick that was saved nearly off the line by Stanley. The corner kick was caught by Oettl with much more conviction than the punch that led to the free kick. 

Oettl did the same thing in the 29th minute by punting his second goal kick directly out of bounds. Indy's new tactics are not using a play-from-the-back mentality, but Oettl's current trend of putting the ball into the other team's hands may need to be rethought. Shortly after this kick, SAC had their own spell of possession in Indy's half, which lead to a cross that bounced off Chapman-Page and into the team's own goal. All the effort Indy had in SAC's half undone by a bad touch. 

Luckily for Indy fans, the amount of time that they spent chasing the game was minimal as Indy found the equalizer within minutes through a goal from Williams. Schneider put a ball to Williams' right foot that allowed him to spin around his defender. Once past the defender, Williams neatly tucked the ball under Vitiello and deflecting off the far post into the goal. 

Halftime Heatmap
The game's second goal sent the game into a much more open affair as the teams looked to get themselves back ahead before the halftime whistle. After two minutes of stoppage time, the teams went into the locker rooms with the same differential as they did 45-minutes prior. A very even affair, with similar possession totals and shot totals, spent predominantly in the middle of the pitch. The halftime talks were probably very positive in both locker rooms. Both teams played the way they wanted to play, with both teams getting rewarded with a goal. The second half had the appearance that it was going to be an individual moment of brilliance or a mistake that could separate the two teams.

The second half continued much like the first half. Possession stayed centered around the center circle of the pitch, but started shifting slightly more towards Sacramento's offensive side for a bit, but by the end of the game, the heat map looked like exactly what you would expect for a game where the advantage swung widely between both teams. Williams pushed a shot just wide in the 56th minute that rattled the endline ad display right next to the goal, but couldn't find it's way in like his earlier attempt. Guenzatti put a header off the crossbar in the 63rd minute shortly after Indy made their first substitutions in the 60th minute. 

Full time - Average Position
Beyond that though, there was a lot of play between the 18-yard lines, but the shots on target didn't change much from their halftime totals until the end. In addition to Indy's near chances in the second half, Sacramento did have a chance on a shot in the 87th minute that squeaked agonizingly close to the left post that would have wrapped up the victory for the visitors. Those were really the only chances on goal for the second half.

The game finished with a draw, which was probably a fair result for both teams. Both teams played they wanted to play, both succeeded in getting a goal from their efforts, and both go home with a point for their efforts. I was asked a couple times what I think of the way the team is playing. My response is that it's a drastically different style from what we've seen the past two years with Lowry, and maybe this style is more suited to this league, on fields that aren't ideal. That being said, I know the majority of this group are capable of playing a style of soccer that has more possession, and I think that is what is missing with this team. The long pass percentage for this game hovered around the 20% mark every time I checked throughout the game, finishing at 18.8%, which is fine. What I would like to see is that every so often, even if that long pass is attempted, that there be a split second or two delay to make sure that the long pass that is about to be attempted has any chance at all at being a positive play. I've seen a number of plays from this team in the first three games where the ball is blasted forward (from a variety of players, but maybe a bit heavier on the defenders group) and it's been in a place that literally no Indy Eleven play could reach or make a play. All that does is give the ball immediately back to the opposition without having Indy in a position to properly attack or defend. Some of those long passes could stand to have the guys put their foot on the ball and make a shorter, possession-style, pass, so that it doesn't feel like wasted action. Maybe we'll get there as the season progresses. The guys are still working towards using a new style, integrating new players, and learning what Coach McAuley expects and wants to see. 

Indy fans get to see the team in action again next Saturday when Indy finally plays a team in the Eastern Conference, when Detroit City come to town. The two teams played each other during the preseason, so there will be a bit of a familiarity between what each wants to do.
The Game Beckons Game Ball
Tonight's a little more difficult to pick a winner of the GBGB. Many nights, I let my eye test sway me one way or the other. Using that as my basis tonight, the player that I kept noticing, and not just because of the new hairdo, was Guenzatti. He was really active in the midfield and going forward. He was unfortunate to not have his 63rd minute header not be a game-winner. Williams could get it for his equalizing finish, but Guenzatti edges him just slightly for tonight's GBGB. I have a feeling this won't be the last time both of these players are discussed in this segment.

Additional Photographs - Don Thompson Photography

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