Sunday, April 28, 2024

Indy Eleven vs North Carolina FC - 11.08


- Opponent: North Carolina FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,071
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Sulte, O'Brien, J., Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, Stanley, Gibson (C), Lindley, Blake, Martinez, Ikoba, Guenzatti

- Substitution: Mines 61' (Ikoba); Ofeimu 61' (O'Brien, J.); Collier 75' (Diz Pe - injury?)

- Unused: Oettl, Henderlong, Neidlinger, Schneider, Wootton

- Scoring Summary:
IND - 48' Own Goal (Maldonado)
NC - 51' Perez (assist Mentzingen)
IND - Martinez 75' (Chapman-Page)

- Bookings:
IND - Ikoba 45'+1' (Yellow)
NC - Placias 72' (Yellow)
NC - Armstrong 74' (Yellow)
NC - Brewer 85' (Yellow)
NC - da Costa 90'+1 (Yellow)

- Referee: Eric Tattersall
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

In a week where I have written a ton of words around the off-field part of Indy Eleven, it felt good to be able to talk about the on-field happenings. Indy's old foe from the NASL days and early USL days, North Carolina FC (formerly the Carolina Railhawks) returned to The Mike, with both teams off to less than ideal starts. Both Indy and Carolina have managed just a single win to this point in the season, which Carolina edging Indy on the table by getting one more draw than Indy. Indy opened their club career against the Railhawks with a 1-1 draw, but both teams have gone through more than a decade of history since the day that Michael Ambersley scored Indy's first ever goal. Both have changed leagues. North Carolina dropped down to the USL League One for the past three seasons. Indy has changed venues...twice. Indy holds the advantage in games between the two teams with a 10W-4D-4L record, but just a slight edge in goals at +6 as the games have all be close affairs. Only a handful of the games have been decided by more than 1 goal. The most notable multi-goal differential games being the 4-1 Miracle at the Mike win for Indy Eleven in 2016, which solidified the Spring Championship, and a 5-nil drubbing of Indy by North Carolina FC in early October of 2017. 

Indy's injury report is starting to look rough. Quinn remains out as he rehabs his injured knee, Sanchez is out with an ankle injury, King is out after pulling up in the game against Colorado with a hamstring issue, Boudadi is out with an ankle injury, and Williams rounds out the report with an elbow injury. Indy has a larger roster this injury to potentially ride out the injuries, but those are some very important parts of Indy's team last year and this year. Sulte continued his effort between the posts after getting his first start last week against Colorado and Gibson returns to the starting lineup after his week off against Colorado.

In the early minutes of the game, both teams had their moments of possession and chances, but neither could put their stamp on the game. Indy forced McGuire to come out of his goal a number of times to clear the ball, but he was successful in doing so each time. Nothing that you could call threatening for either team, but both teams had the opportunities to push deep into each other's half. It was until the 16th minute that Carolina blasted a shot towards the Indy goal, that Sulte managed to smother and end Carolina's effort. 

Indy's defense can be really good at times, but they can also be so nervy for Indy fans. There's just moments where touches are loose, decisions are questionable, or somebody switches off for a split second. Every time one of those scenarios happen, Indy looked like they are going to concede a goal. This isn't a new thing for Indy this season, but the overlapping runs from Armstrong on the left side of the field were causing some vital last-ditch efforts from Chapman-Page, Diz Pe, or O'Brien. 

If there are young players out there reading this, watch Guenzatti, Blake, Gibson, and Lindley...when they don't have the ball. Their effort and ability to put themselves and their teammates into good positions to receive or distribute the ball are really impressive. Guenzatti was listed as the forward up top, but he actually played underneath Ikoba and Martinez, pulling defenders with them, while also regularly tracking back to help defensively or get a ball that he can get to somebody else in a better position. Those four players (and Quinn when he returns) are a good reason why Indy's on-paper potential is so high. They put out so many fires ahead of the backline, and should be the catalyst for Indy's offense. I think that's what frustrates me the most with Indy's long-ball percentage, which was over 20% for the game. One of the best parts of this roster is regularly being bypassed. This game was strange to me in that the long-ball percentage was so high, but it also felt like Indy had a more concerted effort to possess the ball. I would probably need to re-watch the game while not also trying to type to see if my first impressions of the game were accurate. Indy lost the possession battle, barely, but as wide open as the game was at the end of the second half, the possession similarity could be expected.

Indy went into the locker room with 1 shot, none on target. That's not going to get it done. Indy came out of the locker room, and Blake quickly picked up a free kick near the box. He delivery was perfect, but no Indy players found it. Luckily for Indy, Maldonado did and his touch ushered the ball nicely into his own goal. Indy with the lead in the 48th minute. Three minutes later and the defensive mistakes that I described came to fruition, as Perez found a header on a cross that he pushed past Sulte. Just like that, Indy went from a goal up, which has been rare this season, to back to level. 

Three. Minutes. There was literally nothing listed between the two actions.

Within ten minutes, Coach McAuley started making substitutions by bringing on the Bens. While Ikoba had the lone shot in the first half, he had some rough moments where he seemed out-of-sync with his teammates and he was one of the first subs, leaving in place for Ben Mines. O'Brien, J. left for Ofeimu. 

Another player came onto the field, but he was quickly ushered back off. I've seen a lot of things at The Mike, but there's a first for everything. Not sure where he came from, how he managed to bypass security, or what happened to him afterwards, but I believe this young fan is the only one to have been on the field during a game. Anybody else hearing an older brother egging him on right before this? 

"I dare you to run out on the field. Do it. I double dog dare you." 


After the substitutions, and the delay, Indy started to ever so slightly tilt the field in their direction. Another free kick from Indy from a dangerous spot and Blake continued to show he is at a different level than everybody else and he put a perfect ball into the box. It was basically where he put the first one, but instead of finding a player from the other team, he found Chapman-Page who deftly put it back into the mixer and Martinez headed it home to give Indy a 2-1 lead.

With the lead in Indy's favor, the game became wide open as North Carolina looked to equalize and Indy looked to counter with the space that was now presenting itself. Indy also ramped up their defensive effort from everybody. Indy, the club and its fans, felt like it was in a fight for the two days preceding this game. Indy, the men's team, fought for this win. You could see it in the players's faces. They were going to do everything they could do to hold onto the win. A win they knew would mean a lot to the fans. When the 4th official held up the sign indicating 5 more minutes, it felt overly generous in Carolina's favor, but nearly everything in the stoppage time was in Indy's favor.

In some ways, this felt like a cathartic win for the club and the supporters. Coach McAuley got his first home win. The players overcome another adage goal. The fans were able to show support like they have for the past 11 seasons. Regardless of where the discussions continue with the stadium and the Mayor and MLS, the win tonight showed the fight in this club at all levels. Fans, players, coaches, and front office staff. This felt like a much needed club win against a foe that seems to continue to be around in the big moments for Indy.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
This is a hard game to pick because I thought there were quite a few guys who had good games. I picked on Ikoba a little bit earlier, but even he didn't have a bad game; I just think he's still adapting to the team and/or the speed of play. There was the defensive lapse that led to the North Carolina goal, but I wouldn't say that the backline played poorly. I already complimented Blake on his free kick placement, and he's playing with so much confidence right now, he's taking bold shots on goal. I also complimented the other three in the midfield with Gibson, Lindley, and Guenzatti. I think I'm just going to give the GBGB to the midfield four of Gibson, Lindley, Blake, and Guenzatti. They were all box-to-box and put in a very good shift to get the victory.

Additional Photos - Don Thompson Photography

Friday, April 26, 2024

More thoughts on MLS to Indy

I've had another day to think about things. Another day to read informed and uninformed posts from people I respect, people I don't know, and people who I think are morons. Sorry, that's unfair. People that I think are maybe, or probably, unintelligent about the issues at hand, but speak as if they know what is going on. I'm going to be clear with you on where my information gaps are at in all of this. 

Let me be clear for the people in the back. I have no idea what is going on. I have guesses, suspicions, and some general knowledge of how these things have happened in the past to other clubs. There are probably only a handful of people that know most, and maybe not all, of the details, and all of those people are going to hold that information as close to the vest as they possibly can until it's impossible for them to hold it any longer. Keystone released an announcement about the Mayor and showed one of their cards. The Mayor had to respond and showed one of his cards. Both still have a bunch of cards in their hands.

Indy Eleven and Keystone have been doing this for years. How many of the Indy Eleven staff knew about what was going on with Keystone might be limited to just a couple people, or maybe none. I would guess that Greg Stremlaw had at least a surface level understanding, and maybe a little bit more, but I would bet that it didn't trickle down very far past him. Your day-to-day front office staff? They received the news with the rest of us. 

Politicians are synonymous with not giving all the details to all the people. The old saying, "lies, damned lies, and statistics" could probably be changed to "lies, damned lies, and politicians" at this point. I haven't seen a politician that I can fully trust in my entire life. So it doesn't surprise me at all that Mayor Hogsett was working behind-the-scenes on a potential MLS bid/stadium despite him having one of the shovels in his hand when the Indy Eleven had their groundbreaking ceremony last year. Did he know then that this week's events might take place? I doubt it, but you never know.

So whatever information we all know at this point, it's because somebody involved wanted you to know that piece. Whether they judged correctly on whether it was the appropriate time to pass along that information will be determined later. As I stated yesterday, Mayor Hogsett looked like he was being forced to give information yesterday. Like he wasn't ready to give what he did, but sure as hell wasn't going to give any more. From what I've seen today, that hasn't changed much.

As I also stated yesterday, Indy Eleven isn't perfect. Supporters know this. Some have decided to not be involved with the club due to some of those imperfections. I don't blame them for that. I have stuck around for 11 seasons despite some of my issues with the club. Maybe it's similar to a routine for them of not being able to "separate the art from the artist." Maybe I haven't given up on the soccer; "separating the soccer from the club" so to speak. Yet, despite those imperfections, I have dealt with some really good people with this club for a long time. I have had almost no interactions with Ersal, so I don't know him to be able to judge him. He doesn't know me. I bet he couldn't pick me out of a police lineup, despite my constant presence at games and in post-game media sessions, and that's okay. I don't do this to interact with the owner of the club. I do this to interact with other fans and supporters.

Those interactions, and the sweeping of them under the proverbial rug by the Mayor, are what have this fanbase up in arms. It's no secret that Ersal, the club, and many fans wanted MLS in the beginning. Let me rephrase that. It's no secret that Ersal, the club, and many fans wanted Division 1 status in the beginning. Early on, that meant MLS. Now, many/most of the long-time supporters have soured on MLS as they watched their brethren in other supporter groups around the country get booted to the side as billionaires bought teams in their city and forced the team that built relationships from the bottom up get kicked to the curb.

This is exactly what Mayor Hogsett proposed yesterday. He took what Indy Eleven and its supporters have built over the past 11 years and said it wasn't worth anything. For the past 24 hours, I have read people calling Indy Eleven "minor league." People who apparently don't understand how soccer in this country is different than the other major sports. Indy Eleven isn't a farm club to some "major" team. At this point, none of the USL Championship teams have that relationship. These are independent teams with professional soccer players that are working to bring soccer to their market and hopefully be financially successful at it. As I stated on X, Indy Eleven has a championship winning women's team, a championship winning Academy program, and 21 soccer clubs throughout the state that have an affiliation with the club. Indy also is set to have a 1st division women's soccer team starting in 2025, which could now be affected by the Mayor's announcement. 

Those are not actions of a "minor" club. Your continued use of the term undermines the rest of your point for soccer fans. 

One of those people was James Briggs with the Indy Star.

"Also, to state the obvious, Indy Eleven is a minor league team, a shaky status for long-term endurance. Indy Eleven has strong, passionate supporters and a cool culture. But the team is a niche, small-scale entertainment product that the vast majority of Indianapolis doesn't care about."

Given that James' previous statement before that one was this next gem, he lost me as being a reputable resource on this discussion:

"Indy Eleven's plan to build a 20,000-seat soccer stadium without an MLS team was like building a cruise ship and hoping it would bring the city an ocean."

I thought it when I read that part, but thankfully a former classmate of mine (technically my siblings' classmate) and former President of Indiana Sports Corp and former Chief of Staff under Mayor Ballard, Ryan Vaughn verbalized it for me:

The City of Indianapolis has a history of doing bold things with sports teams and one of those teams that Mayor Hogsett referenced yesterday was a result of the very thing Ryan was implying. The Indianapolis Colts are no longer the Baltimore Colts because Indianapolis built a cruise ship and it brought the ocean. The difference is that Indy Eleven already has the team here. There doesn't need to be a reason to start a new one or steal one from somewhere else. The stadium just gives them a proper place to play, and maybe, in the future, be capable of being a 1st Division club (again, with the men since the women's team will already have that status next year when ("if" now?) they join the USL Super League). 

Then there were a couple of interactions I had with Jefferey Tompkins, who I normally like to read regarding his thoughts on developments. However, he showed he may understand developments (of which Eleven Park is definitely one), but doesn't understand soccer in this state by first continuing the "minor league" narrative, but also with a post that is he deleted where he stated that Indy Eleven could move to Fort Wayne because they too are planning a downtown development that could include a soccer stadium. Fort Wayne already has a professional soccer team in the USL system that is partially owned by former U.S. Men's National Team player DaMarcus Beasley. Part of the issue today was soccer fans having to explain how soccer works in this country.

Former Indy Eleven player Daniel Keller had this to say to Mayor Hogsett:

I appreciated Keller has a player, but unfortunately, I disagree with him here. An MLS team in Indianapolis would fill a stadium. There are enough casual supporters who want to watch "major league" soccer to fill the stands. There are enough people out there who know Messi and some of the other major stars on those teams that they will come to the games that might not come to the Indy Eleven games. There are enough Indy Eleven soccer fans that just want to watch and support soccer in this city. An Indianapolis MLS team would be successful. Ersal knows it. The Brickyard Battalion and Indy Eleven soccer fans know it. There is interest in soccer in this city and state. 

The issue and outcry from Indy Eleven supporters is not (entirely) about bringing MLS to Indianapolis. It's that its being done without the people who have been supporting soccer in this city and state for a decade or more. It's looking around them to find something shinier. Daniel is right that a plan for MLS expansion without collaboration with the Brickyard Battalion is a miscalculation. If the Mayor had stood there yesterday with Ersal and a bunch of Indy Eleven fans next to him, this entire thing goes differently. 

The Indy Eleven fan base, but particularly the hard-core, long-term supporters value that Indy Eleven has been built, not bought. Maybe those are midwestern ideals, but those are things that are important to this fanbase and the Mayor overlooked everything about it.

I don't know if MLS will accept an Indianapolis bid to join the league. History has shown that Indianapolis have never been that high on MLS's list, and so I seriously doubt that anything comes of it except the Mayor spending a bunch of money for a marketing campaign that won't work. The collateral damage, though, could be the demise of Indy Eleven. I know some people who don't think that will be true, and I indicated yesterday that it could survive as least short-term as an F you to the Mayor from Ersal. Yet, fans have waited years for the idea of having their own home stadium instead of sharing one with the Colts or playing at a track and soccer stadium that was on the IUPUI Master Plan to be demolished before Indy Eleven became its tenant. That, now, seems less likely again.

But who knows? 

The Mayor? Ersal Ozdemir? Their inside circles? Beyond that, I haven't found anybody that really knows what's going on. So maybe I'll be wrong.

Maybe Ersal and Keystone/Indy Eleven will pivot and the proposed >$1.0B development will be scaled back. The stadium was set to be $200M of that total, with the rest being the hotel, apartments, etc. Maybe the stadium doesn't look like the renderings (again...) and it gets redesigned to serve the more immediate needs with the ability to expand, which I've been saying they should do for years, and not all of the development happens. Maybe Ersal and Keystone/Indy Eleven say that they took over the management of Grand Park in Westfield, maybe they should just management Eleven Park and not turn it over to the Capital Improvement Board, which had been the plan. Maybe that's one more F you from Ersal to the Mayor, who I suspect won't be invited to that ribbon cutting ceremony. 

Who knows?

All day, I kept thinking about the phrase "Of all the unimportant things, football [soccer] is the most important." It's been attributed to Pope John Paul II, and whether that part is correct or not doesn't matter. What matters is that soccer and the community that it can build for them means a great deal. Soccer is important. The soccer community is important. The Mayor's announcement yesterday reminded me of that fact. I don't know all the Indy Eleven supporters, but I know a fair amount, and I believe a fair amount read the things that I write. The things we share are important to us, and we've built it that way. The community we built is important to us. The Mayor has forgotten that.

Like I said yesterday, tomorrow night I'll be at Carroll Stadium with a bunch of other people who like to watch "minor league" soccer and scream and cheer for Indy Eleven for 90-minutes. I have a feeling that a bunch of the people who you have been reading the past 24 hours can't say the same thing.

For now, that's where my soccer team plays, so that's where I'll be.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

MLS to Indy - that ole trope

Look, nobody asked my opinion on this, but I've been writing about the Indy Eleven since the first games. I can't claim to be one of the original BYB members, but as the only grassroots media member to have stuck through the past 11 seasons with this team, maybe there's something that I can say about today's announcement that will resonate with other people.

Let me first fill in those who haven't heard. Today, at 5:30 PM, because that's a perfect time to make what he thinks is a major announcement, Mayor Hogsett announced that he had used the taxpayers' money to fly to New York City to met with Don Garber of MLS this past Monday to discuss the possibility of Indianapolis submitting an application to be part of Major League Soccer. Yesterday, to that end, he "submitted to the Metropolitan Development Commission and proposal for a new Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA) that would enable an alternative stadium site for the League and a prospective ownership group to consider, located near the Downtown Transit Center."

What he did and did not say spoke volumes. Or at least raised volumes worth of questions from Indy Eleven supporters, taxpayers, and Keystone/Indy Eleven.

At no point during his 5-ish minute press conference did he ever mention the current soccer team that resides in Indianapolis and has done so since 2013. 

At no point did he reference the groundbreaking ceremony he attended for Indy Eleven's Eleven Park less than a year ago, praising Ersal Ozdemir for his forward-thinking vision.

At no point did he say who was behind this bid application, because it's not the City that will pay for the MLS expansion fee that is generally considered to be in the $0.5 BILLION range these days, nor who would build the requisite soccer stadium for said potential MLS team, other than to say an "ownership group is forming - it includes a group of investors led by an experienced and well-respected sports executive, who has held leadership roles in MLS and global soccer.".

At no point did the Mayor reference any of the "minor league" teams in the City, just the Fever, the Pacers, and the Colts. Makes me wonder what he thinks of the Indy Fuel and the Indians, and even the forthcoming Indy Ignite pro volleyball team (which admittedly will play in Fishers...). Are those teams just as disposable as he apparently thinks about Indy Eleven?

At no point did he take questions from an audience that looked like it didn't include a single noticeable soccer supporter. They all clapped after the announcement, but I'm not sure why. The Mayor said his piece and then bolted out of the room like he stole something.

What I noticed most about the press conference announcement was how the Mayor seemed like he was at somebody's funeral giving depressing news or news that he didn't fully believe. It felt like a rushed announcement, given after normal work hours, like he was trying to get ahead of or respond to comments that others were making. It didn't feel like a complete announcement.

It's ironic to me that he did mention (or at least the press release mentioned) an "alternative stadium site," clearly referring to Eleven Park without actually calling it out, "located near the Downtown Transit Center," which if I'm not mistaken is about 2 blocks from the Indy Eleven offices. If this is due to a failing relationship between the Mayor and Ersal Ozdemir/Keystone/Indy Eleven, that's some stone cold brashness to suggest a site that close to the Indy Eleven headquarters. Why there might be some failing relationship is only speculation from me and I won't go down that path. 

If there was ever a way to light a fire under a team's fanbase that has been around for more than a decade, it's to deliver a press conference completely ignoring everything that fanbase has done for the City over that decade plus. Indy Eleven Twitter was, understandably, upset about the announcement, to say the least. Hell, if I was a bit more insane, the announcement probably only helped Ersal and Indy Eleven at this point. I won't go so far as to say it could have been orchestrated by Ozdemir, but I've seen dumber marketing campaigns.

Here's what I have to say about all this. If you look through this site even just a little, you'll know what the team has meant to me, and the millions of words I've written about the club. But Indy Eleven isn't perfect. They're not. The fans that are coming out of the woodwork right now to express their feelings know it isn't perfect. 

Yet, it's their club. 

This is a club that was built BY the fans, with the help of an owner with a vision and an original GM in Peter Wilt that saw what it could become. Through all the seasons, the Brickyard Battalion and fans have been there. For the Mayor to go around everything this club and its fans have tried to build for soccer in Indiana, it feels like he came into the game and kicked our soccer balls over the fence into the White River, spouting an application with an unnamed and faceless entity (or entities), with a mournful voice that was like, "I'm sorry, but this is in your best interest." 

Don't think that the entity is somebody like Simon or Irsay either. Money is flying all over the world right now with American investors in European clubs. There's no reason why that money can't stay domestically. The investors Mayor Hogsett references could literally be from anywhere, maybe in the world. If the Mayor has found a group to get a MLS team to Indy, I'm guessing it isn't local. And that's a large "IF" he found a group. His announcement was so vague, it sounded like a politician wrote it.

Indy Eleven had/has desires to be in MLS and Eleven Park was a step to make that move a bit more possible. They have been less vocal about it lately, and the rise of USL, and particularly the USL's Super League achieving first division status in competition with NWSL another first division league, have shown a potential way to be 1st division without being in MLS. However, you can't look past the fact that Indy Eleven, under current ownership even with the expanded ownership group, is likely to never going to be able to provide the upfront capital to get into MLS. 

If, and again that's a big IF, Mayor Hogsett somehow convinces MLS that they need to be in Indianapolis with local-ish teams already in Columbus, Chicago, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Saint Louis, and previously discussed city's like Detroit, it doesn't necessarily mean the end of Indy Eleven. I've written before about how many teams are based out of the Indiana area, and there could be room for two teams here; maybe not two first division teams, but two teams. I can envision Ersal and a bunch of BYB supporters staying with Indy Eleven purely out of spite for as long as they can muster the funds and the effort. Whether that's still in the USL Championship or requires moving down to League One, Ozdemir will likely give the ole F You try just to prove to the Mayor that the MLS team didn't kill his team. Indy will lose fans though, that's a given and Austin and San Diego have proven that the non-MLS team will suffer. Casual fans will support the "major league" team and Indy will have to try and survive with the die-hard fans who have supported Indy Eleven for a long time.

I don't how if, or how, the City and Indy Eleven plan for Eleven Park can be torn asunder, but if Soccer Warz has taught me anything over the years, it probably won't go down without a fight in court. We're missing all kinds of details and until those are brought to light, this is all speculation and a worthless press conference describing vague details that will go into an application process. I'm not getting worked up over this yet. There's too much politicking and positioning to know much of anything worthwhile.

For now, for the other Indy Eleven supporters or casual soccer fans that found this article because of the Mayor's announcement, I'll be at Carroll Stadium on Saturday night when Indy Eleven take on North Carolina FC.

That's where my soccer team plays.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC - 11.07


- Opponent: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
- Location: Weidner Field
- Attendance: 6,687
- Final Score: 1-1 D

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

- Substitution: Ofeimu 67' (O'Brien, J.); Collier 67' (Ikoba); Mines 85' (Martinez)

- Unused: Oettl, Gibson, O'Brien, E., Wootton

- Scoring Summary:
COL - 3' Damus (unassisted)
IND - 31' Williams (assist Stanley)

- Bookings:
IND - Chapman-Page 14' (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 15' (Yellow)
COL - Rocha 15' (Yellow)
IND - Martinez 18' (Yellow)
COL - Tejada 20' (Yellow)
COL - Hanya 45' (Yellow)
COL - Ackwei 58' (RED)
COL - Foster 70' (Yellow)
IND - Ofeimu 87' (Yellow)

- Referee: Trevor Wiseman
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

Looking at this year's Colorado Springs Switchgear roster is like a trip down Indy Eleven memory lane. Duke Lacroix from the early seasons, including the cross to Zayed in the 2016 game against the Carolina Railhawks that solidified the NASL Spring Championship. Juan Tejada and Jonas Fjeldberg. Two of the three players made the starting lineup, with Lacroix on the backline and Tejada starting up front. It says a lot about the history of the club that there are so many former Indy players around the league playing as opponents. Watching Pinho get 4 goals for Birmingham (another team with 3 former Indy players...also including Crognale and Pasher) in the midweek U.S. Open Cup game, reminds me that there are a bunch of super talented players out there that Indy has to face on a regular basis. #IndyForever, but not when they play Indy.

Throughout nearly all of Coach McAuley's tenure so far in Indy, he has said his goal with this team is to score goals. To that end, Indy hasn't been held scoreless in any game this season, including the US Open Cup game, scoring a total of 11 goals across all competitions. However, in those games, the only game they have kept an opponent scoreless is the midweek game against Chicago Fire II this past Wednesday. Six games into the season and Indy has given up 15 goals, with a -5 goal differential in league play. If there is a team that might need a good result more than Indy, it's Colorado Springs, having lost all 5 games they have played this season. Colorado came out firing in this game, getting their first goal in the 3rd minute on horrible defending from Indy. Sulte got his first start of the season in goal instead of Oettl, but less than five minutes into the game and his goal against average already took a hit. You might be able to blame the weather a bit, but he and the defenders made a mess of the cross that allowed Damus to open the scoring.

Then Colorado had more chances within minutes, including one off the woodwork in the 9th minute that would have made the game daunting for Indy. As it was, Indy weathered the early storm (minus the goal) to keep themselves within arms reach.

Then the yellow card parade started. Five players (3 for IND, 2 for COL) picked up yellow cards in a 6-minute window, making every tackle by players a nervy affair. Once the yellow cards slowed down, the game took on an appearance of guys walking on glass, knowing that there were 70-minutes remaining and wanting to be on the field instead of watching from the locker room. I'm not sure that I would call it boring soccer, but the flurry of yellow cards took a bunch of the high altitude air out of the stadium as none of the players wanted to get involved in an even marginal tackle that could send them to the locker room.

Halftime Goals - Looks like a mirror image
Then Indy found a way through a Stanley whipped cross to the center of the box that Williams firmly headed the ball past Herrera, despite having two defenders draped on him. Coach McAuley's statement that Indy was going to score goals this season continues to ring true. Indy have conceded the first goal in 4 of the 7 games, twice within the first three minutes, but have found a way to score goals after starting the game behind. If they can shore their defending (and goalkeeping if we're being honest), maybe this season starts going differently. Or maybe McAuley really just wants to play a style of soccer where Indy is going to either outscore teams or lose? He has said he wants this team to score goals and to bring excitement to the fans, but I think I can speak for a bunch of fans when I say that goals FOR are exciting. Continually watching the team concede goals AGAINST is less exciting. Even a bit frustrating. Seven games into the season, it's been a bit of a roller coaster ride.

Oakland - down, level, down (2-1 L)
Memphis - up, up, up 1 (2-1 W)
Sacramento - down, level (1-1 D)
Detroit - up, level, down (2-1 L)
Louisville - down, level, down, down 2, down 1, down 2, down 3, down 2 (5-3 L)
Charleston - down, level, up, level, down 1, down 2 (4-2 L)

Yikes, this team is keeping fans on their toes.

The halftime break increased the precipitation, giving the second half an air of "anything can happen now." Just before the hour mark, Colorado's Ackwei was shown a straight red on a toe-footed tackle on Blake, proving the "anything can happen now" feeling. With a man advantage and 30 minutes to play, a positive result beyond the draw seemed like a very real possibility for Indy. The main thing going for Colorado in most games late in the game is the effects of the altitude. Up a man, Indy could hold possession more and force Colorado to chase the ball, potentially flipping the normal Colorado home field advantage on its head. However, some of Indy's field switches were slow enough that it didn't force Colorado players to exert as much energy as they could have been, but you could probably put some of that on the fact that Indy were also playing at altitude, even if they were up a man.

Final 30 Minutes - Indy Eleven Shots
In the end, Indy managed 6 shots after the red card booking and none for Colorado, but Indy couldn't take advantage of their man advantage, as Colorado's tactical change by playing what looked like 4 defenders, 4 holding midfielders, and 1 "attacking" midfielder served them well and was enough for them to see out the draw in the snowy/icy/rainy conditions. Both teams needed a positive result, and you could argue that a draw provided that for both teams. However, I think both teams can feel like they left points on the table. Colorado should have done more with their opportunities in the first half and Indy should have done more with their man advantage at the end of the second half. Between the two teams, they finished with nearly identical stats, which you might expect from a game that played out the way this one did. Indy's man advantage narrowed the stats as they dominated the run-of-play at the end of the game. 

Indy finish their run of 3 games in 8 days with a 1W-1D-1L record. Indy return home next weekend to play North Carolina FC, who also find themselves on the bottom part of the table in their return to the Championship. As mentioned earlier, Indy and North Carolina have a history of important games (Carolina was also the opponent for Indy's very first game in club history), so I expect that fans will be anxious to see how this new chapter pans out. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I have stated ad nauseam on here that sometimes the winner of the GBGB just wins my "eye test," which means that it might not always be the person that you might think. Tonight's player definitely wins the "eye test" for me, but his stats back up his selection. Stanley was solid in defense, but was very active going forward, accounting for 9 of Indy's 23 crosses, and created 4 chances in addition to his assist on William's goal. Some other players had good games, but Stanley edges them tonight for the GBGB.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Chicago Fire FC II - 2024 U.S. Open Cup


- Opponent: Chicago Fire FC II
- Location: SeatGeek Stadium (Bridgeview, IL)
- Attendance: Not Many
- Final Score: 1-0 W

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

- Substitution: Stanley 27' (King - injury); Ikoba 58' (Mines), Schneider 58' (Blake), Williams 58' (Martinez); O'Brien, E. 89' (O'Brien, J.)

- Unused: Sulte, Henderlong

- Scoring Summary:
IND -  4' Martinez (assist Blake)

- Bookings:
IND - Ofeimu 31' (Yellow)
IND - Wootton 66' (Yellow)
IND - Diz Pe 67' (Yellow)
CHI II - Omari 73' (Yellow)
CHI II - (Yellow)
IND - Gibson 85' (Yellow)

- Referee: ?
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Indy Eleven's history with the U.S. Open Cup has been quite the roller coaster ride over the years. Tonight's game against Chicago Fire II is Indy's 13th game in the USOC. Indy's record in the Cup coming into tonight's game stood at 4W-1D-7L. Notably, the draw happened during the 2016 season when Indy went to Bridgeview's Toyota Park, now known as SeatGeek Stadium where the team played tonight, and took MLS side Chicago Fire to extra time. Braun found a 105th minute goal to give Indy the advantage, but conceded in the 111th minute. The game officially finished as a draw, but since somebody had to move on in the tournament format, the teams went to penalty kicks where Indy lost 4-3. 

It's the 7 losses where things get upsetting for me and lead to my pessimism before the game. Today, I put out a X (formerly Twitter) poll asking about fans' confidence coming into the game (results to the right). I've watched this team fail too many times against "lower" teams to have any confidence until the game was over. Pessimistic until proven otherwise.

Indy's losses:

If you're keeping track, that's four of Indy's seven losses to teams that were considered to be "lower division" than Indy, two of which were on the road, like tonight's game. So a game against a "lower" side on the road made me nervous. Indy also played CHI II during preseason getting a 2-nil victory, but as we've seen so far in league play, preseason results don't necessarily translate to season results. Throw in the fact that Indy has 3 games in 8 days, and some expected lineup adjustments for squad rotation, everything about this game worried me.

Indy did have plenty of squad rotation with Oettl, Gibson, and Blake being the only significant starters getting the start tonight. Not sure why Sulte didn't get some time with all the other changes, but maybe he has a bit of a tweak slowing him down.

Then Indy came out and scored in the 4th minute, easing some of my fears. Blake found Martinez who mistouched a ball that Blake rushed to get to and give right back to Martinez who calmly slotted the ball past the keeper Los. Indy still struggled to find possession and looked a little out of sync in the early stages, but the early goal gave them a little breathing room to get their feet under them as CHI II worked their attack. The early goal didn't slow CHI II down as they were the clear aggressor in the beginning of the game. 

King, who didn't see a ton of playing time last year due to injury, looked to hurt his hamstring in a non-contact injury. As a result, Indy had their first sub of the game well before they would have liked to sub, when Stanley came in for King in the 27th minute. Presumably, McAuley would have wanted a little more rest on his starting left back's legs, but there wasn't much else he could do. You can argue how often players actually are injured when head trainer Josh Frankham comes onto the field, but when a player goes down without contact and stays down in the 27th minute, you have to assume that the injury is legit.

As the half began to close, Indy found themselves in better offensive positions, but couldn't find a second backbreaking goal, despite some decent chances. CHI II continued to put Indy under pressure as well, but weren't clinical enough to significantly trouble Oettl. Though Oettl's clearances and distribution continue to be an issue as he regularly put the ball out of bounds, giving the ball immediately back to Chicago. The halftime stats indicated that CHI II outshot Indy 9 to 5 with a 7 to 1 advantage in shots on target. While CHI II may have put a bunch of balls on target, not that many of them were that threatening as they came from distance outside the box. CHI II had the possession advantage at 55% to 45% and that felt about right.

In the second half, CHI II were playing for their tournament lives and were even more aggressive in their attack, while Indy's attack wasn't as potent. Indy defended for the majority of the second half, trying to hold onto the 1-nil lead. McAuley made changes to his front line, bringing on Williams, Ikoba, and Schneider just before the 60-minute mark. Given the pressure that CHI II was putting on Indy, not changing out the defense seemed like a good idea. They weren't playing perfectly, but modifying the backline and affecting the relationships would have probably been a bad idea. 

Indy held on for the win, in regular time, but they were very underwhelming, again, in a USOC game against a team in a division below them. With MLS sides and the top USL-C sides entering the fray in the next round, Indy's history of getting a win then losing in the next round seems like a reasonable scenario. Despite a completely one-sided game in favor of the Fire kids, Indy did just enough to survive and advance. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. It's not the kind of game that will move them in the next round, but with a rotated lineup and three games in eight days, you take a shutout and make the trip back down I-65 knowing you get to play another day.

While they won't be moving on, you have to be impressed with the fight from the CHI II players, and their ability to increase the possession percentage by the end of the game to nearly a 60/40 split. They also finished with 20 shots, 10 of which were on target. By contrast, Indy had just one shot on target. It just happened to be the most important one. Indy win 1-nil and will find out who they face in the next round when the draw takes place tomorrow.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
For full transparency, I gave the GBGB to tonight's winner at halftime. There was absolutely little doubt in my mind that nothing was going to change in the second half that would change my mind. The GBGB goes to tonight's captain, Tyler Gibson. With an adjusted lineup, Gibson was everywhere, putting out fires, and generally doing what we have grown accustomed to seeing from Gibson. 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Charleston Battery - 11.06


- Opponent: Charleston Battery
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 8,556
- Final Score: 4-2 L

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

- Substitution: King 45' (Boudadi); Martinez 65' (Schneider); Mines 79' (Gibson)

- Unused: Sulte, Collier, Ofeimu, Wootton

- Scoring Summary:
CHS -  19' Ycaza (assist Markanich)
IND - 27' Ikoba (assist Schneider)
IND - 28' Guenzatti (assist Stanley)
CHS - 45'+ 2' Markanich (unassisted)
CHS - 76' Own Goal (King)
CHS - 86' Meyers (assist Ycaza)

- Bookings:
CHS - Allan 32' (Yellow)
IND - Chapman-Page 45'+ (Yellow)
IND - Blake 52' (Yellow)
IND - Stanley 68' (Yellow)
CHS - Smith 78' (Yellow)
IND - King 90'+1' (Yellow)

- Referee: Greg Dopka
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Star Wars night brought Jedi, Storm Troopers, Mandalorian, and Grogu to Carroll Stadium on a perfect night for soccer in Indy. It also brought new faces to the gameday lineup with the newly acquired Bens (Mines and Ofeimu, not Kenobi). The arrival of the Bens meant that Babir was sent south to Miami in the trade, so Chapman-Page returned from his injury to anchor the backline with Diz Pe. The Force also took Lindley out of the lineup with a lower body injury (1st time in 41 games), keeping him out of the game, with Quinn and Sanchez listed as the only other injuries. With the Academy teams scattered in other places for their MLS Next Pro games this weekend, the new rule permitting Indy to have more than 18 players on the gameday roster wasn't able to be used. So it was just the pros tonight and no Padawan.

Coming off back-to-back losses and looking ahead to a 3 game in 8-day stretch due to the upcoming midweek U.S. Open Cup game on Wednesday against Chicago Fire FC II, Indy needed to kick off the week with a positive result. Standing in their way was Charleston Battery, the team that bludgeoned Indy 5-nil during last year's playoff game, who also took down Louisville 3-2 this past Tuesday, to put themselves at the top of the table (admittedly having played more games than every other team). Indy opened the game facing into the setting sun (luckily there weren't two as on Tatooine) to give Oettl something else to deal with in the early going. 

Full-time Average Position
Indy put themselves on the front foot early with Blake getting his first shot on goal within the first 30-seconds. Indy also started this game with pressure on Charleston every time they touched the ball, but what was most notable about the way Indy was playing was that there seemed to be a more concerted effort to maintain possession. The frequent and immediate blasts forward were not as frequent nor as immediate. Coach McAuley indicated this week that the team might need to look at different players or different tactics. With the announced transfer this week, the former was done and the tactics to start the game looked like the latter was being evaluated too. Indy spent the bulk of the first half in Charleston's half of the field, and finished the game overall with an average player position in Charleston's half.

However, a flurry of activity at both ends of the field after the 15th minute resulted in a 19th minute goal from Charleston, arguably against the overall run-of-play. Stanley put a difficult ball to Gibson who couldn't handle the pass and Charleston counterattacked to give them the go-ahead goal, forcing Indy to once again play from behind. The goal gave Charleston some confidence and the next few minutes were played in Indy's box with repeated corner kicks, shots, and forays into Indy's box. 

Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography
Then Indy found their own goal to bring things level as Indy attacked through the center of the pitch. Schneider found Ikoba who took on a defender, continued further towards the center, and then put a shot to the right of Grinwis to bring the score level. Less than a minute later, Indy put themselves up when Stanley put a ball to the back post that Guenzatti headed into the goal. Before the Brickyard Battalion's smoke from the first goal subsided across the pitch, they had to start some more. Indy continued to put their foot on the gas in the next few minutes and nearly found a third goal when Stanley put another ball across the goal that nearly found the head of Ikoba. 

The game slowed down a bit for the next 10 or 15 minutes, but a stoppage time goal from Charleston put the teams again level going into the halftime locker. Markanich found himself with the ball and space to drive at the Indy goal. Before Indy could step to him, he put a ball to the far side of the goal passed Oettl. It would be harder to consider the goal to be against the run-of-play like the first goal since Charleston had worked themselves into the game, but Indy only had a few times when they seemed to switch off, and Charleston took advantage of both of them. Charleston finished the half with three shots, all of them on target, with two going for goals. That's an efficient effort from the visitors. 

Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography

Due to a late half injury to Boudadi that he gutted out until halftime, there was an immediate substitution after the break as King came in to replace him. The substitution was a like-for-like with King taking the right back position, but King isn't quite as fleet of foot as Boudadi. Though he is a bit more physical, picking up his first yellow card of the season late in the game, in just 63 minutes of action this season.

Charleston started the second half much the way that Indy started the first half. Within the first couple of minutes, they had a couple of good chances from back-to-back corner kicks, and were holding the ball well forcing Indy to defend more. While it looked like this was a conscious effort by Charleston to hold the ball more, Indy were also not as effective with their press. The Indy players were more selective on when they pressed, but generally did not attack Charleston in the second half the way they did in the first half. 

The time on the ball eventually led to a corner kick for Charleston. The resulting kick pinged off two separate Indy Eleven players, the last of which was the second half sub King, before dropping over Oettl's outstretched arm over the goal line. Indy now stared at a 3-2 deficit with time winding down. Coach McAuley pulled out Gibson and inserted Mines to add yet another attacking player after having brought on Martinez for Schneider. If nothing else from his time here, Coach McAuley has made good on his promise that Indy would be an attacking team. 

When Indy conceded a fourth goal late, Indy has now been outscored 11 to 6 in their last three games, all losses. Indy is scoring goals, being tied for 7th in the league in goal creation, but are sitting in the bottom five in goal differential at -5. Whatever Indy is doing right or wrong at this point in the season, conceding goals has become a major issue at the moment. Whether that is miscommunication between Oettl and the guys in front of him, or the fact that the back four has constantly changed each game (only the Memphis to Sacramento games used the same defenders in back-to-back games), something has gone wrong the past few games.

Photo Credit: Don Thompson Photography

As Coach McAuley stated in the post-game press conference, "when this team is good, it's good. When it's bad, it's really bad." Indy was clearly the better team in the first half, but something changed after conceding the second goal right before halftime, and they looked like a different team in the second half. I don't want to alarm anybody, but this is now just marginally ahead of the worst 6-game start to a season since the 2014 season, and that season didn't see a home league win until late in the season (the 24th game...out of 27 games). This year's team is now 1W-2D-4L, whereas that 2014 team was 0W-2D-4L. The 2024 version of Indy Eleven is far more talented than that 2014 team, but aren't getting any better results at the moment.

Indy head to Chicago to take on the Chicago Fire II in the U.S. Open Cup. Indy defeated the Fire II during preseason by a score of 2-nil, but preseason is different from a tournament format game. The preseason game was hard-fought as fans got their first chance to see the team's new style and tactics, and I would expect a similar effort from Chicago this time around. McAuley has said he takes the U.S. Open Cup seriously, but with some injuries already (or still) plaguing this team, it will be interesting to see what players get used on Wednesday, knowing that they need to travel to Colorado on the weekend.

Indy returns to The Mike on April 27th to take on North Carolina FC, having made their way back up to the Championship level. Indy has had a long history with the club from North Carolina, in some very key moments. Maybe Indy fans will get to see another classic chapter in this series. Or maybe it will be another one to forget. Hard to tell with this team right now.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I wanted to give tonight's GBGB to Ikoba for his goal tonight, opening his account for the team. However, looking at his personal stats for the game, they just don't compare favorably to some of his other teammates. He did look better than he has all season, and for a young player, getting experience playing with Williams and Guenzatti around him will help, but he's still holding onto the ball a touch long at times. I suspect he's still figuring out the speed of the game at this level. I saw some good things from him tonight, so it was close.

Guenzatti - Fulltime Distribution
However, I can't overlook Guenzatti. I hate that I keep giving the GBGB to Blake or Guenzatti, but right now, they are far and away the players that I keep seeing as the most impactful (with a nod to Lindley and Gibson as well). Guenzatti was all over the pitch trying to get his teammates involved. He scored a goal, was close on a couple others. He may not be this year's explicit captain, but he's playing like one. His runs off the ball to help his teammates are likely going unnoticed by many fans, but he's putting in a hell of a shift every game. So, Guenzatti gets tonight's GBGB.

Additional Photos - Don Thompson Photography

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City - 11.05


- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Lynn Family Stadium
- Attendance: 11,330
- Final Score: 5-3 L

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

- Substitution: Gibson 62' (Schneider); Ikoba 62' (Williams); Collier 79' (Guenzatti)

- Unused: Sulte, Barbir, King, Wootton

- Scoring Summary:
LOU -  16' Harris (assist Morris)
IND - 34' Blake (Penalty Kick)
LOU - 41' Wilson (assist Harris)
LOU - 50' Wynder (assist Serrano)
IND - 59' Blake (assist Guenzatti)
LOU - 62' Harris (assist Perez)
LOU - 71' Harris (assist Serrano)
IND - 82' Own Goal (McCabe)

- Bookings:
IND - Martinez 32' (Yellow)
IND - Boudadi 40' (Yellow)
IND - Oettl 71' (Yellow)
LOU - Las 77' (Yellow)
LOU - Serrano 87' (Yellow)
LOU - Gonzales 90'+6' (Yellow)

- Referee: Jeremy Scheer
- Adage goals: Three

Thoughts and Opinions

Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Football Contest

Columbia Broadcasting System


The USL Championship made its national television debut with Indy Eleven and Louisville City FC in a game with one of the longest rivalry names in probably all of soccer. Both teams have players who have played on both sides of the rivalry with, amazingly to me, both starting the game on the bench. Tyler Gibson has been a mainstay in the midfield of both teams and Dylan Mares made a stop in El Paso between his time in Indy and his time now in Louisville. Louisville has started their season in much the same way that Louisville has started most of their seasons. Louisville came into the game undefeated, with three wins and a +8 goal differential. Indy has had inconsistent results in their first four games with a 1W-1D-2L record and a -1 GD.

It took just over 15 minutes for Louisville to cash in on the pressure that they were putting on Indy, showing the two different forms the teams are in for the early part of the season. It took just under another 15 minutes for Louisville to nearly double that advantage when Davila rocketed a ball off Oettl's right post before closing the entire goal and finding Stanley for a clearance.

The first thirty minutes was all Louisville. Just after the 30-minute mark, though, Indy found a way into the game as Boudadi attacked up the wings and found himself clipped inside the box for an awarded penalty kick. Indy's surprising offensive threat this season, Jack Blake, stepped up and put the firmly down the middle of the goal as Las dove to his left. It was against the run of play, but Indy needed it.

Then they threw it right back away because Indy had no answer for Wilson Harris. Harris found another ball up the left side of the field, and placed a ball through the center of the 18-yard box, where an on-rushing Wilson found the ball coming right to him and calmly slotted his first goal of his career over a late-arriving Stanley and out of the reach of a diving Oettl. The teams finished the half with a deserved lead for Louisville. Going into the locker room, Louisville had to feel like they left goals on the field and Indy had to be scratching their head on how the hell they were going to slow down Harris, who was running rampant against one of Indy's best defenders in Boudadi.

What happened after halftime was that Louisville put their foot on Indy's throat and scored a third goal within 5-minutes of the second stanza's whistle. I don't want to say that it was over at that point, but it kind of was semantics at that point. Indy found another goal through Blake in the 59th minute and then promptly gave it right back in the 62nd minute. Harris added another one 9-minutes later for good measure. Indy found a third goal in the 82nd from a Niall McCabe own goal to help with the goal differential. With 10 minutes worth of stoppage time that gave both teams opportunities to add to the EIGHT goal outing, both teams looked like they were tired as shots drifted wide and the game mercifully came to an end for Eleven fans. 

Indy returns to Carroll Stadium next weekend to play Charleston, with questions to answer on how they're going to get their next victory against yet another top of the table team.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Another game where his ability to score is the only thing that kept this game close for Indy. In the loss, Blake continues to show that he is unafraid to take shots at goal, and is finding the back of it frequently. The GBGB once again goes to Blake.