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

No comments: