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. 

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