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

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