Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Indy Eleven vs St. Charles FC - 03.04


- Opponent: St. Charles FC
- Location: St. Charles Field - Lutheran High School
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 9-0 W

- Starting XI: Reason, Otto, Cherry, Cuneio, Snyder, Unkraut, Rogers (C), Pelkowski, White, Jacomen, Mitchell

- Substitution: Adam 61' (White); Bagley 61' (Rogers); Budish 61' (Cuneio); Chester 61' (Mitchell); Darey 61' (Otto); Sexton 61' (Jacomen)

- Unused: Blair

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Jacomen 13' (assist Mitchell)
IND - Rogers 27' (unassisted)
IND - Rogers 31' (assist Pelkowski)
IND - White 45' (assist Mitchell)
IND - Mitchell 49' (assist Rogers)
IND - Jacomen 55' (assist assist Mitchell)
IND - White 58' (unassisted)
IND - Bagley 75' (assist Budish)
IND - Pelkowski 79' (unassisted)

- Bookings: 
STC - Hollingsworth 8X' (Yellow)

- Referee: Velimir Stefanovic
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

With a midweek game on the road, the veterans of the team stayed back home with their day jobs while the up-and-coming players returned to the starting lineup. St. Charles started the same four players up top, but from the midfield back to goal, Barcom was the only other holdover from last week's game. In the early stages of the game, the names and faces changed, but the possession and play was clearly still tilted in favor of Indy Eleven. With the exception of a single effective counterattack by STC that ultimately resulted in a shot from Hollingshead that rattled the crossbar, the ball rarely crossed the midfield line into Indy's defensive half. 

Mitchell and Jacomen broke through the compact STC defense to get the scoring started. That goal by Jacomen in just the 13th minute of the game was the game winner. Indy tacked on three more goals before halftime as Rogers picked up a brace, and White rounded out the scoring to go to the halftime break up 4-nil. After last week's game, when I asked him what he could take from the game moving forward, he stated, "not much really." The goal of this game was to show that the younger players could do the same thing as the vets did last week against an overmatched opponent.

St. Charles haven't scored on the season. They were outscored 4-nil in back-to-back games against Lexington, lost 10-nil to Indy last week, and gave up another 9 tonight, but have yet to score their own goal on the season. After tonight, they sit with a -27 goal differential and have just 4 shots on target.

St. Charles have the distinction of being the only team to have defeated Indy Eleven in regular season play, but these are two teams that have drastically different levels of talent. Indy dominated in the loss last year when they had one of those days when they couldn't capitalize on their chances and STC found the back of the goal twice in their only two real opportunities. With the exception of that result, this has been a completely one-sided affair. Since the loss, Indy has outscored St. Charles 35-nil. There were moments in this game when the camera didn't even bother panning to Indy's defensive half and just waited for the ball to return to STC's defensive half where the majority of the action occurred. 

The best defense St. Charles provided tonight was late in the game when Darey stepped up to take a penalty kick and the turf literally came out of the ground, forcing Darey to slip and send the ball skyward. Between the crappy camera work and a missed penalty due to turf issues, it will be nice to return return home to Grand Park on Sunday to play Lexington with reasonable turf and good television production. Lexington has started the season with two early wins against STC, but lost to Kings Hammer this past Saturday. Coach Dolinsky thinks the remaining home games (Lexington, Racing on the 7th, & Kings Hammer on the 12th) might determine who makes the playoffs from the Valley Division so Indy fans get out in force to support your Girls in Blue.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Like the last game, it's difficult narrow it down when three players score a brace, but the edge tonight goes to Mitchell who accounted for 4 of the goals before being subbed out in the 61st minute. She opened the scoring in the second half, but contributed a hat trick of assists. So Mitchell gets tonight's GBGB due to her ability to affect the game and put other players in positions to get their own goals.

Eleven Park AKA Titanic Park

 Let me start with some prefaces.

  1. I did not attend the City-County Council meeting on Tuesday May 28th, 2024. Nearly everything I gleaned from that meeting was obtained via X, and specifically, Kurt Darling of WIBC. I will reference his name throughout, but not all the links. Go to his X page and you'll find them all there. Thanks Kurt!
  2. My first article about an Indy Eleven stadium happened in December 2014 where I discussed the site near the Heliport. Does that make me an expert? No. Does it mean that I have spent a long time thinking about an Indy Eleven stadium? Yes. The location is not something new, even though it might feel that way right now.
  3. I don't know anything more than what most people know. The people that wouldn't talk to me before still won't talk to me. The people that I used to think would give me an honest opinion, I don't think will do that anymore. Certainly not on-record. Is that going to stop me from giving my thoughts now? Hell no.
Let's move onto the basics from tonight's meeting. The CCC approved the proposal to create a second Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA2) by a vote of 6 yea, 4 nay, 1 abstain. Per Mr. Darling:

Annee: No
Bain: Yes
Boots: Yes
Brown: Yes
Dilk: No
Lewis: No
Mowery: No
Neilsen: Yes
Perkins: Yes
Robinson: Abstain
Osili: Yes

Mr. Darling conveyed this little nugget that I will discuss more later: 
Councilor Evans asks Deputy Mayor Parker what's next if the MLS proposal is defeated.
"If PSDA2 is defeated, we will not be building a soccer stadium. Period," he said.

Many eggs versus two big eggs:
City attorney Scott Chinn explains that the new proposal has "more eggs in one basket" as opposed to only "two big eggs" with Eleven Park.  

He says the new proposal is a lot more diverse as a tax district and keeps city liability to fill in the "gap" at a minimum.

And finally:
Deputy Mayor Dan Parker says the city backed out of the Eleven Park proposal because it "presented too much risk to city taxpayers." He says the new MLS proposal has "much less risk."

He added the "gap" in fiscal liability the city would take on with Eleven Park was "too big."

Now let's move to my thoughts.

I absolutely agree with Deputy Mayor Parker that "we" (the City of Indianapolis) will not be building a soccer stadium. The passing of the proposal in all reality kills the Eleven Park stadium at the PSDA1 site. With the deadline for the financial portion of the PSDA law fast approaching, the City and the Mayor will now move forward at full speed trying to get the PSDA2 area finalized and Keystone/Ersal don't have enough time to come up with a PSDA3 site. What I suspect happens is that 1) the Mayor's Office somehow manages to get part of the way there but don't succeed in jumping through all the legal hoops, thereby killing the PSDA2 stadium, or 2) they do manage to make it through the hoops and MLS says, "nay, that's okay, thanks for playing our game though," thereby killing the PSDA2 stadium. Since the Mayor already killed PSDA1, Indy doesn't build a soccer stadium. Deputy Mayor Parker tells the truth. The MLS proposal has "much less risk" on "City taxpayers" because nothing gets built. No real risk when there isn't anything built.

As I discussed in my last article about the resolution, the Mayor's Office's plan definitely spreads around the PSDA2 throughout the 1-mile radius allowed by the law. That's the "many eggs" versus Keystone/Ersal's Eleven Park development "big eggs." Looking at all the locations that the Mayor's office included in the PSDA2, I question whether even the combined effort of all those locations would be enough to "fill in the gap" if the stadium doesn't make the money expected. However, I've read through earlier financial proposals for the stadiums, and nearly all of them are more optimistic about revenue than I would think prudent and that hasn't changed from the time the PSDA1 was discussed. It isn't like the Mayor didn't see those projections months/years ago. Moving the "other revenue" sources to dozens of sites from just the one Eleven Park site doesn't change the financials that much based on what I saw. 

If there were any grown-ups in the room, here's how I can see this thing moving forward that actually benefits everybody. 

Oh wait. One other thing that was mentioned in the meeting and that continues to be a sticking point for me is that the Mayor's Office has yet to publicly state who is included in this mysterious MLS investor's group. If you're using public funds for the stadium portion, contingent upon the success of those investor's ability to get into MLS, I think the public should have access to those persons, even if the soccer team to MLS is a private to private exchange. 

Okay, back to what I was saying. Grown-ups in the room. Nearly all of this is stuff that I have been saying for weeks, none of it publicly until I could get more information. Since that seems like that is going to be impossible to obtain, I'm just going to say it now out loud as my unsolicited thoughts.

The main points are as follows:

  1. PSDA1 and PSDA2 should merge. 
  2. The City should pay the cost to inter however many remains are found.
  3. MLS to Indy Eleven
  4. Punch your weight.

1. The concept of spreading around the tax base in the PSDA is a good idea. Having a stadium and a core development around it is also a good idea. I'm not sure that the original concept of the PSDA and the law was written around included using existing businesses, but rather was written more with the intent of providing new businesses and "transformational developments" to grow the City. However, best I can tell, it doesn't preclude the use of the existing businesses either. If the Mayor's Office didn't think that the rest of the Eleven Park development was going to be enough in a stadium shortfall, why not maintain that development and just add to it? The Mayor's idea isn't necessarily a poor one, just a poorly executed one at the moment. The stadium with the Eleven Park developments PLUS the other businesses should provide enough financial backstop. Why does it have to be either/or? Nearly everything associated with the stadium/MLS right now is hearsay, rumors, or lies. If nobody else has to say their sources, then my comments aren't any different, but I heard that the Mayor can't get his PSDA2 site. So he's on the verge of having a PSDA without a stadium site, which means no stadium, which means no MLS, which, ultimately, means this all has occurred for nothing, Unless you believe the conspiracy theorists out there that MLS is actively trying to kill off the "marquee" names in USL, in which case everything else in this article doesn't matter if that's true and Garber wins. Back to the point of this bullet item though, a combined PSDA1 + PSDA2 makes conjunction with below item #2. 

2. The very first time that the City allowed a development to occur on the Greenlawn Cemetery site without first having moved every single remain from it, the City made a mistake. The City then compounded that mistake over and over again. While some of those remains were likely considered "property" at that time, that's a mistake we can fix now. A mistake that no single developer (however hastily they purchased the property without fully vetting the site) should have to bear alone. The mistakes were our ancestors' and the bill has come due. Without properly interring the remains, the site will remain undevelopable and if that's the case, we might as well let Keystone sell the land back to the City, throw down some sod or seed, and put a sign by the road renaming the land Greenlawn Cemetery. Whether there is 1 remain, 650 remains, or the 15,000 remains that was mentioned in the meeting, the site is still a cemetery until the remains have been removed. That's on all of us. 

3. If MLS comes to Indianapolis, they should come to Indy Eleven. I, personally, don't care if that's with Ersal Ozdemir or some unknown investors with Ersal as a minority owner because he sells his team's name to the MLS owners for their use. There is no MLS talk in 2024 without Indy Eleven. That's a fact and one that shouldn't be overlooked by anybody on the MLS side of things. 

4. It's also okay to just punch your weight. John Cusack in High Fidelity provided me with that line that I'm going to adjust here for my use. "The thing I learned from the whole [MLS] debacle was that you have to punch your own weight. You see, [MLS], she's out of my class. ... Too much. I mean, what am I? I'm a middleweight. Hey, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but I'm certainly not the dumbest." Naptown, that's us. It's okay to be a middleweight. It's okay to be the best damn middleweight that you can be. That could mean the team stops thinking about MLS and just tries to be the best damn USL Championship (or USL Premier if the often discussed pro/rel version of USL ever happens) they can be. In the words of Stephen Stills, "And if you can't be with the one you love, honey love the one you're with." Utilize the new billionaire owner Chuck Surack to help privately fund a 15k seat stadium that can be expanded if that need arrives, sooner or later. Punch your weight.

Since I'm not seeing any grown-ups, here's what I think could (or does) actually happen:

  1. PSDA2 kills PSDA1.
  2. MLS kills PSDA2.
  3. Indy Eleven still without a stadium (more than a dozen years into its founding while new USL Championship side Rhode Island FC is already in the process of building a stadium) seeks other options that don't include a PSDA with an Indianapolis politician.
    1. See above discussion about punching your weight.
    2. Ersal/Keystone convince Mayor of Westfield that a stadium located in/around Grand Park makes for a good idea and synergy, hoping a different politician will be better.
      Narrator: "It won't."
  4. As best I can tell, while Indy Eleven can technically use Carroll Stadium for its women's USL Super League team (reminder, that's a Division 1 level league, on par with NWSL), the lack of their own stadium kills the women's professional team because fans don't want to sit at Carroll Stadium in the winter and the players don't want to play on the turf in the winter. Players like Katie Soderstrom, who came back to Indy from a pro career in Europe, I think partially intrigued by the idea of being part of Indy Eleven's inaugural Super League team, watch that dream remain just a dream.
I've said it before on this site. This club isn't perfect. It's owner(s) isn't perfect. 

Right now, though, me writing this article is starting to feel like I'm part of the band playing on the Titanic. Titanic Park.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Phoenix Rising - 11.12


- Opponent: Phoenix Rising FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium 
- Attendance: 10,066
- Final Score: 2-1 W

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

- Substitution: Collier 61' (Williams); Gibson 61' (Lindley); Mines 61' (Boudadi); Wotton 71' (Guenzatti); O'Brien, E. 82' (Blake)

- Unused: Oettl, Schneider

- Scoring Summary:
PHX - Hernandez 19' (assist Zambrano)
IND - Blake 26' (Penalty Kick)
IND - Blake 64' (unassisted - free kick)

- Bookings:
PHX - Hernandez 27' (Yellow)
PHX - Scearce 32' (Yellow)
IND - Lindley 41' (Yellow)
IND - Boudadi 45'+2' (Yellow)
PHX - Wyke 50' (Yellow)
IND - Blake 57' (Yellow)
PHX - Rios Novo 62' (Yellow)
IND - O'Brien, E. 90' (Yellow)

- Referee: Calin Radosav
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

For everybody that managed to make it all 5 games for the club for both the women's and men's teams...

Congrats! We made it! We completed the #IronFan (thanks @Indy11SouthEnd for that hashtag!).

Phoenix come to Indy as the reigning USL Championship winners, but come into town with a similar record as the Eleven; 5W-2D-4L for Indy, 4W-3D-4L for Phoenix. Much like Indy, Phoenix struggled to find their footing early in the season after the departure of their manager, former Indy Eleven player, Juan Guerra after he left for an assistant coach role at Houston Dynamo. While Indy won on Wednesday in their USOC game, Phoenix fell to MLS side Seattle Sounders by a score of 2-1.

Momentum and belief are important factors for teams. After Indy's humbling defeats against Louisville and Charleston, Indy hasn't seen a defeat in any competition. After Phoenix lost to Pittsburgh in late April, they too have only the loss against Seattle. Home cooking for Indy is helpful, while Phoenix have travelled all over the country this week. Indy's "easier" win midweek also allowed them to manage minutes and legs, something that McAuley has mentioned multiple times this year regarding squad rotation being accomplished in game versus between games.

While the game promotion for Indy was Racing Indy Night, the game was by no means a track meet. Indy had just a few counterattacks as Phoenix held the possession, but did so with slow movements instead of many quick attacks of Indy's defense. The Rising eventually found a corner kick in the 19th minute that Hernandez put past Sulte in one of Hunter's recent rare mistakes. Sulte misjudged the corner kick and the ball floated over his outstretched 6'-7" frame directly to Hernandez on the back post. As well as he has played in recent games, he's still just a 21-year old who is here to get minutes and will be subject to the occasional mistake.

The goal for Indy picked up their pace, not wanting the undefeated streak to come to an end at home in front of their home fans. The resulting uptick in effort shifted the line of confrontation to much further in PHX's defensive half of the pitch. The additional effort quickly led to a foul from Phoenix in their own box when Blake was taken down as he made his run towards goal. A quick point to the spot from referee Radosav gave Indy an opportunity to get back into the game. Blake brushed off the turf, stepped up to the spot, and leveled the game with a shot down the middle of the goal.

Just before the halftime whistle, the racing theme began to show itself as the game went end-to-end for a stretch, but Phoenix realized that was not the way they needed to play this game on their tired bodies and resorted back to putting their foot on the ball to bring the game back to a snail's pace. Headed into the locker room, Phoenix had to believe that they were the winners of the half, despite the tied score line and conceding the penalty kick. They played the way they wanted to play, exactly at the pace that they needed. Coach McAuley thought the guys looked a little tired during the Detroit game on Wednesday, and I don't think the first half of tonight's game was going to change their impression. 

As the teams came out of the locker room, Phoenix made immediate substitutions. Indy, as expected, stayed with the starting eleven. Coach McAuley has shown all season that he is going to stick with his starters until around the 60th minute mark. As the pace continued to be dictated by PHX, the second half looked like both teams were tired and were just trying to see the week out.

Moments after the substitution, Collier put pressure on Rios Novo who left his box to try and eliminate the pressure from the 6'-4" New Zealander. When Martinez intercepted the ball and put it on frame, Rios Novo was judged to have handled the ball giving Indy a free kick about 25-yards from goal. Blake stepped up, put the ball low and around the wall, and snuck it between Rios Novo and the post to put Indy ahead for the game winner.

The win gives Indy a 5-game win streak in league play and 6 unbeaten. Including the USOC games, the team is on a 7-game win streak and 9 unbeaten. The 5-game league win streak matches the club record set in the 2019 season. The club record for league undefeated streak is still a bit far away as the 2019 team had a 10-game undefeated streak, and the 2016 team started the season on a 13-game undefeated streak, but extended that even further to 16 games if you include the two USOC games and a friendly against Pachuca. The friendly doesn't count towards official stats and the team lost the second of the USOC games in penalty kicks but it goes down officially as a draw. Regardless, the 2016 team was a hard team to beat. All that to say that the run this team is on is reaching club record streaks (on the men's side...).

Speaking of the 2016 team, with his minutes tonight, Tyler Gibson moved up one spot to 9th in club history for minutes played to sandwich himself ahead of Jon Busch and just behind Vukovic. He hasn't had the number of minutes this season that we've seen from him in the past, but I think part of that is just a crowded midfield with more players than positions. I'm extremely interested to see how things change when Quinn returns from his injury, further adding to that crowded midfield. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
Blake. A brace on a perfect penalty kick and a stunning free kick from outside the box. That will get the GBGB nearly every time.

Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

Friday, May 24, 2024

Indy Eleven vs St. Charles FC - 03.03


- Opponent: St. Charles FC
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 10-0 W

- Starting XI: Blair, Martin, Darey, Bahr, Sexton, Chatterton, Rogers (C), Chester, Dewey, S., Williams, Soderstron, K.

- Substitution: Adam 45' (Sexton), Otto 45' (Chatterton), Smith 45' (Rogers); Mitchell 63' (Williams); Johnson 63' (Dewey); Thompson 63' (Chester); Weiger 63' (Blair)

- Unused: No unused

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Dewey 16' (unassisted)
IND - Chester 20' (penalty kick)
IND - Rogers 25' (assist Martin)
IND - Soderstom 28' (unassisted)
IND - Soderstrom 35' (assist Sexton)
IND - Williams 40' (assist Bahr)
IND - Williams 54' (assist Soderstrom, K.)
IND - Chester 62' (unassisted)
IND - Mitchell 70' (assist Darey)
IND - Soderstrom 84' (assist Otto)

- Bookings: 
STC - Watson 19' (Yellow)

- Referee: Adam Saleh
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Indy and St. Charles have had an interesting short history. Indy holds a +22 goal differential between the two teams in their first three games. Indy beat St. Charles 8-nil in the first meeting at St. Charles' home, and defeated an outnumbered St. Charles 16-nil when they arrived to Grand Park late in the season with just 9 players. However, in the middle game, St. Charles handed Indy their first and only defeat in division play. The loss stung deeply for the Indy players and may have been what fueled their fire through the rest of the season and through the playoffs. It might not be a surprise that Coach Dolinsky pulled all the veterans into tonight's starting lineup instead of the upcoming young players that fans have seen the first two games. These players may still have a grudge that they are holding against the St. Charles team and want to beat them when they are at full strength and not a depleted team with less than a full starting lineup.

The game started entrenched in Indy's offensive side of the field, but a couple of offside calls slowed down some promising attacks. Indy switched side-to-side to try and break down the St. Charles defense. STC's rare forays forward were fairly easily dealt with by Martin, Bahr, and Darey. The early effort from STC made it look like they might rely on counterattacks and potential set pieces.

Indy's persistent pressure eventually resulted in a goal in the 16th minute when Williams found Rogers who attacked the center of the pitch running along the 18-yard box. Griffith spilled the shot and Dewey was on hand to tap in the ball that Griffith couldn't handle. 

A penalty kick was awarded to Indy in the 20th minute when Chester made her way around her defender in the box who then took Chester down from behind. She tried to hand the ball to Dewey to take the penalty kick, and Dewey promptly gave it right back to Chester. She stepped up and put the ball to the keeper's left out of Griffith's reach to double the scoring.

Martin to Rogers in the 26th minute with an in-perfect ball over the top that Rogers took off her chest to her feet and put it past Griffith to further extend the lead.

Things then started to get out of hand when Soderstrom put in an individual effort in the 28th minute against her defender and put her finish near post between Griffith and the post in a tight window. 

After the fourth goal, STC raised their line of pressure when they realized that the low block they had been doing wasn't being effective against, but they just couldn't handle the effort from the Indy defenders and midfielders. The game remained one-way traffic towards STC's goal until Soderstrom scored once again in the 35th minute. As she did last game, Sexton made a run up the right side, put her foot on the ball, and picked up her head to find a teammate. That teammate was Soderstrom, who once again put a ball in a location where Griffith had no chance at it.

Williams looked a tad rusty with her shots, but her timing and vision looked just as high level as last season. As the half was drawing to a close, Indy's fifth corner of the game finally put Williams on the board when she was able to get her head to Bahr's delivery. The 6-nil lead at halftime could have been more, but it's hard to nit-pick a game where every single statistical category was heavily weighted in Indy's favor. If Indy's starters were wanting to prove something to themselves and St. Charles, they emphatically did that in the first 45-minutes of action.

Indy made a few subs at halftime taking off the captain in Rogers, as well as the two pacy wingbacks in Sexton and Chatterton. Coach Dolinsky didn't fully call off the players, but the play slowed down just a little. Just under 10 minutes into the second half and Soderstrom took the ball deep into the corner before putting a ball across the six-yard line that Williams redirected into the goal for her second on the night.

After the goal, Coach Dolinsky finished off the substitutions taking off some of the vets and bringing on younger players. He continued to not tell them to stop scoring and Indy continued to do just that with Mitchell bringing the goal total to 9. Thompson and Johnson looked extremely dangerous after their arrival into the game and it looked like just a mater of time before they found one. They were unable to cash in on any of their chances, but their lone remaining vet up top, Soderstrom, rounded out the scoring in the 84th minute to bring the victory margin to double digits. 

It's a bit crazy to say with a +10 goal differential and a clean sheet, but this is one of those games where the final score doesn't reflect how dominant Indy was throughout the entirety of the game. STC put a couple shots on target, but nothing that could have been considered truly threatening. With the exception of last year's loss where Indy wasn't clinical around goal and STC was efficient in their limited shots, this series has been very one-sided. Indy now has a +32 goal differential with an average margin of victory of +11.3. 

"There was a little bit of redemption in the back of their minds, and to make amends for last year's performance. Not performance, the result. They came out and they got their goals tonight." - Coach Dolinsky

Indy head to St. Louis next week to face this same St. Charles team. Gotta love the USL W League scheduling. With tonight's starters predominantly being the players that are now working day jobs, fans  will likely see a return to the younger lineup that played the first two games. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Seriously, how can you possibly narrow it down to one player to receive the GBGB? There isn't a single player that I can think didn't play exceptionally well tonight. Goals came from everywhere and everybody. Martin and Bahr looked like the same players we saw in the Final last year against North Carolina FC. The goalkeeper pair had minimal work to do, but were effective when called upon to do their job. There was still a little struggle on one of STC's corner kicks that looked threateningly like it was going to spoil the clean sheet, but it was eventually cleared. Since it was a true team effort tonight, I guess I have to just give the GBGB to the stat-sheet-stuffer in Katie Soderstrom. She nabbed the season's first hat trick, while also providing the assist to Williams. 

Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Detroit City - 2024 U.S. Open Cup


- Opponent: Detroit City FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium 
- Attendance: 5,079
- Final Score: 3-0 W

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

- Substitution: Collier 66' (Guenzatti); Ikoba 66' (Martinez); Wootton 66' (Blake); Schneider 75' (Williams)

- Unused: Oettl, Boudadi, Gibson

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Own Goal 14' (Carroll)
IND - Williams 33' (assist Martinez)
IND - Ofeimu 36' (assist Stanley)

- Bookings:
IND - Ofeimu 7' (Yellow)
DET - Amoo-Mensah 61' (Yellow)
IND - Blake 65' (Yellow)
IND - Schneider 90'+1' (Yellow)

- Referee: Yusuke Araki
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

The below article is what I wrote for TheCup.US for the game, which was published there (with some editorial adjustments by the TheCup.US personnel).

Detroit City and Indy Eleven were the lone USL Championship vs USL Championship matchup in the Round of 16, guaranteeing that a team from the Division II league would make it into the quarterfinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the 7th consecutive year, and 15 of the last 16 tournaments. However, New Mexico United and Sacramento Republic beat Detroit and Indy to that honor by beating NYCFC II from MLS Next Pro and San Jose Earthquakes from MLS, respectively. 

Detroit reached the Round of 16 by defeating MLS’s Houston Dynamo, the tournament’s defending champions, after coming from behind to send the game to extra time after a 3-3 draw. It then took all 30 minutes of extra time and 20 penalty kicks when Houston’s goalkeeper Tarbell pushed his attempt wide, and DCFC’s goalkeeper Saldaña finished his attempt down the middle to send the defending champs home. Indy Eleven’s path was smoother as they defeated San Antonio FC 2-nil thanks to early goals from Williams and Blake.

Tonight’s U.S. Open Cup match between Detroit City FC and Indy Eleven marks the third time this season that the league foes have already played each other. Indy came out the victors in a 3-1 preseason affair in late February. In an early season matchup a month later, Detroit City flipped the script and pulled a late-game 2-1 winner in the 88th minute thanks to Maxi Rodriguez. The teams came into tonight’s game even in points in the USL-C Eastern Conference table, but with Detroit City having games-in-hand due to a less cluttered early season schedule. Since the two teams faced each other on March 30th, Indy has played 7 league games while Detroit City has played 5 games. While Indy is in the midst of a stretch of 3 games in 8 days, Detroit City hasn’t played since May 11th and don’t have their next game until May 29th. Clearly the teams came into this game with different needs for managing player’s bodies. 

They also came into the game as different teams than when they faced each other in March. Detroit has gone 2W-2D-1L in league play since the March matchup, while Indy came into the game on a 7-game unbeaten streak across all competitions after taking a couple of bad beatings from Louisville City and the Charleston Battery. Indy’s confidence in their recent run-of-form versus Detroit City’s confidence of having beaten an MLS side to reach this game was what was at play tonight. It was Indy’s confidence that won the night as they defeated Detroit by a score of 3-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. 

Starting lineups from both teams showed that they were taking the game seriously, with players that they would use in a normal league game. The teams had all the appearances of playing this game like a league playoff game. In early action, both teams looked to put themselves on the front foot to try and get an early lead. A breakaway for Detroit led to a tangling of feet, a yellow card to Indy’s Ofeimu, and a free kick for Detroit from just outside the 18-yard box. The kick was blocked by the wall, but the yellow card to Ofeimu put pressure on Indy’s back three to prevent a scenario where they were playing down a man, which generally spells defeat for teams in knockout games. 

As the game approached the quarter hour, Indy’s Mines sent a pass to an overlapping Ofeimu on the right side of the pitch, who promptly sent a cross to the six-yard box towards Martinez. The ball didn’t reach Martinez, but instead ricocheted off of Detroit’s Carroll to get the scoring started for the home team. It would be difficult to say the goal was completely against the run-of-play, but much of the play up to the goal had been in Indy’s defensive end, but generally in non-threatening positions. The goal by Indy ramped up Detroit’s pressure as they looked to immediately bring the game back to level.

Just shy of the 22-minute mark, Detroit finally and cleanly broke through the middle of the Indy lines and forced Sulte into a low stretching save to prevent Morris from finding that equalizing goal. The goal was pushed to his left and out for a corner kick that was cleared away by Indy. At this point in the game, Morris and Rodriguez were pulling the strings in the center of the pitch, but the team couldn’t get clean shots on target.

The lack of ability to get on the board came back to haunt Le Rouge as Indy tacked on goals in the 33rd and 35th minutes. For the first goal, after a series of corner kicks from both teams, Indy recycled a ball that Blake put over the top as both Martinez and Williams beat the offside trap. Martinez one-touched the ball to Williams who slotted it past Saldaña to double Indy’s lead. Two minutes later and yet another corner kick for Indy resulted in a headed goal from Ofeimu from Stanley’s back post kick.

In the remaining 10 minutes, Detroit continued to dominate possession, but Indy was content to sit back and absorb some of that pressure to prevent the late goal from Detroit that would give have given the visitors some life and momentum going into the halftime locker room. As the half progressed through the 3 minutes of stoppage time, Detroit forced Indy into intense defending and spectacular saves from Sulte. A 7th corner kick in the first half for Detroit as time was expiring nearly found the left side of the goal, but Sulte blocked the shot up into the air, and then punched the resulting ball out of bounds, allowing Indy fans to take a deep breath as referee Araki blew his whistle for the halftime break. On the flipside, a raucous Detroit contingent of fans was left wondering what changes Dichio would have in store to get their team back into the game after watching the first half largely take place in Indy’s defensive side of the pitch, but sitting in a large hole.

Detroit immediately made substitutions out of the locker room, taking off Levis and Rodriguez for Villanueva and Bezerra, respectively. A surprising substitution bringing Rodriguez off given his importance to the recent Open Cup result. Indy, contrarily, despite the fixture congestion this week, stayed with the starters to open the second half.

There didn’t appear to be any major tactical changes for Detroit with the substitutions as they continued to try and play through the center of the pitch, looking for moments when they could unbalance the Indy midfield and defenders. The corner kicks continued to mount for the visitors, but continued to be off on their delivery. 

Around the 60th minute, the physicality took another step up as the referee’s early lack of whistle translated to players realizing that the minor fouls called during league play were not going to be whistled today. The Indy players felt aggrieved when Matthews purposefully kicked Martinez after a corner kick. Then Amoo-Mensah picked up a yellow card in the 61st minute after a hard challenge to even the card count briefly before Blake picked up Indy’s second yellow card seconds before he was substituted out of the game. 

The remainder of the game took on a much different pace as Detroit began to look like they realized it wasn’t their night and Indy was content to defend to keep a clean sheet and counterattack when possible. Indy’s manager McAuley continued his trend of substituting in his normal substitution windows to manage his player’s minutes looking ahead to their match on Saturday against Phoenix Rising. Indy could be described as efficient in their offense in the first half and they let it carry them to the victory tonight. Indy Eleven’s manager McAuley had this to say about that efficiency:

“We were dangerous when we needed to be. We scored three goals and we had a chance to get another couple. Everybody knows their role, of what we want them to do, where to be at the right time, and what to do defensively. It’s people know their jobs, and once they know their jobs, you ask yourself ‘can they do their jobs?’ Currently the form is showing, yeah they can. When you win the ball back, you know you’ve got the opportunity to create numbers up in spaces they’ve left, and I thought we did that really well. Efficiently, in the first half.”

Indy and Detroit will face off yet again this season in league play so this rivalry will once again be on display later this year. For the night, though, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Indy Eleven took the victory and move onto the tournament’s quarterfinals for the first time in club history, joining the Indianapolis Inferno, in 1992, as the second team from Indiana to reach the quarterfinal round of the tournament. Much has been documented recently about Indy Eleven’s stadium and MLS controversy, but the Indy fans can take solace in the fact that their team is proceeding through the U.S. Open Cup with a series of games without conceding a goal. Their opponent in the quarterfinals will be determined tonight when the draw occurs.

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I'm splitting hairs here for tonight's GBGB because honestly I would like to give it to much of the midfield. They did a very good job with Detroit's tactical adjustment for this game to play through the center of the park and force the midfielders to make good decisions. However, Ofeimu gets the edge because he picked up an early yellow card that could have been costly in the physical nature of this game, but stayed clean the rest of the way. He scored a goal and had the unofficial assist on Own Goal's goal that opened the scoring. Very solid shift and he gets him tonight's GBGB.

Photos (Don Thompson Photography)

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Kings Hammer - 03.02


- Opponent: Kings Hammer
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 3-3 D

- Starting XI: Blair, Sexton, Snyder, Cherry, Cuneio, Unkraut, Rogers (C), Pelkowski, Mitchell, White, Chester

- Substitution: Jacomen 64' (Chester); Darey 64' (Unkraut); Otto 64' (Sexton); Bagley 78' (Rogers); Budish 84' (Mitchell)

- Unused: Weiger, Adam

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Mitchel 24' (assist Sexton)
IND - Chester 47' (assist White)
KH - White 60'
KH - Mink 64' (unassisted)
IND - Jacomen 83' (assist White)
KH - Yordy 90'+1' 

- Bookings:
IND - Cuneio 90' (Yellow)

- Referee: Grace Barrett
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Two out of the first three seasons for Indy, they have started their home opener with the team from Kings Hammer. With the exception of last year's 4-nil victory by the Eleven, the games have all been relatively close, with Indy holding a 3W-1D-0L record against the inaugural game foes from Cincinnati. The previous meetings have included Abby Unkraut on Kings Hammer's roster, but she had made the move to the good side and picked up her first start for Indy tonight against her former team and friends.

Indy looked to keep their good vibes going after their win against Racing Louisville while Kings Hammer, once again, kicked off their season in the unfriendly (to them) confines of the Grand Park Event Center. Their first game of the season came against the perennial favorite in Indy, on the road, after a delay of the start of the game because their team bus was stuck in traffic on I-465, and the players arrived without the proper gear. Or at least from what I heard later, different gear than they told Indy they would be wearing and Indy refused to change from their already planned blue kits. Even a call to USL W-League headquarters didn't help KH, and so they had to resort to white duct tape on the backs of their warm-up jerseys. Not a good start to the season.

It didn't take long for Indy to get their first shot, as a ball from Mitchell went off the crossbar within the first 90 seconds. Within the next 90 seconds, Indy nearly had another perfect chance at the goal, but was pulled back for Indy's first offside call. Kings Hammer struggled to keep any kind of possession, and also keep their duct tape numbers connected to their jerseys. Before the clock reached 5 minutes, at least one of Kings Hammers players were running around without a number.

Photo: Matt Schlotzhauer
However, despite all of Indy's early possession, it was Kings Hammer that had the game's first corner kick. Blair did a good job of holding onto the ball as it went over her head, but set pieces would turn out to be the deciding factor in this game. A couple minutes later and Indy's ability to get in and around the KH defenders led to a shot from Addie Chester. Indy's plan in the early stages was clear with the forwards making runs behind the KH defenders, with Cherry looking frequently over the midfielders to get the ball into a position to let the forwards do what they do. The 4-3-3 lineup for Indy frequently looked like a 4-2-4 with the midfielders, especially Rogers, pushing forward as well. Indy's back four mostly stayed home with Unkraut serving as the holding midfielder to put out the fires that were coming through the center of the field from KH.

Indy finally capitalized on their persistent attack of the KH defense when Rogers pushed wide and found an overlapping Sexton. Sexton went to the endline and put a cross towards the six-yard box and Mitchell found, bounced the ball off one defender, and then put the ricochet back on target and past Galley for the opening goal.

The opening goal sent Indy into further attack mode and tightened the screws to keep KH pinned in their defensive half. However, every time KH was able to counter, they did it with the foot firmly planted on the gas forcing the Indy defenders to track back with some last ditch defending. Both teams clearly felt that they had an advantage of their forwards over the other team's defenders. While Indy's attack over the defenders was usually accompanied with numbers, KH rarely had numbers when they went forward as Indy tracked back perfectly to stifle the attacks or force long-range shots that were mostly directly at Blair. Indy's ability to get a goal from their attack and preventing KH's counterattacks is why the team's went into the halftime locker room with Mitchell's goal being the separator.

Indy came out of the locker room and proceeded to double the lead by doing exactly what they had been doing; they attacked through the right side. This time it was through the pace of White who went to the endline, but instead of immediately sending in a cross, turned to the middle of the field and finally put a ball across the six-yard box where Chester easily redirected the ball into the goal. Within 2 minutes, KH found themselves down two goals and a hill to climb to get back into the game.

Right at the 60th minute, Kings Hammer did find a goal from a corner kick that Blair was unable to handle and it bounced around, lastly off an Indy defender for what looked like an Own Goal, but was credited to Taylor White. Less than five minutes later, again from a corner kick, KH leveled the match when Indy couldn't get the ball cleared. Blair was blocked by one of her defenders and the ensuing shot crept past her to turn the game on its head. What looked like an Indy victory suddenly became a back-and-forth affair with KH looking like a different team with the team flush with confidence. 

Addie Chester - Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski
After the goal from KH, Indy got away from what got them the lead and stopped going away from attacking the right side and resorted to more and more long balls through the middle of the field. As the game crept closer and closer to its conclusion, White dispossessed the Kings Hammer defender and went straight to goal with as much pace as when she started the game. As she did so, she pulled three defenders with her and calmly slotted the ball to her left to an on-rushing Jacomen. Jacomen turned the defender and put the ball past Galley to give Indy the lead again.

Yet Indy's early season issue with set pieces bit them again in this one. After Cunieo took down a KH player near the 18-yard box, KH had a free kick from a good angle and a good distance. Yordi bent the ball around the Indy wall and between the post and Blair, who might have been shading a bit too far to the wall side of her goal. Just like that, Kings Hammer had again fought back from a deficit to give them a point on the road on a night when things weren't going their way for them early.

It doesn't look like Indy is going to have issues scoring goals if the early season games are any indication, but they have conceded late in both games, while also conceding four goals from four set pieces. If Indy want to look for a place to work on in practice, that's a good place to start. For a team that has only had a couple weeks of training together, there were very good moments of connectivity. Set pieces are a place where that connectivity, where every player knows where they should be located, often takes time. Right now, it's the set pieces that are hurting Indy. In Louisville, the late set piece goal only prevented the clean sheet. Tonight's three-goal set piece barrage from Kings Hammer prevented Indy from getting a win and keeping pace with Lexington, who have won both of their games.

Indy also drew last year's home opener in a 1-1 affair against Racing Louisville, and last year finished fine, so there's no need to worry just yet about not making the playoffs, but in a compact ten-game season, there can't be too many more of missed opportunities and points the rest of the way. Indy doesn't have much time to think about this game as they go again on Thursday, in game 4 of the club's busy week. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Amelia White - Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski
I thought Cherry had a good game anchoring the back line. I thought Sexton had a really good game with her overlapping runs with Rogers on the right side. I thought Unkraut played well as the holding midfielder. As is often the case though, the eye test for me is what ultimately decided tonight's GBGB winner. 

Amelia White finished the game with two assists, but probably could have had more and could have had a goal. The Kings Hammer defense didn't have much answer for her ability with the ball, and definitely not with her pace. The Penn State sophomore seemed to be just as fast at the end of the game as she was in the beginning, and it wasn't because she was pacing herself throughout the game. White was all-out blistering speed from start to finish. She already has a goal and 2 assists for the season and I think there are a lot more of both coming from her in the next 8 games.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Hartford Athletic - 11.11


- Opponent: Hartford Athletic
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 10,021
- Final Score: 4-1 W

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

- Substitution: Collier 64' (Williams); Ikoba 64' (Martinez); Wootton 64' (Guenzatti); Schneider 77' (Blake); Mines 84' (Boudadi)

- Unused: Oettl, Dindiyal, Gibson, Neidlinger

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Blake 3' (penalty kick)
IND - Ofeimu 45'+3' (unassisted)
IND - Martinez 54' (assist Stanley)
IND - Williams 58' (assist Boudadi)
HFD - Ngalina 80' (assist Epps)

- Bookings:
IND - Williams 11' (Yellow)
IND - Diz Pe 15' (Yellow)
HFD - Head Coach Burke 23', 90' (Yellow, Yellow, RED)
HFD - Vancaeyezeele 82' (Yellow)

- Referee: Elton García
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

As hot as Indy has been lately, Hartford has been just as cold. Hartford came into tonight's game having lost 6 of their last 7 games, with their last victory coming on April 6th against Miami. Hartford has also either found victory or defeat. They have yet to get a draw in a game. This was a team that came to Indy needing to have something positive happen for them.

Photo: Don Thompson Photography
However, an early handball in the box by Vancaeyezeele, and the subsequent successful penalty kick, put the visitors behind with less than three minutes having passed on the referee's watch. When you're struggling to get results, and recently saw Louisville put a 6-spot on you, the early penalty kick was the last thing the Hartford players and fans wanted to see. Ribeiro went to his right, Blake went to his own right, so the ball and the keeper went in opposite directions. Even if Ribeiro had guessed correctly, it's doubtful he would have made the save as Blake's attempt was low and pinged off the post. That's a nearly impossible penalty kick to stop.

Hartford settled into the game after the goal and continued to pepper the Indy defense by putting themselves consistently in Indy's half of the field, but couldn't quite get any shots on target. They weren't quite able to convert that time in the half into shots on target. They did, however, require Indy to have some last-ditch defending from the backline and the midfielders.

As the half began to close, it became a game of transition for both teams. The teams finished the half with 24% long passes for Indy and 32% for Hartford. Indy doubled the amount of crosses of HFD with 18 to 9, but Hartford did well to consistently handle them. Hartford had their first official shot on target in the 45th minute, which Sulte extended and got low to get to the shot as it tried to get inside the near post. 

Indy then went down to the other end and found a stoppage time goal to double the lead from an Ofeimu goal from a corner kick. Stanley sent yet another brilliant ball into the six-yard box that pinged around a little including off Ribeiro and the underside of the crossbar, before Ofeimu put his foot to the ball to get it officially across the line.

As the teams went into the halftime locker room, Indy had been rewarded early and late for their consistent attacking pressure of Hartford's goal, while Hartford's pressure in Indy's half resulted in just a few good chances. With the way the half ended, the second half had the appearance of there being more goals in the game with Hartford needing to chase and Indy being to counterattack that effort.

The two first half goals from Indy wouldn't stand for very long. Indy scored their third goal in the 54th minute and then added salt to the wound by adding a fourth just four minutes later. To their credit, Hartford didn't completely roll over and continued to try and claw back a goal despite the four-goal deficit. While it took nearly all of the half and several substitutions by both teams, Hartford did find a 79th minute goal on a counterattack after a poor giveaway in the midfield by Schneider, preventing the clean sheet for Sulte.

With his assist tonight, Stanley has already moved into the Top 10 in assists in club history, now tied with Pasher, Speas, & Vuko. At his current pace (basically 1 every 2 games since the USOC games are counted in this total), everybody is within reach this season except for maybe Ayoze. To say that he's putting the ball in spots to make his teammates successful is an understatement. Stanley had 14 crosses and 6 chances created. The way he's putting the ball into good spots for the rest of the team, Williams, Martinez, Guenzatti, and basically everybody else, have to be looking at every cross as an opportunity to put their name on the score sheet. When I told him after the game that he had already moved into the Top Ten in club history for assists, he said, "that seems impossible." Looking at the players on the list above him and their durations with the club, his statement seems like logical. Though Indy hasn't much the highest scoring team in its history. For all that I liked about Coach Lowry, there were some low scoring games in his tenure. 

After the game, Coach McAuley said that he was disappointed the team didn't keep the clean sheet, but I'm starting to wonder if he really believes that. I mean, I think he would like to see his players receive the individual accolade for their effort, for Sulte and Oettl to be rewarded for their efforts, but I'm not sure he really cares about the clean sheet as long as the team wins. When he first came to Indy, he said he wanted this team to score goals. At no point in his introductory speech did he say he wanted this team to lead the league in clean sheets. Indy wins with a +3 goal differential, and that's a good result. A result that the opposing manager did want to stick around to see the end.

The first of the club's five games in 8 days is complete with a 4-1 dismantling of a team in poor form. The club return to action in just two days when the women's team takes on Kings Hammer at Grand Park for their home opener after having beaten Louisville this week. Indy men return to action on Wednesday as part of the U.S. Open Cup against Detroit City. Coach McAuley says is stressing to the team that they have to "make sure that we're not scared of being successful. Sometimes when you think the race is run, you go, that's me done. If you've never been there before. So we're going to go for it. I'm going to make sure that they understand that this is an unbelievable opportunity for us. And we've got to go for it."

With the form they're in right now, the Indy team that Detroit played earlier this season is not the same Indy team they are going to face on Wednesday. With a shot at the quarterfinals of the tournament on the line, I think both teams will be ready to play. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
I know I have never done this before, but I'm going to give the GBGB to Ribeiro. Yes, it's going to go to the opposing goalkeeper. Indy scored four goals and could have had more. Ribeiro had NINE saves. If not for that kind of effort, this would have been an even more lopsided score line. Sometimes you just have to reward a player for their effort no matter their team. So Ribeiro receives the first ever GBGB given to an opponent.

Additional Photos - Don Thompson Photography