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.

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