Friday, June 21, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Kings Hammer - 03.09


- Opponent: Kings Hammer
- Location: Scudamore Stadium - Northern Kentucky University
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 1-1 D

- Starting XI: Phillips, White, S., Cherry, Snyder, Adam, Darey, Rogers (C), Smith, O., Soderstrom, K., Buels, Budish

- Substitution: Soderstrom, S. 19' (White, S. - injury?); Bahr 45' (Buels); Mitchell 45' (Smith, O.); Pelkowski 45' (Adam); Katembo 62' (Budish); Jacomen 62' (Soderstom, K.); Unkraut 81' (Darey)

- Unused:

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Budish 51' (assist Mitchell)
KH - Own Goal 83'

- Bookings: 

- Referee: -
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

I have said it often with the USL W League teams, but I bears repeating for the next point for this game. Rosters, and specifically, gameday lineups are constantly in flux. Players' availability, particularly when you're like Indy Eleven and include some veteran players who have day jobs, forces coaches to be flexible, have faith in a number of players, and for players to have faith in any combination of players that can be used in games. Seemingly some teams have trouble with that amount of inconsistency, but Coach Dolinsky has pulled together a roster, and has a playing style, that allows players to be pulled in and out of lineups without any major drop in talent or results.

Which leads me to my 1st point. By my count, Coach Dolinsky has played 33 different players this season, and 28 different starters, in 9 games. To the tune of a 7W-2D-0L record, with tonight's result. That's impressive, no matter what level you play.

Which leads me to my 2nd point. There was only one goalkeeper suited for tonight. Five different keepers have been on the various game day rosters throughout the first part of this season, and for whatever reason, Dolinsky was only able to take one keeper with him tonight. Such is the life of a USL W League coach. Luckily, he didn't need a second keeper. I do wonder who would have been thrust into the goalkeeper position if it had become necessary. Particularly after all the substitutions had been made. My money? I would put it on Bahr to be willing to take the role. Dolinsky, however, would value her defensive presence too much, so I would go with Rogers. In a tight spot, you go with your leaders. That's Bahr and Rogers in late game situations.

In the opening minutes of the game, KH looked like a team that knew that only three points was good for them if they wanted any chance of playing in the playoffs. They were the clear aggressors and routinely had Indy's backline running back towards their own goal to defend. It was difficult to tell, but I thought I could hear Coach Dolinsky yell, "okay, organize!" every time the Indy forwards lost the ball in the KH defensive third. A point, on the road, was going to be enough to clinch their spot in the playoffs. When the referee blew the whistle in the 26th minute for the hydration break, KH had already managed (unofficially by my count) 6 shots to Indy's 1. They had managed to get just 2 of those on target, but the field was drastically tilted in their direction, while Indy had a definite "bend but don't break" appearance to their play.

While it's one of the few times in three years of this team where I thought they were out-hustled to balls passes were consistently not where they intended them to go, the halftime nil-nil score was definitely in Indy's favor and not KH's. Indy hadn't forced Galley into any saves, but Indy hadn't conceded either. KH's three shots on target in the half were all from distances that weren't that threatening for Phillips. Indy fans love to see the score higher than zero for their team, but the goose egg wasn't a bad result for the half.

Yet, for all that Kings Hammer did correct in the first half, they conceded a 51st minute goal when halftime substitute Mitchell attacked the middle of the KH defense before finding a trailing Budish who put the ball out of reach of Galley and into the lower left hand corner of the goal. The substitutes and the goal changed the tenor of the game as it became a bit more wide open as KH chased the equalizer and Indy counterattacked with the spaces that were now open. 

A poor clearance from Indy in the 77th minute found the crossbar and then landed harmlessly on top of the goal. The near miss seemed to energize KH as they rattled off a few promising attacks in the next couple of minutes. That extended pressure finally paid off when a cross deflected off an Indy defender out into their own goal, bringing the match level again.

Despite the level score being acceptable for Indy's playoff needs, they looked upset that the KH goal came from an own goal and looked determined to get back on top. Buoyed by the level score, KH looked just as motivated to get their own game winner. As a result, the closing minutes were tense, frenetic, and difficult for both sets of fans to watch, knowing that any simple mistake could spell disaster.

After a stoppage time delay where Unkraut and Donovon ran into each, bringing both sets of trainers onto the field, KH found themselves a 25-yard free kick that was subsequently shot directly into the wall. A couple minutes later, they found themselves with a 40-yard free kick that resulted in no real threat on goal. Those two chances were the best near the end of the game, with the 40-yard free kick being the final action of the game.

It wasn't the win that Indy wanted, but the draw solidifies their place in the playoffs for a third straight season. After the game last week between these two teams, I called the win "gritty." Tonight was no different. Kings Hammer looked to be the more threatening team in the first half, but it's hard to argue with the defensive effort that Indy continues to put in against this team and finds a way to get points. Kings Hammer definitely need to hold their head high though. They were fortunate on the deflection goal tonight, but they have also held Indy to just a single goal twice out of their three meetings, which no other team has been able to do this year, while also getting two draws with a combined score of 5 to 4 in favor of Indy. It may not feel great to be out of the playoffs, but that's a respectable showing this season for Kings Hammer against the league's defending champions.

Indy stays on the road to close out the regular season on June 30th when they play Racing Louisville. They still have everything to play for since the conference playoffs are based on points per game. It looks like Minnesota Aurora is in the driver seat in the Heartland Division, while Detroit City are in the driver seat in the Great Lakes Division. However, both teams have teams right behind them that will be wanting that top spot or at a minimum get the third playoff spot that is available to the "best of the rest" of those two divisions. Indy could really use the bump in PPG with the win, and then hope Minnesota and Detroit slip to help Indy's cause for hosting their first playoff game. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

You know it by know. This award isn't always given to the player that gets noticed the most. Or at least not statistically noticed the most. Sometimes it goes to whomever I keep noticing as doing the good work to get the result. For me, that person was Ella Rogers. I know, I know, Rogers has been doing the dirty work for three seasons. Tonight, though, I just feel like she turned up at key moments for an intervention, a pass to unlock the KH defense, or a shot. In another gritty defensive effort on the road against a good KH team, tonight's GBGB just gets narrowed down to my "eye test" and Rogers edged her teammates for it tonight. 

I will give an honorable mention to Mitchell though. Her energy, pressure, and attack after the halftime break really gave the team a spark that led to her assist and the team's goal.

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