Sunday, June 23, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Orange County - 11.16


- Opponent: Orange County FC
- Location: Carroll Stadium
- Attendance: 9,490
- Final Score: 1-0 L

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

- Substitution: Schneider 38' (Diz Pe); Williams, R. 45' (Blake); Collier 79' (Wootton); Ikoba 79' (Guenzatti)

- Unused: Oettl, Gibson, Henderlong

- Scoring Summary:
OC - Zubak 25' (assist Lambe)

- Bookings:
OC - Sorto 35' (Yellow)
OC - Zubak 42' (Yellow)
OC - Karlsen 45'+7' (Yellow)
IND - Ofeimu 45'+8' (Yellow)
IND - Williams, R. 52' (Yellow)
OC - Chattha 73' (Yellow)

- Referee: Joe Surgan
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Back-to-back weeks brought Western Conference foes to The Mike, with both teams hovering around that conference's playoff line. On a night where the starting kickoff temperatures were right at 90-degrees but felt slightly higher than that due to the humidity, I came into this game expecting it to be a slow paced game with a mistake by one of the teams potentially being the deciding factor. Orange County, like San Antonio last week, are accustomed to higher temps, but tonight's temps are the kind where you sweat in the shade. Or maybe that's just me. 

Given how slowly Orange County took every single throw-in during the early stages of the game, they knew they needed to take some of the humid air out of the game. The referee and fourth official were both observed telling the OC players that they needed to keep the game moving. To their credit, the OC players disregarded those requests and continued to milk the game where they could. Indy, contrarily, tried to restart every free kick as quickly as possible. Many times with multiple restarts because they didn't let the ball come to a complete stop or were further up the field than Surgan deemed acceptable.

While I thought a mistake would be what separated teams, OC proved me wrong. From a corner kick recycle in the 25th minute, Lambe put a ball into the middle of the box that found Zubak forcefully headed past Sulte to open the scoring. The protestations of offside from the Indy players were met with deaf ears and Indy found themselves chasing the game, a position they haven't found themselves much during this undefeated streak. Despite tilting the field in their direction as the half progressed, OC's one-goal lead was how the teams went into the locker, but not before Blake went down finishing his day. Coach McAuley made the decision to play a man down for the remainder of the half, wanting to get to halftime before using his second substitution window. 

As expected, Blake did not return to action after the halftime break, but was instead replaced with newly signed Romario Williams. The change in personnel also provided a change is formation as Guenzatti dropped back into the midfield with the Williams duo up top together and a change to a back four. Indy's desire to equalize put them on the front foot early. Their exuberance to claw one back also put them offside a couple times, one of which called off a goal. 

Their exuberance also meant that many of their touches were slightly off and they couldn't keep things going smoothly. The team looked like they were trying to effort their way to a goal because things weren't coming easily as OC stayed compact and physical defensively. Indy's effort resulted in 38 crosses, connecting on 24% of them, which led to 36 clearances from the OC defense. Sulte wasn't credited with a single save, while his counterpart Shutler had 7 saves. Shutler's saves and Indy's lack of clinical finishing in their offensive 1/3 of the field marks the first time all season that Indy has been held without scoring a goal. Let that sink in for a minute. The 16th game of the season is the first clean sheet for an Indy opponent.

Indy's effort, in the second half, was much better than in the first, but this wasn't one of those games where they were able to effort their way to an equalizer or win. If the team had been more clinical in their shots, they might have won this game going with ease. As it was, the early injuries to Diz Pe and Blake, the latter of which was carted from the sideline because he was unable to walk, created a bit of a disjointed midfield. Diz and Jack join the rest of Indy's injured list (Quinn, King, Chapman-Page...) that seems to be ever growing, and ever worrisome. The off weekend this coming weekend might be helpful in getting guys healthy again. 

I've often heard Coach Painter of Purdue men's basketball say that winning can hide a lot of problems. Indy have been grinding out games, getting timely Own Goals and penalty kicks, to keep the undefeated streak going. However, maybe the wins were hiding some problems that reared their head tonight. Regardless, Indy go into their bye week with a bad taste in their mouth and a longer line into the medical staff's room during next week's training. The undefeated and winning streak are something they will look at appreciatively at the end of the season, but post-game, both McAuley and Lindley said the same thing. What has happened in past games is in the past. Neither could take solace in knowing the loss came at the end of a near record-breaking club results streak. For now, the 2016 team remain as the undefeated torchbearers in (men's) club history, but this 2024 team will be known for their win streak, whether they were in a place to admit it last night or not. 

 As we creep towards the halfway point of the season, Indy sit in 3rd place in the table. The teams immediately behind them have games-in-hand so we'll see where they start to land once those teams begin to become more even in games played. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball
It might seem strange based on his stat line and his amount of time in the game, and while Lindley's control of the midfield makes my midfielder heart want to give it to him, he's going to get edged tonight for the GBGB by his newest teammate, Romario Williams. His stats weren't eye-popping, but his first touch was really good and he looked dynamic. With a little more time with his teammates, the up top pairing of the Williamses with Guenzatti tucked underneath should prove to be a formidable weapon. I think fans saw in this game just a glimpse of what the trio could be capable of providing moving forward. They'll want to see any or all be more clinical in their finishing than they were tonight, but there's promise there that could separate them from the other recent starters in Martinez and Ikoba. 

Photos - Don Thompson Photography

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