Saturday, June 8, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Racing Louisville - 03.06


- Opponent: Racing Louisville
- Location: Grand Park
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 3-2 W

- Starting XI: Reason, Sexton, Cherry, Snyder, Chatterton, Pelkowski, Rogers (C), White, Dewey, S., Jacomen, Williams

- Substitution: Smith 63' (Dewey, S.); Bahr 63' (Snyder); Mitchell 63' (Williams); Otto 63' (Chatterton); Soderstrom, K. 63' (Jacomen); Darey 71' (Pelkowski)

- Unused: Phillips

- Scoring Summary:
LOU - Coffield 32' (assist Gibson)
IND - Williams 47' (assist Chatterton)
LOU - Own Goal 56' (Cherry)
IND - White 71' (unassisted)
IND - Bahr 90'+1' (penalty kick)

- Bookings: 
IND - Snyder 25' (Yellow)
IND - Sexton 70' (Yellow)
IND - Indy Bench 82' (Yellow)

- Referee: Race Williams
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

The first two seasons of this league and division for Indy Eleven have predominantly been a battle between Indy and Louisville to determine which club takes the one playoff spot from the division. Indy have come out on top each season, but it's always been Louisville fighting for that spot. While tonight's game for Indy is their 6th game of the short USL W League, this was just Louisville's 4th game so they while they came into tonight's game behind Lexington on the table, Racing had a games in hand, even after tonight's game. However, Indy's defeat of Louisville in the first game of the season put Indy in the driver's seat for this year's playoff spot.

Tonight's result only magnifies that advantage. Lexington may still have something to say about it, but Louisville and Lexington can help Indy out by fighting each other in an upcoming game. Indy has to also take care of their remaining games against both Lexington and Louisville to close out the season, with two games against Kings Hammer around the Lexington game, but the win tonight makes the division Indy's to lose. 

Like many of the games in this series, it was an even match, with Indy have the bulk of the good opportunities in the early stages. Williams had an early opportunity that she touched off the outside of the post in disbelief after beating her defender to the ball. Rogers also had an early shot that was blocked before Racing finally found their first shot around the 10 minute mark. Racing came out with a tactical change that they hadn't shown on video, and it took awhile for Indy to adjust to the new look from the visitors. The change from Racing forced Rogers deeper on the field from where Indy fans have seen her playing this season.

The next 10 to 15 minutes was a fight in the midfield as neither team could impose their will in the attacking third. It wasn't until Pelkowski put a shot on frame in the 24th minute that the teams were able to break through the defense. Then opportunities for Indy came in rapid succession as Williams found another shot a few minutes later when White used her pace to break the midfield line and then Rogers put a header on frame, but without enough velocity to significantly challenge Brandon. 

Racing was the first team to get on the board in the 32nd minute when a ball from the left side by Gibson was lofted over the defenders and in a location where Reason couldn't reach. The Indy defenders lost track of Coffield as she split defenders and redirected the ball into the goal. Indy's previous chances that didn't find their target came back to hurt them and forced a rare Indy deficit. The goal also imbued Racing with confidence as they began to tilt the game towards Indy's defensive half of the field for the next five minutes.

As the half closed, however, Indy began to remember they are the defending league champions and pinned Racing into the defensive half with attack after attack. As the shots, crosses, and opportunities began to increase for the home side, the Racing Louisville defenders proved to be stout with a number of clearances, preventing Indy from equalizing before the halftime whistle. Indy had more than double the shots, but couldn't get the ball past Brandon and went into the locker room with work to do in the second half to get back into the game.

It took less than 2 minutes for Indy to get the equalizer when Williams received a through-ball from Chatterton. Williams found the post once again, but this time the ball tapped the inside of the post and spun across the line to bring the game level. With the scoring even, the game turned into a back-and-forth physical affair. Racing again took the lead when a cross took an inadvertent deflection off Cherry and beyond Reason's reach.

Minutes after the goal by Racing, Coach Dolinsky said he couldn't remember doing a mass line change substitution, but assistant coach Brandon Kim did it against St. Charles in the last game and Dolinsky did a large sub change in the previous St. Charles game. So while he might not remember doing it, hockey line change has become a routine thing for this team. The mass substitution created a spark for Indy, and made an immediate impact in the energy with their fresh legs. 

It was one of the starters though that brought Indy back into the game. The subs brought a tactical change with it and White was moved to play the #9. Dolinsky thought she was looking winded having to recover to play defense and told her to just stay up top and showcase her blazing speed when the opportunity arose. Goalkeepers keep underestimating how fast she can close the space between her and the ball and she did the same thing to Brandon that she did in the first game of the year. Thinking she had time, Brandon held onto the ball a second too long and White attacked the ball before the keeper could react. White took the ball off Brandon's feet and ushered the ball across the line with Brandon falling down trying to get to the ball. 

The Eleven's absolute refusal to quit once again brought the game level.

The goal ratcheted the intensity even higher for the players and the supporters as both teams and fans knew that this game was there for either team. Racing knew they could score. Indy knew they could come back. 

Indy's persistent attack finally paid off when Mitchell received a ball in the Racing box and was fouled. The referee pointed to the spot and Indy had their lifeline to salvage a win out of a very intense battle with their long-standing rival. As the ball rolled out towards Bahr, she handed the ball to Mitchell, allowing her to take the penalty kick that she was awarded. However, it looked like word came from Dolinsky that he wanted Bahr to take it instead, knowing how vital the 3 points were for Indy's chances to make the playoffs. 

Bahr turned her first goal of the season into a stat stuffer, with a game winning penalty kick goal in stoppage time. The arguable best defender in the league last year stepped up and sent Racing back down I-65 without any points and keeping them in an unfamiliar location at the bottom of the table.

Brandon was credited with 11 saves on 22 shots from Indy, while Racing had 6 shots. Brandon's saves and some atypical less-than-clinical finishing from Indy players is what kept this game close. The games are always close, but Indy was deserved of the win.

Indy maintain their position at top of the table and will once again welcome Kings Hammer to town next Wednesday. Kings Hammer has used their earlier draw to Indy to position themselves firmly in 2nd place, so they will once again come to Indy with the intent to prove that the earlier game wasn't a fluke and that they can hang with Indy. Indy, as they have done in the past, will look to use that result as fuel to put the division out of reach.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

With so many clutch plays to get this win, I think I want to give the GBGB to Coach Dolinsky. It's been a tricky season for Coach in trying to get playing time for the next group of players, getting time for the veterans who are unable to play every single game, particularly the away games, and getting time with all those players intermingled so that they can all play well together in the playoffs. In the 63rd minute, he pulled out Chatterton, Dewey, and Williams, stars of this team, who had all be effective during the game. That, combined with the decision to let White focus on attacking instead of defending, was bold and smart. Not sure I've ever given the GBGB to a coach before, but I thought his tactical adjustments helped change this game in Indy's favor.

Photos - Don Thompson Photography

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