Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Atlanta United - 2024 U.S. Open Cup


- Opponent: Atlanta United
- Location: Fifth Third Bank Stadium (Kennesaw State University)
- Attendance: 2,417
- Final Score: 2-1 W

- Starting XI: Sulte, Ofeimu, O'Brien, J., Chapman-Page, Stanley, Mines, Wootton, Lindley (C), Guenzatti, Williams, A., Martinez

- Substitution: Collier 68' (Martinez); Gibson 74' (Guenzatti); Diz Pe 85' (Williams, A.); Schneider 85' (Lindley)

- Unused: Oettl, Henderlong, Neidlinger

- Scoring Summary:
IND - 31' Williams, A. (assist Martinez)
IND - 83' OWN GOAL (Dax McCarty)
ATL - 90'+2' Firmino (assist Rios)

- Bookings:
ATL - Wiley 48' (Yellow)
IND - Martinez 52' (Yellow)

- Referee: Sergii Demianchuk
- Adage goals: One

Thoughts and Opinions

As I found out in the last round when I wrote for TheCup.US for the Indy Eleven versus Detroit City game, tonight's foray into the U.S. Open Cup by Indy marks just the second time that a team from Indianapolis has made it this far. The last time a team from Indy made it this far, it was the Indianapolis Inferno in 1992, when they defeated the Scott Gallagher SC team from Saint Louis by a 2-nil score. Indy headed to Atlanta hoping to be the second Indiana team to advance beyond the quarterfinal round. With their 2-1 win tonight, they did just that. Indy extend their U.S. Open Cup run and beat an MLS team for the first time in the process. Indy will take on the winner of the FC Dallas vs Sporting KC game that takes place tomorrow. 

In the early stages of the game, if you were unclear on which team was the "better" team, you would have guessed incorrectly. Indy, the USL side, was taking the game to Atlanta United, the MLS side, with multiple corner kicks, free kicks, and shots. Indy was adamant about pressing the ATL defenders quickly to get the ball back after losing possession. Once back into possession, they often had the ATL defenders chasing shadows. As ATL finally settled into the pace of Indy and that Indy wasn't going to be a pushover in the game, ATL began to have their own possession and chances. However, most of Indy's pressing came when the ball was deep into ATL's defensive third. If ATL broke the immediate pressure and reached towards the half line, Indy's press relaxed and the team settled into a compact defensive shape. 

It was a counterattack from Indy that Ofeimu started that put Indy on the board first. Ofeimu collected the ball near the half line and put a ball up the right side to Martinez who had acres of space around him. Augie Williams then proceeded to get past three ATL defenders when Williams put the ball behind them and in front of goalkeeper Cohen. Williams calmly slotted the ball under Cohen and Indy found themselves, deservedly so, up a goal a third of the way through the game. 

The field began to tilt a bit more towards Indy's defensive third after the goal, but only moderately. Indy stayed diligent with their defense, pressed at appropriate times, and attacked with pace when given the opportunities. As the game crept towards the halftime whistle, ATL picked a couple of good chances, but nothing that was overly dangerous for Indy. Atlanta finished the half with more shots, but none of those shots were on target. Indy had just one shot on goal, but Williams was effective and efficient with that one shot on target, giving both keepers zero saves at that the halftime break. Indy had a lead at the half, on the road, against an MLS team, and looked confident.

The deficit was clearly in the minds of the ATL players as tensions began to rise immediately after the players returned to play after the halftime break. Noah Wiley, Paris bound to play for the United States in the Olympics as well as a potential move to Chelsea, picked up an 48th minute yellow card for pushing Lindley to the ground, after play had already been stopped. Just a few minutes later, Martinez picked up his own yellow card for pushing a player in the back, sending him sprawling to the ground. The intensity after the break clearly ramped up with ATL needing to chase the game and Indy wanting to show that they weren't going to back down.

Indy may have looked the more effective team in the first half, but Atlanta turned the screws on Indy in the second half. After not getting any shots on target in the first half, Atlanta held the possession advantage to work around the Indy defense for multiple shots on target. Indy didn't park the bus for the entire 45 minutes, but it was close. The Indy defense was compact, switched and rotated perfectly, and kept the Atlanta players mostly in front of them, keeping ATL frustrated. 

As the game moved further and further along, Indy's strategy became defend at all costs and counter only when the ideal situation arose. Just before the end of regulation, one of those opportunities arose and Williams took a ball up the right side of the field before putting a ball between the six-yard box and the penalty spot to an on-rushing Collier. The ball, however, never made it to Collier as a retreating Dax McCarty threw out a leg to stop the ball from getting passed him and inadvertently put the ball into his own goal.

Atlanta pull a goal back in the first couple minutes of stoppage time to make the end of the game interesting, but Indy managed to hold on for the win. With Atlanta's goal, Indy's last two Open Cup games have been won by Own Goal since the game-winning first goal against Detroit was also an Own Goal. In a tournament, however the wins happen, is good. To make it even better, the game didn't require extra time. I'm not sure the Indy legs could have withstood 30 more minutes of defending.

Indy move on to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup.

Indy fans, let that sink in and enjoy the night.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

The entire team gets tonight's GBGB. I know that seems a bit too easy, but this was a definite team effort to get the win. The team bought into how they wanted to play, when and where they were going to press, and capitalized on their opportunities in front of Atlanta's goals. Sulte will be disappointed to not get the clean sheet, but he made an instinct play to close out a player knowing that his defenders were on tired legs. Firmino just made a better play around him. To that point though, every player on the Indy team played with a purpose of team defending. Team GBGB. The best kind of GBGB.

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