Friday, July 5, 2024

Indy Eleven vs Minnesota Aurora FC - 03.11 (Playoffs)


- Opponent: Minnesota Aurora FC
- Location: Keyworth Stadium (Detroit FC hosting)
- Attendance: -
- Final Score: 2 - 1 W

- Starting XI: Phillips, Sexton, Cherry, Bahr, Chatterton, Darey, Mitchell, Rogers (C), Chester, Soderstrom, K., Whitsett

- Substitution: Soderstrom, S. 72' (Whitsett); Jacomen 72' (Sexton); Snyder 89' (Soderstrom, K.)

- Unused: Blair, Katembo, Snyder, Tobin, Unkraut

- Scoring Summary:
IND - Cherry 4' (assist Bahr)
MINN - Duong 66' (unassisted)
IND - Mitchell 83' (assist Chester)

- Bookings: 
MINN - Rapp 74' (Yellow)

- Referee: - 
- Adage goals: None

Thoughts and Opinions

Death. Taxes. Indy Eleven vs Minnesota Aurora in the playoffs. 

For the third time in the three year history of the USL W League, Indy Eleven and Minnesota found themselves facing each other with the chance to advance in the playoffs. Indy had to travel to Minnesota in 2022, where 6,200 fans watched the two undefeated teams play to a 2-1 score thanks to a 64th minute game-winning penalty kick by Minnesota. In 2023, the two teams traveled to host city Flint, where both had to get past conference semifinal opponents (Chicago City SC for Minnesota, Flint City AFC for Indy) to face each other in the conference final. Indy were the victors thanks to a 67th minute goal from Sam Dewey. Minnesota rode their victory in 2022 to the league final game before losing to South Georgia Tormenta 2-1 after extra time. Minnesota have yet to lose a regular season game in three seasons, but have been unable to reach the ultimate prize. However, after winning the conference final in 2023, Indy went on to beat North Carolina U23 2-1 after extra time in the league final. 

It's not a long league history, but as the league has continued to grow (44 teams in 2022 inaugural season to 80 teams this year), only Indy Eleven, Minnesota Aurora, and Long Island Rough Riders have made the playoffs each year. This year, the teams traveled to host city Detroit, but still found themselves facing off with each other again. The winner of the Indy Eleven vs Minnesota Aurora game has finished their season in the league final. That's good news for Indy Eleven who came out the victors today with a 2-1 win.

Indy had a perfect start to the game with an early corner kick. Bahr continued to show her class with her delivery into the box, and Cherry outjumped her defender to get her head to the ball putting it out of the the reach of Kane and an Aurora defender. Three minutes into the game, and Indy had the lead. Indy continued to dominate the first few minutes, but not surprisingly, Minnesota began to work their way into the game. They found some opportunities to go forward, but the Indy defenders were always in good position to stifle the attack. As Minnesota worked their way into the game, it was predominantly through the effort of Saige Wimes, who was forcing the Indy defenders to make decisions, including a 31st minute scramble in the box that nearly allowed Aurora to equalize.

Both teams' defensive pressure forced a lot of long passes as the players had very little time to do much with it other than try to get out of trouble and away from their feet. Any time any player held onto the ball for very long, there was at least one defender clipping at their heels. The moments where players could find pockets of time and space generally led to good chances for both teams. 

By my count, the shots and shots on target were essentially even, but you could argue that Indy's chances were marginally better than the ones from Minnesota. You could also argue that Minnesota's chances weren't any better because of effective last-ditch defending by Indy. Indy went into the break with the lead due to their quick start, but it would have been easy to say that a halftime draw would have been equally fair and reasonable. As it was, Indy had to defend their lead and Minnesota were going to come out of the halftime break knowing that their season was dependent on getting at least 2 goals. 

The early minutes of the 2nd half were frenetic as both teams tried to impose their way will onto the game. Neither were immediately effective as the ball pinged around from team to team. Indy nearly had a second goal when Soderstrom put a ball through the box that found a wide open Rogers. She clearly didn't realize how much time she had available and scuffed the ball wide from a poor left-footed touch. The missed shot seemed to empower Minnesota, who began to pin Indy back into their defensive half. That pressure eventually led to a free kick from a dangerous spot that was put directly into the goal from Duong on the kick. 

An 82nd goal from Mitchell looked like it might have solidified Indy's ability to advance, but just minutes later, Rapp put Bahr into a bad position and was awarded a penalty kick in the 86th minute. Weichers stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick and went to her right. Fortunately for Indy fans, Phillips went that direction and caught the ball with her leg to keep the ball out of goal and maintain Indy's lead. The remaining minutes of the game were Indy defending and Minnesota throwing everything forward.

Indy held on to advance after beating Minnesota in back-to-back years. Despite Minnesota's regular season successes, they're going to be tired of seeing Indy who have come out on top the past two years after getting the better of Indy in the inaugural season. Indy will await the winner of the second game of the night when Detroit City takes on River Light FC.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

In all fairness to the goals from Cherry and Mitchell, the late-game heroics from Phillips to maintain the victory on a penalty kick gives Phillips tonight's GBGB. She went the right direction and despite nearly overshooting the ball, managed to get her leg to it to keep the game in Indy's favor. The game could have gone to extra time if it had not been for the save.

Chester's dummy that put her defender in a blender and completely out of position that led to the game-winning goal gets an honorable mention for moment of the game. Ninety minutes of game action and the two most notable moments in the game for me happened within minutes of each other and within minutes of the game's conclusion.

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