Thursday, July 26, 2018

Late Winner Takes Three For Indy - Bethlehem Steel FC v Indy Eleven REVIEW

We didn't need to give Bethlehem 99 problems, one was enough. Jack McInerney with the only goal.

By: James Cormack

Indy Eleven kicked off their third in a series of four away matches at an unusual start time of 11.00am at Goodman Field in Bethlehem. After losing to Charleston Battery and Tampa Bay Rowdies the Indy side needs to find points and find them soon. The two sides have met once already this season at Lucas Oil Stadium when the visitors left with all three points after defeating Indy by two goals to one.

There were three changes to the starting XI that lost 3-1 in St. Petersburg at the weekend, one forced change was Brad Ring who received a retroactive suspension from the previous match. Tyler Pasher continued at left back and Ayoze not in the squad this time around. Nico Matern dropped from starting lineup while Soony Saad, Seth Moses, and Zach Steinberger returned to the starting lineup.

Only five of the Bethlehem players that started against Indy Eleven in the initial encounter in May will begin this game. One of them was Santi Moar who was pivotal in Steel's attack along with McGuire, Mahoney, Najem, and Ngalina.

A welcome sight to the listed roster for the match was Reiner Ferreira added to the bench after missing the bulk of the season so far, missing since picking up an injury in the first home match of the season against FC Cincinnati on April 1st. He would see game time in the match sooner than we would have liked.

Starting XI: Williams, Venegas, Ouimette, Mitchell, Pasher, Moses, Watson, Guerra, Steinberger, Saad, Starikov. Bench: Lundgaard, Ferreira, Rusin, Matern, Amankona, Speas, McInerney



Action from the home tie in Indy where Bethlehem stole the points in a 2-1 victory.

The first half was more of an exhibition of passing than anything else, very few shots on goal from either side. Indy threatened more, Seth Moses pressuring Maguire early in the first ten and shortly after a good interchange on the right between Venegas and Starikov saw the latter drop a nice pass back in front of goal but Venegas could not get in fast enough to let off a shot.

Starikov and Venegas starting to look comfortable with each other and 17 minutes in, interchanges between the two drew a corner but Indy Eleven could make nothing of it. Around the 20 minute mark, Bethlehem got their first real shot on goal from 22yrd out centrally but was easily smothered by Owain Fôn Williams.

The pitch was heavy and wet after a lot of rain locally, the surface was slick and players on both sides were losing their footing. Indy Eleven did well to defuse the attacking danger of Santi Moar, most of Steel's best opportunities of the counter were coming on the opposite side of the field where the ground was wetter.

Bethlehem's Ferris was causing most of the trouble on Indy's right. Two thirds into the first half after an Indy free kick on our left Ferris again showed he had the measure of our back line and was unlucky not to get a shot off. Bethlehem caught us with pace again on the opposite side with Mbaizo but his cut back pass into the box was luckily not met by a teammate.

Venegas and Starikov linked up again in the 35th, Venegas took it to the line and cut back in for the onrushing Starikov but his shot went high. A minute later Seth Moses managed to beat the back line and attempted a chip shot over Maguire but the home side keeper saved the ball with his face as it was heading goalwards.

An unfortunate site as Tyler Pasher leaves the field after 38 minutes and is replaced by Reiner Ferreira who has not taken the field for Indy for over three months, Ouimette slides out left to allow Mitchell and Ferreira to pair up at centre back. Reiner promptly picked up his third yellow card in only his third appearance of 2018.

Ferreira got himself involved again on 45' conceding a free kick on the left corner of the 18-yard box which worrying got delayed after Ouimette fell to the ground clutching his leg. The free kick came to nothing and 0-0 was the score heading into the break.



Fans waited a long time to see Tyler Pasher return, sadly he exited the match before halftime.

Indy came out fast in the second half with a minute played Steinberger linked up with Watson who fed in Soony Saad in front of goal but his curling shot went just wide of the upper 90. Steinberger also missed a chance in the 53rd minute after a corner clearance fell to his feet but his long-range effort went wide left.

It's cliche to say the game had 0-0 written all over on evidence of the first half, with occasional flurries of activity in the second half it settled down to looking just like that again. Both sides finding chances but unable to apply the concentration in the final third. Indy's next best chance would fall to Saad again, approaching 70 minutes into the game a buildup that started with Mitchell on the edge of our 18 ended up with Saad in front of a near open goal but was not able to get his shot on target.

As the game wore on Bethlehem almost managed to level it up in the 84th minute with a free kick about 19 yards out from the Indy goal after Nanco drew the foul, but Chambers low driven shot to the right of the wall was well smothered by Owain Fôn Williams.

Jack McInerney came into the game for Soony Saad previous to this and it was he who would be the late hero for Indy. The match was not exciting by any means and neither was it an outstanding performance by Indy Eleven, but it is fair to say if one side was going to open the scoring it likely would have been the visitors.

Zach Steinberger stepped up to take his first corner from what can only be described as a swamp in the left corner of the field and this was probably the best delivery of the game. Sent in towards the penalty spot the ball curled in and found the head of Jack McInerney who directed his header away from Maguire and into the right side of the net. It was enough of a hammer blow for Bethlehem to seal the win as they appeared deflated for the closing minutes.

Indy Eleven did enough with possession to round out the six minutes of added time and take the three points back to Indianapolis. After two straight defeats on the road, these three points are extremely valuable. To head to Louisville with none or only one, other matches in between could potentially put Indy out of the playoff positions or perilously close. Instead, they move to 5th in the table with 31pts.

It was a difficult game, Indy is still having issues with some forced rotations and lineup changes but now have over a week to rest and recover before facing Lousiville City FC in Kentucky for the first time in four years on August 5th, following that match Indy Eleven will not play again until they face North Carolina on August 15th at home.

There won't be many breaks for Indy after that, and it's important as they near the final third of the regular season to up their game and start winning points on a regular basis, inconsistency will put them in a position of relying on the fate of others, to do that they will have to start finding the back of the net on a more regular basis. Indy has averaged only a goal per game for their last six matches.

FT: Bethlehem Steel FC 0 Indy Eleven 1

We need a good travelling support for our next match, if you are interested in joining the supporters buses for Lousiville you can get ticket and bus INFORMATION HERE. Also, don't forget to pick up tickets for Indy Eleven's next home match against North Carolina FC on August 15th at BYBTIX.COM

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Indy's Battery Runs Low In Charleston - Charleston Battery V Indy Eleven REVIEW

Saturday goal hero Speas sends in a corner for Indy (Photo: Peter Evans)

By: James Cormack

Indy headed southeast to Charleston to play their 5th match in 16 days with a chance of moving up another spot in the USL East standings if they could clinch a road win in South Carolina. The two teams locked horns in Indy's last home match of May in a thrilling 3-3 tie

As expected with such a hectic period in the 2018 schedule we again saw some rotation to the starting lineup and as we saw against Charlotte it was backed up by a very strong bench. Even with injuries and knocks recently Martin Rennie has called on his depth to step up.

Indy Eleven's weekend game against Charlotte saw early departures for Justin Braun and Kevin Venegas and their replacements Ben Speas and Eugene Starikov started against Charlotte. Brad Ring who left the last game late with calf cramp took the bench.

Seth Moses continued where he left off on Saturday at right back alongside Ouimette, Mitchell, and Ayoze. Pasher, Guerra, Matern, Watson and Starikov covered the midfield with Ben Speas playing forward and as usual Owain Fôn Williams in goal. I am not sure why and maybe I am mad, but the team and USL always display us as a 4-4-2 when we clearly are not. Is the starting lineup just based on D's, M's and F's? No idea.

As in the previous match the players starting are good enough to bring about a result, a mixture or starters, and some fresh leg rotation. With multiple games in a short period of time, it's a sensible tactic to begin with when you have a bench stacked with outfield talent like Soony Saad, Jack McInerney, Zach Steinberger, Brad Rusin, Nathan Lewis, and Brad Ring.



Hot midsummer temps were yet again present for Indy at MUSC Health Stadium (Photo: Peter Evans)

Again it was a hot one around 90 degrees, and the first half saw both teams probing and feeling each other out patiently. There was no urgent attempt by either side to hit hard and early. Indy played and looked comfortable for most of the first half, perhaps becoming flat and static in the last ten minutes or so.

After 22 minutes of give and take it was Charleston who found the first opening through Gordon Wild. Working inside Charleston's right and untracked he received a pass from the wing, turned inside and struck a clean left footed shot into the far left corner of Indy's net from about 24 yards out. Not much you can do about the clinical finish but the time and space he found deep in Indy's half could have been limited and pressed by our midfield.

Indy had a great chance to equalize with 30 minutes gone when Carlyle Mitchell connected with a corner delivered by Ayoze. His bullet header from a few yards out was denied by a great reaction save from Cuban stopper Odisnel Cooper.

After falling behind Indy Eleven continued a methodical and patient approach to the game but with around 10 minutes to go before the half the pass and move changed to a little pass and stand still, the team seemed tired and weary and waiting for the whistle.

Whatever Martin Rennie had to say to galvanize his team at halftime worked as Indy Eleven started the second half with more urgency and aggression. Five minutes in Seth Moses made a drive into the left side of Charleston's box and chipped a cross to the back post for Speas but Ben couldn't get his bicycle high enough of the ground and his attempted shot found the topside of the net.



Eugene Starikov scored his first competitive goal for Indy Eleven (Photo: James Cormack)

Within ten minutes Indy Eleven did put the score level. From a central position ben Speas put a short pass through to split the Charleston defense, Eugene Starikov beat the offside trap and went one on one with Cooper. The keeper spread himself at Starikov's feet but Indy's number 9 calmly dinked a chip shot up and over to tie the game up. Starikov's first competitive goal makes him the 12th Indy player to score in 2018.

Indy continued to press and within moments could have taken the lead through substitute Soony Saad. A Carlyle Mitchell pass that went almost from the edge of one 18 yard box to the other was controlled by Saad and he pushed towards the Charleston goal. His first shot was saved by the sprawling Cooper which returned to his feet and his second attempt was cleared off the line by Taylor Mueller.

It was by far a better half for Indy Eleven, but one man made the evening and the points his own. Gordon Wild again punished Indy, with a goal in each half he made the difference. His second perhaps not as spectacular as his first but it ended any hopes of Indy returning home with a point.

Wild was again in good space on Indy's right this time, untracked and unmarked he received a pass from the middle of the field and managed to put a low shot with the left foot on the outside of Seth Moses and past Owain Fôn Williams into the far bottom corner of the net. 2-1 was enough to keep the three points in Charleston. 


Indy rallied in the second 45 and almost grabbed a point but again I feel a little bit of midfield being unable to regain their shape and press attackers allowed for a second individual goal in open play from Charleston's number 15.




Its been a difficult spell for Indy with an intensive June and July schedule, Charleston is a difficult side, so it is hard to criticize the result too much, they deserved it, we made mistakes. We drew 3-3 with them at a time where we knew we needed to change our effort to change our results and they were in second place. The win for the home side lifts them above Indy into fourth, the Eleven hold fifth place after Nashville fell 1-0 to Charlotte yesterday evening.

The game marked the first match past the halfway point for Indy, and the report card for the midpoint is most certainly not terrible. After 17 matches of the season we sat in the top half of the playoff positions, there have been some disappointing results against poor teams and great results against difficult teams such as Louisville and Nashville. 


As captain Watson has said previously you have to make those points yourself and make them as soon as you can and not rely on the results of others. We started the second half of the season with an away defeat against a difficult side, I am still confident enough in this squad to pick up the results they need going forward, and we can win away from home.

Indy Eleven can take relief in having 10 days of much-needed rest before their next game, the first matchup of the season with old rivals Tampa Bay Rowdies in St.Petersburg. That match will be the first in a series of three away games before our Boys In Blue return to Lucas Oil Stadium on August 15th. After the Rowdies, Indy will play return matches against Bethlehem Steel and Louisville City FC.



Current USL Eastern Conference  Standings as of July 12th, 2018 (uslsoccer.com)

If you are planning to attend the August 5th Match in Louisville keep your eyes out for travel and ticket information from the Brickyard Battalion and don't forget to pick up tickets for Indy Eleven's next home match against North Carolina FC at BYBTix.com. And don't forget to check out the World Cup FInal Watch Party with the BYB, SH19 and Indy Eleven at Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple on July 15th.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Come-From-Behind Victory Thrills Crowd, Avenges Ayoze - Indy Eleven V Charlotte Independence REVIEW

Ben Speas an early sub opened the scoring for Indy (Photo: James Cormack)


Two subs — Speas and Starikov — combine for a goal, then defenders Mitchell and Ayoze do same


By REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)


(INDIANAPOLIS, Lucas Oil Stadium) —— The injuries and the subs began within the first 17 minutes. First, Ben Speas entered for rogue hamstring victim Justin Braun. Then Kevin Venegas, also clutching a hammie, opted off the field and in came former New York Cosmos forward Eugene Starikov.

The silver lining was evident in the final score: 2-1 defeat of visitors Charlotte Independence. Speas and Starikov were crucial contributors to that scoreline in that they combined for Indy's first goal of the night, which came after the team trailed for 12 minutes in the second half.

Luck would have it that just when the team needed a goal — like really, really, really needed a goal worse than the Pitch Bitch has needed a goal all season (except for the Open Cup!) — Starikov makes a one-touch headed redirection from one of Ayoze's lovely passes and the ball lands perfectly in the path of Speas, rushing down the center of the 18 and nailing a left-footed shot on the fly! 

And, to add a juicy cherry, an Ayoze corner kick — for the second time this season — finds Carlyle Mitchell's head for a clean kill shot on goal. Defenders working together to score = happiness!

The win lifts Indy to fourth place in the USL's Eastern Conference standings.


Own goal victim to match-winning hero in three days, Carlyle Mitchell (Photo: James Cormack)

Early on in the match, players displayed evidence of sportsmanship, extending hands after bumping someone down and such. Looking to be charitable, maybe, overall, more players were cooperative and respectful of general sportsmanship than not. 

Still, the physicality picked up and this observer's attention was so distracted by the antics of Charlotte midfielder Alex Martinez of Uruguay that she was seeing red. He lit and accelerated the fire of the Pitch Bitch's indignant fury in 34th minute with what appeared to be a brazen from-behind, full-armed elbow in the back of an unwitting Ayoze, who was laid flat for minutes with the air knocked out of him. 

On top of that, one could see from 50 yards away his aura, which suggested a cocky, bleached-blond hot airbag, the kind who tries to make up for his deficiencies (including, one wagers, erectile dysfunction) with his dirty play and his flapping jaw.

The first half was scoreless. Then the unthinkable happened: The hosts allowed the Jackasses to take a 1-0 lead 5 minutes into the second half! 

Charlotte defender Sam Vines connected with Jorge Herrera, the team's leading scorer (33 goals for his club coming into the match), who, from the center of the box top, split defenders Mitchell and Ouimette and sent the ball beyond Owain Fôn Williams to find a home inside the net at the right post.

The goal places Herrera, who is the USL's second-highest career goal scorer, only six goals away from Dane Kelly's lead of 67 goals. Herrera is the second USL player to cross the 50-goal career scoring mark.

So, bully for Charlotte! 


Jorge Herrera of Charlotte lines up to shoot past Indy's defense (Photo: James Cormack)

DePauw University head men's soccer coach, Brad Hauter, made a good point in his broadcast observation that soft pressure on plays through the midfield and along the sidelines preceded the ultimate lapse on Herrera ... And as for losing Herrera, "there's a couple of players you just can't lose sight of," Hauter said. (True that, sir!)

The prospect of losing to any team with that punk Martinez had the Pitch Bitch running crazy daydreams about the USL going co-ed, enabling her to extract some impactful field revenge on that jerk. Not only for Ayoze but for every other player that had to put up with Martinez's mouth and his fouls. What is it about soccer that sometimes makes a generally calm and centered peace lover want to absolutely lose her shit? 

For some reason, it was one of those nights. So, imagine the ecstatic thrill when the Boys in Blue take care of business in a smooth and professional manner. (The visitors had five yellow cards — with accumulation nailing the team's captain with a red card ejection in the 70th minute — while the hosts were perfect gentlemen, at least in that the refs did not see it fit to issue them any cards.) 

Not often that reality is better than Pitch Bitch fantasies. But Saturday was her night!

Congratulations to Speas for nailing that shot! Since arriving in Indy, he's been consistent in play in practices and games and patient in sharing playing time. Coach Rennie commented after the game that he was happy to see the Ohio native score, as his long-demonstrated work ethic deserved to be rewarded.

In the previous two games (in which the team tied and lost), the goals conceded were "unfortunate" twists of fate, "a little bit cruel," Rennie said he told the players before the game. He added, "It's not always like that. We have to fight for each other and when we were down, we did, that we fought for each other."

Speas and Starikov "had to come off the bench to do that ... it showed good concentration," Rennie said. The match marks the second time the team earned a victory with a two-day recovery time while its opponent had a week off, which Rennie said, "shows the determination and fitness of the players."

Speas and Starikov (a native of Odessa, Ukraine) both did stellar jobs at holding space, bodying their opponents off the ball during duels and enduring hard fouls (both called and uncalled) to keep the crucial advantage.  


Eugene Starikov an early sub in for Venegas gave assist for Speas goal. (Photo: James Cormack)

Though coaches appeared to scream at refs and talk back to lip-giving opposing players — and Fôn Williams had animated words for either the sideline ref or members of the opposition on the sidelines or both, post-game Rennie was as calm as Buddha. 

He had no comment on any particular player's sins of aggression.

The match, Rennie said, was "a little chippy at times — everyone is fighting to get up the table. Everyone wants to win." He had nothing to say about Martinez.

Parting shots from the Pitch Bitch game notes:

Ayoze is like a master surgeon, the way he can slice a ball and clinically place it just where he wants it.

Ouimette almost had another goal as he headed an Ayoze freekick just outside the right goal post. Watson, Starikov and Soony Saad almost connected for an excellent opportunity at the top of the 18. Speas had a nice leave for Saad at the top of the 18: Saad almost had a goal but Dykstra ran out from his line for the last-ditch interception. Saad also almost had a goal with a 79th-minute free kick.

Indy Captain Matt Watson's work rate was top notch — and he picked up some hits for his efforts. At one point he was literally dragged down by Charlotte's captain, Bilal Duckett, earning Duckett his first of two yellows of the evening. The second followed in the 77th minute, giving Indy extra advantage.

Nico Mattern (the Germany native and Indiana Wesleyan grad) provided solid, reliable presence through the midfield, as well. Bringing down an aerial pass with his chest and passing it on in a smooth, controlled manner that began an on-target shot sequence.

Seth Moses dropped to the back line when Venegas subbed off with hamstring tightness. Just as he typically does in the midfield, Moses offered solid defensive presence and good penetration. Likewise, Brad Ring, exhibited his trademark steadfast presence and, perhaps, penetrated into the attacking third a little more than usual on Saturday, as he put in a full 90 before succumbing to what appeared to be cramping.


Brad Ring put in a solid shift before leaving the field late in the game. (Photo: James Cormack)

Tight passing sequences in the defensive third, under pressure from hungry Charlotte attackers, succeeded in building through midfield and then springing a timely switch into attacking third. 

Reiner Ferreira, the Brazilian defender who had been sidelined since an injury in Indy's first home game of the season, is looking fit enough to return to the field soon. And the plucky and speedy Ty Pasher is also back for duty after a weeks-long absence, so Indy continues to build its ability to keep create attacks from the defensive third in an endless series of threatening combinations.

Credit to the visitors for 1.) Cordell Cato's impressive speed, which totally sliced the Indy defense at one point, enabling him to launch a solid shot. (Thanks for being on point Fôn Williams!) 2.) Andrew Dykstra blocking a solid Starikov shot from the top right corner of the 18 hooking straight for the upper left corner of the goal. 3.) Eamon Zayed, for not giving us a reason to miss him. (Though we know he has plenty of gorgeous goals in his future, glad to see he couldn't muster one at Lucas Oil.) And, respect, he almost nailed us 15 minutes into the game, but Owain Fôn Williams saw the shot and protected his goal.

The team's next four games will be on the road at Charleston, Tampa Bay, Bethlehem (revenge match to make up for the May loss to them at home; time to return the favor) and Louisville on July 11, 21, 26 and Aug. 5, respectively.


No goals and no win for EZ but good to see him back in Indy. (Photo: James Cormack)

The win was important for the team, though its home record (4-3-2, W-L-D) must improve in the second half of the season, Coach Rennie said in the post-game media scrum.

So far, the team holds an 8-4-4 record overall with 17 games left total, of which seven will be at home.

"It was important to win today and important to do in exciting fashion for the fans who won't see us in weeks," Rennie said. 

Fans must wait more than a month until the next home game. North Carolina FC visits Indy Aug. 15, kicking off at 7 p.m. 

Fee-free tickets are available for purchase through the Brickyard Battalion supporters club at BYBtix.com. The team has plenty of good deals, as well, at IndyEleven.com



Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rough-N-Tumble Heartbreaker In The Heat - Indy V Ottawa Fury FC REVIEW

Never a good sight as Indy scores the only goal of the evening. (Photo: James Cormack)

By: Rebecca Townsend (aka The Pitch Bitch)

(Lucas Oil Stadium, INDIANAPOLIS) — The death blow was so quick and quiet it took a moment for the awful truth to resonate: In trying to block an incoming freekick, stalwart defender Carlyle Mitchell had instead redirected the ball's trajectory in a way no one could have predicted, scoring a dreaded "own goal." 

So it was that visiting Ottawa Fury gained a 1-0 advantage in the 28th minute.

The score didn't budge for the rest of the heat-soaked match at Lucas Oil Stadium-turned sauna. And it wasn't for lack of effort. Mitchell, for instance, was involved in the forward-motivated attack rhythms of the team from the game's opening minutes — and was fouled early on as he tried to move forward to connect with a teammate. 

Mitchell also deserves credit for an excellent fully extended tackle to strip the ball from an in-the-box attacker threatening to launch a pass in front of the goal mouth. (On that note: Mitchell deserves much more credit than he has received thus far for his consistent and effective approach to anchoring the central defense. In fact, aside from Indy goalie Owain Fôn Williams, who has started 16 matches, Mitchell's record of starting 15 matches and playing 1,249 minutes is unmatched by his peers. Ayoze has more minutes, but not more starts or games played, while Justin Braun has as many starts but about half the minutes at 637.)
Despite an own goal Mitchell made many critical tackles during the 90 (Photo: James Cormack)

Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie took some time to reflect on the evening's lessons:

"The way I look at it: We gave the ball away, then we gave it away again, then we gave the free kick. So three or four errors before they got the free kick and then, obviously, a mistake. And one we had a lot of time to put right and we didn't.

All we can do now is recover and do our best to have more energy than that in the next game. It's extremely hot. The stadium doesn't let any air come in. It's hard to breathe but it's the same for both teams. And in a game like that, where we're chasing the game, it obviously makes it difficult.

I thought we had a lot of chances. I was pleased with the players' desire in the second half. I thought we pushed and pushed and pushed. We changed the way we played. We got the ball forward a lot. We had a lot of attackers on there, we had a lot of crosses, a couple shots off target. Their goalkeeper made some good saves — a good save from the overhead kick.

Some nights we have to say, 'It's not our night.' We've had nights where it has been and we're obviously right in a good position (on the standings table) — disappointed, though, because that was a chance to really move us right up there tonight and we missed it.


Indy Eleven missed the opportunity to close the gap on the top after a great June (Photo: James Cormack) 

The concentration when it's nil-nil. Because that's two games where we've lost a goal and then we're chasing the game a little bit instead of being in control of the game and creating chances from a position of strength.

In the last two games, we've lost a goal we shouldn't have lost and we lost the first goal in the game, and that has meant that we're then chasing the game and not making good decisions on the ball or around the box. We really have to improve on that. At home, as well, with a lot of fans here to see and we didn't manage to put the ball in the net, so that's disappointing.

For us, there's ups and downs in a season. We know that. It's about getting to the right place in the end. Learning from the mistakes that we've made and pushing on. There's nothing we can do about that (the past) now. We can analyze it and move on."


[Humble Pitch Bitch apologies for her most critical field error of the evening — made on the verge of heat exhaustion: In preparing to Tweet the post-game interview with Coach Rennie, dyslexic transposition suggested an imposter stood in for the interview. Be assured this is, indeed Martin Rennie, not Rennie Martin. My bad, Coach.]

For your reading pleasure, a synopsis of the Pitch Bitch game notes:

Hopeful moments for Indy in the opening minutes with good connectivity between Eugene Starikov, Kevin Venegas and Ayoze. Also evident straight out of the gate: a hard-nosed, rough-edged match was unfolding. (Appropriate for the return of BYB Golden Corn Dog Award-winning defender Colin Falvey, a former anchor of the Indy Eleven backline during its 2016 trip to the NASL championship game against the New York Cosmos. Now back at Ottawa for a second stint after helping bring that club to the league championship in 2015, Falvey still exhibits his trademark roughneck, loud-mouthed, hit-first-ask-questions-later style.)

Colin Falvey: You tried to act all innocent early in Wednesday's game, but you know you totally pushed Ben Speas in the back. (Did you have an unsettled grudge or is that just your way of telling Ben you missed him and wish you could touch him a little more than the rules allowed?)


It wouldn't be an Indy V Ottawa game without physicality and some tetchy moments (Photo: James Cormack)

Minutes after Falvey's fondling of Speas, Jack McInerney was taken down and the foul wasn't called.

The players' aggression got so intense that before the game was even 15 minutes old, the ref is literally screaming at Ottawa's Adonijah Reid, "Stop it! Stop it!" after Reid pulled a dirty move on Indy captain Matt Watson. Reid continued to earn reprimands, including a yellow card after a pull-down in the 20th minute. On the whole, Ottawa earned four yellow cards on the evening to Indy's one (Juan Guerra in the 26th minute for jersey grabbing) — and the visitors were lucky not to earn more than a yellow for the extremely unsportsmanlike conduct of Ottawa captain Carl Haworth. Haworth did receive maybe a little heavy shoulder from Ayoze as the two sprinted down the sideline to control a ball at the corner. But then, once the ball was out of play, Haworth pushed Ayoze down in the tunnel leading off the field. Nothing but dirty.

Speaking of unsportsmanlike: Zach Steinberger, we suspect you were bored on tonight's uber-talented bench, but you were observed playing head games with your guest when he was trying to retrieve a ball from you on the sideline. You weren't going to throw it to him. You were going to make him walk to you and take it out of your hands. Then, when he went to grab it, you dropped. OK, yes, it was funny (she writes full of shame in finding joy in others' humiliation) ... But, aren't the new marching orders from our leaders at FIFA to "Live Futbol" now? Just pondering the question, bro, 'cause it comes down to karma, right? And, in the end, karma knocked us on cocky little asses tonight, didn't it?

(We must admit, however, if we're talking about karma, that Ottawa really deserves to suck it for their heavy-handed style. And we will make them suck it by the end of the season, if the plan unfolds as conceived...)


Ayoze locks out Howarth in the second half. (Photo: James Cormack)

Still, Indy kept hammering... Ayoze had a strong shot Crepeau did well to block, though he couldn't control the ball, the Indy additional runners just couldn't quite get there to hammer the deflection across the line. Juan Guerra should be credited with one of the best-camouflaged switches this evening, as he managed to keep Ottawa's defense flowing one way while he shifted his approach and launched a pass that was almost on. (The Bitch would like to see more switching passes strung on the turf with shorter, faster connections.) Watson had a nice volley on frame, but also into keeper Maxime Crepeau's hands. McInerney had a helluva nice bicycle kick, placing the ball on frame, but Crepeau was maximally effective in his position and shut down what would have been a huge Indy party. 

McInerney and Guerra almost connect in 74th minute...

Guerra also was fouled just outside the Ottawa box for an excellent free kick opportunity in the 79th minute. But the team's signals/timing misfired and possession rolled away.

Even the dynamic, 73rd-minute, super-sub duo of Justin Braun and Tyler Pasher (finally back to the field after a months-long injury) could not penetrate Ottawa's defenses.

And speaking of penetration and defense. Perhaps the most valuable bit of video from the evening might be found around the 89th minute when Ottawa's Tony Taylor penetrated two Indy defenders deep in Indy's defensive third. The strategy could be improved in this instance.


Indy players got great closeups of the turf throughout the match. (Photo: James Cormack)

Ottawa is coming off a brutal June and had an overall road record of 2-5-1 heading into tonight's match. Stealing the win from the U.S. hosts on Independence Day probably tasted extra sweet for the downtrodden guests.

Let's hope the evening was a success for Indy's HVAF, which works to provide housing, employment help and all kinds of wrap-around services for the hundreds of homeless veterans that live in Indianapolis. People can text HVAFHELPS to 24700 to send a donation in support of HVAF's important work and as an Independence Day recognition that freedom comes at a price — a bill that soldiers pay far beyond their fair share.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Unbeaten Teams Reach 1-1 Stalemate In Heavy Heat - Indy Eleven V Penn FC REVIEW

McInerney pulled Indy back to a point with a well placed free kick. (Photo: James Cormack)

By: Rebecca Townsend (aka The Pitch Bitch)

Indy Eleven began a seven-day run featuring three home games with a draw against Penn FC. The result extends the team's unbeaten streak to five games, placing them fifth among 16 teams in the United Soccer League's Eastern Conference.

Penn FC, under the leadership of head coach Raoul Voss, also entered the match on the tailwind of four unbeaten games. The 1-1 draw keeps both team's bragging rights alive.

Both teams deserve credit for holding each other scoreless in the first half. And Penn deserves credit for the efficacy and speed with which it sprung its goal on Indy just minutes into the second half. Yes, technically Lucky Mkosana scored the goal off a pk, but the truth is Karl Ouimette took him out in the box after Penn players shook their Indy defenders with an excellent series of quick and deadly passes. And yes, Ouimette began his tackle outside the box, but the critical contact game in the no-no zone.

Officiating that one coach referred to as "catastrophic" saw cards issued to three Indy players and one Penn player. 

The Pitch Bitch contends that the yellow against Watson was bogus.

She also felt irrepressible outrage at the blatant malpractice exhibited with just 10 minutes left in the match when the refs missed the absolute in-the-box penalty the Penn D committed against Eugene Starikov (who brought a renewed energetic vigor when he subbed in for Seth Moses in the 58th minute). 

Soccer karma came instantly for the mistreated hosts, however, who were ultimately able to save face thanks to a surgical, right-footed free kick from Jack McInerney about 30 yards out, which bent beautifully into the lower left netting. The roar that erupted in the stadium seemed to suggest a crowd twice its actual size. Indy deserves extra credit for holding their own despite having to play with 10 men for 15 minutes after Ouimette accumulated his second yellow card, resulting in a red-card suspension.


Karl Ouimette's departure saw Indy finish the match with 10 men. (Photo: James Cormack)

Perhaps the crowd's cry serves a harbinger of the great games yet to be had ... Two more this week ... Fourth of July, Downtown Indy ... Should be off the hook ... Maybe that's the night the Pitch Bitch closes the Slippery Noodle Inn for the first time in more than a decade ... All she needs is a good reason to celebrate ...

How much bigger can Hoosiers make these soccer crowds, anyway? The Pitch Bitch believes in big dreams — and she can't shake the dream in which Lucas Oil is packed to the roof for soccer. In fact, she still clings to the even wilder dream in which the necessary players finally embrace Indiana's great soccer heritage and give the people a world-class futbol facility. (If only Indiana could have been ready to be part of the 2026 World Cup... The Pitch Bitch likely won't live long enough to see another U.S.-based World Cup ... but maybe some future generation could have a thrill that big! Even with big dreams, an Indiana World Cup would be a wild sight to behold, for sure.)

Sidebar: Speaking of Indiana's soccer legacy and the World Cup... A special note of appreciation to Fort Wayne's DaMarcus Beasley, the first U.S. player to appear in four consecutive World Cups, currently defending for the MLS's Houston Dynamo, who traveled home this past week for the opening of the Beasley Courts public futsal facility, which will support footskills development for generations of players to come. Thanks for being so awesome, DaMarcus!

Sweltering heat settled hard on Indy Saturday and the stadium had a sauna-like feel. The players weren't so much running as they were swimming. The sweaty sheen of the spectators cast an iridescent haze around the arena, entirely appropriate with the rainbow color scheme of Pride Night.


Brickyard Battalion celebrate and support Pride Night in Indy (Photo: James Cormack) 

Indy began with possession, which they lost straightaway by launching a long aerial down the right flank. A series of arrows in the match notes indicate possession traded back and forth for the first nine minutes of the match, with both sides trying to test each other and neither making inroads.

A minute of craziness opened up in the 11th minute as Penn intercepted a mistimed header a player tried to drop to his defensive support, positioning the visitors to have a nice angle on goal. Indy readjusted quickly enough to neutralize the threat — and spring a counter that almost provided Justin Braun with a great 1-on-1 opportunity at the opposite end of the field. Almost. Instead, back and forth play resumed, with both sides displaying solid defensive cohesion and moments of attacking creativity. Two former members of Indy Eleven from its NASL days, Marco Franco and Paolo Jr., started against Indy and contributed to the team's efficacy on both ends of the field. 

Match notes credit Venegas with sweet touch receiving a crossfield long ball deep in Penn territory and adding a nice evasive move to elude the initial defensive pressure. (The subsequent defensive pressure ended that particular attack, however.) Venegas also was the initial link in a shot combination with Watson, Braun, and McInerney. Credit goes to Seth Moses for his penetrating dribbles and passes through the midfield. Also to Ben Speas, who subbed in for Braun in the 63rd minute, and did well to stay on his feet despite heavy Penn pressure. Venegas fed Speas for an excellent last-minute shot opportunity, but the ball was not destined to find its target. Ayoze had a brilliant nutmeg. And Carlyle Mitchell exhibited nice footwork, which launched a hopeful ball toward Penn's goal.


Venegas and Starikov combine on the right flank for Indy (Photo: James Cormack)

All this goes to say, Indy continues exhibiting the ability to absorb and re-direct virile threats. Players are building their multi-pronged attacking strategy, engaging all players in cooperative, dynamic movement. This is a promising foundation on which to build the rest of the season.

Indy head coach Rennie Martin said he intends to do just that: continue to build.

"There are always things to learn," he said in a post-match press scrum. "From this game, it's just the tempo of our passing and attacking. That's easy to say that sitting on the sidelines; it was a hot night and hard to breathe. But I felt maybe the speed of play wasn't as quick as I'd like and that we didn't really penetrate enough on the dribbling or passing behind their backline. Their backline was very, very deep. So, when that happens, we have to get in there and take people on or play one-twos. So that'd be something we could improve on."

(Click Here for the full post-match interview with Martin Rennie)


Indy Eleven will host the Ottawa Fury FC on July 4 (Military Appreciation Night, with the team offering 50 percent off tickets to military members who use the code military18 at Indyeleven.com/military) and Charlotte Independence on July 7. Both games begin at 7 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium. Fee-free tickets are available for purchase through the Brickyard Battalion supporters club at BYBtix.com.




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Good Head, Sloppy Seconds: Indy Forces Music City Submission - Nashville SC V Indy Eleven REVIEW

Watching Indy's away match from the Brickyard Battalion's Broad Ripple home: Union Jack 

By: Rebecca Townsend (aka The Pitch Bitch)

(Union Jack Pub, Broad Ripple, Indianapolis) — Nashville SC had a lot riding on the match it hosted Tuesday night against Indy Eleven: The club hadn't been beaten in league play since April 14, not since the last time they met Indy Eleven. And they'd never been beaten — or even trailed — at home.

This time, even home advantage was no help: Indy dominated, 2-0. A shutout that launched the club to 4th in the Eastern Conference and a 4-1-2 record on the road.

Karl Ouimette is the Pitch Bitch Man of the Match (even though the whole team deserves to share credit for working together so well!) because he played solid defense but also galvanized the evening's attack. In the opening minutes, he made a great defensive stick which neutralized a worrisome Nashville effort toward the goal. Then, after a header from Justin Braun was deflected out of bounds by host keeper Matt Pickens, Ouimette's head connected with Ayoze's incoming corner to put the visitors up 1 with the majority of the first half still to play.

And speaking of good headers ... Thanks to Ayoze's positioning and quick reflexes on Indy's goal line during a second-half Nashville set piece, a ball headed straight for the back of the net instead was redirected out into the field of play. The broadcasters (whose narrative was running about 5 seconds ahead of the accompanying video feed, by the way, which enabled those of us watching at the pub to learn we scored before we could actually see the ball in the net) were smitten. "Ayoze, clever on the line," one of the men comments. "He really can do it all! This guy's amazing, one of my favorites in the back!"]

Nashville dominated shots in the first half (9 to Indy's 4) and held the majority of possession, but Indy made the most of their time on the ball. This efficiency in working as a unit is evolving with Indy and its incredibly talented and versatile roster of players, which is unsettling opponents unsure of from what angle or with what tools the Eleven will strike.

Indy keeper Owain Fôn Williams definitely found himself in some tight spots, but he remained on point throughout the match and managed to hold on to a shutout while his field players kept working. With about 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Justin Braun launched a longshot from the left corner of the 18 (from the attacker's perspective) across the mouth of the goal. The shot did not appear to be super threatening, but Pickens could not keep the ball contained and it found the far-post corner to give the visitors a two-point advantage that held solid for the rest of the match. 

A hot and sweaty but successful night for Indy and the traveling support.

The win was not for a lack of effort on Nashville's part. They were just outclassed by Indy. A Kevin Venegas shot that ricocheted into the path of Jack McInerney almost gave Indy a three-point advantage before the half. Even though this and all subsequent efforts did not find the net, the pressure was phenomenal, even as the team recovered when defensive duties called — working together to neutralize what at times were very potent threats.

Seth Moses had a great defensive presence and good connectivity with Matt Watson in the midfield, which stopped many of the host's efforts from developing and planted the seeds for many gallant counter attacks from their own squad. But it really is impossible to choose favorites because, from back to front, the team was a cohesive unit. And the work rate was impressive. For instance, just before the half, an errant pass from McInerney led to a turnover. But instead of accepting the loss, McInerney chased down the interceptor and stole the ball back. Good form.

Around the 70th minute, Nashville launched a threatening attack that had the defense scrambling to organize its pressure and cover. But Indy did manage efficient and effective resource allocation, slowing the player with the ball and manning up on all his friends quickly enough for the Indy midfield to drop in and provide the necessary cover. Minutes later, Venegas neutralizes another Nashville effort with a slide tackle that was at once both tough and beautiful.

Indy will close out a successful month by hosting Penn FC on June 30. The match will kickoff at 7 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium. Tickets are available at IndyEleven.com and (if you want to avoid a fee and support the supporters) at brickyardbattalion.com/byb-tix/. A mid-week, holiday match at Lucas Oil will follow: The USL selected Indy's at-home July 4th match against Ottawa FC as its Game of the Week.


* * *

A footnote bitch: While noticing that the temporomandibular joint of the Nashville FC coach was at risk because, not only is he a gum chewer, but he chews it like he wants to kill it with aggressive maceration, she began to worry about his health. But then she watched him spit his wad straight out on the field. No trash can. Gross. Who does such a thing? An 8-year-old maybe, but a coach?! Minutes later, he was chomping on another piece. Indy will not meet Nashville again in regular season 2018 games, but if and when this dude returns to the Circle City, operations better keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't try to defile our facilities with his uncouth style.