Monday, October 8, 2018

Bad goal, good goal - Indy Eleven V Bethlehem Steel REVIEW

Magnificent goalkeeping from Owain Fôn Williams kept Indy Eleven alive under heavy pressure from Bethlehem Steel. Photo - Trevor Ruzkowski

By REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)

The tragedy happened in slow motion. The salvation happened in a heartbeat.

Host team Indy Eleven and visiting opponents Bethlehem Steel, both with playoff spots on the line, engaged in a physical match in which raw emotion between the players often surfaced as they scrapped for an advantage.

Indy had some bright moments. Captain Matt Watson managed a solid shot on goal. Reiner Ferreira sucked the life out of a virile Bethlehem counterattack with a solid block. And then there was brilliant work from Indy goalie Owain Fôn Williams after Steel midfielder and captain James Chambers and forward Faris Moumbunga unstitched Indy's entire field and looked to have an all-but-certain goal on tap. Not one to cave in the face of unkind odds, Fôn Williams not only deflected Moumbunga's point-blank shot, he also scrambled successfully to reject a second attempt made off the rebound.

Then, in the 39th minute, an ugly scene. Moumbugna streaked down the right flank as Carlyle Mitchell, the last Indy defender back, sprinted in to shut down the attack. Just as Mitchell closed the space, he crumpled to the turf clutching at what appeared to be a seized or pulled hamstring. Moumbugna paid no heed, seizing the 1-on-1 situation that had just unfolded between him and Fôn Williams. The keeper, caught off guard by the sudden lack of defensive pressure, could not shut down Moumbugna's angle and the visitors went up by one.

With so much on the line, one can hardly blame the man for capitalizing on the unexpected advantage. But still, watching the Steel celebrate, one couldn't help but think, "You feel proud of yourselves for that, do you? Shame on you."

Heading to the locker room at halftime, Indy trailed.

The setup for the Oct. 6 match could have hardly be more dramatic. The teams stood back-to-back on the United Soccer League's Eastern Conference standings table, both scrambling to secure a spot in the playoffs for the USL championship. Each team had earned a victory and suffered a loss in the two games they played against each other earlier in the season. Three points would secure that spot for Indy. A loss would make the situation much dicier.

Then tension was high the entire second half. Within the first few minutes, Steel midfielder Michee Ngalina tried to provoke a fight on a dead ball by aggressively pushing Indy's Ayoze in the chest. But cooler heads prevailed among the host side and Indy kept working.

Defensive midfielder Nico Matern had a solid attempt on goal rebuffed. But Indy continued pressing.

But then, in the infancy of the 61rst minute, the tension was broken by a play of unquestionable beauty. Whereas the tragedy unfolded in slow motion, Indy's salvation occurred with two strokes so swift and decisive, Bethlehem had no idea what hit them until they watched the replay.

Seconds after Indy's defensive disarmed a Steel attack, Ayoze took possession of the ball at the top his defensive third on the left flank and, after quickly zeroing in on his target, sent a 55-yard aerial ball across the field to the top right corner of the Steel's 18. Indy striker Eugene Starikov read the play as it unfolded and sprinted to connect. With a defender at his left shoulder and keeper Tomas Romero still in front of him, Starikov took one touch on the volley to chip Romero and send the ball into Bethlehem's goal for the equalizer.

Brillance.

Few things are more fun in soccer than watching the opposing keeper flying back into his own net, desperately clutching for a ball that is already past saving. The scene was the perfect remedy to the heartache endured in the first half.

The play also provided a positive end note for the conclusion of Indy Eleven's first season at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Boys in Blue have one final road match to play in the regular season. They will face Lousiville City FC next Saturday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m.





Thursday, September 27, 2018

Routing the Rowdies 2-0 - Indy Eleven V Tampa Bay Rowdies REVIEW

Forward Elliott Collier, who recently arrived in Indy on loan from the Chicago Fire, celebrates his first goal for Indy Eleven as team captain Matt Watson rushes in to help celebrate. Photo by Trevor Rruszkowski

Hump Day Happiness In The Circle City

By REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)

Looking for redemption for the 3-1 loss suffered during their July 21 visit to Tampa Bay, Indy Eleven met the Rowdies at Lucas Oil Stadium Wednesday night with a lineup designed for defensive impenetrability while maximizing the host's capacity to spread the field and counterattack.

Focus and intensity ensured Indy Eleven eluded some of the gremlins that have cost the team victories in games past. The Boys in Blue made it through the opening minutes of the game — and the opening minutes of the second half — without being scored on. And those successes stuck, allowing the Eleven to claim victory — and for keeper Owain Fôn Williams to record his 11th clean sheet of the season. (Head coach Martin Rennie believes Fôn Williams either tied or set the club clean sheet record with the evening's result.)

Fôn Williams is tied for seventh in the entire USL for number of saved goals at 77 (including two blocked penalty kicks). (The Tulsa Roughnecks FC's Fabián Cerda leads with 104.)

Indy's defense was entirely no-nonsense straight from the start. Reiner Ferreira sent Junior Flemmings crumbling to the carpet on a couple occasions in the game's opening minutes. Captain Ayoze showed commanding control of his flank and the rest of the back line, in lock-step and interchangeable flow with the midfield and even the forwards, all followed suit by putting immediate and effective pressure on Tampa's possession, absorbing everything they could bring and then redistributing for the counterattack from all directions of the field.


"Patient passing; low, accurate switching of fields...still more, patiently unzipping their backline," Pitch Bitch game notes read. "Maybe now test with some shots."

That may be the Bitch's greatest input at this point: Let's be even more confident in the attacking third. Let's test the hell out of our opposing keepers and D with some wicked hard shots from all around the 18 perimeters! And then crash the box! Keep their defense frantic! The clinical un-stitching with close-range destruction is also beautiful to behold. Have fun finding balance. Keep bringing your highly fit relentless intensity.  

Carlyle Mitchell gets credit for so much, but to choose a highlight: Picture him in the first half, flying backward through the air for a floating heading clearance of a ball that was going to drop over every other defender and land about 10 yards out from Indy's goal with a swarm of Rowdies rushing in to finish? Nice. 

Midfielders Nico Matern, Seth Moses and Dylan Mares all came out hard, defending like animals and then building consistent and effective counterattacks. Matern, in particular, was called out by coach Rennie after the game for having one of his best-ever matches.

Matern's play "was a key factor in us improving our possession and keeping the ball going," Rennie said.

Tampa Bay's play of the game came in the 26th minute when Rowdies forward Sebastian Guenzatti took a wicked one-touch volley from the top of the box, forcing lightening fast reflexes from Fôn Williams, who just managed to the tip the ball off the post and out of harm's way.

"Great shot! Great save!" says commentator Brad Hauter, also the coach of DePauw Men's Soccer.

Ten minutes later Indy defender Kevin Venegas cracks a shot of his own, forcing Tampa keeper Daniel Vega into a diving save to tip the ball over the crossbar. 

The defense continued its offensive onslaught of first-half fury when Karl Ouimette bagged his third goal of the season, which also happened to be his third header into goal from an Ayoze corner kick.

How did it feel?

"Amazing!" Ouimette said following the game, calling Indy Eleven's 2-0 victory over the Rowdies "a big step up from past games."

The game's positive results were clear, he said, especially from the perspective of a defender whose first objective is to win and second is to record a shutout. 

"We scored a goal and we didn't sit back too much," he said, "We defended well
throughout the game. We were able to dominate and put up pressure and impose our style of play. That was a big plus for us today. And, obviously, scoring on a personal side is always good!"

The team has "amazing players..such nice guys and we have each others' backs," he added. "Lots of teams have internal negativity. Not here. We want to help each other succeed."


Ouimette attended a post-game press conference with one of the team's most recent signings, Elliott Collier, who came to the Circle City on loan from Chicago Fire. Collier scored the night's second goal after beautiful teamwork set up Jack McInerney to tangle Tampa's defenders and leave a deflected ball rolling straight into Collier's path at which point the New Zealand native buried left-footed, one-touch shot.





Tense moments about 10 minutes into the second half when an errant call from officials left Tampa Bay setting up for an undeserved penalty kick, which if netted would have tied the score. The center official intervened, however, and reset the play where with a drop ball instead. Thereby a riot was prevented. Thank you refs!



Perspective on Potential Post-season Action

The team's playoff dreams are still in play. They currently sit at 5th place in the USL's Eastern Conference. The top eight teams from each conference will square off to see who will face the best of the Western Conference and claim the USL's 2018 Championship.

Three games remain, including two road games against teams that sit at the first and third spots on the table. This upcoming Saturday's (Sept. 29) road trip to FC Cincinnati presents a huge challenge and opportunity. Cincy has invested in a roster that will help them make the transition into the MLS next season. As a result, they've remained the Eastern Conference leader all season long — and they've beat Indy twice; a 0-1 defeat for Indy's first-ever home game played at Lucas Oil Stadium, followed by a 2-3 result in Indy one month later.


USL Eastern Conference Standings as of Sept. 27, 2018

The challenge lies in beating a team that has consistently dominated all competition. The opportunity lies in knowing that Indy improved its form from the first game to the second against Cincy. Plus, Indy Eleven has been improving as a unit all season and FC Cincinnati hasn't contended with them since early May. 

The prospect of tearing down the top dog is too tasty, especially on its home field. Huge egos are designed by God to rupture. The Eleven just may end up doing the Lord's work by checking their neighbor to the southeast with a healthy dose of revenge. How fun would it be to send those guys packing to the MLS with a 2-2 record against Indy? A regular season victory this weekend would give Indy one and then they can follow with an even sweeter playoff victory! 

A prescient piece of Scripture comes to mind: "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" (Matthew 19:26)

So when haters try to talk "odds" or "reason" or "logic" or "MLS caliber" ... just remember Jesus — and the Blues Brothers. ("We're on a mission from God.") And keep playing your flippin' hearts out! We take no result as a fore-drawn conclusion.

Jimmy Cliff also comes to mind: "The harder they come, the harder they fall."

Humbling the haughty and earning some payback for letting those jokers come over here and steal Indy's first home game victory — all while building confidence as the team prepares for winning playoff form? Sounds like solid motivation for Saturday's match.

"I feel we'll reward the fans with the way we play," Collier said. "You get the fans behind you, you can shake the other team, as well. So come on out and we'll have a good time!"

Cincinnati and Louisville will be a preview of the playoffs, Collier said. 


"Everyone is going to go at it," he said. "Those environments can be tough but we're going to go out and do what we can (in terms of perfecting the Indy system)... As good as the players are here, I think they're even better people. Bring a bunch of really good soccer players and really good people together, you'll have a good environment to build off."





Words of wisdom from Coach Rennie



Here are some tasty nuggets gleaned from Rennie's post-game comments.


"Good performance. We possessed the ball well and created some good chances.
We managed to win the ball higher up pressure on the ball reduce the chances the opponent had to attack us."

"In the last two home games, two of our best performances."

"We've been on a good run. It's a good time to be playing well, it's a good time to be gaining confidence and that puts us in a good position."

(Heading into Cincinnati:) "We have high-quality players who can get the job done for us. We have a short turnaround but ultimately it will be an exciting weekend for us."

"It's really about continuing the momentum ... we're looking for improved confidence."


"The game will take care of itself ... a lot on the line ... good players with good experience...I'm sure they'll relish the opportunity and make the most of it."



Moving forward

Supporters are encouraged to travel to Cincinnati (ticket info) this weekend and to Louisville where the team will play its final regular-season game on Oct. 13. The Brickyard Battalion is organizing carpools for Cincy here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdsh6da2VlW67jjKj2KpeM0GsHPOqk9zZZfaBNOqgrn2vIQJQ/viewform.

The final regular-season home game is set for Sat., Oct. 6 against Bethlehem Steel FC. (The game will be broadcast on MyIndy 23 TV. Tell your local bartender to tune in!) Kickoff  is 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


— — —



 






Thanks to the Indy Eleven communication team for this lineup summary:
Scoring Summary:
IND – Karl Ouimette (Ayoze) 37’
IND – Elliot Collier 75’

Disciplinary Summary:
IND – Owain Fon Williams (Yellow card) 74’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2, L-->R): Owain Fon Williams (GK); Reiner Ferreira, Ayoze (C), Carlyle Mitchell, Karl Ouimette; Dylan Mares (Matt Watson 68’), Nico Matern, Seth Moses, Kevin Venegas; Elliot Collier (Soony Saad 84’), Jack McInerney
Indy Eleven bench: Ben Lundgaard (GK); Brad Ring, Brad Rusin, Matt Watson, Juan Guerra, Ben Speas, Soony Saad

Tampa Bay Rowdies lineup (4-5-1, L-->R): Daniel Vega (GK); Papé Diakité, Zac Portillos, Tarek Morad, Hunter Gorskie; Junior Flemmings, Lance Rozeboom (Joe Cole 78’), Afrim Taku (Alex Morrell 72’), Dominic Oduro, Kwadwo Poku (Jaime Chavez 65’); Sebastian Guenzatti
Tampa Bay Rowdies bench: Akira Fitzgerald (GK); Kyle Porter, Alex Morrell, Leo Fernandes, Martin Vingaard, Joe Cole, Jaime Chavez





Thursday, September 6, 2018

Goals flow for Indy in revenge match - Indy Eleven V New York Red Bulls II REVIEW

Striker Eugene Starikov checks in with fans in the Brickyard Battalion after scoring two goals in the first 20 minutes of Indy Eleven's 3-0 shutout of the New York Red Bulls II. (Photo by Rebecca Townsend)

By REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)


Indy Eleven stepped to the field on Wednesday night with a straightforward message to visiting New York: We're going to win this game in a major way! With a 3-0 scoreline by halftime (Eugene Starikov, a former member of the New York Cosmos, scored once within the game's first two minutes and again within the game's first 20 minutes), the message remained undiluted.

New York kept pressing throughout the second half — and opened up what appeared to be several decent chances — but nothing they brought to the field could unsettle the hosts.

The final score remained 3-0.

Excellent assists came from Mares and Watson, respectively, on Starikov's brace. The third goal was ultimately settled by a decisive strike from Brazilian defender Reiner Ferreira, but defensive midfielder Nico Matern deserves credit for making an excellent penetrating run that served to put New York's defence on its heels. It was a rebound off Matern's initial shot that his teammate Dylan Mares was able to control and pass off to Seth Moses, who laid it into Ferreira's path for the kill shot.

Wednesday's match represented a refreshing taste of revenge for Indy Eleven. When the squad visited New York earlier this season, the junior Red Bulls beat the visiting Midwestern squad 4-1, the Eleven's worst defeat of the season. Though New York can console themselves with the fact that the 59 goals they've tallied this season have placed them ahead of every other team in the league in the "goals scored" category, they could not shake their winless road status. (They've lost five road games and tied eight this season.)

The victory drives Indy Eleven up two places in the USL Eastern Conference standings table to fourth place.


Standings as of September 6, 2018.

"Today was fun!" midfielder Seth Moses said, reflecting on the victory postgame. The team's performance demonstrates its "determination and ambition to reach the next level," Moses said. "I believe we have a championship-winning team." 

But even with an eye on the ultimate prize, Moses added that he and his teammates are committed to taking "one step at a time" as they move toward the playoffs. It is "vital that the pieces come together" as each player provides leadership in different ways, he said. When questioned on where he sees his greatest contribution over the remaining few weeks,  Moses said he is known as a team fitness leader and he plans to remain accountable on that score.

"I feed off their energy," Moses said.


The New York match marked the final stage of a particularly brutal portion of Indy's 2018 schedule: seven matches in 22 days. The Eleven managed to complete the gauntlet of games undefeated. They have not suffered a loss since their July 21 game road game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, so the team rides a nine-game undefeated streak heading into their final six regular-season matches of the season.

"We played one game in 19 days, then seven games in 22 days," Indy Eleven's head coach Martin Rennie said after the game. "I've never seen anything like that in any schedule. We came through that — and that is a great confidence booster."

Making it through such a trial of endurance demonstrates the team's considerable depth and its ability to make adjustments, stay fresh, and even grow stronger over time, Rennie said.

Two home games remain ahead of the playoffs, but fans must wait three weeks to see their team take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Indy will host its final WEDNESDAY NIGHT GAME against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wed., Sept. 26. The final regular-season home game is set for Sat., Oct. 6 against Bethlehem Steel FC. (These games will be broadcast on MyIndy 23 TV. Tell your local bartender to tune in!) Kickoff time for all these matches is 7 p.m.

Fans may also consider a road trip to lovely southwestern Ohio on Sept. 29, when Indy will visit Cincinnati FC, the most dominant team in the USL's Eastern Conference. 

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



Sunday, September 2, 2018

Looking for the lessons - Indy Eleven V Richmond Kickers REVIEW

Captain Brad Ring keeps his eye on the ball — and the bigger picture. Is a 1-1 tie against a team with a record like Richmond's a bummer? Yes. Are we still unbeaten after an 8-game test of strength and endurance? Yes.
Are we still playoff contenders? Hell yes!  (Photos by Matt Schlotzhauer, courtesy of Indy Eleven)

By: REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)

Maybe it was a matter of overconfidence. (After all, the opposing team was entering the match with the worst defensive record in the entire United Soccer League.) Maybe they were tired. (After all, they were entering their sixth of a 7-games-in-22-days gauntlet.)

Maybe the heat just got to everyone. Maybe everyone needs Labor Day vacation.

The Pitch Bitch knows something was off — or maybe it is more accurate to say something wasn't quite on. Because she has watched Indy Eleven (11-7-9) build its chemistry over the course of this season, she knows the talent and the potential existed to unleash a torrent of goals on the visiting Richmond Kickers, a team that arrived with the distinction of allowing the most goals in the entire USL.

Soony Saad on the move.
She also believes that the game of soccer exists to teach lessons and press its adherents to better performance on mental, physical and spiritual planes. So the goal the Kickers scored at 4-something minutes into the game underscored a lesson most profound.

As she watched unpressured midfielder Raul Gonzalez make a simple, beautiful jog to receive a pass from the flank (a pass that ultimately eluded four Indy guys) — a pass he sweetly redirected with one touch into Indy's net, she recalled one of the sweetest, most profound lessons of futbol: Be ever vigilant — especially in the early minutes of the game.

She flashed back to college practice, running suicide sprints for two minutes because her team was scored upon in the first two minutes of their previous match. 

Her coach wanted the team to remember that for those opening two minutes (just as we would be in the rest of the game), we needed to be tougher, harder and faster.

Indy's head coach Martin Rennie likely has more civilized methods of dealing with teams who are scored upon in the first five minutes. In this case, vacation. He knows his lads need a few days to lick their wounds before they host the second-to-last of their Wednesday night games of the season when they host the New York Red Bulls II on Wed., Sept. 5. The Bulls (10-7-10) currently sit just under Indy in the USL Eastern Conference Standings.






The Pitch Bitch was tired during the Indy/Kickers game. The game notes were sparse. 

Dylan Mares' equalizer off a 50-yard, field-switching, laser-sighted pass from Venezuelan international Juan Guerra said it all really. That is the stuff we are capable of.


Dylan Mares has a mean strike. And his willingness to shoot from out wide ensured that Indy would walk away from the field with a 1-1 tie, instead of losing to the team with the worst defensive record in the league.

The assist was beautiful. And as the Pitch Bitch watched young Hoosier Mares square his shoulders up on that goal frame, she knew he was going to score. As he prepared to shake one last defender before launching a shot of such speed and strength that the diving keeper could do nothing but hear that disheartening swish of the ball landing in his net, she could read it in his body language.

"We are too f*cking good to be losing to this team! We will not lose to this team! It is time to score!"

That is exactly right. It's time to score! And, by golly, we are going to concede fewer goals!

Let's get some rest and keep the big picture in perspective. Indy still sits at sixth — and we know what we are capable of moving forward. The team has managed to stay unbeaten during an 8-game slog.

Captain Brad Ring (Go Hoosiers!) summed it up nicely on Twitter:



Post-match USL Eastern Conference Standings.

Just three home games remain ahead of the playoffs. The season will conclude with a Wednesday game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Sept. 26 and Bethlehem Steel FC on Oct. 6.  (The final three home games will be broadcast on MyIndy 23 TV.) Kickoff time for all these matches is 7 p.m.

Fans may also consider a road trip to Cincinnati on Sept. 29, when Indy will visit the league leader.

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, August 30, 2018

McInerney Saves The Day With Stoppage-Time Goal - Indy Eleven V Pittsburgh Riverhounds REVIEW

Jack McInerney netted early and late to salvage a 2-2 draw with Pittsburgh.

By: REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)

When Indy Eleven hosted the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Lucas Oil Stadium Wednesday, both teams were riding unbeaten streaks: The Hounds with five and Indy with six.


By the game's end, each team had extended their streak by one. Thanks to a stoppage-time goal from experienced striker Jack McInerney, the hosts walked away with a two-two tie, which holds them steady at sixth in the United Soccer League's 17-seat Eastern Conference. The Hounds, meanwhile, slipped from second to third. Both remain favored for the playoffs — and with only four home games left before post-season, every game remains critical.


The match was textbook topsy-turvy.


The Pitch Bitch's first game notes of the night read: "Two minutes into the game, relative chaos in Indy's box." Less than two minutes later, Jack McInerney scored a goal thanks to a tough fight for possession in the midfield from Captain Matt Watson, who, after securing the ball, sent a beautiful pass through into the attacking third where McInerney was waiting in perfect position. (Always play hard, like Matt Watson, kids, because you never know when the pass you make after winning a hard-fought duel will end up being an assist!) 


The Hounds' goalie, Michael Kirk, stepped up to try to intercept the pass, but McInerney held the ball and his position as Kirk overcommitted, leaving Jack to step around one last defender and, like a trained assassin, deliver a swift and decisive kill shot, putting his team in an excellent position to pile on Pittsburgh's pain. But the visitors were resilient.

At minute 8, the Pitch Bitch was nervous when the Hounds found the foot of a weak-side runner steaming toward the left goal post. He couldn't keep his effort on frame, but if he was more Cristiano-or Lauren Cheney Holiday-like he would have.


In the 14th minute, the PB notes read: "A LOT of fucking around in front of the goal almost had us eat an ugly goal."


Twenty minutes later, defender Karl Ouimette almost netted his third goal of the season, exhibiting gorgeous touch and a solid shot across the goal mouth. Minutes later, the Hounds' Christiano Francois beat Indy in their defensive third to unleash a threatening shot, but fate would not have it stay on frame. Indy was back on the attack next, with Watson and McInerney nearly executing a repeat performance of the evening's first goal.






In first-half stoppage time, the Hounds found Indy's net off a Joe Greenspan-headed Francois freekick. Then, in the 59th minute, Francois made up for his missed opportunity earlier in the evening by reading a mistimed defensive pass, using his considerable speed to intercept the pass and elude Indy keeper Owain Fôn Williams. 

The situation looked bleak as the game's final minutes slipped away with Indy trailing. As Indy's head coach Martin Rennie said in post-game comments, sometimes the clock works against the team, but other times the opposite holds true. (In a recent game against Toronto, in which it seems stoppage time expired, the team somehow managed to score a tie-winning goal against Indy. Against Pittsburgh, though, the stoppage time goal went Indy's way.)

In the 94th minute, Ben Speas controlled the ball in the central channel about 30 yards from the Hound's goal and lofted a pass just over the central defenders' heads, as McInerney ran in from the weakside to control the ball off his chest and around the keeper to finish with immaculate finesse.


He then gave himself a yellow card by giving the ecstatic home crowd a shirtless display of surging testosterone. But his coach didn't care. Martin Rennie had his attention focused on this bigger picture of how his team is functioning as a unit.






In a post-game interview, Rennie said he is taking confidence from a couple main points: 1)

His team stayed unbeaten against one of the toughest rivals in the conference. 2) Indy scored two goals on a team that doesn't give up many goals 3) They opened up the Hound's formation on a number of occasions, finding viable scoring opportunities 4) Team defense is looking good. The errors tend to be isolated individual mistakes that can be minimized with, for instance, a more decisive response to balls entering the defensive third and a reduction in the instances in which a ball is left to bounce, setting up 50-50 balls. The general idea being that, even if you lose possession of a ball, but clear it away from the area where it poses an immediate threat, that tactic is better than scrapping for a loose ball in front of the goal.

"This is one of those seasons that is a grind," Rennie said. "We have to work hard for everything but, by doing that, we're building a lot of resilience and character — and, ultimately, you need those things to be a team that wins at the end of the season. As much as everyone would like things to be easy, it doesn't really make you stronger..these games are hard but at the end of the day we're getting results, they make us strong and so overall I'm very happy."


Whereas the Pitch Bitch was losing her mind about some of the ref's calls — or lack thereof — throughout the evening, including the blatant — and uncalled — foul against Indy that preceded the Hounds first goal, Rennie adopted a circumspect attitude post-game when asked if he would launch a formal complaint.

"In life, there's lots of things we can't control," he said. "Officiating is one of those things. They say in the course of a season that things even out. We're in for a ride at the end if that's the case."


USL Eastern Conference playoff positions as of 8/30/2018
Just four home games remain ahead of the playoffs. Indy will host the Richmond Kickers on Sat., Sept. 1 (broadcast locally on WISH TV 8), and the New York Red Bulls II on Wed., Sept. 5. The season will conclude with a Wednesday game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Sept. 26 and Bethlehem Steel FC on Oct. 6.  (The final three home games will be broadcast on MyIndy 23 TV.) Kickoff time for all these matches is 7 p.m.

Fans may also consider a road trip to Cincinnati on Sept. 29, when Indy will visit the league leader.



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, August 23, 2018

Home-Grown Product Harvests Clutch Goal - Indy Eleven V Toronto FC II REVIEW

Now wearing No.2 goal scorer Dylan Mares returns to Indy Eleven in 2018

By: REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)

A clutch player scored a clutch goal just in time to save his club from a confidence-killing tie Wednesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Midfielder Dylan Mares, a native of Zionsville Indiana, played for Indy Eleven for its first three seasons before heading to the NASL's Miami FC at the beginning of the 2017 season and continuing into the NPSL with Miami FC II. After winning a league championship for the latter, Mares accepted Indy's offer to return for the balance of the USL season. He arrived just in time.

Indy Eleven opened the evening strong, scoring two excellent, run-of-play goals in the first 25 minutes. The first came from Ben Speas from the top of the 18, following a laser-like pass from Nico Matern (the team leader in passing accuracy) deep in Indy's defensive half. Jack McInerney (the team's leading goal scorer) jumped on a loose ball minutes later, forcing his opponents to pay a heavy toll for their failure to achieve control. 

Optimism and euphoria were shortlived, however. Before halftime, the visitors found Indy's net twice, as well. The first came from a Tsubasa Endoh free kick at the top of the 18, sent straight over the wall, curving into the upper left corner of the frame. The equalizer came when Toronto's Jordan Hamilton nailed a loose ball, keeping it low and on target to slide just inside the post.

"WTF are we in for now?" the collective thought bubble could have read as the crowd waited for the second half to begin.

They didn't have to wait long. The True Hoosier Mares showed why he's worth every last cent he is paid (and more) in the 58th minute. Receiving the ball in midfield, ably weaving through the pressure of multiple players as his teammates fan out to provide options, and draw additional pressure, out to both sides. Toronto, like a deer in the headlights, was caught flat-footed, not knowing whether the true threat lay with Speas to Mares' left or with Soony Saad, also within striking distance. 

True to one of the most basic tenets of soccer, the most pressing threat lays with the ball itself. And in this case, the ball lay at the feet of a home-grown soccer prodigy, a prodigal son sent away to the wild beaches of Miami, only to return home as pure and trustworthy as before he left. (Or could he have even grown better in his absence?!)

Indiana's own Dylan Mares could have passed to Speas or Saad, but with his excellent passing and control, he held on just long enough to freak everyone out and then delivered the kill shot.

"It was well done by everyone else," Mares said in post-game notes from the team. "They gave me the space to create an opportunity.”


USL Eastern Conference playoff positions as of 8/23/2018

Mr. Mares, reliable sources tell me that at least once in my career as a soccer chronicler, I've raised the hackles of some of the boys in the locker room, a posse that may have included you. I have memories of John Koluder asking me how well I'd like it if someone told me how to do my job after I shared one of my most valuable soccer lessons: "the big butt turn" aka "how to throw every last thing you have at an opponent when they're about to beat you." I thought Koluder's question was pretty funny considering I was a professional reporter — a position in which pretty much everyone felt qualified to chime in about how I could best do my work. 

Here's another nugget of wisdom: You needn't worry about the critics. Just keep doing you.

I'd like you to know, young man, that watching you grow as a player over the past five years is one of the greatest joys I've had doing this job. Welcome home, buddyHere are what the Pitch Bitch game notes say about you last night, just before you scored — then edited to reflect your goal:

"Dylan hustling on D, in the midfield taking hits, making plays, absorbing pressure, SCORING!"

I couldn't ask for anything more. Keep up the good work! 

And that goes for the rest of you guys, too. How well you're working as a unit. How deeply talented you are. How many of you who deserve to play because you show up and work hard every day have to instead be graceful about sitting on the bench? Or worse yet, be here and not even able to play because of injury. Your collective spirit is encouraging, vibrant enough to carry us through the tail end of this season.

Game notes recorded a lovely bit of ball handling and teamwork in the waning minutes of the game between Speas, Ayoze, and Matern, setting up a tasty shot opportunity for another new teammate, forward Elliot Collier, stepping in around the 80th minute, his second match with Indy. 




We will need to be deeply grounded for the gauntlet that lays ahead: A road game against Atlanta United FC 2 on Sat., Aug. 25 (watch party at Union Jack at 7 p.m.) will precede three-home game stretch in seven days. The next home game will be at 7 p.m. Wed., Aug. 29, against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. See IndyEleven.com for schedule details.

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