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 F么n 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


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 F么n 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 F么n 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 F么n 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 F么n 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 F么n 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 F么n 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 F么n 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 F么n 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