|Adverse weather saw Indy's coaching staff make up the bulk of the attendance for this match.|
By: James Cormack
A lot to unpack from a game marred by adverse weather conditions and a few unnecessary flashpoints. In a match where we knew Indy Eleven would have to call on their roster depth, there were a lot of positives to come out of the game, but the overall play was dictated at times by things out of our control.
Rennie put forward a different formation and numerous lineup changes forced by injury and suspension. Ayoze Garcia made his first competitive appearance for Indy at left back allowing Tyler Pasher to advance to midfield. Nathan Lewis also made his first start on the right of midfield and Justin Braun started in a front two pairing with Soony Saad. Brad ring continued where he left off last week in what is now known as the Ring Back position.
As we know Lundgaard and McInerney were not available. Venegas, Starikov, and Ferreira did not travel. On the bench for the Eleven were Farr, Rusin, Moses, Steinberger, Speas, Guerra, and Amankona.
|Several changes and starts for Ayoze, Lewis, Ring, and Justin Braun.|
Prior to the match, Martin Rennie had called for his team to create more goalscoring chances and in the early stages, they did not disappoint. Considering the changes made Indy Eleven settled into a comfortable rhythm quite early. On the evidence of the short period of time we had to see Nathan Lewis play, he played two great through passes to Justin Braun, the first in the third minute Braun was unable to convert.
For the first fifteen minutes of the game, the broadcast commentators spoke mostly about Tyler Pasher, and for very good reason. Pasher was finding huge amount of space on the left in Carolina's final third. A giveaway ball by Futty Danso was pounced upon by Justin Braun who laid off the perfect pass to find Pasher advancing on the box, he struck a sweet left low past Tabakis to put Indy Eleven in the lead early.
Unintentional contact to the head of Nathan Lewis in the 20th minute saw an early exit for the Trinidad international, most unfortunate to see him leave the field so early but a concussion is not something to take chances with. Zach Steinberger entered the game and Rennie had to reshuffle the pack. Soony Saad moved to the right wing and the Eleven shifted to a 4-5-1 with Braun the lone forward.
The dynamic of the game changed for Indy and the injury caused six minutes to be added to the first half. This wasn't the last knock we would see in the game, poor weather can bring a lot of problems including skiddy balls, mistimed tackles, and injuries. In the 34th minute of the game Marcel Kandziora followed through hard on Carlyle Mitchell's knee which I think he felt for the rest of his time on the field.
|Nathan Lewis's debut lasted only 20 minutes after being removed for suspected concussion.|
North Carolina had chances to level the game during the first half, most notably from Daniel Rios who had the beating of Fôn Williams in the 29th minute from the edge of the 18 after a spin but only found the crossbar and again found the woodwork before the end of the half.
The second half was not much to write home about, Indy Eleven played a little more conservatively and North Carolina began to apply pressure throughout but could not find the elusive goal despite bringing on more attacking players and switching firstly to a 4-4-2 from their initial 4-1-4-1 and eventually to a 3-5-2 packing the midfield and getting more bodies in front of goal. All came to nothing.
After a crunching tackle on Steinberger in the 75th minute followed shortly by a card for Bekker who booted a ball at Saad while he was on the ground waiting for treatment, things just got chippier from then on in. This came to a rather bizarre boiling point in the final minute of the game.
A few minutes after Carlyle Mitchell sadly had to leave the field clutching the back of his leg, NCFC were awarded a penalty after Karl Ouimette clipped the side of Rios's leg, it was a very light call but not one I would argue, it could have been given or not given, it was not an incorrect decision.
If Tyler Pasher scored a game-winning goal then Owain Fôn Williams can certainly be credited with a match-winning save. Owain chose correctly and went right to tip Kyle Bekker's shot off the upright and out for a corner. Carolina took the corner quickly but could not find a goal. After the dust had settled North Carolina defender Aaron Guillen was found on top of Karl Ouimette, the two players locked together in a wrestling match. Both were red carded by the referee. I'll talk more about this shortly.
The whistle was blown, Indy Eleven had won their second consecutive road match giving them six points from three games. The entire team and subs rushed to congratulate Fôn Williams on his penalty-saving heroics.
What we learned from this game...
Despite numerous changes to the starting lineup and a change of formation, Indy Eleven adapted quickly and continued to play good technical football. Rennie is not afraid to tinker and has confidence in his roster. The players have stepped up and produced no matter what changes have made and shown great unity and determination and confidence in each other.
Indy Eleven had to adjust throughout the game and the question is what could have been. Had Nathan Lewis not left the field forcing a pack shuffle I had the feeling Indy would score again quite soon and possibly score more before the end of the first half and buried this game. It's encouraging and hopefully, Lewis is fine and we see more of him very soon.
Weather conditions continued to deteriorate in the second half and given our forced changes I think the team, on the whole, played very well, we may have become more conservative in the second half, but we never once panicked, made very few mistakes and tried whenever possible to always keep the ball on the ground.
Ayoze is not Pasher and Pasher is not Ayoze. Having seen Pasher's performance in the first couple of games I suspected it would be very difficult to displace him from the team. Having Ayoze and Pasher on the field is a whole new trick from the bag and it's good to see that we can do that. Ayoze was solid, composed and creative but he did not need to venture very far forward, and neither did Ring. We probably will witness many more good combinations of players in the coming games, considering we have not seen Venegas at all and not much of Guerra.
Justin Braun looks to be getting back to his old self, he is a danger on his own but also a danger with his creation, with continued time on the field, and I am sure he would have liked more yesterday, we will see more goals and assists and we need those.
The negatives, the complaints, flashpoints, and the aftermath...
Over the full ninety minutes, I would say the officiating was passable, I'll give the benefit of the doubt that maybe the horrible weather wasn't only affecting the players. However, there were two or three really horrible decisions during this game.
I am not a big fan of complaining about refereeing, well not most of the time anyway, but if USL seems to like handing out retroactive decisions then I think Indy Eleven if they have the ability should contest both Carlyle Mitchell's yellow card in the first half and Karl Ouimette's red card in the second.
Carlyle Mitchell had his knee as good as wrecked in the 35th minute of the game and had to leave the field. No sooner had he re-entered the match he made a tackle on Daniel Rios and won the ball cleanly. Even the match commentator said it was a GREAT tackle. It should not even have been called as a foul but to add insult to injury (see what I did there) the referee gave him a yellow card. Very poor.
Having had time to re-watch the game again in its entirety I scrutinized the situation that led to Karl Ouimette's sending off. Karl should never have been given a red card and considering we may only have one center back left for next week this suspension should be appealed.
At the point of Bekker's penalty kick, Guillen takes up a position on the edge of the area beside Ouimette. As the ball is kicked Ouimette extends his arm to block the defender from moving past him, Guillen pulled his arm and tried to force Karl down and around to the ground.
After the quick corner is taken Guillen later finds himself in the box trying to gather the ball with Ouimette behind him, Karl is holding his arm but not pulling him, both fall over. Aaron Guillen immediately turns over and pins Ouimette to the ground and the two lock together. Ouimette is shown red for violent misconduct.
I am sorry officials but if you have not seen or called anything up to this point and you don't know how the situation has started and one player has another pinned to the ground, how can you give the player who was pinned to the ground a red card for violent misconduct. Was Karl completely innocent? No, not entirely, but he did nothing to even warrant a yellow card. Ridiculous.
The aftermath for Indy Eleven is now heading into their second home game against Nashville with the possibility of three center backs missing. Ferreira already did not travel because of injury, Mitchell had to limp off with a few minutes to go and Karl Ouimette is now suspended leaving us with only Brad Rusin remaining. This is a tight spot.
Hopefully Mitchell's injury is not too serious, he did take a knock to the knee earlier but in the end, it looked like he was clutching the back of his lower thigh, possibly hamstring but maybe just cramp, it's difficult to tell. It will be interesting to see the starting lineup this Saturday and how we adapt to this. We really could do without a mounting injury list this early in the season, if we thought our depth would be tested this week, it certainly will be in the next game.
But anyway, not much to be negative about, we won, we have six points and two wins from three matches and for now we are in a good place!
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