Sunday, April 29, 2018

Pass, Pass, Impasse - Charlotte Independence V Indy Eleven REVIEW

Plenty of opportunities created but no way through for Indy Eleven in Charlotte

It was a frustrating night for both Indy Eleven and Independence in Charlotte where the crossbar probably could have claimed man of the match for both sides in a 0-0 draw. Charlotte Independence blanked on shots on target, Jorge Herrera with the closest chance coming off the woodwork in the 72nd minute.

In Indy's fifth game of the season, Martin Rennie gave yet another player his debut, Kevin Venegas coming into the right back spot vacated by midfielder Brad Ring. Karl Ouimette also returned to the back line after suspension. Ouimette was also awarded man of the match by USL.

In a match where Charlotte was probably the most guilty for giveaways, particularly in the first half, Indy Eleven could not find a way to capitalize on their possession advantage and were thwarted at every attempt by a determined Charlotte defense and the frame.

Indy used two subs, Braun and Steinberger. Farr, Guerra, Rusin, Ring, Speas completed the bench.

Indy Eleven remains undefeated on the road with two wins and a draw and has achieved 10pts from their first five USL games. The Boys in Blue will now head into difficult back to back home matches against FC Cincinnati on Wednesday and Louisville City on the following Saturday.

Match Reactions from the Bloody Shambles peanut gallery...

James Cormack

I will admit at the end of this match I was very frustrated, probably more so than I was after the defeat against Cincinnati. Sometimes it's good to sleep on a result and think about it again later, its still frustrating but there are positives and negatives to take from this game. When I say negatives, I really just mean things that need time to work themselves out.

Indy showed great ability in compact situations, playing a short and quick passing game, playing themselves out of tight spaces with confidence and composure in most areas of the park. I was particularly impressed with their confidence playing out of the back, in many instances where you just expect someone to put laces through the ball and launch it up the park, they passed their way out calmly and used those opportunities to build from.

It's encouraging to see more evidence of our depth with a solid player like Kevin Venegas making his debut, he very much looked the part at right back and seemed like he had no issues settling into a competitive match. He had a good first game and looked confident at both ends of the field. With Brad Ring now available for defensive midfield, competition for places increases which is a positive note.

We have great coaches and players, nothing is broken but we can still look for improvement.

The biggest frustration obviously was our lack of production in the final third. I think Indy Eleven have not really found a real identity in attack yet, and this is one of those things that may take time to work itself out. We have great technical attacking players and each works very hard but there seems to be a disconnect when we get to that part of the field where we can punish teams. In 2016 we took some time to really find our attacking stride and even winning Spring we relied a lot on results of other matches, great to come through like that but also good not to get into those kinds of situations.

The way the team was set up for this game, we are not going to win aerial battles in the final third and too many times we were playing in pop up balls and dinks over the defense that were never going to work. We have that 'tiki taki' ability where we can keep the ball on the ground and pass our way into the net, we used it in other areas of the field but not often enough around and inside the box. Charlotte won 61% or aerial duels in the game.

We have only scored four times and conceded twice, while this shows us to be a difficult team to break down and defeat, it may not necessarily guarantee you a playoff position in a conference of 16 teams. I am sure our coaches will be looking at this, and hopefully, soon we find the right combination of players who can start punishing teams who like to give us the ball.

The Pitch Bitch (Rebecca Townsend)

Charlotte’s #8, Kay Voser, made the Bitch’s dirty player list. He is officially on notice.

Carlyle Mitchell had a nice sliding clearance of a Charlotte attack. [The Bloody Shambles crew lavished much appreciation on the beauty of Charlotte’s lovely grass field. Maybe one day Indianapolis will care enough about its top soccer players to let them “lay down in green pastures.”]

A Pasher fake enables his sweet setup of Saad, who fires a cannonball-weighted shot straight into the arms of Carolina keeper Brandon Miller. Pasher also streaming down hard from the right with a low, hard shot that flew just a little wide.

Steinberger an effective sub for Lewis.

Soony Saad again came close to the spectacular but was blocked (Photo: USLSOCCER.COM)

In the 72nd minute defenses break down as Spain’s Joel Johnson feeds Colombia’s Jorge Herrera, who makes a beautiful play for Indy’s far upper 90. Beating Fon Williams, but not the fate of crossbar rejection, the goal was not to be. Johnson also took a McInerney monster shot in the face in the stoppage time, saving his team from what otherwise looked to be a game-winning goal for Indy. Indy managed to feed McInerney one more stoppage-time shot opportunity, as well, but the tie was destined to hold.

“Poor Jack” says Captain Cormack from this armchair as the Pitch Bitch shakes her head at the blustery bravado and stealth jostling techniques displayed during the churning testosterone of any given match. She did not concur in the casting of McInerney as the victim.

Eamon Zayed watchers know he is, at times, capable of anything. And other times, as demonstrated last night, nothing. As a member of Indy Eleven in the 2016/2017 seasons, he amassed the team’s top goal-scoring record, but in his second match with his new squad, Charlotte head coach Mike Jefferies leashed the Irish-Libyan striker to the bench until the final 15 minutes. During those minutes, Zayed made zero effect. The game remained generally listless, ending in the most boring of all scores: 0-0.

Boring is not necessarily bad. As Captain Cormack commented as the game’s final seconds ticked off, “You can’t expect to win them all.”

“Silly me,” the Pitch Bitch thought. “I really do expect to win them all.”

Expect to win, accept reality as it comes. In this case, a solid point and team looking tough and full of promise as it paces itself toward this week of critical challenge: facing a grudge match Wednesday against FC Cincy and welcoming for the first time to Indy USL eastern conference leader Louisville City FC on Saturday.

Brandon Cockrum

There were a few approaches that Indy Eleven could have taken in their match away to Charlotte Independence on Saturday evening. On many days, getting a draw on the road against a possible playoff team is not a bad result. Yesterday, however, was not one of those days as the Eleven - who play three matches in seven days - and head coach Martin Rennie chose to push for three points in the match against the lesser of their three opponents this week. 

Juan Guerra at Richmond, Indy has many options with players who can unlock defenses.

Had the Eleven turned to their vaunted depth chart and rested a few starters (or even used all three substitutions) on Saturday and then posted a clean sheet and draw, it would have been a successful road trip. Now, however, the Eleven will be forced to test their depth against Cincinnati and league leaders Louisville.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the actual gameplay in Charlotte.

With both clubs coming off a bye week, this match was an extended performance of teams switching to “On", of players transitioning from practice mode to game mode. Finally, after 70 minutes both teams started playing with urgency and pushing for a goal. But, after a few near misses at each goal, it proved to be too little too late.

Evident by many impressive passing combinations the boys in blue have cohered into a team that can possess the ball for long periods of time. Across two-thirds of the field, the Eleven passed effectively around the Independence, even considering a few ill-advised efforts at passing out of the defensive end - a better team than the Independence might eventually punish them for this. 

The final third of the field is where the Eleven failed to connect on few if any of the clever passing combos that they worked in other places of the pitch. This difficulty in the final third can be attributed to a Charlotte squad that used their bye week to plan for Indy’s attack. Hopefully, as we’ve seen Indy’s passing and possession game improve, we will eventually see the team’s ability to break down an organized defense improve as well.


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