Sunday, July 8, 2018

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

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

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

By REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, bully for Charlotte! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parting shots from the Pitch Bitch game notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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