Sunday, July 1, 2018

Unbeaten Teams Reach 1-1 Stalemate In Heavy Heat - Indy Eleven V Penn FC REVIEW

McInerney pulled Indy back to a point with a well placed free kick. (Photo: James Cormack)

By: Rebecca Townsend (aka The Pitch Bitch)

Indy Eleven began a seven-day run featuring three home games with a draw against Penn FC. The result extends the team's unbeaten streak to five games, placing them fifth among 16 teams in the United Soccer League's Eastern Conference.

Penn FC, under the leadership of head coach Raoul Voss, also entered the match on the tailwind of four unbeaten games. The 1-1 draw keeps both team's bragging rights alive.

Both teams deserve credit for holding each other scoreless in the first half. And Penn deserves credit for the efficacy and speed with which it sprung its goal on Indy just minutes into the second half. Yes, technically Lucky Mkosana scored the goal off a pk, but the truth is Karl Ouimette took him out in the box after Penn players shook their Indy defenders with an excellent series of quick and deadly passes. And yes, Ouimette began his tackle outside the box, but the critical contact game in the no-no zone.

Officiating that one coach referred to as "catastrophic" saw cards issued to three Indy players and one Penn player. 

The Pitch Bitch contends that the yellow against Watson was bogus.

She also felt irrepressible outrage at the blatant malpractice exhibited with just 10 minutes left in the match when the refs missed the absolute in-the-box penalty the Penn D committed against Eugene Starikov (who brought a renewed energetic vigor when he subbed in for Seth Moses in the 58th minute). 

Soccer karma came instantly for the mistreated hosts, however, who were ultimately able to save face thanks to a surgical, right-footed free kick from Jack McInerney about 30 yards out, which bent beautifully into the lower left netting. The roar that erupted in the stadium seemed to suggest a crowd twice its actual size. Indy deserves extra credit for holding their own despite having to play with 10 men for 15 minutes after Ouimette accumulated his second yellow card, resulting in a red-card suspension.

Karl Ouimette's departure saw Indy finish the match with 10 men. (Photo: James Cormack)

Perhaps the crowd's cry serves a harbinger of the great games yet to be had ... Two more this week ... Fourth of July, Downtown Indy ... Should be off the hook ... Maybe that's the night the Pitch Bitch closes the Slippery Noodle Inn for the first time in more than a decade ... All she needs is a good reason to celebrate ...

How much bigger can Hoosiers make these soccer crowds, anyway? The Pitch Bitch believes in big dreams — and she can't shake the dream in which Lucas Oil is packed to the roof for soccer. In fact, she still clings to the even wilder dream in which the necessary players finally embrace Indiana's great soccer heritage and give the people a world-class futbol facility. (If only Indiana could have been ready to be part of the 2026 World Cup... The Pitch Bitch likely won't live long enough to see another U.S.-based World Cup ... but maybe some future generation could have a thrill that big! Even with big dreams, an Indiana World Cup would be a wild sight to behold, for sure.)

Sidebar: Speaking of Indiana's soccer legacy and the World Cup... A special note of appreciation to Fort Wayne's DaMarcus Beasley, the first U.S. player to appear in four consecutive World Cups, currently defending for the MLS's Houston Dynamo, who traveled home this past week for the opening of the Beasley Courts public futsal facility, which will support footskills development for generations of players to come. Thanks for being so awesome, DaMarcus!

Sweltering heat settled hard on Indy Saturday and the stadium had a sauna-like feel. The players weren't so much running as they were swimming. The sweaty sheen of the spectators cast an iridescent haze around the arena, entirely appropriate with the rainbow color scheme of Pride Night.

Brickyard Battalion celebrate and support Pride Night in Indy (Photo: James Cormack) 

Indy began with possession, which they lost straightaway by launching a long aerial down the right flank. A series of arrows in the match notes indicate possession traded back and forth for the first nine minutes of the match, with both sides trying to test each other and neither making inroads.

A minute of craziness opened up in the 11th minute as Penn intercepted a mistimed header a player tried to drop to his defensive support, positioning the visitors to have a nice angle on goal. Indy readjusted quickly enough to neutralize the threat — and spring a counter that almost provided Justin Braun with a great 1-on-1 opportunity at the opposite end of the field. Almost. Instead, back and forth play resumed, with both sides displaying solid defensive cohesion and moments of attacking creativity. Two former members of Indy Eleven from its NASL days, Marco Franco and Paolo Jr., started against Indy and contributed to the team's efficacy on both ends of the field. 

Match notes credit Venegas with sweet touch receiving a crossfield long ball deep in Penn territory and adding a nice evasive move to elude the initial defensive pressure. (The subsequent defensive pressure ended that particular attack, however.) Venegas also was the initial link in a shot combination with Watson, Braun, and McInerney. Credit goes to Seth Moses for his penetrating dribbles and passes through the midfield. Also to Ben Speas, who subbed in for Braun in the 63rd minute, and did well to stay on his feet despite heavy Penn pressure. Venegas fed Speas for an excellent last-minute shot opportunity, but the ball was not destined to find its target. Ayoze had a brilliant nutmeg. And Carlyle Mitchell exhibited nice footwork, which launched a hopeful ball toward Penn's goal.

Venegas and Starikov combine on the right flank for Indy (Photo: James Cormack)

All this goes to say, Indy continues exhibiting the ability to absorb and re-direct virile threats. Players are building their multi-pronged attacking strategy, engaging all players in cooperative, dynamic movement. This is a promising foundation on which to build the rest of the season.

Indy head coach Rennie Martin said he intends to do just that: continue to build.

"There are always things to learn," he said in a post-match press scrum. "From this game, it's just the tempo of our passing and attacking. That's easy to say that sitting on the sidelines; it was a hot night and hard to breathe. But I felt maybe the speed of play wasn't as quick as I'd like and that we didn't really penetrate enough on the dribbling or passing behind their backline. Their backline was very, very deep. So, when that happens, we have to get in there and take people on or play one-twos. So that'd be something we could improve on."

(Click Here for the full post-match interview with Martin Rennie)

Indy Eleven will host the Ottawa Fury FC on July 4 (Military Appreciation Night, with the team offering 50 percent off tickets to military members who use the code military18 at and Charlotte Independence on July 7. Both games begin at 7 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium. Fee-free tickets are available for purchase through the Brickyard Battalion supporters club at

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