|New stadium, new players, new league. Tifo game on point!|
Indy Eleven kicked off their first home game of the 2018 USL season against FC Cincinnati at their new home Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It was a new beginning for everyone, from tailgating to the final whistle. Despite the scoreline, everything was a huge success for the team, the supporters, and the city.
As we mentioned in the run-up to this game it was always going to be a difficult game to call, I felt that Indy Eleven could have and probably should have come out of this game without losing, a draw would have been a fair result, we had our chances but didn't take them. FC Cincinnati did and finished the match with a 1-0 victory over the Eleven.
Indy had opportunities to be first on the board early in the game, with some silky skills from Tyler Pasher on the left Indy's number three made a great solo run all the way to the goal line and looped a cross beyond the goal and found Jack McInerney at the back post whose header came off the upright. A couple inches to the left and there was no saving that one.
Cincinnati scored the goal that would win the match in the 26th minute. A crossfield pass from left to right found Emmanuel Ledesma with time to control before sending in a cross towards the penalty spot that probably could not have been any more perfect and found Emery Welshman between Ferreira and Mitchell who nodded the ball past Fôn Williams to open the scoring. As the wonderful Greg Rakestraw was pointing out Fôn Williams to be the first Welshman to play for Indy Eleven, Emery became the first Welshman to score against us. (ah ha)
|Tyler Pasher had another outstanding 90 minutes for Indy Eleven|
People love to argue penalties and pour over replays, I didn't need to, the replay on the big screen once was enough for me and I have watched it again since it was a clear penalty. With the ball already out of his reach, Newton brought both hands to McInerney's feet and brought him down. Last man tackle, could have been a red card on any other day but referee Badawi decided it didn't even warrant a yellow. Fair enough?
With around five minutes to go before the half Indy had a great opportunity to tie the game up. Jack McInerney went for placement rather than power to the right side of goal but Newton guessed right and pulled off a fine save followed by a second block on a Speas shot to deny Indy an equalizer.
During the full ninety minutes, Indy Eleven had plenty of opportunities to find the net which is encouraging, but it was not going to be our day. Shots from McInerney, Watson, Starikov, Saad, and Speas were all kept out. It's early, it's our second game of the season against one of the championship favorites, if we keep creating those chances we will score them and nothing about this game really indicated that Indy Eleven was in any way the weaker of the two sides.
|Not even the BYB could get that ball into the net, McInerney denied by Newton.|
One concern is that Indy appears to be having injury issues early in the season. Saad was unavailable to start because of a knock, Ayoze and Kevin Venegas have still not made a bench in the first two games meaning we are thin on left and right back cover. An unfortunate ankle injury for Reiner Ferreira saw him leave the field in the first half with Brad Ring coming in to cover at right back and Ouimette moving into center.
It's not a huge concern at this moment and luckily it's coming at the beginning of the season. Defensive depth is critical to any team so hopefully, we don't have any more early casualties and Ferreira's injury is not too serious.
It does no harm to take a beating early and move on, Rennie and the coaching staff have plenty to look at and a week to repair and prepare before heading to North Carolina FC to renew a rivalry started in the NASL. Richmond Kickers who fell to Indy in our opening game achieved their first win this weekend defeating NCFC 2-1. North Carolina will be looking for their first win, maybe Indy Eleven can find their second as Rennie returns to face one of his former clubs.
|Never a good sight. Reiner Ferreira departed the back line in the first half.|
So what about that game day experience?
Considering the short space of time the club and the supporters have had to prepare for a new league in a new stadium I am pretty sure I was not the only person walking away from the match suitably impressed.
The Brickyard Battalion, Slaughterhouse 19 and all supporter groups deserve a round of applause for the gameday setup. The choice of Gate Ten facilities and parking for tailgate setup was top notch with outdoor and indoor space available. The main parking was also easily accessible and myself like others got in before the allotted opening time and there was no real difficulty in leaving the stadium, nothing more than you would expect from a large event. The supporter display of tifo was incredible, the best we have seen and the Brickyard Battalion were as loud and as passionate as ever AND considerably bigger.
The front office staff must be worn out, I hope they were treated to several adult beverages after the match because they thoroughly deserve it, there were a lot of unknowns and all you can do is the best you can and see how it goes. From what I saw they exceeded all expectations not only on game day but in the weeks leading up to the game. I cannot imagine how much hair was lost and how many fingernails were bitten off. Everyone did an outstanding job. Everything gets easier from here. Take a bow Indy Eleven Staff.
|FC Cincinnati brought a large following to the first meeting of these teams in USL.|
The attendance is very encouraging, I had thought if we made 16,000 and filled the original advertised space it would have been amazing, to exceed our previous largest attendance by 6000 was incredible. This bodes well for the team and puts weight behind the need for a soccer-specific stadium in the city. I think this support will continue to grow as the team itself evolves more on the field more people will come to games. The officially announced attendance was 17,535.
Kudos and respect to the traveling Cincinnati fans who brought around 1500 supporters to the game and put in a solid ninety minutes of support for their team who rewarded them with three points. Hopefully, we can bring the same to Cinci and take those three points back.
Thoughts from Brandon Cockrum
Indy Eleven were unfortunate to come away without a point from Saturday evening's electric match against FC Cincinnati. Indy was superior in most statistical categories, except for the one that matters most - the final score. Martin Rennie's squad clearly needs some more matches to become a truly cohesive unit and it is fun to watch the team's style of play and connections between players develop.
On Saturday the team played very compactly at times, probably by design to take command of the midfield. However, there was time and space available for players on the wings and Tyler Pasher was the only Eleven player that took advantage of it. After getting the ball taken off his foot trying to dribble out of the 18 and a wayward cross in the match's early minutes, Pasher put in a man of the match performance for Indy with numerous attacks up the left side and dangerous balls served into the box. In the first half, Jack McInerney nearly finished one of those crosses but was denied by the frame and others narrowly missed the heads of attacking teammates.
|Jack Mac checks the replay after Saad's free kick is tipped over by Newton late in the game.|
It's interesting that after two matches fullbacks Ayoze or Kevin Venegas haven't been on a match day roster and we've had only a 20-minute runout from Juan Guerra in the first match. All three players were among the best at their positions while in the NASL. Coach Rennie appears to be favoring a defense-first approach, which makes sense early in the season as the team learns to play together and against a tough Cincinnati side.
It's not that the players in front of them have played poorly, however, I have to wonder if Venegas would have been able to get forward, like Pasher, and cause more problems for Cincy than Karl Ouimette or Brad Ring did. Guerra has proven that he can unlock defenses at this level; might he have delivered a moment of creative inspiration that Nico Matern was unable to provide? Coach Rennie has a lot of capable tools on his belt this season and I suspect he will soon start trying more of them out.
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