Thursday, May 31, 2018

Indy's Maiden Voyage Against Charleston Battery A Bit Rough - Indy Eleven V Charleston Battery REVIEW

Ayoze scored his third and fourth goals for the season, three from the penalty spot.

By: Rebecca Townsend, aka The Pitch Bitch 

Anyone who left the Indy Eleven game early on Wednesday night missed the evening’s most intense action: four goals were scored after the 80th minute, two within a minute of each other in stoppage time. 

In the end, visiting team Charleston Battery, left the field with an unsullied unbeaten streak, which now stands at 11. Indy, which held a 1-0 lead at halftime, was lucky to hold on to a 3-3 tie. 

Before proceeding to the meat of the match, let us first recognize that this Charleston Battery team that came from such a deficit to snatch victory away from the hosts in the final minute (or so) of stoppage time is coached by not just a product of Indiana University (where he was part of the 1988 NCAA national championship-winning squad), but a native son. Congratulations to Fort Wayne's own Mike Anhaeuser for bringing Indy a heck of a game! 

Now, deep thoughts on formations: "Who is the "2" in the supposed 4-4-2?" she wonders, because watching Indy defend Charleston building out of its backline usually meant watching Jack McInerney in a 3-or-4 on one situation as the rest of his teammates collapsed into a more compact hive clogging the central channels.

Jack McInerney as solitary forward has to cover a lot of ground and sometimes has to go get the ball himself.

This thought builds into a scribbled idea, "Indy does ok defending vertical channels, but when they go horizontal, they’re in trouble." This does not mean just the backline. This is a team-wide situation. It's part of how these weakside threats keep coming in unchecked. It means all opponents in Indy's defensive half need to be tracked; no weakside runs are unchecked. 

Please note: Somewhere between minute 25 and 32, Charleston almost nails Indy (with a bullet dodged — where? — on the far side). Lucky for Indy an unchecked weakside runner fails to connect meaningfully with his tasty, close-range volley opportunity. 

When Indy strikers aren't trying to harvest "Hail Mary" miracle passes from the sky, they also work hard to create open channels only to be snubbed. 

The Pitch Bitch sees you out there Jack McInerney, calling for the ball ... totally ignored. Surely that makes you want to say some bad words. Keep it positive! Maybe along with a solid pat on the back you could say something like, "Hey buddy, next time I'm open right in front of your face and all I have to do is turn on one square defender and just get one step before I'm one on one with the keeper ... feed me that ball, dude! That is if you enjoy scoring in the actual open flow of a soccer game." 

While we're at it Jack, nice idea about trying to chip their keeper from distance. We have to dream to do, but that was pretty dang hopeful brother. The Pitch Bitch wants to see you taking people on - and stuffing the ball down their throats when you have equal numbers in your attacking half. Something tells her you're good at that. Same with you, Justin Braun! Keep going at them with all you have and it will yield results.

Zach Steinberger wins possession and pushes forward against Charleston Battery.

Zach Steinberger, this applies to you also. In the 75th minute as the Pitch Bitch notes you, well in the attacking half, intentionally delay your pacing to find a pass — instead of charging their keeper. At that point, there were two defenders between you and the goal, neither right on you — and a mountain of space. The notes say, "Zach has stellar ball control and the strength to really take it to those defenders — and possibly beat them. He has a strong enough shot that he can throw everything off balance and maybe give himself or another player crashing the box a chance to score a rebound shot." 

Bottom line: Get hungry, brothers! You've got it in you! Take it to their back line — on the ground! 

It's not that the midfielders aren't working. They are. And hard. Same with the forwards. It's just that in the defensive half, the opposition needs a tighter leash. On the attacking half, Indy needs to leash their opponent's backline and have their bevy of bodacious attacking artillery in the front line and midfield test defenders' boundaries and wandering patterns. Can those defenders be moved in predictable ways? Can that be exploited in Indy's favor? 

Yes, yes they can! Walk opposition D as you would walk your dog Indy. Literally, make them your bitches. And while one or two of you walks the backline over to one side or another, the rest of you pounce on the resulting opening. Don't leave Jack up there by himself when we're moving on the attack or when Owain Fôn Williams is getting ready to distribute. Pressure! 

Throughout the match, recurring thoughts of a shape that was tending heavily toward central and deep. The Pitch Bitch believes the team can develop more dynamism in the wide channels during attacking and defending.

Trinidad nationals Nathan Lewis and Neveal Hackshaw wrestle in Charleston's left corner.

She noted that the team lost a ball in the 10th minute by trying to plow through the middle - and a mess of Charleston D - instead of taking a totally open pass up the perimeter. Perhaps, instead of long, crazed passes out wide, some beautiful leading or even directly connecting passes out wide. Then pressing the full unit into attack mode using width and depth to its advantage, working angles, easing closer and closer while looking for weaknesses or opportunities to appear. 

Just prior to McInerney earning a PK in the 85th minute, the Pitch Bitch notes, "The shape problem is this: We clog the middle. Which is a good thing when strong opposing players are trying to stuff an attack down the middle, but we are not getting the flanks shut down? We are allowing those crosses in - and we suffer as a result. 

"The sweat-ethic of the team is decent. People aren’t lazy. But our resources aren’t yet being utilized with prime efficiency and efficacy." 

In the first 20 minutes, Indy was already switching play over the top instead of using easier, more direct passes on the ground. Switch away, but try switching with rhythmic, quick-released, closer (or at least more open) passes on the carpet, instead of trying for the one-and-done, over-the-top miracle or trying to dribble through a clogged mid-channel.

Soony Saad lashes in another great strike from Brad Ring's layoff to open the scoring.

In the minutes before the evening's opening goal: a free kick goes nowhere and no one seems expecting to receive it. Why not try a weak-side run and collect the trash? Maybe there's an opportunity there. 

At one point Indy midfielder Juan Guerra works hard to muscle off his opponents and feed up the ball up the channel. But the pass finds no one, though Guerra and Nathan Lewis seemed to communicate immediately after the play about an opportunity lost. 

"Perhaps it will work next time," she thinks. 

Minutes later, Soony Saad asks for a long switch from his D, gets it, but can’t control it and ends up fouling the Battery while trying to control the ball, a call which displeased him so much that he was sure to communicate with the ref. 

Still, Indy reclaimed possession, only to have Guerra taken out by Charleston's Tah Anunga. Indy Captain Brad Ring set the resulting free-kick rolling and Saad smashed it home in the 44th minute. A later attempt at a repeat, with Ring again setting a free kick for Saad in the second half, results in Charleston rejecting the kick before it even reached the top of its arc, causing the hosts to complain that their guests had not honored the 10-yard rule. Coach Martin Rennie also protested. But the play was already in the rearview and the game moved on. 

In the minutes before the Battery's first goal of the evening, Jack McInerney took an overly hopeful shot at trying to chip the keeper from distance and then, when Indy regained possession, his teammates failed to send him an easy, up-field pass for which he was open. Next thing the spectators see: O'Brian Woodbine bury a goal on a deflected shot he was happy to clean up from an unchecked weak-side run.

Neveal Hackshaw chasing Saad, carved through Indy's midfield on the way to Charleston's third goal.

If one were to draw a vertical line through the field in the second before Woodbine shoots, one can see that Ayoze is charged with covering two players in vitally threatening positions on the left flank/corner of the box, while 5 Indy players swarm three players with the ball on the right side of the defensive third. The goal is scored when an unguarded weakside runner takes advantage of his teammate's overly ambitious shot (rejected by Indy's defensive). The deflection sets him to scramble to beat Fôn Williams and deliver a one-touch tap across the face of the goal and into the far side netting. 

Charleston added to their score in the 80th minute when the Battery's Nico Rittmeyer made an unchecked run into Indy's wide left flank and completed a low cross across the mouth of the goal where Ataulla Guerra runs to meet it from the center for a well-controlled one touch to the far corner of the net. Again, Indy struggles to make a timely shift and get the top of their box shut down. 

The visitors looked poised to issue the host an embarrassing upset, leading 2-1 with 10 minutes left in the game. But then McInenery earns a PK and Ayoze nails it for the team, tying the game. Then, miracle of all miracles, Indy earns a free kick in stoppage time and Ayoze manages to convert it into a goal for Indy! The hosts look poised to win only to have the euphoric celebrations deflated when ... 

From a review of the so-called highlight reel, in the plays leading up to heartbreak for the home side, we have Indy with essentially a 4-3 advantage around the center circle as the Battery begins to dribble by them by pushing a bit wide, skirting the line between Indy's wide right and the right central channels. Meanwhile, his teammate takes off upfield on the same line, running to split three Indy defenders in the area. 

One of the three defenders pops up to meet the oncoming dribbler, but not in time to prevent a pass upfield to the feet of the splitting runner who beautifully slows pace as three Indy defenders descend around him. He launches a pass back to the center of the field at the top of the box to the feet of the onrushing Tah Anunga, who was all too happy to use his right foot to shoot to the far right netting, just past the fingers of the outstretched and crestfallen Fôn Williams. 

Indy’s next match will be at home. Kick off against Atlanta United FC 2 will be at 7 p.m. June 9 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Fee-free tickets are available for purchase through the Brickyard Battalion supporters club at


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