Thursday, September 27, 2018

Routing the Rowdies 2-0 - Indy Eleven V Tampa Bay Rowdies REVIEW

Forward Elliott Collier, who recently arrived in Indy on loan from the Chicago Fire, celebrates his first goal for Indy Eleven as team captain Matt Watson rushes in to help celebrate. Photo by Trevor Rruszkowski

Hump Day Happiness In The Circle City

By REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)

Looking for redemption for the 3-1 loss suffered during their July 21 visit to Tampa Bay, Indy Eleven met the Rowdies at Lucas Oil Stadium Wednesday night with a lineup designed for defensive impenetrability while maximizing the host's capacity to spread the field and counterattack.

Focus and intensity ensured Indy Eleven eluded some of the gremlins that have cost the team victories in games past. The Boys in Blue made it through the opening minutes of the game — and the opening minutes of the second half — without being scored on. And those successes stuck, allowing the Eleven to claim victory — and for keeper Owain Fôn Williams to record his 11th clean sheet of the season. (Head coach Martin Rennie believes Fôn Williams either tied or set the club clean sheet record with the evening's result.)

Fôn Williams is tied for seventh in the entire USL for number of saved goals at 77 (including two blocked penalty kicks). (The Tulsa Roughnecks FC's Fabián Cerda leads with 104.)

Indy's defense was entirely no-nonsense straight from the start. Reiner Ferreira sent Junior Flemmings crumbling to the carpet on a couple occasions in the game's opening minutes. Captain Ayoze showed commanding control of his flank and the rest of the back line, in lock-step and interchangeable flow with the midfield and even the forwards, all followed suit by putting immediate and effective pressure on Tampa's possession, absorbing everything they could bring and then redistributing for the counterattack from all directions of the field.

"Patient passing; low, accurate switching of fields...still more, patiently unzipping their backline," Pitch Bitch game notes read. "Maybe now test with some shots."

That may be the Bitch's greatest input at this point: Let's be even more confident in the attacking third. Let's test the hell out of our opposing keepers and D with some wicked hard shots from all around the 18 perimeters! And then crash the box! Keep their defense frantic! The clinical un-stitching with close-range destruction is also beautiful to behold. Have fun finding balance. Keep bringing your highly fit relentless intensity.  

Carlyle Mitchell gets credit for so much, but to choose a highlight: Picture him in the first half, flying backward through the air for a floating heading clearance of a ball that was going to drop over every other defender and land about 10 yards out from Indy's goal with a swarm of Rowdies rushing in to finish? Nice. 

Midfielders Nico Matern, Seth Moses and Dylan Mares all came out hard, defending like animals and then building consistent and effective counterattacks. Matern, in particular, was called out by coach Rennie after the game for having one of his best-ever matches.

Matern's play "was a key factor in us improving our possession and keeping the ball going," Rennie said.

Tampa Bay's play of the game came in the 26th minute when Rowdies forward Sebastian Guenzatti took a wicked one-touch volley from the top of the box, forcing lightening fast reflexes from Fôn Williams, who just managed to the tip the ball off the post and out of harm's way.

"Great shot! Great save!" says commentator Brad Hauter, also the coach of DePauw Men's Soccer.

Ten minutes later Indy defender Kevin Venegas cracks a shot of his own, forcing Tampa keeper Daniel Vega into a diving save to tip the ball over the crossbar. 

The defense continued its offensive onslaught of first-half fury when Karl Ouimette bagged his third goal of the season, which also happened to be his third header into goal from an Ayoze corner kick.

How did it feel?

"Amazing!" Ouimette said following the game, calling Indy Eleven's 2-0 victory over the Rowdies "a big step up from past games."

The game's positive results were clear, he said, especially from the perspective of a defender whose first objective is to win and second is to record a shutout. 

"We scored a goal and we didn't sit back too much," he said, "We defended well
throughout the game. We were able to dominate and put up pressure and impose our style of play. That was a big plus for us today. And, obviously, scoring on a personal side is always good!"

The team has "amazing players..such nice guys and we have each others' backs," he added. "Lots of teams have internal negativity. Not here. We want to help each other succeed."

Ouimette attended a post-game press conference with one of the team's most recent signings, Elliott Collier, who came to the Circle City on loan from Chicago Fire. Collier scored the night's second goal after beautiful teamwork set up Jack McInerney to tangle Tampa's defenders and leave a deflected ball rolling straight into Collier's path at which point the New Zealand native buried left-footed, one-touch shot.

Tense moments about 10 minutes into the second half when an errant call from officials left Tampa Bay setting up for an undeserved penalty kick, which if netted would have tied the score. The center official intervened, however, and reset the play where with a drop ball instead. Thereby a riot was prevented. Thank you refs!

Perspective on Potential Post-season Action

The team's playoff dreams are still in play. They currently sit at 5th place in the USL's Eastern Conference. The top eight teams from each conference will square off to see who will face the best of the Western Conference and claim the USL's 2018 Championship.

Three games remain, including two road games against teams that sit at the first and third spots on the table. This upcoming Saturday's (Sept. 29) road trip to FC Cincinnati presents a huge challenge and opportunity. Cincy has invested in a roster that will help them make the transition into the MLS next season. As a result, they've remained the Eastern Conference leader all season long — and they've beat Indy twice; a 0-1 defeat for Indy's first-ever home game played at Lucas Oil Stadium, followed by a 2-3 result in Indy one month later.

USL Eastern Conference Standings as of Sept. 27, 2018

The challenge lies in beating a team that has consistently dominated all competition. The opportunity lies in knowing that Indy improved its form from the first game to the second against Cincy. Plus, Indy Eleven has been improving as a unit all season and FC Cincinnati hasn't contended with them since early May. 

The prospect of tearing down the top dog is too tasty, especially on its home field. Huge egos are designed by God to rupture. The Eleven just may end up doing the Lord's work by checking their neighbor to the southeast with a healthy dose of revenge. How fun would it be to send those guys packing to the MLS with a 2-2 record against Indy? A regular season victory this weekend would give Indy one and then they can follow with an even sweeter playoff victory! 

A prescient piece of Scripture comes to mind: "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" (Matthew 19:26)

So when haters try to talk "odds" or "reason" or "logic" or "MLS caliber" ... just remember Jesus — and the Blues Brothers. ("We're on a mission from God.") And keep playing your flippin' hearts out! We take no result as a fore-drawn conclusion.

Jimmy Cliff also comes to mind: "The harder they come, the harder they fall."

Humbling the haughty and earning some payback for letting those jokers come over here and steal Indy's first home game victory — all while building confidence as the team prepares for winning playoff form? Sounds like solid motivation for Saturday's match.

"I feel we'll reward the fans with the way we play," Collier said. "You get the fans behind you, you can shake the other team, as well. So come on out and we'll have a good time!"

Cincinnati and Louisville will be a preview of the playoffs, Collier said. 

"Everyone is going to go at it," he said. "Those environments can be tough but we're going to go out and do what we can (in terms of perfecting the Indy system)... As good as the players are here, I think they're even better people. Bring a bunch of really good soccer players and really good people together, you'll have a good environment to build off."

Words of wisdom from Coach Rennie

Here are some tasty nuggets gleaned from Rennie's post-game comments.

"Good performance. We possessed the ball well and created some good chances.
We managed to win the ball higher up pressure on the ball reduce the chances the opponent had to attack us."

"In the last two home games, two of our best performances."

"We've been on a good run. It's a good time to be playing well, it's a good time to be gaining confidence and that puts us in a good position."

(Heading into Cincinnati:) "We have high-quality players who can get the job done for us. We have a short turnaround but ultimately it will be an exciting weekend for us."

"It's really about continuing the momentum ... we're looking for improved confidence."

"The game will take care of itself ... a lot on the line ... good players with good experience...I'm sure they'll relish the opportunity and make the most of it."

Moving forward

Supporters are encouraged to travel to Cincinnati (ticket info) this weekend and to Louisville where the team will play its final regular-season game on Oct. 13. The Brickyard Battalion is organizing carpools for Cincy here:

The final regular-season home game is set for Sat., Oct. 6 against Bethlehem Steel FC. (The game will be broadcast on MyIndy 23 TV. Tell your local bartender to tune in!) Kickoff  is 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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Thanks to the Indy Eleven communication team for this lineup summary:
Scoring Summary:
IND – Karl Ouimette (Ayoze) 37’
IND – Elliot Collier 75’

Disciplinary Summary:
IND – Owain Fon Williams (Yellow card) 74’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2, L-->R): Owain Fon Williams (GK); Reiner Ferreira, Ayoze (C), Carlyle Mitchell, Karl Ouimette; Dylan Mares (Matt Watson 68’), Nico Matern, Seth Moses, Kevin Venegas; Elliot Collier (Soony Saad 84’), Jack McInerney
Indy Eleven bench: Ben Lundgaard (GK); Brad Ring, Brad Rusin, Matt Watson, Juan Guerra, Ben Speas, Soony Saad

Tampa Bay Rowdies lineup (4-5-1, L-->R): Daniel Vega (GK); Papé Diakité, Zac Portillos, Tarek Morad, Hunter Gorskie; Junior Flemmings, Lance Rozeboom (Joe Cole 78’), Afrim Taku (Alex Morrell 72’), Dominic Oduro, Kwadwo Poku (Jaime Chavez 65’); Sebastian Guenzatti
Tampa Bay Rowdies bench: Akira Fitzgerald (GK); Kyle Porter, Alex Morrell, Leo Fernandes, Martin Vingaard, Joe Cole, Jaime Chavez