With a great writer on each side of the match, we bring you a dual album of recaps for Indy Eleven vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
As you know, typically, we have a specific writer cover a recap for their respective team. But, what happens when two of our great writers teams face off like they did midweek in Riverhounds SC at Indy Eleven? A dual album of recaps! Geoffrey Fowler brings you the Riverhounds perspective while Richard Rainwater recaps the action from the Indy Eleven side.
Disc 1: Pittsburgh
Blame it on playing soccer on an actual football field. Blame it on a recent slump,looking ahead to Saturday’s match against Cincinnati. You could even blame it on the refs. But wherever you place your blame, it doesn’t change the fact that the Riverhounds had the worst start, fought to take a lead, and ended up seeing their win become a draw in the literal last minute of the game. If you are reading this, you may want to sit down and buckle up before going on the recap of this wild game.
The Riverhounds started out the game in their normal form, aggressive. Maybe a little too aggressive. In the 4th minute of the game, Riverhounds keeper, Mike Kirk, stormed way off his line to get the ball. However he was unable to cover it, causing Jack McInerney to bury a shot in a completely empty net, putting Indy Eleven up 1-0. This mistake seemed to start off a rough first half that saw Indy Eleven attacking, and the Riverhounds making bad passes, touches, and overall looking like they were playing with no real cohesion or purpose. In fact Indy Eleven had complete control of the first half with possession, and three more scoring opportunities. The Riverhounds, however would not let the half end on a sour note. After winning a free kick (a call that Indy Eleven’s head coach Martin Rennie clearly did not agree with) just outside the box, Christiano Francois sent a free kick that found the head of Joe Greenspan and then the back of the net. As the whistle sounded on the first half, the score read 1-1.
As the second half started, the Riverhounds found the rhythm and form that the forgot in the first half. Neco Brett had a great run and shot off the outside of his left foot in the 51st minute, but the shot found the wrong side of the netting. A few minutes later, McInerney took a shot from a set piece, however Kirk grabbed on and save it. A bad touch from Indy Eleven turned into a great break for Christiano Francois, as he beat the goaltender on a dribble and scored into an empty net, putting the Riverhounds up 2-1 in the 59th minute. Indy Eleven would not give in, as a great touch gave them a 3 on 1 break inside the box, but could not control the ball enough for a shot. Both teams were attacking, but it seems as if the Riverhounds had the win sealed.
Then came the 86th minute. Riverhounds’ Ray Lee came in on a challenge, a little harder then he should, this much is agreed upon. The challenge was definitely a foul, at worst a yellow; however the ref showed straight red. This left the hounds down a man with four minutes, plus stoppage time left. Although the Riverhounds weathered Indy’s attack well, Indy Eleven found the back on the net in the 93rd minute with 1 minute of stoppage time left. Indy Eleven had another attack, but the shot was deflected out for a corner. However, the ref whistled the game was over with a 2-2 scoreline, upsetting Indy Eleven players, fans, and their coach (He could be seen arguing the the head official after the match).
Joe Greenspan’s goal was his first goal of the season.
Ray Lee is the first Riverhounds player to receive a red card since Gale Agbossoumonde last April.
Next Time Out
Riverhounds head to Nippert Stadium to play FC Cincinnati on Saturday, September 1, at 7:30pm.
Disc 2: Indy
As the playoffs approach, Indy continues to struggle in taking advantage of their home matches. After dropping points against a bottom-end Atlanta team, the Eleven faced off against a streaking Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The match went back and forth, with both sides committing bad defensive errors against counter-attacks. With questionable refereeing and a strong performance from an embattled player, both teams left with more frustration than points on a rainy, August, Indiana night.
Questionable Calls Frustrate Both Sides
This season, PRO Referees have come under intense scrutiny. A pattern of controversial calls have frustrated most fans in USL, and both fanbases left this match feeling as though it was their turn to be upset.
Pittsburgh suffered first, as they were issued a red card in the 86th minute. The foul, committed by Raymond Lee, came from a race to the ball with Carlyle Mitchell. Both players attempted to control the ball, with Mitchell winning possession. As Carlyle kicked the ball, he came into contact with Lee’s foot, and went down. The referee behind the play wasted little time in issuing a straight red card, giving Indy the man advantage they needed to tie the match.
Indy felt that they also had a grievance to file, with another call coming at the end of the match. Indy had scored the equalizing goal, when another attacking move saw them earn a throw. Indy had a long throw into the box, only to watch it cleared by the Riverhound defense. The referee pointed for a corner, looked down at his watch, and decided to end the match before the corner could be taken. Protests from fans, coaches, and players made for a chaotic scene, but the referees stood by their call.
The Indy call was annoying, but not incorrect. The Eleven can’t complain too much, considering they were given plenty of extra time to find a crucial point. The referee is allowed to end the game at their discretion, once the minimum amount of extra time has been played. Though it is uncommon to call the match after awarding a corner, it isn’t unheard of. The call against Pittsburgh, however, was simply incorrect.
The referee only saw Mitchell fall, and didn’t have the benefit of VAR. Reacting to the information in front of him, he gave a straight red card, changing the course of the match. Pittsburgh wasn’t able to deal with Indy’s pressure after losing Lee, and almost lost because of it. While the lack of a good angle can possible explain this call, it can’t excuse it. They reacted to a player falling over, rather than knowing all the facts of the incident, and sunk Pittsburgh’s hopes at victory.
Since this has been a pattern of behavior through the season, all fans should hope that USL finally implements VAR next year. This would install checks and balances on some overworked officials, while preventing ill-informed decisions from altering matches. The technology is available, with kinks in the implementation worked out already, and fans are ready for another step in improving the league.
McInerney Continues Strong Play
Jack McInerney did not have a great first half of the season. Coming into Indy with big expectations, he finished the first slate of games with as many suspensions as he had goals. Many Indy fans (including yours truly) figured it would be another failed stop for the enigmatic striker and began to advocate for his benching. As injuries have piled up, however, Jack has stepped up and provided exactly what Indy needed.
One underrated attribute of McInerney’s game has been his ball control. Twice in this match, Jack beat an approaching goalkeeper and placed the ball exactly where it needed to go. The first goal saw McInerney use a burst of pace to catch Michael Kirk too far off his line. Facing a Pittsburgh defender behind him, Jack stopped, shifted to the left, and finished in clinical fashion. That goal put Indy in front and allowed the Eleven to play on the front foot for a large part of the game. When defensive lapses forced Indy to chase a point, Jack delivered again and saved the day for the squad.
Indy adjusted and moved players up front, forcing the Riverhounds to bunker in. Playing with a man advantage, Indy exploited a drifting defense and played McInerney through on goal again. Pittsburgh defenders were helpless to stop him, forcing the goalkeeper into action again. When Kirk came out to try for the ball, Jack pushed past him and slotted it into a tight angle, preserving the Eleven’s unbeaten streak.
Jack McInerney was active through the match, got back on defense, and looked like an entirely different player from the one in the first half of the year. His experience and talent can push Indy into the playoffs and beyond. And as long as this version of the player remains, Indy will finally have the leader up front they’ve been lacking all season.
Next Time Out
Indy Eleven stays at home and host Richmond Kickers on Saturday, September 1, at 7pm.