Coming off of their first league win and a second-round Open Cup victory, the Roots are back in action at 4:00p.m. Pacific on April 8 away to Indy 11. The Roots will look to build on that momentum against an Indy team that made moves in the offseason to get out a few seasons of mid-to-bottom table finishes.
I could have gone with “Going Back to Indiana,” by the Jackson 5 or “Small Town” by John Mellencamp, but I did not. I already used “The Wabash Cannonball,” this season. Plus, this song rips.
A team we’ve never played before!
Indy Eleven were founded in 2013 as part of the NASL and jumped to USL in 2018.
I’m not totally buying that Indy Eleven are not entirely named after the number of players they field. In any event, the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment was famous because they were Zouaves (which meant they had silly outfits) and because they were mustered under the command of Lew Wallace who wrote Ben Hur (the novel from which the movie was adapted). As a side note, apparently Ben Hur was the bestselling American novel for a lengthy period of time, supplanting Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and unchallenged until Gone With the Wind (“woof” on all three counts tbh).
I’m really disappointed that the color scheme is just the city flag and not like the red representing the Volunteer Regiment’s hats and pantaloons and the navy blue a symbol of the state’s one noteworthy geographic feature (a river).
Indy Eleven’s principal owner is Ersal Ozdemir, who owns a construction and real estate development company and gives a lot of money to Indiana republicans. His bio is disappointingly dull, but the bottom of their website has this little widget:
I love it because if you click the scroll buttons it just rearranges the same five sponsors in a different order. Magnificent stuff.
Indy Eleven play at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium (the “IUPUIMACT&SS”, as locals call it). Seems reasonably nice from the video, but the highlights don’t tend to show plays where guys slip on the turf.
Indy Eleven were pretty good when they first made the jump to USL. In 2018 they went 13-10-11 behind ten goals from our friend Jack McInerny but were knocked out in the first round by Louisville City (Juan Guerra was on the bench for Indy, an unused sub). In 2019 Indy finished third in the east ahead of Louisville with a 19-6-9 record and knocked off NYRB II and Nashville SC before meeting Louisville City again and falling again, this time 3-1 (Indy’s team this time featured Jordan Farr in goal and Neveal Hackshaw in defense). Indy missed the playoffs by one spot in 2020, two spots in 2021, and two spots again in 2022.
This past season, Indy made some big signings. Possibly the most noteworthy is Sebastian Guenzatti,, who I will discuss in more detail below but was an elite goalscorer for Tampa Bay in the 2019-2021 period.
Indy Eleven’s Form
The first big action was a massive save by Oettl on a penalty by our old friend Cal Jennings. Indy had a couple of big chances. The Tampa Bay goal came on the Indy defense completely losing the TB player at the left-sided post and crossing low through the defense to reach him. You’d think they’d be training to not make that mistake again, but that’s prime Formella tap-in position. Indy salvaged a point with a late penalty. Forrest Lasso mugged his old teammate Sebastian Guenzatti, but he (I think rightly) thought he’d done so outside the 18-yard-box (although maybe the foul does continue across the line). It’s close enough that maybe he should have been more careful, though. Aodhan Quinn slotted it home for a point.
We all love a bad thing happening to Detroit City, don’t we folks? Oettl came up huge for Indy again saving honestly one of the strangest shots I’ve ever seen. Indy’s goal from Bryam Rebellon came on a set piece, and about ten minutes later a Detroit City player deservedly got his second yellow and I think the game may have calmed down for awhile. Detroit City had a couple huge opportunities like ten-to-twelve minutes into nine minutes of stoppage time, but Indy left with the W. As a side note, Detroit’ play-by-play was calling him Samuel Asante. I get that I’ve made comparable mistakes, but I don’t get paid for this.
Indy hosted Las Vegas Lights for their home opener, Indy wearing their home Zouave-red (no pantaloons or fez). I don’t think I really hated Las Vegas before, but they signed Andrew Carleton and now suddenly I’m associating the Lights with dirt-bag hangover and re-worn boxers last 18 hours in Vegas and not bright-lights fun-with-your-friends first 18 hours in Vegas. Anyway this game ended 0-0 and I think that might flatter the two offenses.
|March 11||at San Antonio FC||L||1||3|
|March 19||at RGV Toros||D||1||1|
|March 25||vs Memphis 901||???||???||???|
|April 1||vs New Mexico United||W||1||0|
|April 8||at Indy Eleven|||||||
|April 15||vs Hartford|||||||
|April 23||at Loudoun|||||||
|April 29||vs Miami FC|||||||
|May 6||at Birmingham Legion|||||||
|May 13||vs Orb County|||||||
|May 20||at Sacramento|||||||
|May 27||vs San Diego Loyal|||||||
|June 2||at Colorado Springs Switchbacks|||||||
|June 10||at Phoenix Rising|||||||
|June 17||vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds|||||||
|June 24||vs Phoenix Rising|||||||
|June 28||vs RGV Toros|||||||
|July 8||at Tampa Bay Rowdies|||||||
|July 15||at Monterey Bay Union F.C. of Seaside|||||||
|July 22||at El Paso Locomotiv|||||||
|July 26||vs Las Vegas Lights|||||||
|July 29||vs Detroit City|||||||
|August 4||at Charleston Battery|||||||
|August 19||vs Colorado Springs Switchbacks|||||||
|August 23||at New Mexico United|||||||
|August 26||at Louisville City|||||||
|September 2||vs Sacramento|||||||
|September 9||at Las Vegas Lights|||||||
|September 16||vs FC Tulsa|||||||
|September 23||vs Monterey Bay Union F.C. of Seaside|||||||
|September 30||vs San Antonio FC|||||||
|October 4||at Orb County|||||||
|October 7||at Loyal|||||||
|October 14||vs El Paso Locomotiv|||||||
Two games to talk about!
This game was fun. The Roots looked well organized and like they had a strong game plan that New Mexico was not fully prepared to deal with. And that’s not just coming from me.
The Roots’ goal came on a passage of play that started with a short pass from Matsoso to Johnny Rodriguez’ on the Roots’ defensive side of the midfield circle. Johnny carried the ball briefly through the circle and passed to Memo in space down the left. Formella timed his run such that Memo was forced to take a one-touch pass or Formella would have run himself offside. The pass reached Formella in space in the 18-yard-box, having shrugged off his man, and Formella poked it past the keeper, but ran out of room for a shot before reaching the touchline. HOWEVER, while live I thought Formella got lucky on an attempted shot from a tight angle, in fact he made an incredibly canny chipped pass backwards to Johnny, now running full-tilt towards the net–occupied only by New Mexico defenders, with the keeper totally out of the play. Johnny firmly placed it in the back corner and Memo was all of us.
Eight minutes later Justin Portillo was sent off with his second yellow. The Roots had a couple more great chances, although the best of them was called back for a late foul call on a J-Rod elbow to his defender’s schnoz. To my credit (thank you) my “Players to Watch” from the Preview for this match accumulated four yellow cards among the four of them, so I feel like I really nailed that one.
This was a weird game. The Roots rotated the lineup so much that basically only Johnny and Nane had accumulated meaningful game time so far this season. Thus, you could forgive the Roots for being disorganized for awhile. On the other hand, no El Farolito player would come close to the Roots’ roster, so you’d expect that to win out either way. It did. The opener came in the 11th minute on a whipped free kick from roughly corner-kick-angle but not corner-kick-distance. I don’t think it was a great corner, because I don’t think you really want to hit your striker on the near side of the near post, especially not only 5-ish feet off the ground. That said, Johnny’s header was excellent, redirecting the ball into a tiny window at the near post.
The second came on a mental error by the El Farolito keeper, who tried a long-low clearance that Ethan Kohler was able to intercept just into El Farolito’s defensive third. He played in Prentice in the box who beat his man and then beat the keeper with his shot. This is obviously a mistake by El Farolito, but I think real credit is due to Kohler for seeing that mistake and calmly capitalizing on it. Also credit to Prentice for a great shot. By the time he received the ball, I don’t think his defenders were making any huge errors.
The third was, I think, the last play of the game that the Roots were giving it everything. I overall thought Reid had a mediocre game, but on this one he shrugged off his man on a run to the top of the D, then played the ball to his left into space for Johnny Rodrigeuz. Johnny had dubious angle to shoot, but saw Prentice beating his man to the back post, and lofted it across for the easy finish to make it 3-0. What I like about this goal is that I think it’s replicable with Rito in place of Prentice. We have seen Rito botch that shot before, but other teams are not going to want to gamble that he will do so in the future.
I mentioned this on the pod, and I stand by it, but I thought Drew Murray had an exceptional game, and I would be comfortable (although would not prefer it) if he had to start on Saturday in place of Tarek. I think by mid-season he may have that role. However, after the three goal advantage, he twice played the ball back to Taylor Bailey under entirely too much pressure, and the second time the Roots paid for it, when they could not clear it and Bailey conceded a penalty trying to clean up from a mess Murray had created. Luckily it was nothing more than an annoying pock mark on an otherwise great performance.
The game got really ugly from there with constant fouls and cards and bickering. Nane was lucky to escape a red as was Hackshaw. I think the El Farolito players were maybe disused to any level of professionalism in refereeing, but I think the Roots players were maybe too comfortable that they’d be protected at the expense of the Sunday-league guys. I’m glad that there were no actual fights, which is not something I would sure would be the case at half-time.
My conclusion from the Open Cup match is that the Roots bench has some depth and that some of those guys, particularly Kohler and Murray, will be putting real pressure on the starters at those positions. However, in both cases, I think they are not likely to displace those starters yet. My other conclusion is that Tamacas and Hackshaw are ready, and will immediately improve the first team, and that Reid and Wright are not, and will remain subs for now. I also suspect that Wolfgang will be our first choice substitute for either Rito or Mfeka.
Players to Watch
It is possible that all five of these guys have been “Players to Watch” in this blog for other teams.
Aodhan Quinn #14 – Aodhan Quinn has been top three in minutes for his teams–Orange County (18-20) and Phoenix Rising (21-22)–for five straight years. He has a fair few goals going back to an 11g/14a season in 2018, although he has matched that total since then. You can see why Indy would go out and get a reliable goal scorer and creator in their offseason rebuild. Quinn also played for both Orlando City and FC Cincinnati, so it’s possibly Indy picked him up hoping he is the ticket to MLS. Quinn plays in central midfield.
Sebastian Guenzatti #13 – Guenzatti played for Tampa from 2017 to 2022, scoring 59 goals in those six seasons, including a 21 goal campaign in 2021 (four shy of Hadji Barry’s golden boot tally). Guenzatti netted only once in Tampa’s four-game streak to the final, but was blanked by Orange County to miss the title. Guenzatti is listed Uruguay, but moved to the United States at 12, moved back to Uruguay to launch his playing career, and came back to the US to join New York Cosmos, where he briefly overlapped with Joseph Nane. I am not sure exactly how Indy Eleven’s attack works, but if I had to guess, I’d say that Guenzatti lines up at either left or right outside forward (or central striker).
Samuel Asante #20 – Asante moved to Indy Eleven last season after four productive years at Phoenix Rising. Asante had a disappointing 2022 scoring once and contributing six assists. Asante is right-footed and I guess favors the right side? Honestly this attack might just fully rotate during the game. Like Guenzatti, Asante has had some great years in the USL-C but is on the wrong side of 30 for a forward, which might be why he was available to Indy.
Jack Blake #8 – English central/right-sided midfielder Blake joined Indy this offseason from San Diego Loyal, where he was not sent off against the Roots in Loyal’s capitulation against Oakland in the playoffs (likely only because he was hurt and didn’t play) Blake is actually the only of these five who I have not identified previously as a player to watch, but that was because he was hurt in the playoffs last year and so I expected would not play. Blake did play for Loyal in the Roots’ 4-3 road win there in 2021, although he had come off (for current Indy-teammate Douglas Martinez) by the time Akeem Ward made Sportscenter. Blake is from Nottingham, and came up with the Nottingham Forest youth set-up.
Cameron Lindley #6 – Lindley is a more deep-lying midfield and I’m out of stuff to say about these guys. He’s pretty good, you can read what I said when he was on Switchbacks.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I’m glad I’m not the guy telling Johnny he is starting on the bench again after his start to the season. But I am predicting that Noah will be the guy telling Johnny he is starting on the bench after his start to the season. The spine of the team, or “chaos axis,” I think starts, with the same midfielders and Morad behind Pelaez. The ball will continue moving up the flanks, but with Hackshaw supporting Diaz and Formella and Tamacas supporting Rito and Mfeka.
I am unimpressed with Indy’s performance so far, and I think there’s a chance for the Roots to strike before this recent-USL all-star team gels. Roots 2-1–Pelaez gets off his mark.
My gut is saying Pelaez gets the start because I thought he was productive against New Mexico, he brings a physical aspect that weakens defenses, and we’ve yet to see the best of him. But I’m listing Johnny in the starting role because Delgado has previous tendency to feed the hot-hand. Noah admitted Rodriguez is giving him “tough decisions,” and I feel you say that if you’re considering starting him immediately. I have Hackshaw and Tamacas returning from their 90 minutes in the U.S. Open Cup to start, we’ll see if a few days rest is enough for them.
I’m revising me 3-2 shout on RootsPod to a 2-0 Roots’ win with a go-ahead goal by Formella and a late counter attack to kill the game by Rito.
Near unanimity in lineup predictions! A universal feeling of optimism about the team’s direction! The Roots are playing such good football right now that it seems foolish to predict many changes, except at the back where we have new arrivals and returnees. Johnny’s in a nice run of form, but I think you still want to get Pelaez going, plus I continue to think his game is slightly better suited to the first 60-70 minutes than Johnny’s is. On the back of the last three performances, its hard to see how this squad doesn’t handle business on Saturday. 2-1 Roots (though I’m wary of the sporting gods doing something that really kills the vibe).