Pitch Bitch, episode 6: 2017 finale

David Goldsmith on the attack

A North Carolina FC defender and David Goldsmith leaving it all out on the field. Note in the background Indy defender Marco Franco (who is in a three-way tie for team goal-assist leader with Ben Speas and Justin Braun). Franco pulled some fancy footwork, faking Carolina defense deep in enemy territory, to set up Goldsmith’s shot opportunity.

Visiting soccer squad North Carolina FC sliced through home team Indy Eleven’s defense, starting from midfield, three minutes and 47 seconds into the last game of the season at Michael Carroll Stadium.

The 40-degree afternoon took on an extra chill as a collective shudder shook the spines of the faithful. How ugly was this match going to get?

Thankfully for the fans: not too ugly or gut wrenching due to the team’s continued, cool-headed pressure. A connecting pass from Gerardo Torrado at the top of Indy’s 18 to David Goldsmith in the midfield, who turned and dished it out immediately to Ben Speas in the left-side channel, set up Speas’ perfect pass, feeding a hungry Zayed, on point for a one-touch equalizer at the far-side of the net. The definition of beautiful penetration.

DSC_0022EamonScoring

Striker Eamon Zayed controls Speas’ feed for an inside-of-the-right foot tap into the near-side net, breathing the air possibility back into the game for the home team. The goal marked 26 goals in two seasons for Eamon Zayed, the team’s all-time leading goal scorer.

Indy’s starting 11 worked well together to control several viable North Carolina threats and launch many promising attacks of their own. Don Smart was unlucky to have a first-half shot from inside soar high over the goal. (Delivered with perhaps too much power when a heavy dose of finesse was needed to tame the unruly ball, Smart’s opportunity was enabled by a ricochet off the Carolina keeper, who deflected a Zayed shot well set up by midfielder Tanner Thompson — a standout player from Indiana University.) Indeed, when we look at the whole field, the players deserve credit for playing tough defense as a unit — as well as aggressive on the attack. Everyone was involved in all aspects of the game. And while there certainly were errors, they were overshadowed by positive examples of connective chemistry and organized support.

Zayed captured amid one of several tasty opportunities on goal.

Zayed captured amid one of several tasty opportunities on goal.

Back-line defenders, for example, coordinated the play that pushed Indy Eleven to a 2-1 advantage 20 minutes into the second half.

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Defender Nemanja Vukovic lines up one of his legendary, killer freekicks. This one delivered to the far-side of the box where fellow defender — and Indiana native — Cory Miller met it for a one-touch goal.

The Vukovic/Miller freekick/cross/weakside run/one-touch to far-side netting combination that pushed Indy to a 2-1 lead elated the stands — and illustrated one of the most beautiful aspects of being able to watch the development of professional soccer: an international player from Montenegro (Vuko) connecting with a young man who grew up less than 30  miles from the stadium (Miller) to develop goal-scoring chemistry. Long-paying will be dividends of exposing a local audience to the concepts of international cooperation and the possibilities found by individuals who commit themselves to disciplined training.

DSC_0044KidBallon

Exposing local children to concepts of international cooperation, teamwork and individual commitment to training (where they see local players who work hard achieve success on the field) are some of the ancillary benefits of supporting the development of local professional soccer.

The thrill lasted up until the final minutes of the game. But fate held a consolation prize for the visitors (the No. 3 occupant of the NASL’s eight-seat ranking table while Indy is No. 8), who were able to see a corner kick (perhaps deflected off an Indy player’s attempted head clearance) find the back of the net to equalize.

Minutes later, the ref blew the whistle marking the conclusion of both the match and Indy Eleven’s fourth season on the field.

DSC_0031Eamon Clapping

We don’t know what our roster will look like in 2018 — we’re not even sure about the shape of our league within a shifting landscape at the national level — but we do know we’ve seen some great soccer and have much potential to nourish in the years to come.

What does the future hold?

We know that Gerardo Torrado and Sinisa Ubiparipovic are retiring. But beyond that, this is where the business-side of the operation gets busy sharpening their pencils, negotiating the additions and subtractions to the roster, all while a tremendous amount of uncertainty swirls through the U.S. soccer community in terms of league structure and team development. [The inability of the U.S. Men’s National Team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the North American Soccer League’s suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation lead the narrative underscoring unrest and dissatisfaction with the status quo at the men’s pro level.]

We also know that despite insults from outsiders — and those who would judge our local attempts at a professional game as no more than gussied up amateurism — Indiana has seen — and played — some great games. Our future progress may happen in fits and starts; it undoubtedly has been hampered by our politicians’ inability to be early adapters when it comes to enabling the construction of a soccer-specific stadium that will allow Indianapolis to host world-class matches as part of the city’s sports-centered development strategy. But our progress is inevitable.

For four seasons, thousands of fans have continued to pack the stands and support the team, through good times and bad. Typically, we don’t see business ignore the willingness of so many people to pull out their wallets, which provides hope that despite league drama, Indy will persevere.

Plus, local love of the game continues to inspire new generations to become best friends with their soccer balls. Somewhere at this very moment in Indiana, a kid is working on individual footskills, others are juggling in a group, or taking each other on in cocky displays of creativity and speed. This is Indiana soccer at the grassroots, a deep-seeded passion that has driven us for generations and will continue to power us in the years ahead: the willingness to work to be the very best we can be — as individuals and as teammates. This combination leads the Pitch Bitch to posit that future success for Indiana soccer at all levels is pre-ordained, an inevitability that no amount of greed or ego will ever upend.

(Photos by Rebecca Townsend, who apologizes for the exposure and graininess, but hopes her humble equipment captured enough of the game’s spirit to convey the story.)

DSC_0139MyFam

A final shoutout to my husband and daughter, who have been dedicated Indy Eleven season ticket holders since the beginning, faithfully holding down their seats behind the East-End Goal through blazing heat, bitter cold and driving rain. Thank you guys for supporting local soccer — and indulging the incurable, lifelong need of your wife and mother to be involved the sport. You guys are the best and I love you!

Thanks to the Indy Eleven media team for this Scoring Summary:
NCFC – Billy Schuler (Danny Barrow 4’)
IND – Eamon Zayed (Ben Speas 20’)
IND – Cory Miller (Nemanja Vukovic 65’)
NCFC – Billy Schuler (Lance Laing 89’)

Discipline Summary:
NCFC – Danny Barrow 19’
IND – David Goldsmith 88’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-1-3-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch (GK); Nemanja Vukovic, Cory Miller, Colin Falvey, Marco Franco; Gerardo Torrado © , Ben Speas (Sinisa Ubiparipovic 58’), Tanner Thompson (Paulo Junior 75’), Don Smart; Eamon Zayed, David Goldsmith

IND bench: Keith Cardona (GK); Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Cory Miller, Christian Lomeli, Adrian Ables

North Carolina FC lineup (4-5-1, L->R): Brian Sylvestre (GK) (Macklin Robinson 32’); Paul Black, Connor Tobin, James Marcelin, Kareem Moses; Austin Da Luz (Lance Laing 79’), Tiyi Shipalane, Bolu Akinyode, Daniel Barrow (Nazmi Albadawi 64’), Marcel Kandziora; Billy Schuler

NCFC bench: Saeed Robinson, Jonathan Glenn, Brad Ruhaak, D.J. Taylor

A time-honored tradition: Indy/NY draw

(The Pitch Bitch, episode 5 … the beginning of the great multimedia experiment)

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Smoke hovers over the field following Indy’s second goal (a Don Smart assist finished by Eamon Zayed) against the New York Cosmos on Oct. 7, 2017. (Photo by Rebecca Townsend)

INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 8, 20717) — Among the most dramatic storylines in the history of Indy Eleven: Which team would first earn a win — Indy or the New York Cosmos — after the first six meetings (all 2014 and 2015 games) resulted in draws.

And though the sting will always remain for Indy of losing the 2016 championship to the Cosmos (in penalty kicks), Indy will forever have the glory of being the first to claim a victory in the match up (Eamon Zayed bagged two goals in a thrill-packed 2:1 home win April 16, 2016). And some of the best goals in the North American Soccer League have come as Indy and New York players have scrambled to protect team honor — or earn bragging rights.

Last night’s match was no exception. Beautiful goals all around for a 2:2 finish.

Thanks to Indy Eleven and the North American Soccer League for this highlight video:

In the East End Goal stands, the Pitch Bitch launched a new multimedia experiment. GoPro video will enable some cool new features, but the Pitch Bitch is issuing a formal apology to Don Smart, who scored the first goal of the evening last night — and delivered it at the perfect angle for us to see. His perfect goal came so quickly that our audio/visual skills could not engage the equipment in time to capture the beauty of his triumph (streaking up the right flank he released a shot that hooked just under crossbar and into the far side of the net). Here, however, here is the aftermath: (Warning: The Pitch Bitch is a screamer)

There are risks involved in being creative — sometimes they don’t pay off. This Indy freekick, for example, failed to flummox the Cosmos:

Brad Ring, here’s our gut reaction to your most egregious foul of the evening:

Eamon Zayed was breathing down Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer’s throat — and came close — twice in short succession — to stuffing the ball in the back of the net:

And just for fun, some pre-game bonding:

Pitch Bitch, episode 5

Puerto Rico FC v Indy Eleven

An evening of soccer in haiku

Zayed and Ramon of PR FC

Eamon Zayed gets a critical step on Puerto Rico’s Ramon Soria as he nails a header into the net for his second goal of the evening. (Image/graphic courtesy of Indy Eleven)

Searching for inspiration while watching the first half of this evening’s match, the Pitch Bitch opted to exercise an under-utilized tool in the field of sports reporting: haiku.

Inelegant ball

dominates back-and-forth play

in first-half review.

Indy’s fails unchecked,

PR club not so lucky.

Zayed slays loose ball.

Oh no, Don Smart down!

Worry fades as speedy Don stands,

remains in the game.

At half, home team up

one-nothing, but game open.

Much is possible.

Perhaps tight passing,

creative, play-making runs:

The beautiful game.

On to second half:

We see many more long passes.

One sets assist.

Marco Franco spies

Zayed streaming up weak side;

cross to head finds goal!

 

With just minutes left

Indy allows handball in box

Puerto Rico scores.

 

Visitors earn a

consolation prize from hosts:

goals for everyone.

 

Too bad teams lost cool.

Near match’s end, fight breaks out.

No class in violence.

 

The win is Indy’s

but Puerto Rico returns

to play again soon.

 

P.S. Hurricane

Relief more important than game.

Please donate today!

 

Watch soccer, support hurricane relief

Phanuel Kavita of D.R. Congo Jordi Quintillà Ramón Soria Alonso

The Pitch Bitch (aka Rebecca Townsend) welcoming Puerto Rico FC players to Indianapolis ahead of their Oct. 4 match against Indy Eleven, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at Michael Carroll Stadium in Downtown Indianapolis. (From Left: defender Phanuel Kavita of D.R. Congo, attacking midfielder Jordi Quintillà of Spain, Rebecca Townsend and Ramón Soria Alonso, also of Spain. Attendees at the match will have plenty of opportunity to contribute to hurricane relief — and show their support in person as the Puerto Rican team takes to the field.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana has a chance to show Puerto Rico that Hoosiers are in solid support of hurricane relief by packing Michael Carroll Stadium at 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Oct. 4, Downtown Indianapolis, when Puerto Rico FC and Indy Eleven face off.

Indy will be passing the bucket — and driving web traffic — to Puerto Rico FC owner Carmelo Anthony‘s hurricane relief fund. In a piece published in the Players’ Tribune, Anthony makes a straight-forward, heartfelt pitch for major assistance — and makes a contribution of his own to get things started:

“The entire island is dark. But even if we can’t hear it, there’s more than 3 million people down there calling out for help. Imagine your house being powerless for just one hour. Just one day. Just one week. Imagine the young kids you have in your life — your son, your daughter, your nephew, your granddaughter — imagine them being scared and hungry for just one day.

“Puerto Ricans are facing the possibility of six months of that kind of struggle. I think about my own family in that situation and I can’t even wrap my mind around it. I can’t grasp it. I know there’s so many different things going on in America and in the world right now that need our attention, but damn … I need your help. I need the help of anybody reading this. We have to help the people of Puerto Rico get the supplies they need to survive day-to-day until their country can be built up again.

“I’ve set up a YouCaring donation page to aid the relief efforts. Any help you can give will get directly into the hands of those who need it — you have my word. I’ve been doing community work on the island for the past 10 years, but this is another level. I’m starting with an immediate $50,000 donation, but I need your help in this fight.”

The night before the match, Indy Eleven hosted a dinner in honor of the visiting team and to help draw attention to relief efforts.

“We’re chatting about their day-to-day situation, their worries with their families,” Indy Eleven captain Colin Falvey said of his discussions with players and team officials. “Right now they’re in a bad, bad situation. For me, the futbol will take care of itself tomorrow night: tonight we’re all about embracing them into our city and showing the support of our club.”

Falvey added that he expects Wednesday’s match “to be a high-tempo, intense fight between two very good teams,” noting that since a coaching change at Puerto Rico he sees their team as “playing a different style of futbol, a more attractive style.”

Local soccer blogger and fan extraordinaire Nipun Chopra, PhD, has been at the forefront of local hurricane relief efforts aimed specifically at helping members of the Puerto Rico FC family effected by the storm. With the help of 133 people over the past 12 days, Chopra’s GoFundMe campaign has, to date, collected $15,923 of the fund’s stated $20,000 goal.

“Tomorrow night we continue our fundraising efforts for Carmelo Anthony’s hurricane relief fund,” said Indy Eleven’s media liaison Scott Stewart, encouraging people to come out to the game. In addition to the online donation options, he added, “There will be a bucket brigade.”

For more information on Puerto Rican relief efforts — and tickets for the Puerto Rico FC/Indy Eleven matchup — can be found at IndyEleven.com.

For more insight into the level of devastation the people of Puerto Rico — and many other Caribbean islands are facing post-Maria, as well — check out this slideshow from NBC news: https://www.nbcnews.com/slideshow/hurricane-maria-lashes-storm-battered-caribbean-n802936.

 

The Pitch Bitch, episode four

Indy Eleven rewards faithful fans with victory

Tribute to a fallen Brickyard Battalion member

Sept 14 pre-game

The pre-game activities included a remembrance of Brickyard Battalion member Drew Schwier, 26, who died unexpectedly Sept. 7.

The program to Indy Eleven’s Sept. 13 home game against North Carolina FC featured a note written by striker Eamon Zayed.

He communicated his deep appreciation for Indy Eleven supporters, about how he saw and respected fans’ capacity to uphold the tenets of passion, commitment, loyalty, love, belief and hope.*

And on an evening when Indy’s Brickyard Battalion mourned the loss and celebrated the life of super fan Drew Schwier, Zayed — with the help of a well-place Marco Franco feed to his head — saved Indy from what promised to be a 0-0 draw by (in the final minute of regulation time) driving the ball into the wide right netting of the Carolina goal.

So, in memory of Drew and in honor of the fans who stay to the end, the Boys in Blue claimed victory in Downtown Indianapolis.

When the season begins to slip away and a team is sitting at the bottom of the table in a league struggling to survive, what motivates the players to dig deep, to show up ready to play? Those very characteristics Zayed identified in the fans: passion, commitment, loyalty, love, belief and hope.

Players can do something with those ingredients. Indy’s players are trying to get their game cooking. There are still areas in need of improvement, but one can find plenty of positive fodder.

What can be said about the details of tonight’s match? In general, Indy held the upper hand in terms of dictating the pace of the game — but the pace was generally pretty slow. Though Don Smart returned to active duty late into the match, which helped to accelerate Indy’s attack.

Indy’s propensity to keep pushing forward with its outside fullbacks continues to pay dividends — and offset the associated risks of potentially exposed flanks. Left back Nemanja Vukovic stepped up enough to force Carolina keeper Brian Sylvestre into action on more than one occasion. His counterpart to the wide right, Marco Franco, plowed into the attack on several occasions as well — and launched the pass that enabled the evening’s only goal.

With solid experience, positioning and communication, Jon Busch, Colin Falvey, Cory Miller, Brad Ring and Gerardo Torrado were mostly able to make the adjustments necessary to enable Vukovic and Franco’s flight patterns. The pressure on the defense, it must be noted, was not as stiff one might expected from Carolina, given the team is ranked No. 2 among North American Soccer League teams. N.C. FC’s James Marcelin received a red card just before the half, leaving his teammates to play down a man for the rest of the match. Even with a man-up advantage, Indy was barely able to capitalize on the opportunity. The most important point, however, is that they did capitalize.

They did not give up.

The Sept. 13 game also marked the debut of midfielder Paulo Jr., a product of Brazil who has been playing professionally for a decade. He started the match in an attacking position and demonstrated commendable ball control and aggressive pressure.  There’s room for him to make a mark as his team prepares to make the most with what is left of this season.

If the boys stay on track — if true passion drives them — some great games remain in their future, even this season. Does a city need a championship to find worth in its team? No. Sometimes a simple victory like today’s serves to remind us of one of life’s most salient lessons: Make the most of this very moment. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift: the present.

Today Indy Eleven did not give up. They kept hammering and earned their just desserts.

Now, as Jay Z says, “On to the next one!”

The team travels to Canada this weekend to take on FC Edmonton on Sept. 17. Kickoff is 4 p.m. EDT. Indy Eleven’s next home match is set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 against Puerto Rico FC.

* Zayed’s piece also urged people to read this article by Nuri Sahin, a Turkish international player who was with his team Borussia Dortmund when a bomb exploded outside its bus on the way to a European Champions League game.

The Pitch Bitch, episode three

Cory Miller v Deltas sept 2 2017 coIndyEleven

Cory Miller returned to Indy Eleven’s defensive line Sept 2. after a 10-month absence for ankle reconstruction and rehab. The visiting San Francisco Deltas kept him — and his teammates — quite busy. (Photo courtesy of Indy Eleven via NASL’s Twitter feed.)

Deltas blues hits Indy

San Francisco Deltas defeat Indy Eleven 2-0

Indy Eleven and the San Francisco Deltas have been teasing each other throughout 2017. They opened with a 1-1 draw on March 25 in San Francisco, followed by a 0-0 April game in Indy and a 2-2 match back on the West Coast in June.

At halftime on September 2 in Indianapolis, the Deltas were up 1-0. With more than 8,700 in attendance pressing them on, Indy launched several attacking efforts throughout the second half. But an equalizing goal remained elusive — and the Deltas left the field for the night as the dominant team. In fact, in the 88th minute, the visitors added one more goal for good measure. In stoppage time, they fired one more point blank scorcher. Indy goalie Jon Busch denied that effort.

Final score 0-2.

The first half tested Indy’s defensive capabilities. The Pitch Bitch was delighted to see the return of Cory Miller to the defensive backline. As one might expect for a player returning to his first match after a 10-month absence in injury rehab, he had some lapses, which his teammates could (mostly) cover. He certainly had his hands full — as did the rest of the D — with the Deltas’ relentless attacks from all angles. But he brought the type of raw physicality necessary to keep the Deltas (mostly) in check — as did Falvey. Falvey will be haunted by San Francisco’s second goal (see the video below in which the Deltas’ Pablo Dyego plays Gerardo Torrado, Falvey and Busch), but he’d do well to remember that he had many important plays throughout the game and deserves special credit for a solid tackle early on that delayed the attacker and the ball long enough for defense to reset and disarm an immediate, point-blank threat. At another point, the Delta’s Devon Sandoval ripped Falvey down in the box — but Falvey and his teammates remained cool-headed — and for the next several minutes, in control of their box.

Last night’s video footage will provide examples of how individual players could make adjustments to address some tactical deficiencies (adjustments from Vuko, Miller and Ring could have potentially neutralized the Pablo Dyego/Michael Stephens combo that led to the first goal), but there is much to praise. Much talent, physicality and experience. Miller and Falvey as central backs with Marco Franco and Nemanja Vukovic outside, Brad Ring providing extra coverage and Busch backing the whole operation seems to the Pitch Bitch to provide a solid defensive foundation from which Indy can build.

Speaking of building, last night’s notes indicate that Indy is building plays out of the back. And she likes the speed and tight passing through the midfield and into the attacking half. The next trick will be slowing transitions into attack — and even actual attacks — enough that they are not frenetic. It’s a tough order to slow play down only to speed up, but the talent exists the guys can begin to breathe and have more fun as they connive to pull their opponents out of position. The potential is present.

Indy’s offensive highlights from the night include a good crack from Ben Speas at 13 minutes, which flew over the net. David Goldsmith had a great look dishing a diving header opportunity to Eamon Zayed. Though it was inches out of the flying Irishman’s reach, it’s an exercise worth repeating as it promises to pay goal-sized dividends.

Losses are tough. On keepers as much as anyone. So this episode will conclude with an appreciation of Busch, who recently played his 500th match as a professional match. The Pitch Bitch has had a long-time saying that “it takes a special kind of crazy to be a keeper.” She is not sure where they come from — or how every team seems to have one or two materialize on their behalf. Busch has been a source of consistent amazement. He is 41 — ancient in pro soccer terms — yet his athleticism enables some of the most amazing saves ever performed at Michael Carroll Stadium. And let’s not forget: The man is flinging himself about on pitiful, unforgiving turf. (Would that the city’s political leaders figure out a way to provide its pro soccer team with the lush grass that world-class players expect and deserve!!!!) Busch has saved Indy’s ass SO MANY TIMES. In last night’s match, he blocked a shot within the first minute and had several other important saves throughout the evening.

Way to go, Busch! Keep calling the shots back there in the Indy net and we will have brighter days ahead.

Now, it’s Sunday morning and it’s time for church. Lord knows there’s plenty to pray about.

The Pitch Bitch, episode two

Jacksonville Armada FC at Indy Eleven Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski

The Jacksonville Armada’s Jack Blake (shown here pressuring Indy Eleven defender Marco Franco) deserves congratulations for his relentless attack in Indy Aug. 26. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Ruszkowski/Indy Eleven)

Jacksonville finds Indy’s soft spots

Hungry for revenge after Indy Eleven’s 2-0 win during their previous meeting on July 15, the Jacksonville Armada took to the field on Aug. 26 in Indianapolis with a weapon — in the form of Jack Blake — locked and loaded to unleash a hat trick before the hosts could respond with two goals of their own.

A beautiful Justin Braun through pass from the Indy midfield split Jacksonville’s defense as Ben Speas sprinted onto the ball, closed in on the goal from left side and eluded Jacksonville’s waiting keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell by slotting a smooth shot out the keeper’s reach into the far side of the net.

 

Indy’s second goal came in extra time when David Goldsmith, breathing down the weak side of his opponent’s goal, received a cross from Ben Speas streaming up the right flank about 40 yards away and, with one flawless flick of the head, brought the hosts within one goal of a draw.

Those goals marked uplifting moments in a performance that was otherwise defined by a handful of hopeful offensive sparks that failed to materialize in goals and a series of defensive lapses that ultimately left the hosts defeated 3-2.

Goal-fest

All constructive criticism aside, the Armada, in general, deserve credit for showing up ready to play. And both Patterson-Sewell and Blake, specifically, deserve congratulations for their individual performances. Patterson-Sewell absorbed several point-blank scorchers from Indy attackers throughout the match, while Blake began his bonanza at the 28th minute. He who broke to the center of the 18 and received a pass from Bryam Rebellón (who had shaken Daniel Keller in the upper right flank). Blake’s one-touch re-direct bounced off the inside of the left post and ricocheted off the right post into the net.

Jacksonville, 1. Indy, 0.

The crowd’s collective heart skips a beat. There’s still time to equalize, but we weren’t first on the board. Near the end of the first half, Blake’s free kick from about 30 yards out bends into the upper right corner of the net.

Jacksonville, 2. Indy, 0.

Tanner Thompson attacks Aramada by Matt Schlotzhauer

Tanner Thompson kept the Armada’s defense on its heels several times throughout the match. Promising chemistry seems to be building among Thompson, Speas, Goldsmith and Zayed, as well. (Photo courtesy of Matt Schlotzhauer/Indy Eleven)

In an effort to maintain mental toughness, Indy’s players were probably trying not to let thoughts cloud their minds of a game earlier this year in which the Armada beat them  4-1. Indeed, heads held high, the Eleven kept coming at Jacksonville. Throughout the first half, Tanner Thompson charged with impressive and explosive changes in speed and JAX had repeated troubles keeping him marked. In the first half’s stoppage time, Thompson again broke down the flank and launched a cross across the face of the goal about five yards out as Goldsmith again controls it and delivers a shot into Patterson-Sewell’s arms.

Still, at halftime, the visitors maintained a 2-0 lead. And at 62 minutes, Blake earned his hat trick off a free kick.

Though video cannot prove or disprove his observation, the Pitch Bitch’s husband and East Goal correspondent/season ticket holder Clyde Townsend reported that Bush had the kick’s trajectory within his sights, but that an unexpected deflection off a defender’s shoulder shifted it out of the keeper’s reach.

After entering the match as a second-half sub and contributing an assist on his team’s first goal, Braun fell to the ground requesting an immediate sub after what looked to be a fairly innocuous encounter with Blake, but proved to be more serious trouble with his ankle. The resulting medical response took several minutes and Braun was eventually removed on a stretcher. A bummer in the (hopefully temporary) loss of a great forward, but it provided several more minutes of stoppage time in which the Eleven’s offense swarmed the Armada’s goal. But no equalizers emerged.

Justin Braun down

The game was a painful affair in a very literal sense for Justin Braun. (Photo courtesy of Matt Schlotzhauer/Indy Eleven)

Despite the final score, the team’s attacking efforts offered the silver lining of this game. Especially considering proven assets such as Nemanja Vukovic (with his lethal freekicks) and lightning fast wingman Don Smart were both on the bench for the evening (Smart with an injury/Vuko listed as an uncalled substitute), the number of credible threats the team managed to generate engendered the Pitch Bitch’s continued faith in the squad they are building.

Get Miller back in the action

Many of Indy’s players have significant depth and ability to play on both ends of the field. But on the subject of positions, the Bitch is mystified by Coach Hankinson’s use of Daniel Keller on the back line. She likes Keller’s toughness and solid technical ability — but as a midfielder. He is not shining on the backline the way he does further up the field. An honest critique of his defense last night must include a note that his marking was at crucial times too lax and that possession was too often squandered to the opponents — in one case to three attackers who were poised to counter with a 3-1 advantage at the top of the 18.

In terms of ability to mark man-to-man, clear the ball from areas of immediate threat and deny ambitious attackers desirable position, Cory Miller has a proven edge. Last night marked his formal return to the roster after 10 months of nursing an ankle reconstruction. But he remained on the bench — even as Hankinson subbed defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe.

After the game, the Bitch found Miller on the field and remarked the team could have used him. She asked if he’d been given any indication on when he could expect playing time.

Cory Miller exits the field after pre-game warm-ups

Cory Miller returned to the roster, but the experienced defender remained on the bench during Jacksonville’s onslaught. Moving forward, perhaps Coach Hankinson will test Miller’s ability to stop the defensive leaks. (Photo by Rebecca Townsend)

Though he’s known as the Big Bald Assassin, Miller exhibits a stoic calm off the field. He smiled and says he aims not to obsess too much over playing time, that he just focuses on doing the best he can do.

Years ago, in a Q&A that followed Miller offering his personal testimony during an Indy Eleven Christian faith night, the Bitch asked him to cite one of his favorite passages of scripture.

Miller recalled the metaphor Jesus offered his disciples: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…”

As she prepared to leave the field Aug 26, the Bitch reminded Miller that the quality of his fruit was apparent — and that she hoped others would soon see his proven back-line anchoring abilities.

Parting shots

In addition to tighter tracking, the team can work to improve squandered possessions on the defensive half and sloppy clearances. The Pitch Bitch’s game notes include lines such as: “Who are you passing to?” and “Lapses on D leave incoming balls unchecked as they fall to an attacker’s feet just a few feet from the mouth of the goal.”

Coach Hankinson’s subs for the evening seemed to indicate his search for more offensive juice with Justin Braun, Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Adrian Ables replacing Gerardo Torrado, Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Éamon Zayed, respectively.

Hopefully, hindsight will prove that if he wants a winning scoreline, the place to start subbing is with the back line.

With the evening’s loss, Indy Eleven dropped to the bottom of the North American Soccer League’s eight-place table. The team has accumulated just four points in the fall season. By comparison, league leader, Miami FC, has 12 points (and three former Indy players: University of New Mexico product Blake Smith, attacking great and Indiana native Dylan Mares and the solid Jamaican defender Lovell Palmer).

Indy’s next home game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 2 when the San Francisco Deltas visit.

The Pitch Bitch, episode No. 1

Eamon Zayed

A beautiful first-half strike from forward Eamond Zayed could have changed the momentum of the match against Edmonton. Alas, ’twas not to be. The shot ricocheted off the visitors’ goal frame — and with it went Indy’s hopes of controlling the game. (Photo courtesy of Indy Eleven. P.S. This photo was taken during a previous match, but provides a nice view of Zayed on the attack.)

A sad start to the fall season at home

FC Edmonton creams Indy

Indy Eleven may have been expecting an easy Aug. 5 game against visiting FC Edmonton after a dominant 2-1 win when the two teams met in Canada just six days earlier. Instead, the home team spent much of the first half on its heels, absorbing wave upon wave of attack from an aggressive Edmonton.

By the second half the Eddies were finding so many holes in the Indy field it looked like Swiss cheese — and the visitors walked away victorious with three goals to Indy’s one.

Though match statistics clocked Indy as the dominant possessor during the first half, the home team created few legitimate threats, though a couple shots could have given the home team the first points on the board — and changed the tone of the game to Indy’s favor. Alas for the home team, none of their efforts found the net.

Still, Indy managed to hold the Eddies at bay for the game’s first 45 minutes. But the opening minutes of the second half saw Edmonton’s Tomi Ameobi head a ball inside the 18 to his teammate Pedro Galvao, who managed a perfectly placed shot, forcing Indy goalkeeper Jon Busch to smother the ball as it skidded toward the right corner of the box.

Just minutes later, during another near-range threat from Galvao in which he was brought to the ground, a subsequent penalty kick for the Eddies was ably finished by Dustin Corea (after much fuss among the two teams in the background and an ensuing yellow card issued to Indy midfielder Gerardo Torrado).

The match barely re-started before Edmonton again broke the defense with another goal — this one accomplished as Albert Watson receives a teammate’s corner kick with a powerful on-target header. Busch correctly read the the threat, but it came in with such speed and power that, even as the keeper caught the ball, he received it just inches on the wrong side of the goal line.

Just as the crowd’s collective spirit began to fade, at 67 minutes, Vuko (aka Montenegrin defender Namanja Vukovic) re-energized the hometown crowd and gave his team a shot to get back in the game when he nailed a brilliant, unstoppable freekick from about 25 yards out.

Hope that Indy might shift the tide in its favor lasted about five minutes. A third goal for Edmonton in the 73 minute left the Pitch Bitch wondering why Lovell Palmer (an effective defensive force during the team’s previous match) was left on the bench as swarming Eddies left Busch outnumbered in his box, forced to defend an all-but-impossible situation. The Bitch is happy to see defensive anchor and team captain Colin Falvey back in action after being sidelined to injury, but must it really be an either Falvey or Palmer situation? The team clearly needed more assistance in absorbing Edmonton’s pressure. To be fair to Indy, the third goal was set-up by an illegal play by Ameobi, who used his hands to control the ball before passing it on to Daryl Fordyce. Fordyce’s cross to the far post set up Corea for the final kill shot. The Indy defenders’ frustration at the officials for missing the call probably contributed to this final collapse.

By the 80th minute, Pitch Bitch was out of her seat and out of her mind at Indy’s in ability to stop the bleeding as Edmonton continued to unleash threatening plays, including a ball played straight across the full face of the goal.

As the game’s final minutes faded away, an ambulance driving by on New York Street, which runs the length of the stadium, gave cause for pause: Stop here, buddy, she thought. We need help.

Indy Eleven now sit at sixth place in the North American Soccer League’s eight-seat table. The team’s next match will be at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12 on the road against Miami FC. A road match against the New York Cosmos takes place the following weekend. The teams returns to Indy’s Michael Carroll Stadium Aug. 26 for a 7:30 p.m. matchup against the Jacksonville Armada.

Here are the match highlights courtesy of NASL:

The Pitch Bitch (aka Rebecca Townsend) has two lifelong passions: soccer and journalism. She was pleased to see the establishment of a professional soccer team in her home state of Indiana in 2013 (on her daughter’s 10th birthday, nonetheless) and is honored to contribute to its chronicling.

Boxer Frank Martin is fired up

Indiana’s first National Golden Gloves title holder in 23 years is ready to defend his title.

My interview with Martin is featured in this year’s Indiana Golden Gloves Championship program… It’s a treat to watch talented athletes learn to elevate their game: a solid example for all of us!

Hope friends, media and fun seekers will show up at 7 p.m. tonight, April 6, at Tyndall Armory, 711 N. Pennsylvania St., Downtown Indianapolis, as the championship rounds of Indiana Golden Gloves begin, and again at the same time next Thursday, April 13, to watch Martin get to work in the ring.

National champion exhibits mental, physical toughness in pursuit of boxing dream

Story and Photos By Rebecca Townsend

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Frank Martin, winner of the 2016 National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in the 141-weight class — the first Indiana representative to win a national Gloves title in 23 years — must defend his state title before he can advance to nationals — and attempt back-to-back national victories — a feat that no one in the elite club of Indiana representatives to win a national title has accomplished except Marvin Johnson. Martin is shown here working out at his local club: Indianapolis Boxing and Grappling in the 2900 block of East Washington Street on Indy’s near-east side.

Going into the Indiana Golden Gloves at this time last year, Frank Martin was hungry — eager to fight his way back to the National Golden Gloves tournament where, in 2015, he was denied a national title in a controversial split decision.

He credits increased mental focus and an uncompromising training regimen as the keys to accomplishing his goal: Martin won the 2016 state title in the 141 weight class, advancing to nationals in Salt Lake City where, after earning victories in five fights in a five-day gauntlet featuring the top amateur fighters in the nation, he carried home the championship belt — the first representative of Indiana Golden Gloves to bring home a national title in 23 years.

The Detroit-born boxer developed his athletic skills as a high schooler in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he played football, wrestled and ran track. The 22-year-old started boxing just before he moved to Indianapolis four years ago, honing his skills at Indianapolis Boxing and Grappling under the tutelage of coaches Pat McPherson, a local police officer, and Ike Boyd, a two-time Indiana Golden Gloves champ. Frank includes his father, also named Frank, as another primary component of his coaching team and he recognizes the importance of the tireless support from his brother, JC.

Though Martin is proud of his accomplishments, he said their full weight has barely registered with him because he continues to focus on the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. Two weeks prior to his return to the Indiana Golden Gloves ring to defend his title, Martin took some time out to talk about his development as a boxer.

Q: How did it feel heading into that fight for the national championship last year?

A: I was all the way locked and loaded; it was nothing but excitement to show how hard I was working. I was working extra hard at the gym and in conditioning.

Q: Tell us about the fights you experienced to get to the final bout. What stands out?

A: My first fight was a 5-0 decision against a guy from Pennsylvania. He was tough. It was a good fight to get first. Once I got that out of my system, I was ready for anything.

I had five fights. I fought every day. I fought a guy from Cincinnati. That was a good fight — a lot of action. I dropped the guy several times – twice count to 8 counts.

I dropped three of my opponents — knocked three down — including 7-time national champion Virgil Ortiz from Texas. He is now a professional — one of Golden Boy Promotions’ top prospects. I knocked him down in the final.

Q: What was the key to earning that final victory?

A: I was mentally all the way there. I knew I had put in the work, so I knew I was gonna get the fight because I had worked so hard. I had no doubts going in; I didn’t question myself or how hard I’d been training. Nothing like that. I knew I was ready. And getting the knockdown was key. If I wasn’t favored going in, I had to make the judge’s decision as easy as possible.

A loss motivates more than anything. And critics… Any fight I ever lost, I go back and look: What didn’t I do enough? And I fix that the next time out.

Q: What was the key to earning that final victory?

A: I’ve matured in my work ethic. I was honest with myself. I pushed myself to the limit. I could accomplish anything I wanted to, if I pushed. Because I was in the best shape I could be in. That’s where my confidence came in. I was true with myself I didn’t take shortcuts. I was out running — late at night, at 2 in the morning, because it gave me a curve. I knew no one else was doing that. It made me mentally strong knowing that my opponents were not doing that, 9 times out of ten.

Q: How was your national victory announced? What was your reaction?

A: It was 3-2 decision. Fighting out of Indiana, we’re not known, not the favorites. When I heard it was a 3-2, I felt like I pulled it out because I’d knocked him down. The guy was supposed to win the whole thing. He had a good team around him. He was more of a favorite. When that 3-2 came, it was a nail biter because it can be about who are are and where you come from — in amateurs and any boxing. I was glad I was able to pull it off, though I feel it should have been a 4-1 not a 3-2, but the judges scored it like they scored it and I’m thankful that God blessed me to get it.

Without him, a lot wouldn’t possible — me even fighting.

Q: How so?

A: People are put in certain situations. I could be paralyzed and have the dream of boxing, but I’m blessed to be 100% healthy. There are people who want to but the can’t walk or move. He blessed me to be able to do everything I want to do, what I love.

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Martin knocks down professional boxer Pablo Sanchez in an April 3 sparring match at IBG. One of his coaches, local Indianapolis police officer Pat McPherson, watches.

Q: How have you developed a knockdown punch?

A: You have to have power, of course. You gotta know how to pinpoint your shots. Power is not everything. Knowing the right time to attack and exactly the right spot.

Q: Do you have anything specific you look for when trying to find that spot?

A: No…

Q: You just know it when you see it open up?

A: Yep, I just know I’ve got that eye.

Q: A lot of young guys will be watching you now. Can you offer them any training tips?

A: To the fighters: Be honest with yourselves about how hard you’re working and working out. Don’t take shortcuts. If you do, when you have to fight, you might have a doubt. Just a little doubt can change a whole game plan. I just feel like a better man will win the fight. You should go into the fight 100 percent ready.

Q: What does it mean to you to be the first fighter in 23 years to bring Indiana a national title?

A: I’m glad and blessed to be the one to break that bar. It really hasn’t hit me. I was excited that I did win, but I just felt that honestly I’d put in so much work that I had to get it. I knew I was 100% all the way in. I’m glad and I’m pretty sure it motivated a lot of other fighters, making them want to do the same thing. I’m glad to be a role model but I still have so much more to do. It hasn’t hit me: I’ve got bigger things in store.

Q: What has happened since winning that title?

A: We won a couple more national championships: Ringside and Title .. and I fought in the USA tournament and got on the USA team. And I’m ranked number two in the country.

It’s like everything is panning out how it’s supposed to.

Q: How have your coaches influenced you?

A: In the beginning, when I first started boxing, I didn’t work to my limit. They were able to get inside my head and help me find my inner self and my work ethic. And now I’m able to motivate myself, pushing myself and my work ethic. They helped me get to that point where I can do my own thing. Like when I’m in the gym by myself, I can get the same intensity as if they were around.

Q: What do they say? Do any of their words stick with you?

A: They say a lot! They would tell me: Don’t get in my own head, or don’t get in my own way. If I’m not in my own way, I can do whatever I want to do.

Q: What’s it been like to be on Team U.S.A.?

A: It’s broadening my perspective. It’s what I need. It’s helping my learning experience. It helps my confidence in learning so many aspects of the boxing game. Boxing is an ongoing learning process as I’ve been on the up and up.

Q: You went to Europe?

A: I fought in Bulgaria against an opponent from Turkey and a guy from Italy, who I knocked out in 15 seconds. Plus, I got to spar with a fighter from Poland.

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Frank Martin and Pablo Sanchez spar at IBG.

Q: What’s the relationship between amateur fighting and your professional prospects?

A: I still have a lot to learn, but even though my style is changing, it’s not really suited for amateurs where they award points for the total number of punches landed and not necessarily how effective the punches are. I’m really a slow-paced fighter —  I’m more into effective shots.  In amateurs, it’s about who is landing more. But I’m more of a power puncher. If he’s hitting with a lot of piddly shots, even if they’re not affecting me, they’ll give it to him because he landed more. In the pros, it’s more about the effective shots. I’m ready for the pros. A lot of these guys I’ve fought have turned pro.

I feel that turning pro would take me to the next level and will motivate me to do things. It will get more serious with us taking trips and getting to work and going to camps.

Q: What is pinnacle of your dream?

A: I want to be more than just a boxer. I do want to be one of the best that laces up their gloves, but that’s not all I want to be. I don’t want people to say, “He’s a good boxer, but that’s about it.”

When somebody asks about me, I tell them a little bit about my story. It’s not to be cocky or show off. I’ve been working so hard. I’m not working this hard to be a nobody. I could be a role model to people without being an athlete and give them stories about how to take a different road. But I’ll have a bigger impact with the story I have now.

I know a lot of people have guidance. Some people don’t. I’ve always had family members tell me things. I’m not one to let things go in one ear and out the other. If someone tells me something, I’ll take it and think about it. You don’t have to go with it. But sit and down and think about it before you don’t agree. And then you choose what you want to do. But always hear a person out. At the end of the day, people will make their own decisions. But I’ve learned a lot by hearing people out. Always listen and give what someone says a chance. And then you decide after you give them chance.

I’m trying to get the word out there on who I am. If I stay under the radar, I won’t get done what I want to get done. I’m humble but you’ve got to speak up to be heard.

***

Let us be soccer champions of the U.S.

Piddling around waiting to see what the big cheeses of the U.S. Soccer Federation are going to do with the divisional status of the country’s professional soccer teams is driving me crazy!

These guys (I’m assuming it’s guys, right? How many women are actually involved in any of this?) are sitting there, ostensibly wringing their hands, waiting till the last minute, delaying their decision about whether the North American Soccer League will keep its second-division status and if United Soccer League can shed its third-tier moniker — as staff layoffs among some clubs are happening and everyone is in a weird, suspended state, not sure what to do next.

This Hoosier writer’s guts are twisted at the idea that these soccer chiefs will decide whether the world considers Indy Eleven and its NASL peers to be division two — or three! Being forever stuck as second or third tier is puke inducing. We thrive on our drive to taste glory! (Promotion/Relegation makes everything more fun, right?)

Tight-fisted legislators weren’t willing to support a major stadium when lawmakers had only known the team for two seasons, but Indiana fans will rally to meet any first-division demands U.S. soccer chiefs want to make in exchange for considering Indiana in the proper light, which is as a contender for the top prizes in U.S. soccer each and every year. We have the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, thank God, in which Indy Eleven, a so-called second-division team, demonstrated playing ability on-par with its so-called first-tier Major League Soccer rival, Chicago Fire.

Support what we’re doing, soccer chiefs. Don’t kneecap us by pretending we’re third division.

Perhaps the soccer chiefs would like to come to Indiana and settle this on the field. (I’ll play!)

Diplomatic, business-friendly solutions are possible. Building regional rivalries makes sense. We need efficiency and decent travel schedules for players. That’s basic business and effective human resource management. Cooperate, people.

Let’s use the resources we have to pay all our players and front-office staffs as wisely and humanely as possible, regardless of league. (And would someone please make a line item in the budget for Rebecca Townsend Therapeutic Massage?)

Now, if everyone cannot play nicely: Here is my radical proposal for all you North American Soccer League renegade team owners …  hold on. The New York Cosmos and the Tampa Bay Rowdies don’t want to come play us anymore? OK. Let’s ship in all kinds of crazy, fun international teams. JAMAICAN NATIONAL TEAM!!! We could pack a soccer SunSplash at The Mike! Re-open diplomatic talks with T.C. Mazembe … Do positive soccer diplomacy work. Continue to think outside the system and tap underutilized resource channels. Continue to put our best on the field, let’s pack the house, sell tons of shwag and give our visitors a nice cut. Let’s continue to pack big soccer parties no matter what the soccer chiefs say!

Let’s be better than we ever imagined we could be!

I believe that we will win again, again and again!

(P.S. Invest more in women’s soccer. And massage therapy.)

Thanks for reading/indulging.