What’s wrong with Mark Lowry’s Indy Eleven?
- Since their June 4 victory against the Charleston Battery, Indy Eleven haven’t won a single game in the USL Championship
- In the wake of yet another loss, what’s gone wrong and how have Indy tried to stem the tide?
© Ivan Pierre Aguirre
This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.
As the clock ticked toward the 90th minute, Indy Eleven could hang their hats on a solid outing on the road in Tulsa.
They edged the hosts for shots on target, and their diamond-shaped midfield looked disciplined for the first time in recent memory. But then, in the 90th minute, Indy conceded to lose 1-0. Their shape collapsed and there was a cartoonish sequence of defensive mistakes that led to FC Tulsa’s goal.
— FC Tulsa (@FCTulsa) August 21, 2022
Indy’s loss to Tulsa sums up the state of the Eleven.
Since their June 4 victory against the Charleston Battery, Indy Eleven haven’t won a single game. They’ve plummeted from playoff contention to a 17-point deficit for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. The Eleven have allowed 2.3 goals per match and scored just 0.7 goals per match over that stretch. Expectations were measured coming into Mark Lowry’s first season at the helm, but 2022 has been a huge disappointment in the Circle City.
In the wake of yet another loss, what’s gone wrong and how have Indy tried to stem the tide?
The first signs of trouble came in the offseason as Lowry began to build his squad. The Eleven acquired talent like Trinidadian international Noah Powder and veteran forward Stefano Pinho, but most pick-ups were unsung USL rotation players or inexperienced debutantes. Lowry wasn’t given the resources to forge a squad in his image. A few pieces hit; local product Justin Ingram, for instance, has been a star in the midfield. But most of the new faces have proven ineffective, as the results suggest.
Last year, the manager’s El Paso Locomotive team averaged 54% possession and placed in the top ten for tackles won, illustrative of hard counter pressure after turnovers. By contrast, this season’s Eleven are bottom-five for possession and dead last for tackles. Lowry’s teams always kept opponents under pressure in the final third, but the Eleven lack the technical skill and press intensity to do so. The result? Indy is second-from-bottom in the USL Championship for expected goals.
The Eleven are also the second-oldest team in the USL Championship – based on average age weighted for minutes played.
Stalwarts like Neveal Hackshaw, Ayoze, and Mechack Jerome constantly look a step off the pace in the back. When the cracks started to show in the spring, Indy added Solomon Asante, a two-time MVP with Phoenix and one of the most prolific players in the USL’s history. He, too, has fallen flat, placing in the bottom 25% of forwards for expected goals per game and producing just a single goal in 15 appearances. Asante, 31, along with his touch and footspeed, hasn’t returned to his youthful heights.
Hope for the future?
Even amidst the struggles, Lowry has tweaked the roster around the edges.
Juan Tejada, a long-time Tampa Bay Rowdies player, was acquired in a trade. Tejjada serves as a hard-pressing forward and has helped assert a Locomotive-lite identity. Jesus Vazquez came to Indianapolis to provide technical passing from the center back spot; he was excellent in the Tulsa game after his loan was made permanent earlier in the week. Other additions like Sean Lewis and Robby Dambrot provided a similar profile, fitting the molds of young, hungry, Lowry players.
On the road yesterday, @IndyEleven put in their best performance in weeks but couldn’t quite get over the line. Still, watch their defensive shifting below, and you’ll notice a classic Lowry-style diamond. That shape naturally narrows the pitch and compresses the center, and… pic.twitter.com/TOqfTqhzFV
— john morrissey (@USLTactics) August 21, 2022
Contention in 2022 is out of the question for Indy, but there is hope for the future. Lowry’s reputation in the lower leagues precedes him for a reason, and Indy is finally starting to look semi-coherent in spite of the mistakes. The fan base in Indianapolis has every right to feel unhappy, but the next few months of struggles just might be worth it if Lowry can enact his vision.