Saturday, May 24, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Cosmos - 01.07

- Opponent: New York Cosmos
- Location: New York
- Attendance: 3,581
- Final Score: 1-1
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Stone, Norales, Hyland, Okiomah, Ring, Corrado, Moore, Smith, Ambersley, Spencer
- Substitutions: Smart (Corrado), Mendes (Moore), Ramirez (Spencer)
- Goals: Ring (76')
- Bookings: Norales (50'), Moore (70')

Another game and another come-from-behind effort required by the Indy Eleven. This week they waited an entire 4 minutes before giving up the first goal by the New York Cosmos. It makes it hard to win games when you are constantly expending so much effort to just get it back to level.  The positive for the week is that they didn't immediately give up another goal like they have been doing recently.  In fact, they managed to keep the Cosmos scoreless for the next 86 minutes and put one in themselves to finally end their 4-game losing streak.  It's still not a win, but at least it's some points, and points on the road.  It doesn't help them move up from the basement, but stopping a losing streak is probably just as important at this point in the Spring Season.

Being an away game, and having not signed up for the NASLLive feeds, the extent of what I know about this game is from what I read on the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed.  So that means it's mostly numbers and not impressions of how they played.  Though based on the feed, their second half effort was stellar:

That's good to see since their defense is what has put them into their constant need to comeback.

Two more yellow cards this week bringing the season total to 16, with Norales accounting for yet another one.  Why do I keep bringing up the yellow cards lately?  Well, the NASL rules state that, "A player will be suspended for one game upon receiving his fifth yellow card – regardless of the nature of the infraction which resulted in his being awarded the yellow card."  Norales now has 4.  Norales is one of only four players on the Indy Eleven roster who has played every single minute of the season (Nicht, Hyland, and Ring the other three) for the team.  One more yellow for Norales, and that number will be reduced to three.  Ring has three himself, so it's not like he is free of danger either.

The Eleven have their second of three games in a 7-day span when they take on the Dayton Dutch Lions as part of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.  In theory, this should be a win if you go by the convention that higher tier teams should beat lower tier teams, but the tournament always seems to have some teams that make a run against teas they shouldn't beat.  Let's hope the Dutch Lions aren't one of those teams.

Congratulations Brad Ring for making this week's NASL Team of the Week.
Update #2:
Congratulations Brad Ring for being this week's Play of the Week.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Today, Jurgen Klinsmann announced the official 23-man roster for the World Cup.

GOALKEEPERS- Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando

DEFENDERS- Geoff Cameron, Tim Chandler, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley, DeAndre Yedlin

MIDFIELDERS- Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya, Brad Davis, Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Julian Green

FORWARDS- Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Chris Wondolowski

Notice anything about that roster? Yep, Landon Donovan is not going to be with the team when they head to Brazil. America's all-time leading goalscorer for the U.S. Men's National Team will be watching the drama of the World Cup unfold from the stands just like the rest of us. An American soccer icon relegated to a cheerleader.

Having spent the last dozen+ years as the face of the men's team, Landon Donovan has been asked to step down and let the young guns take his spot. Klinsmann had indicated that nobody's spot was safe, but I never thought that Donovan would be one of the ones left off the team. I'm sure he thought he had one more World Cup in him and would go out on his own terms. I wonder now if Donovan will ever be on a National Team roster again. I hope that, regardless of how the team does at the World Cup, Klinsmann asks him, and Donovan agrees, to play in some post-Cup friendlies so that the American fans can give him the send-off that he deserves for his years of being on the team. The L.A. Galaxy fans better welcome him back with a rousing reception to let him know what he had meant to this team over the years.

Different Markets

As the Indy Eleven get set to take on the New York Cosmos this weekend, I thought I would touch on a couple things that have been going through my head as it relates to the various levels of soccer in this country, specifically in the "major" and "minor" markets. Indy being considered a "minor" market, and obviously NY being considered a "major" market. What originally started me thinking about this was a reference to an article about the New York Cosmos from the Indy Eleven's twitter page, presumably because the article made reference to the strong start of the Indy Eleven in season ticket holders and the season ticket holder wait list, but it was other text in the article that caught my attention. Excerpt below, emphasis mine.

Can the New York Cosmos and Soccer’s Minor League Coexist?
The New York Cosmos’ 2014 season was launched on a chilly Friday afternoon with an event at a midtown Manhattan pub. Players had gathered upstairs at the Football Factory at Legends, on Thirty-third Street, waiting to be interviewed about the season opener, against the Atlanta Silverbacks. As two dozen journalists sipped Amstel Lights, Blue Moons, and soft drinks at the open bar, Shep Messing, the Cosmos’ goalkeeper during the nineteen-seventies, when the organization brought international superstars like Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer to the United States, spoke enthusiastically about the reincarnation of his former team.
The former general manager G. Peppe Pinton held the team’s rights, and did not relaunch the team for more than twenty years, before selling the brand to a group headed by Paul Kemsley, an Englishman, in 2009. In 2012, after ten million dollars and still no team on the field, Kemsley left. The club fell under the auspices of Sela Sport, a marketing company based in Saudi Arabia, and Seamus O’Brien became its chairman. The Cosmos started playing in the new N.A.S.L. last summer. Led by the head coach Giovanni Savarese, they won the 2013 Soccer Bowl.
Messing then introduced Erik Stover, the Cosmos’ C.O.O., who is trying to return the team to its late-seventies peak. That would be difficult even in the top-tier organization in the U.S., Major League Soccer, where the average attendance per game barely reaches twenty thousand. The Cosmos and M.L.S. had talked about a deal, but ultimately the team wound up joining the N.A.S.L. instead. The club must accomplish its ambitions within the confines of a three-year-old startup league that’s far below M.L.S. in terms of talent, reach, and viability. “We don’t look at ourselves as second division in any way,” Stover said. “We’ve said from the beginning as we’ve taken over this project that we want to be at the top of the pyramid at the United States.”

For now, the Cosmos and the N.A.S.L. have a symbiotic relationship: the N.A.S.L. wants the legitimacy that the Cosmos brand brings, and the team needs the league because it needs competition. “When the Cosmos came into this league, they brought with them the benefit and the burden of the Cosmos legacy,” Bill Peterson, the league commissioner, told me over the phone. They are already one of the most visible American soccer brands, and have the connections to match: Pelé attended Sunday’s opener, at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium, and the airline Emirates sponsors their jerseys. The Cosmos continue to get more press coverage than one would expect, considering their low place in the world soccer hierarchy. “While we get a lot of headlines, we’re also very cautious about growing smartly, growing in a controlled way,” Stover said in the Football Factory lounge. His players sat in small groups, talking mostly to one another but also to the occasional reporter. “We’re not trying to be overly aggressive and blow things up. We think smart growth is what we need to do.”

But the Cosmos have money to spend and want to use it to rebuild their already well-known name into a major international force. Sela Sport doesn’t seem to be concerned with making a profit immediately. (O’Brien told the Times last year that the club was on target for “modest losses,” owing to startup costs.) The Cosmos are proposing a privately financed four-hundred-million-dollar, twenty-five-thousand-seat stadium in Elmont, on Long Island. I was told that the team had the N.A.S.L.’s highest payroll in 2013; Marcos Senna, a thirty-seven-year-old Brazilian-born midfielder, who won a European Championship, in 2008, playing for Spain, earns a six-figure salary.
The team only got stronger (and more expensive) in the off-season,...after poaching one of the league’s best players, Hans Denissen. The thirty-year-old Dutch forward scored twelve goals for the San Antonio Scorpions in 2013, and was named a league all-star that year. The Cosmos swooped in with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “It was so ridiculous that I honestly sat with Hans and I said, ‘For the good of your family, how do you say no to this?’” the Scorpions’ president, Howard Cornfield told the San Antonio Express-News in January. According to the article, Cornfield also called Denissen’s contract with the Cosmos “ludicrous” for a league of the N.A.S.L.’s size.

When I spoke to Cornfield two weeks ago, he had backed off those comments a bit, noting that he was speaking “out of frustration” at the time. “I’m not a proponent of a salary cap,” he said. “I’m a proponent of everyone in the league working together for the good of the league.” Cornfield, who added that his team made “a lot of money” in 2013, allowed that New York teams in particular have other considerations: “The Cosmos have a huge challenge, in that they are competing in a difficult marketplace, a crowded marketplace, and they have to do things bigger and better than some of the other teams in our league.”
Stover has a different agenda for the New York Cosmos: “We want to be in our own stadium. We want to have what we believe to be the best roster in the United States. We want to be competing in CONCACAF for a Champions League title. And we want the N.A.S.L. to be as good or better than Major League Soccer.”
I know that is a rather large excerpt from the article, but there were some very key things in that article. Most notably for Indy Eleven fans is that the $87M that our team wants for a soccer-specific stadium is minor in comparison to the $400M stadium that the New York Cosmos want. Also key is that their plan is for a privately financed stadium. Finally, and this is one of those lines that stuck with me, "they are competing in a difficult marketplace, a crowded marketplace, and they have to do things bigger and better than some of the other teams in our league."

I think they were probably referring to ALL of the sports teams that are present in the New York region. NY Jets, NY Giants, NY Yankees, Brooklyn Nets, and the New York Red Bulls to name a few. But that crowded region is about to get another team, NYFC. New York Football Club, partially owned by the Yankees, and partially owned by Manchester City, and soon to be new member of the MLS. So NYC will have the New York Red Bulls, NYFC, and the New York Cosmos all competing to provide New Yorkers with their soccer needs. For arguments sake, if the goal of any football team is to work its way to the First Division level, how can the Cosmos ever expect to make that move when there are already two other teams in the area in the league? Maybe that's why the Cosmos say they "want the NASL to be as good or better than Major League Soccer." They understand they don't have much chance of making that move.

My point, and it was asked here too, is what about the rest of the country?
I have to conclude this is a great news for footy fans in the New York City area but what about the rest of the country?

The Red Bulls' average home attendance already falls well short of its 25,000 capacity and the Big Apple also has the reformed New York Cosmos on the scene too.

Is this potentially soccer over-saturation New York style? I realize it's the allure of the lucrative Nyc market and all that but has the league missed a great opportunity to truly put new meaning into the word "expansion"?

For example- take the huge area of land known as the Southeastern USA. Not an MLS franchise in sight.

Why? Where I live in Atlanta I'd have to travel some nine hours by car to go and watch my "local" team- DC United in Washington!
It's the "major" market versus "minor" market thinking. MLS would rather have two teams in the NYC area, add two more teams in Orlando and Miami, a team in Houston and in Dallas, and two in L.A. You telling me that there isn't a market for a successful team in one of the "minor" markets?

I don't know if that "minor" market team to move into MLS is from Indianapolis, but I'm guessing they'll never get the chance and need to follow the same thinking as the Cosmos and do whatever they can to make the NASL as good or better than MLS.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Fury - 01.06

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Carroll Stadium, Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,285
- Final Score: 4-2 (loss)
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Stone, Frias, Norales, Hyland, Ring, Corrado, Smith, Mares, Ambersley, Spencer
- Substitutions: Ramirez (Corrado), Mendes (Mares), Smart (Frias)
- Goals: Ambersley (20'), Spencer (44')
- Bookings: Norales (25'), Spencer (45'), Ring (90')

Another team from Canada enters #TheMike and another team from Canada leaves with a victory, while the Indy Eleven remain winless.  Like last week, there are a few things that stick out to me for this game.  The first is the absence of Kleberson, which it turns out is because of an injury.  I also heard that Chris Estridge was supposed to start, but he was also scratched due to injury. 

Secondly, if you're keeping track, this week's yellow cards brings the season total to 14, with Norales and Ring accounting for 6 of the 14.  Second highest yellow card total in the league, and third highest in total fouls committed.  Looks like the Eleven are tops in the table at something, I just wish it was more wins than fouls.

Sidenote: Another amazing team stat is that the Eleven have the fourth highest number of goals scored (9), but the fewest number of shots on goal (21).  So they are making their shots count, and if you think of all the times the ball hit the woodwork in the early part of the season, it's even more impressive.  The Eleven are the only team in the league that has scored and been scored upon in every single game. 

Broken record comment of the week: "I will continue to attribute part of that to the Eleven’s continued reluctance to go to the ball. Players continue to wait for the ball to get to them while the other team is going to the ball. That has to change. The Eleven continues to fight until the end of the game, but even when they are fighting to close the gap (they continue to fight from behind by giving up early goals), they still wait for the ball to get to them. While they are waiting, the other team takes the ball away before it gets to them."

I don't remember there being as many hopeful balls blasted from the backline to the forwards this game, but that could just be wishful thinking on my part. 

The Eleven have quite the interesting front line with Ambersley and Spencer.  Ambersley is 5'-7" and Spencer is 6'-4" tall.  What Ambersley loses in height, he more than makes up for in effort.  That guy never stops working to get to the ball and there were numerous occasions where he had dropped back into the midfield to try and regain possession and move the ball forward.  For somebody Spencer's size, he is good with his feet as displayed by his goal right before the end of the first half.  While the replay appears to show the Ottawa player flopped, Spencer should have never put himself in the position he did to get the yellow card.  Score your goal and run back to the other end.  There was no need to try and go get the ball out of the net, particularly when the Ottawa player was right there.  From my viewpoint in the stands, before I saw the replay, I kept muttering, "please don't give him a red card" because I thought he had truly thrown a punch. 

Second broken record comment of the week: "I suppose my takeaway from this game is that despite the team still not having a win, the fight is still there with the team. I hope the communication gets better with time and that Coach Sommer figures out the lineups that work best. You can’t fix stupid and you can’t coach heart. At least the team seems to have that going for it."

I'm not very hopeful that the Eleven will go into the Cosmos' stadium and come away with a win this weekend, but you never know.  If the team can limit their defensive lapses, maybe they walk away with a hard fought 2-1 win and a much needed confidence boost.  That leaves next week's matches against the Dayton Dutch Lions in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday and the San Antonio Scorpions on the 31st as the next chances to win at home for the Spring Season.  I don't think they want to go into the World Cup break having not won at home.  I think the fans will still be there, but a win would do wonders to lift the spirits of the team considering the effort they are giving (and getting) at home.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Indy Star's opinion of the Indy Eleven

I'll provide a more thorough recap of the Indy Eleven vs Ottawa Fury game later, but I wanted to touch on something quickly here.  Admittedly, this post was going to be a little different until I did a little research, but I think the point is the same.

While the Indy Eleven continue to sell out each home game, I'm still not sold on the Indy Star's coverage of the team.  Do they cover them?  Yes.  Do I think they are doing a great job of it on a regular basis?  No.  I get that the team hasn't won a game yet and that they are a "minor" league team.  Yet, the extent of their recap of last night's game consisted of one of four articles buried on page 10 of the Sunday edition and it wasn't the largest article on that page.  The Indiana Fever recap (only slightly larger than the Eleven's article) was also on that page, along with the half-page article on the Marion County baseball tournament recap. 

So not the biggest article.  I get it.  I do.  A new team that hasn't worked its way into the win column yet.  Yet, here is what bugs me about their recap today (emphasis mine).

Indy Eleven still searching for first win, fall 4-2 to Ottawa Fury

Winless is a word the Indy Eleven continue to find themselves familiar with.
An Anthony Donatelli shot in the 16th minute put Ottawa up 1-0, but 4 minutes later, Indy answered. Eleven forward Michael Ambersley faked out the defense to sink a penalty kick that tied the score.
The constant possession changes led to defensive breakdowns by the Eleven, but the Fury failed to capitalize. Ottawa’s Oliver Thomal Minatel was set to face off with Indy goalie Kristian Nicht, but as he neared the corner of the box, Indy defender Erick Casildo slide-tackled Minatel to prevent the possibility of a goal. The hard hit earned Casildo a yellow card. Minatel’s open shot went wide.
Indy was able to cut the lead right before the end of the half on a Spencer goalie fakeout to the opposite back post.
It took 18 minutes into the second half for another goal to be scored. Ottawa was able to widen its lead to 4-2 thanks to a well-executed fakeout. Forward Carl Haworth pulled Nicht towards the right side of the box before playing across to an open Minatel.
The Eleven’s next chance to earn the franchise’s first ever win will be Saturday at the San Antonio Scorpions.
For those counting, the full article is 540 words, where the phrase (or a version of it) "faked out" was used three different times. I'm sure that there has to be some other clever turn of phrase that a journalist would know that could be used instead of the same description three times.  Unless of course, the writer knows very little about soccer and was just assigned to the story knowing that it would get buried deep in the paper hidden behind nine other pages full of Pacers and Indy 500 coverage.

Plus, and I haven't gone back to rewatch the game, but I think that Ambersley took the penalty kick, but he was not the one that was fouled to get the PK. So while his shot fooled the goalkeeper, I'm not sure that it really fooled the entire defense.

Defender Erick Casildo... Casildo? I don't remember a player named Casildo on the roster.  The print edition of the article includes a box score right after the article and it states that yellow cards were given to Norales, Spencer, and Ring. No Casildo. That's odd.  To the writers defense, the official roster lists him as Erick Zenon Norales Casildo.  Though I have not seen a single reference to him before as Casildo. Not even his jersey. Erick Norales was given a yellow card.

So the Indy Eleven could get their first win Saturday at the San Antonio Scorpions? That will be hard to do since they will be in New York playing the Cosmos. Their next chance to win the franchise's first HOME league win will be in TWO weeks against the San Antonio Scorpions. Though they could get a home win against the Dayton Dutch Lions as part of the U.S. Open Cup.

I'm not sure how you can get so much wrong in such a short article and say that you write for a major newspaper, but I just write this blog mainly to my family and friends, so what do I know?

Friday, May 16, 2014

USMNT 30-man preliminary roster

Earlier this week, Coach Klinsmann announced the 30-man preliminary roster that will need to be reduced down to 23 before the World Cup begins. I don't see a lot of surprises in the roster, though I'm not sure who will be left off when the roster gets reduced.  The one player that I think has a future with the team, but doesn't necessarily make this year's squad is Julian Green.  From what I have seen, some people disagree with my assessment, but I don't think he has been with the team long enough to have to become an indespensible component on this year's World Cup team.  At just 18, he has shown promise by playing for German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and I think he may eventually be a key component, but not this year. 

While the pre-World Cup camp is going on, there is also a new ESPN Series called ‘Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil,' which will detail the National Team as it prepares for the World Cup.

I watched the first episode on Tuesday and I was surprised by how many of your American National Team players had to be subtitled because they speak another language.  Ain't dual citizenship grand?

The rest of the series airs on the following dates.  I haven't looked yet, but if you can find the first episode somewhere on line or in a replay, I would recommend watching it too.

May 13, Tuesday, 7-8 p.m.: Series premiere
May 21, Wednesday, 7-7:30 p.m.: Episode 2
May 29, Thursday, 7:30-8 p.m.: Episode 3
June 3, Tuesday, 7:30-8 p.m.: Episode 4
June 10, Tuesday, 8:30-9:30 p.m.: Episode 5
June 11, Wednesday, 9:30-10 p.m.: LIVE series finale – Epilogue

Can't wait for the World Cup to start in a couple of weeks.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Eddies - 01.05

- Opponent: FC Edmonton
- Location: Carroll Stadium, Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,285
- Final Score: 2-1 (loss)
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Frias, Norales, Hyland, Ring, Kleberson, Corrado, Ramirez, Mares, Mendes, Ambersley
- Substitutions: Spencer (Mendes), Smart (Ramirez), Moore (Mares)
- Goals: Own Goal (29')
- Bookings: Ring (12'), Ambersley (61'), Hyland (81’), Norales (84')

There are a few things that stick out to me for this game, not counting the obvious loss result, which now firmly places the Eleven in last place in their inaugural spring season. The first is the physical nature of this game in comparison to the other games I’ve seen so far from the Eleven. Often times a couple of early yellow cards from the ref will temper some of the physicality, but despite a yellow card to the Eddies in the 10th minute and one to Ring in the 12th minute, the game went from physical to rough in the second half, where an additional six yellow cards were doled out between the two teams. One of those could have possibly been a red card. Despite all attempts for the ref to reduce the physical nature, it had absolutely no affect. From my viewpoint in the stands, I think it was largely because the ref wasn’t always consistent in the calls.

The Eddies looked to be a bigger, taller team and they used that to their advantage to win many of the 50/50 balls. I will continue to attribute part of that to the Eleven’s continued reluctance to go to the ball. Players continue to wait for the ball to get to them while the other team is going to the ball. That has to change. The Eleven continues to fight until the end of the game, but even when they are fighting to close the gap (they continue to fight from behind by giving up early goals), they still wait for the ball to get to them. While they are waiting, the other team takes the ball away before it gets to them.

There were too many giveaways. I lost count of how many times the team sent wishful balls towards the front line. I know that at one point, Frias had the ball and I sarcastically said out loud, “just kick it long” and he did what he had done all game and just booted it towards the forwards. I heard laughs around me so I’m guessing some people agreed with my sarcasm. The Eleven has talent in the midfield and the ball was going right around, or more specifically over, them. It would appear that after giving up a few goals on counter attacks this season, Coach Sommer appears to have decided to play Kleberson in a holding midfield position. I think if you have a guy with his playmaking ability, he can’t spend the majority of his time sitting immediately in front of the backline and you can’t continue to kick the ball over him. If playing backline to frontline is the desired plan of attack, then you have to play your 6’-4” U20 National Team player Ben Spencer in there to help collect those headballs.

It looked like Norales was going to add to his goal total towards the end of the game, but the late chance looked like a defender out of his element trying to score instead of a guy that has put the goal in the back of the net this season. Norales found himself in that position where you get caught between trying for a header and using your feet. He chose the wrong body part and a game tying chance went astray.

My last comment is related to the team’s communication. This is game number five in the season and they still seem to have those moments when they seem like they haven’t ever played together. The two moments that come to mind were both in the second half. At one point, Ambersley and Spencer were near each other, with Spencer playing the ball. It looked like they were going to switch the ball as Ambersley ran past Spencer, but instead they ran right into each other, like they were doing some kind of dance. Maybe it’s because Spencer spent time away with the U20s, but these are two guys who I would expect to communicate better than that.

The other was in the last minute of the game. A foul was called deep on the Eleven’s end and Nicht sat the ball down to blast it to the other end of the field. Frias proceeded to quick kick it to the opposite side of the field, which the ref proceeded to call back and force the Eleven to rekick at a point in the game when time was running out. In addition to wasting time, it was obvious that Frias’ decision to quick kick was not what Nicht had in mind as he turned up his hands in a non-verbal, “what the hell are you doing?” kind of way.

I suppose my takeaway from this game is that despite the team still not having a win, the fight is still there with the team. I hope the communication gets better with time and that Coach Sommer figures out the lineups that work best. You can’t fix stupid and you can’t coach heart. At least the team seems to have that going for it.

Friday, May 9, 2014

USWNT vs Canada - International Friendly 05/08/2014

- Opponent: Canada (International Friendly)
- Location: Winnipeg
- Attendance: 28,255
- Final Score: 1-1
- Starting XI: Solo, Krieger, Engen, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg, Lloyd, Brian, Holiday, O’Reilly, Leroux, Wambach (Captain)
- Substitutions: Crystall Dunn (Klingenberg), Press (Wambach), Long (Brian), Rampone (Engen)
- Goals: Leroux (78')
- Bookings: None

This game looked a lot like what I have been saying recently about the Indy Eleven.  The team didn’t look together for stretches.  There were some good runs at times, but moments later there were odd turnovers.  This is a group of players that have significant time playing together and so I shouldn’t be comparing them to a start-up NASL team as far as not being in-sync with one another.  Canada played a really good game, with a backline full of youngsters (three of the four are less than 20-years old), with a very stout midfield, and a well-timed header off a corner kick for their goal so I’m going to admit that their play was a major part in the way that the U.S. played. 
Since my feed (got it right this time from the start) was coming and going for some reason (of course), I again missed portions of the game, but there didn’t seem to be the normal build-up from the team on the offensive end.  Seemed like the backline was trying to bypass the midfield completely and it was long ball after long ball.  The great folks at Equalizer Soccer even thought that Lauren Holiday "was too often sitting just in front of the back four in the first half; that's not where someone of her playmaking ability should be at all." I agree with them completely and the normally aggressive Lloyd was pretty much a non-factor for me, even though I believed she was Budweiser Woman of the Match.  Brian didn’t look nearly as composed in the holding midfielder role as she has looked in past games.  Couple all of that with good play by Canada, especially in the midfield and the young backline holding strong, and you have a U.S. team that has to fight its way to a 1-1 tie.

I also thought that the U.S. let themselves get caught up in the physicality that Canada brought to the game.  While the U.S. can match the physical nature of every team in the world, they let Canada dictate the style of play, particularly in the first half.  I don't think that is something that they want to get in the habit of doing, particularly with World Cup qualifiers coming up later this year.
Lauren Holiday celebrated her 100th cap, bringing her into a suprisingly low group of 30 women who have reached that milestone.  I would have thought that there would have been more to have reached that number, so it really highlights the career she has had with the WNT.  I thought that they normally honor players who are achieving major milestones like that by making them the captain for the game, but the captain's armband was noticeably absent.  Maybe she will be the captain at the next game, when she will be honored for her achievement.
Lauren Holiday: 100 Caps with the U.S. Women’s National Team

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Indy Eleven vs United - 01.04

- Opponent: Minnesota United FC
- Location: Blaine, MN
- Attendance: 4,913
- Final Score: 3-2 (loss)
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Frias, Norales, Hyland, Okiomah, Ring, Ramirez, Mares, Mendes, Ambersley, Spencer
- Substitutions: Kleberson (Okiomah), Smart (Ramirez), Moore (Mares)
- Goals: Own Goal (42'), Kleberson (90')
- Bookings: Ring (31'), Frias (48'), Mendes (85')

There would be no problems seeing this week's game on the NASL Live Feed because it was designated the NASL Match of the Week, which meant that it would be shown on ESPN3.  Great, right?  Except I'm apparently not that bright and assumed that the ESPN3 feed through my cable provider would have the game.  Turns out, ESPN3 on my cable provider was showing the ends of college softball and baseball games, all while I cussed about them not showing the Indy Eleven playing like I was led to believe.  I didn't figure out that I could get the game on until well into the first half.  So it ended up being the 1/2 Match of the Week for me. 

What I did see, what I gathered from the Twitter feed, what I've since read at 11thHeaven and Eleven Bricks, and what I heard on the Soccer Saturday podcast, the Eleven dominated the time of possession and run of play in the first half only to give up goals on counter attacks by the United.  Once they had the lead, and the wind at their backs in the second half, the United were content to sit back and keep everything the Eleven wanted to do in front of them.  The Eleven managed a late PK by Kleberson in the 90th minute (twice actually after having to retake the kick due to encroachment), but it was way too little, way too late.

The team took it easy on the woodwork this week, as I can't remember one shot hitting the goal post or crossbar.  As I said last week, I do continue to like the team's fight, especially after going down 3-1, especially considering that they were down despite dominating the time of possession.  After keeping everybody clear of getting a card in the first two games, the team has now totaled seven yellow cards, and if my recaps are correct, Mendes has been booked twice. I haven't heard that he won't be playing as a result of the cards, so I assume the NASL doesn't have that rule. Maybe I should look to see if that is true or not...

One thing that I find curious is that in the two games at home, Chris Estridge started at right back and the team played to 1-1 ties.  In the following two away games, Estridge hasn't seen a single minute of playing time and the team gave up 6 goals.  I'm not saying that there is a direct correlation between the two, but I'm curious why Estridge finds himself on the bench.  I'm sure that Coach Sommer is still trying to figure out which combinations of guys work best and under different conditions and scenarios.  So maybe that's all there is to it. 

As a result of the team's second lose in two games, defender Norales' streak on the NASL Team of the Week came to an end.  Buoyed by their league leading performance, the Minnesota United can thank the Indy Eleven for putting three of their guys on the Team this week, as Calvano, Mendes, and Ramirez all made the team. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Strikers - 01.03

- Opponent: Fort Lauderdale Strikers
- Location: Fort Lauderdale
- Attendance: 3,515
- Final Score: 3-2 (loss)
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Frias, Norales, Hyland, Okiomah, Ring, Kleberson, Ramirez, Mares, Mendes, Ambersley
- Substitutions: Spencer (Mendes), Smart (Mares), Moore (Okiomah)
- Goals: Kleberson (26'), Norales (90')
- Bookings: Mendes (21'), Kleberson (42'), Hyland (78'), Norales (90')

It would have been nice to see the team wearing their red jerseys, but unless you were one of the 3,515 people sitting in Lockhart Stadium, you didn't get to see this game as the NASL Live Feed was nothing but a colorful pattern of vertical bars.  I haven't paid into this service so I followed the game via the @IndyElevenLive twitter feed, which did a really good job of providing updates throughout the game.  Since that was the way that I "watched" the game, and likely all of the away games, I can't speak to whether my previous concerns of the team not looking in sync was improved or if they still had those moments. 

What I can speak to is the XI's continuing trend of beating the hell out of the woodwork.  Kleberson once again hit the frame, just minutes after Ben Spencer hit the cross bar.  They guys are finding shots and a few inches separates them from a goal and an 0-1-2 record. I believe that they are also nearly even on possession for all three games this season, which I suppose helps makes sense of two ties and a 3-2 loss.

You know, I don't know what kind of analysis I can give for a game that I read about through Twitter.  I do continue to like the team's fight, especially after going down 3-1.  Though they may have fought a bit too much.  After keeping everybody clear of getting a card in the first two games, four different guys were shown a yellow card in this one.  So hopefully they can keep the fire, but back it off just a smidge so that nobody ends up watching from the sidelines unnecessarily.

It was also nice to see that after three weeks into the season, defender Norales continues to find his way into scoring positions and also making his way onto the NASL Team of the Week for the third week in a row.