Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Columbus Crew - 2014 U.S. Open Cup

- Opponent: Columbus Crew
- Location: Akron, Ohio
- Attendance: 1,913
- Final Score: 2-1 (loss)
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Corrado, Norales, Okiomah, Estridge, Pineda, Ring, Moore, Smith, Ambersley, Mendes
- Substitutions: Mares (Okiomah), Spencer (Ambersley), Smart (Mendes)
- Goals: Smith (62')
- Bookings: Mendes (27'), Corrado (46'), Estridge (78'), Norales (95'), Moore (105')

Another mid-week game, though this one was several hours away, so my recap consists of watching the online feed. 
Video replay here.

The Indy Eleven have made a habit of falling behind teams this season and their Open Cup match against the Columbus Crew was no different.  A 4th minute corner kick and header and the Indy Eleven found themselves in their familiar, but undesirable, position of having to play from behind.  A position that is difficult enough against fellow NASL teams, but is magnified against a MLS team like the Crew.  Luckily, and I've been saying this since the beginning of the season, the Indy Eleven have talent and as much fight as any team I've ever watched.  This team does not give up, no matter the score.  They were further helped out when a red card was issued to the Crew's Adam Bedell for a challenge against Estridge.

Which leads me to the second theme of the game, which is missed opportunities.  Bedell was sent off in the 32rd minute, which meant that the Eleven had 58 minutes of regulation of a man advantage to pull even and go ahead.  Yet, they only managed to get one goal despite the advantage.  While I can't find the stat to confirm it, my feeling is that even though they were down a man, the Crew held the advantage in possession.  Then there was the second red card shown to a Columbus Crew player in the 110th minute, giving the Eleven a two-man advantage for the last ten minutes of the match.  And yet it was an Energizer bunny type run from Ethan Finlay that gave the Crew a back breaking penalty kick in the 114th minute and a one goal lead once again. 

It's those kinds of moments that have continually hurt the Eleven this season.  An early goal to fall behind and then a penalty kick as time is winding down are the things that need to be fixed.  Maybe the break will be that opportunity for the team to work on fixing some of the mental lapses and solidify their communication.  As you may have noticed from the starting lineup, the Eleven started a new player in Victor Pineda, who comes to the Eleven on loan from the Chicago Fire less than a week ago.  Much in the same way that Blake Smith started playing in games immediately after joining the team on loan from the Montreal Impact, Coach Sommer is getting these guys into games nearly as soon as they arrive.  This speaks to their ability, but I have to wonder if the continued jostling of the lineup is helpful.

Team captain and iron man (by my account the only man to have played in every single minute of every game) Kristian Nicht played a great game and I have to wonder when Don Smart gets rewarded for his effort and gets to start a few games in a row.  That guy has brought immediate energy and offense in every single game as witnessed by his assist to Blake's goal in the 62nd minute.

This recap may sound like I'm down on this team, and while I don't like watching them continually lose, I'm really not down on them.  There is talent, there is effort, and time will help with their familiarity with each other to hopefully limit some of their errors.  The wins will come and a hard fought overtime battle against a MLS level team might just be the spark that, while difficult right now, will get this team to win some games this fall NASL season in a month.

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