Monday, August 4, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Silverbacks - 01.13

- Opponent: Atlanta, Silverback
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,285
- Final Score: 4-2 L
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Frias, Norales, Okiomah, Ring, Smart, Kleberson, Smith, Pena, Pineda, Ambersley
- Substitutions: Johnson 62' (Smart), Mares 73' (Pineda), Estridge 82' (Okiomah)
- Goals: Kleberson (43', 55', both by PK)
- Bookings: Smart 48' (Yellow), PenaRing 65' (Red)

While the losses at home continue to increase at #TheMike, this one may be just as frustrating as the last minute heartbreak finishes.  I've now watched the game twice, once in person and once with the replay.  In both viewings, I saw absolutely brilliant run of play where the Eleven have held possession, worked their way up the field with great movement from the defenders through the midfield and into the forwards, and were able to get good looks on goal.  Then there were times when they look completely disconnected with each other. 

If you think about the things that can go badly for a team, they happened in this game.  Give up an early goal, get back within striking distance and give up another early goal after the half, lose a player to a questionable red card, lose two more players to injury...Check, check, check, check.  Everything that went well for this team in this game was more than wiped out by the bad.  Given that the team played the last 25 minutes down a man, and the last 10 minutes down at least two men, and three men for a bit, it's quite a feat that they still continued to hold possession for good chunks of that time.

So what are my takeaways from this game?

The Eleven have to stop giving up early goals.  The 11th Heaven guys' post on "adage" goals is being completely rewritten by the Eleven.  They just continue to dig themselves into holes.  It would be easy to blame Frias for the first goal for ball watching and losing sight of his man, but Atlanta's Randolph went through three separate defenders to get off the cross.  Those kinds of breakdowns have to stop.

The Eleven squandered too many chances in their offensive third.  There were shots 25 - 30 yards out when there was still space to push further up field and find a better option.  Or they took one touch too many trying to get the perfect shot.  Being down a goal or two, the team seemed to be making the wrong decisions trying to get the equalizing goal.

The red card was not the absolute back breaker that it could have been because the team still had good chances after it happened.  Obviously, working from a man down is never easy, but the team still had good run of play during that time.  Those are the types of calls that can turn a game, but the team did a good job of fighting through it.

Kleberson and Smart were fantastic.  Smart was rewarded for his effort with a starting position and his spark and play was good for all 62 minutes he was in the game.  I was disappointed to see him subbed off, but Johnson was a good replacement and provided some good things for being with the team for such a short time. 

There is a reason that Kleberson was on a World Cup winning squad.  He sees the field a step ahead of, seemingly, most of the players on the field, but he can only do so much.  He had great passes, he went forward, tracked back on defense, and took two really good penalty kicks.  I do think the team needs to work on some additional free kicks near the goal, just to keep the opposing teams honest in their defending.  At this point, it looks to be a given that within 30 yards, Kleberson is going to take every single free kick, which makes it easier for the opposing team to defend and relies entirely on whether Kleberson can get the ball up and over the wall or not.  Kleberson's free kicks have been a thing of beauty all season, but there was a free kick late in the game where Mares was wide open on the opposite side of the field and would have been a good opportunity to fake a shot by Kleberson and catch the other team off guard. 

This team never stops fighting.  I love that about this team.  I love that they never give up no matter how many goals they are behind, no matter how many guys they lose, no matter how much time is left.  I will always love this team for this.

A vocal group of 14 of the Atlanta supporters group (@AtlantaUltras) were tossed from the stadium after the Silverbacks scored the fourth goal.  Did they deserve it?  Technically, yes.  You can't have an open flame in a stadium by lighting a flare.  However, given that they traveled from Atlanta, seemed to have represented themselves well during 90% of the game (at least from my vantage point), the team reps might have done better to have asked them to get rid of the flare and read the stadium rules before making a return trip back to Indianapolis for future games. 

Finally, for the first time in this inaugural season, I'm not optimistic going into the next game.  A short week between games and so many players missing, or possibly missing, is creating a difficult scenario going into Wedneday's game.  Assuming that the three injuries going into the Silverback's game are still keeping Spencer, Stone, and Moore from playing, the injured list nearly doubles with the potential loss of Okiomah and Norales due to potential concussions.  Add in the loss of Pena due to the red card and Pineda to the U-23 National Team, and you have a drastically reduced roster.  In fact, if all of those players are indeed missing the game, that leaves just 15 players available for action, with 3 of them being goalkeepers, 1 being a player who has been with the team for less than a week, and only 3 players on the roster who are officially listed as defenders.  For a team that has struggled with defensive lapses, will be playing a game on short rest, after finishing a game with less than a full lineup, that's not exactly an ideal situation. 

The odds of the team finding their first home win against those kinds of odds seem insurmountable.  I don't know that they can pull out the win, but I fully expect them to fight for it.  That's what they do.

UPDATE: The red card issued to Pena in the 65th minute has been transferred to Brad Ring after review by league officials. Good for Pena, bad for Ring. Still bad for Coach Sommer's lineup problems as that is a mid- for mid- transfer meaning the team's lack of available potential defenders still exists.

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