Thursday, August 7, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Strikers - 01.14

- Opponent: Fort Lauderdale Strikers
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,285
- Final Score: 0-0 T
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Stone, Frias, Estridge, Hyland, Smart, Kleberson, Johnson, Smith, Pena, Ambersley
- Substitutions: Mares 77' (Kleberson), Mendes 82' (Smart)
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Smart 17' (Yellow), Johnson 45', 58' (Yellow, Red), Pena 64' (Yellow)

You're going to have to take it on my word that I had started writing this post in my head prior to my reading the 11thHeaven guy's recent post on why the Eleven's tie on Wednesday is actually a win for the team.  That being said, Doug and the boys over there are good.  If you're looking for much better tactical analysis of the games than I provide, that's where you need to read.  Read me too though. 
This quote from White Men Can't Jump kept running through my head today about the game:
"Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic globule, from which one extracts what one needs."
What one needs to extract from Wednesday's perpetuation of the league winless streak is that despite missing five guys with a combined 51 league starts for the Eleven (three of those with double digit starts) and playing the last thirty minutes of the game down a man, the Eleven looked to absolutely dominate the run of play.  The official stats show a 51% to 49% possession ratio, but that seems way off base from my seat in the stands and may have only equalized a bit due to some possession from the Strikers at the end of the game when they had their man advantage after the Johnson red card.  Missing so many key contributors to the team, the Eleven fielded a lineup that included a back four who had never played together in a game as a group as best I can remember.

I haven't seen the defense play as cohesive as a unit as I witnessed last night.  They covered for each other perfectly and Frias looked like a completely different player playing from center back than he has at left back.  Hyland played like a man who was trying to prove that his place on the bench the last 4 games was a mistake.  With the exception of the Strikers' Picault, Stone and Estridge showed that they have the speed to track down just about anybody in this league to help cover, all while going forward on multiple occasions for corner and free kicks.  I'm sure they played with a chip on their shoulder to prove us all wrong (and I was one of the doubters), but the effort that we have seen every week finally translated into a great defensive game.  Given the number of players that have seen time on the field this year, the number of lineups that Coach Sommer has utilized, and the fact that Norales has been one of the more consistent defenders on the team, I don't know how many more games we'll see these four play together, but I hope they get at least one more chance to prove that it wasn't a fluke.

The defense wasn't the only positive thing to come out of last night's tie.  Despite not putting the ball in the goal for the first time all season, they were really close the entire game and it was only because of some excellent goalkeeping that they didn't put a couple in during the first half.  We also learned that even at age 34, Jermaine Johnson still has some wheels to get up and down the field.  Also that he needs to figure out that the NASL referees are free with their cards and not always the most consistent bunch. 

It took a slow exit from the stadium after the game to appreciate how well the team played and that maybe I need to rethink how I see the results of the game.  "Sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose."  It may not have been the result that we all hoped to see, but maybe it was the result we needed to see.

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