Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Cosmos - 01.18

- Opponent: New York Cosmos
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,659
- Final Score: 2-2 T
- Starting XI: Nicht, Frias, Norales, Hyland, Okiomah, Kleberson (Captain), Johnson, Smith, Mares, Pineda, Ambersley
- Substitutions: Spencer 61' (Mares), Smart 71' (Pineda), Pena 85' (Ambersley)
- Goals: Ambersley 61' (assist Pineda), Johnson 90+ (assist Smith)
- Bookings: Hyland 33' (Yellow)

"At least they didn't lose."

That was the general consensus and feeling as we exited the stadium and in subsequent discussions afterwards.  We know the feeling of having it slip away in the final seconds, but the team was able to flip the script and steal a win at home on this one.  A late stoppage goal by Johnson on what, if we're honest with ourselves, was a very poor decision by the Cosmos goalkeeper.  The Eleven managed to win the possession battle, but were on the losing side of most of the rest of the important statistical categories.

Before I get into the main part of my recap on how the Eleven found themselves fighting from behind yet again, I want to point out two key items: 

The first is the dreaded "adage" goals and this team continues to give them away in bunches.  The Cosmos' goals came in the first five minutes and in the last five minutes of the first half.  Only those in the locker room know exactly what they need to do differently to get it changed, but the team needs to start faster and finish stronger.  FLAT 12 Bierwerks unveiled the name of their Indy Eleven themed beer this weekend and the team could heed its namesake, The Full 90. 

Secondly, the Eleven officially had five offside penalties and two of those resulted in goals being taken away from the team.  I've been rough on the referees this season so I need to be fair and give credit where it is due.  Those were the correct calls.  While the crowd around us disagreed with me, we had ideal seats to be able to evaluate both calls and the assistant referee called both of those correctly.  Offsides is never an easy call to make, but for once in my career, I called out "offsides" even before the AR raised his flag.  The television replay confirmed what I saw in person.  The first one was close, but it was the correct call.  It's just unfortunate that goals were removed because of them.

Now for the main part of what I want to discuss and I apologize for the resolution of the below series of photos, but it's the best I could do with my television and my camera.  How does the Eleven continually find itself working from behind?  The two goals that Cosmos' scored are a microcosm of the team's problems.  If we look at the field right before the first goal, we see pretty good team defense.  Smith is back defending the ball held by Flores, with Frias marking the next nearest Cosmos player, Freeman, man-to-man.  The rest of the viewable screen is filled with five Indy Eleven field players, plus Nicht, and only two Cosmos players.  Mares, Kleberson, and Pineda are all back from their midfield positions, with Norales in a zone position, Okiomah marking man-to-man goalside near the penalty spot, and Kleberson marking man-to-man near the 18.  So it looks positive at that point.

Forward ahead four seconds and we see a drastically different position.  Smith and Flores have moved off screen as Flores went to the endline for a cross.  When that happened, Freeman didn't move and Frias pinched in towards goal.  Norales pinched in toward the six-yard line, Mares pinched in towards the center and the eighteen-yard line, and Kleberson pinched in towards the penalty spot.  Okiomah and Pineda didn't move much.  However, the Cosmos' Diosa did move and placed himself perfectly between the mass of flat-footed Eleven defenders for an easy goal and the team found themselves in the all too familiar position of being down a goal early.

The second goal had the same problems that have plagued them all season.  In the first screen capture, we see a streaking Cosmos player sandwiched between Hyland and Okiomah.  Given the way that Hyland has been playing of late and Okiomah's position, that's acceptable.  Though even in this first screen capture, we can see where this goes badly.  Norales is about ten yards behind the play and not moving quickly.  To his right is Frias who is jogging back towards goal watching Hyland and Okiomah defend.

Hyland and Okiomah have overtaken the Cosmos player, Mwanga, and have forced him to slow down.  At this point, Norales hasn't moved from his previous position and Frias has continued jogging back towards goal.  That means that your right back and one of your center backs are defending the ball, the other center back is standing twenty yards away, and the left back is jogging back. Stokkelien, however, begins to sprint towards the goal.

Between min 41:19 and 41:20, which I wasn't able to capture via photo, you can actually see Frias realize that the player streaking past him is an opponent and he tries to catch up.  I imagined a thought balloon above Frias that reads, "Oh NO!"

Hyland is guarding his player.  Norales is nowhere to be found.  Okiomah is out of position.  Frias can't catch up and even tries to grab Stokkelien.  Nicht is stuck in no-man's land between trying to guard his goal or come further off his line to overcome his defense's lapse.

Okiomah, Nicht, and Frias can't get to the ball and the Eleven give up yet another adage goal and go into halftime down two goals.

The good news is that the Cosmos gave up two very similar defensive lapses in the second half.  Pineda went endline for a cross that found Ambersley, who got behind his defender, and a slew of Cosmos defenders were caught ball watching.  Johnson's goal resulted from a poor defensive effort by Ayoze, leaving goalkeeper Zobeck in no-man's land, for a very cheeky chip shot finish to get his first goal as an Indy Eleven player.

I've said it before that I love the fight in this team and this game was no different.  To be down two goals at halftime and work themselves back into the game and a well deserved result out of it is a testament to the team's no quit attitude.  While the first home league win that we all want to see continues to elude this team, sometimes it's acceptable to be able to say "as least they didn't lose."

1 comment:

Jeff C. said...

Thanks for the writeup and the effective use of screenshots. I went back and watched the second Cosmos goal again, to see where Norales was at the beginning of the counterattack. He was back, sort of, but did a brilliant impression of a traffic cone; once the Cosmos attacker whizzed by him, he simply ambled slowly in the general direction of the Indy box--not recognizing that another Cosmos attacker, the one who ultimately scored, was sprinting behind him to receive a pass. Norales has been lackadaisical all season, and I really don't think we'll miss him when he's on Honduras national team duty.

Oh, and the Indy free kick that led to the Cosmos counterattack may have been the worst free kick I've ever seen, at least at the professional level.

All that said, under the circumstances, a draw isn't a bad result.