Monday, October 27, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Fury - 01.26

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Ottawa, Canada
- Attendance: 4,172
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Nicht, Frias, Norales (Captain), Miller, Franco, Smith, Pena, Mares, Pineda, Jhulliam, Rugg
- Substitutions: Ambersley 53' (Jhulliam), Smart 62' (Smith), Moore 90' (Mares)
- Goals: Jhulliam 29' (unassisted), Pineda 89' (assist Smart)
- Bookings: Pineda 90' (Yellow), Pena 90' (Red)

Confidence breeds confidence.  That was my takeaway from last week's game against San Antonio and that continues to be my takeaway after this week's game against Ottawa.  The official stats for the game show a 52/48 possession advantage for the Eleven, but nearly every tweet I saw related to the game yesterday seemed like that stat should have been much higher.  There were a number of times this season where the team seemed like things were coming together only to see it slip away, usually with a defensive lapse or giving up the dreaded adage goals (which they did again for the first time in awhile).  Yet, there is something different about this team recently and their confidence level seems to be much higher and they are playing that way.  They feel like they can compete and win with every single team now and they are getting the results of their effort and confidence.

At various points this season, the idea of a shutout streak longer than a game seemed out of reach and maybe an impossibility.  Yet prior to the late adage goal scored by Ottawa, Nicht went 397 minutes without conceding a goal.  A month's worth of games, starting with the loss against Carolina on September 27th, and the team didn't allow a single goal.  Three of the five games during that period were against the top teams in the league in Minnesota, San Antonio, and New York.  That's a run of defensive and goalkeeping not seen in the modern era of the NASL.  Three hundred ninety-seven is the official number by the team and the league, but I wanted to see the full magnitude of the shut out streak so I went back and found how much stoppage time was included at the end of each half of those games (remember that 7 minutes of stoppage time delaying the pitch invasion against Minnesota?) .  There was an additional 29 minutes of stoppage time where the team kept the ball out of the net.  For a team that has struggled through much of the season to keep a clean sheet, the run is all the more impressive when you know that they did it for an additional third of a game beyond what they were given credit.  Congrats boys!

Last week saw Rugg score a goal thanks to the effort from Ambersley to stick with the ball and found a wide open Rugg.  This week, Jhulliam's goal was pure hustle and effort and reminded me of many of the lazy defensive passes that plagued the Eleven early in the season.  He made the run back to intercept the pass from Richter to Peiser, made a perfect one touch to get himself around the keeper, and put the ball smoothly into the goal from a tough angle.  Hustle and heart.  Even though they were eliminated from The Championship a few weeks ago, this team has had those traits this season and the last two games have shown that they're going to fight until the end.

Don't look now, but if the Eleven can continue this win streak to four by beating Tampa Bay and get some help from Minnesota and San Antonio, they will finish the Fall Season alone in 5th place.  Not exactly last to first, but that's a significant step in the right direction between Spring and Fall.  A win would also mean that the team would finish the Fall Season at 7-7-4 after going 0-5-4 in the Spring.  A lot of credit goes to this team for continuing to improve and the front office for continuing to work to find players who could help provide additional help as injuries continued to happen.

The team will be without Pena who picked up a "where was your head" red card in the closing minutes of the game.  I love that he was defending his teammate, but he went too far in doing so and deservedly received the red card.  That's going to leave a big gap in the midfield against Tampa Bay, especially if Kleberson is still unable to play.  If Kleberson is not able to contribute, I count 16 healthy players available for Coach Sommer and two of those are keepers.  So 14 available field players and Coach has used 14 for nearly every game.  We might see some additional playing time by Corrado and Moore in this one.

I still have a good feeling about Saturday's game.

I suppose a 4-game unbeaten streak will do that to a fan base.

UPDATE: Congratulations Jhulliam and Miller for being named to this week's Team of the Week.  Well deserved!


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