Thursday, October 16, 2014

Indy Eleven vs United - 01.24

- Opponent: Minnesota United
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,285
- Final Score: 2-0 W
- Starting XI: Nicht, Frias, Norales (Captain), Miller, Franco, Smart, Johnson, Pena, Mares, Pineda, Rugg
- Substitutions: Jhulliam 46' (Johnson), Kleberson 75' (Mares), Moore 90' (Pineda)
- Goals: Pineda 8' (assist Rugg), Jhulliam 46' (Smart)
- Bookings: Rugg 35' (Yellow), Frias 54' (Yellow), Pena 63' (Yellow)

There’s so much to talk about with this game.  I had written down 11 topics to discuss (ok, it was actually 13, but I liked to see the 11 written there) before I had even sat down to rewatch the match.

Where to start though?

Oh yeah!  The Eleven finally won a league home game!  It took a lot more tries than anybody thought it would take and it came against one of the most improbable opponents in the league leading Minnesota United, but the team finally had the pieces come together to get them that first home “W.” Nearly the rest of the discussion pales in comparison to the King Kong sized monkey that was extracted from the backs of the players on Saturday, but let’s dive into the details a little.

For the first time all season, Mike Ambersley didn’t make an appearance in a game.  Presumably, his late exit from the Cosmos game was determined to be a concussion and either he was not cleared to play by the medical staff or Coach Sommer decided that given the late stage of the season with the team eliminated from the Championship contention, he would try yet another lineup and let Ambersley have another week to rest since he wasn’t even listed as an available substitute.  That just leaves Nicht and Smart who have played in every single Indy Eleven game.

The former continued his run of playing every single minute despite an injury that got Jon Dawson off the bench and warming up only to find himself sitting on the bench again as Nicht continued. Whether the injury bothered him much is hard to say because he played like a man possessed, stopping all eight of Minnesota’s shots.  We did notice that there seemed to be fewer drop kicks from Kristian after the injury though and more outlet passes or long throws to get the ball started.  The rare instances where he kicked after the injury brought a noticeable limp for a few steps.  I haven’t heard if that will affect him moving forward.

Don’t look now, but Kristian is working on a 2+ game shutout streak.  Since he gave up the goal against Carolina in the 53rd minute, the fiery keeper hasn’t let a ball get past him; I think it’s officially 217 minutes, but there was about ten minutes of stoppage time added just to the Minnesota game so the number if unofficially higher.  He was finally rewarded for his recent stellar play by being named to the NASL Team of the Week.  Way to go Kristian!

Smart not only continued his streak of playing, but also added a start to his stats and played the full ninety minutes.  His assist in the opening minute of the second half was a perfectly placed ball into the front of the Minnesota goal.  Smart does good things when he is in.  I’m never going to figure out why he doesn’t get more minutes.

16 seconds.  16 seconds is what it took for the Indy Eleven to double their lead coming out of halftime.  We’ve become accustomed to being on the wrong side of these adage goals, so it was nice to see the team be able to have a bit of a cushion as they played the rest of the game.  I'm not sure of the halftime possession stat, but the final stats indicated a nearly 60/40 split in favor of the Loons.  That second goal allowed the Eleven to sit into a more defensive stance as a team without the absolute necessity of trying to get another goal.

What happens when you have the league leading team losing to one of the last place teams desperately trying to get their first home win?  Things get physical.  There were 5 yellow cards shown (3 for Indy, 2 for Minnesota), but there was a least one instance where a red card could/should have been issued (see the take down of Johnson late in the first half).  A casualty of one of those yellow cards is that Frias was issued his fifth card of the season, meaning that he will be unavailable to play against San Antonio this weekend.  I’ve been hard on Frias all season, but the guy played one of his best games all season.  I think having Norales and Miller playing center back and letting Frias play his more natural left back really helped him this week.

Sidenote: What kind of find has Miller been this season? I love the Norales and Miller combination in the center back spots.

He didn’t get a lot of minutes, basically just during stoppage time in the second half, but there was an actual Corby Moore sighting.  The guy I wondered if we would ever see again managed to find his way onto the field just in time to be caught up in the pitch invasion as time expired. He took his time leaving the pitch too, just like a lot of the fans who milled around for a while after the invasion wound down.

Insert required pitch invasion videos…

This one requires you to follow the link, but this is from one of the Indy Eleven front office staff who realize that this win was for everybody, players, fans, office staff, everyone associated with the Indy Eleven.

Oh, and if you are wondering, these are your Indy Eleven fans.  The game was a sellout as indicated by the 10,285 attendance figure, but there were some noticeable empty seats throughout the stadium and we saw a lot of people headed out of the stadium in the closing minutes of the game when it became apparent that the team was going to win.  Those are not the people that appreciated the magnitude of the win.  But I digress...

Even the Minnesota fans that made the trip were good sports about the pitch invasion and uploaded some videos for your viewing pleasure. Pay attention to Kristian in the lower right hand corner right after the whistle blows.

I was glad to see that the security personnel took a measured approach to letting the fans rush the field and didn’t try to contain it, only keep it civilized.  I’ve seen at least one remark indicating that it was unnecessary and that the Eleven are still in last place.  I’ve often said that the trend of rushing the court or field has become a little too prevalent, not done at truly appropriate times, and can be attributed to overzealous college kids.  However, this is one of those times where the invasion was necessary and deserved, for both team and fans alike.  This pitch invasion was a release of all the heartbreaks that have plagued this team this year.  Worst team (record wise) beats the best team and does it as the season’s clock winds down on their chances to get the first win?  That’s basically my definition of a valid pitch invasion.  Now I don’t want to see one for a very long time.  Unless, of course, it is because the team goes from worst to first next season and wins The Championship next year.  Then, maybe.

I’m still disappointed in The Stars’ Sunday edition “coverage” of the game.  I get they have deadlines to be able to get it to press, but there’s still a lot more that could have been said of this game than what they did.  Disappointing.

Big picture. Not a lot of written details.

The chances of getting home win #2 isn’t going to be easy with the 2nd ranked team in the league, San Antonio, coming to Carroll Stadium.  Pineda joined Nicht in the NASL Team of the Week for his efforts against Minnesota, but even as the Eleven put two players on the team, San Antonio put three players on the Best XI.  They’re not near the top of the standings by chance.  This is a good team, yet one we all know needed a 93rd minute goal the last time they were here to escape with a win.  So anything is possible.

Though that game seems like a long time ago at this point, with a completely different team.  The Eleven have added 7 new players since that home game in late May, all 7 of which were on the field this past Saturday against Minnesota.  Only Nicht, Norales, Smart, and Moore played in the May game and played this past Saturday.  I have to wonder what the roster will truly look like next year since so many of the “new” guys are on loan from somewhere else.  But I digress again…

To get that second win, the team’s going to need to do what it did against Minnesota.  Don’t have a major defensive lapses, have Nicht play out of his mind again, and attack at key points.  Though that sounds like a recipe for how you go about getting most wins.

What a week!

Team of the Week - Pineda and Nicht included.


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