Monday, April 20, 2015

Indy Eleven vs Scorpions 02.03

- Opponent: San Antonio Scorpions
- Location: San Antonio, Texas
- Attendance: 5,305
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Nicht, Franco, Norales, Janicki, Frias, Ring, Stojkov, Mares, Melgares, Rugg, Brown
- Substitutions: Smart 62' (Melgares), Wojcik 66' (Rugg), Pena 81' (Stojkov)
- Unused: Cardona, Dawson, Miller, Hyland
- Goals: Norales 64', Pena 89'
- Bookings: Mares 24' (Yellow), Ring 82' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

San Antonio coach Alen Marcina stated during the post game interview that "The better team lost." Flat out and without hesitation. I understand that when you are the reigning Soccer Bowl Champion and you're starting your repeat bid by losing your first two games, you are frustrated, but I've been big on the "eyeball test" this season and I don't agree with Marcina. The Eleven were much better at maintaining possession this game than the previous two games and the stats reflected that change in mentality away from the long ball. I'll even stop riding Frias so hard if he can keep the long ball to a minimum like he did against San Antonio.  The rest of the stats don't agree with Marcina either:

Possession was in the favor of the Eleven, shots on target were about equal, attacks were in favor of the Eleven, and dangerous attacks went to the Scorpions, but just barely.  That pretty much agrees with what I felt I saw in the game.  If Marcina had stated that "the best offensive team lost," I might be inclined to almost agree with him as it seemed like the Scorpions were able to get much more dangerous opportunities around goal.  A team, though, is made up of offense AND defense and Indy's defense and goalie is keeping them in these games.

Case in point:
Janicki saving his own bacon since the ball bounced off him before being popped in the air by Nicht's save.
Janicki slipped to the ground a split second before this, but hustled to get a head on the ball to prevent the goal.  Flirting with that "adage" goal time frame too, I might add.

The Scorpions goal did result from one of those defensive breakdowns we Eleven fans have come to dread.  Want to see how it happened frame-by-frame (I do appreciate the ESPN3 feed for getting these screen captures this season)?
Cummings onside and unmarked.

Still onside and still unmarked as Norales shifted to the ball and Frias was chasing the play.

Onside, unmarked, and free to blast one into the side netting.
 It gets worse when you look at the close up inside the box:

Six defenders (7 when you include Nicht) in or around the 18-yard line and three Scorpions.  Yet, somehow there's a goal scored out of this.  Who's to blame?  Take your pick, but I don't recall there being that many horrible breakdowns like this.  It was just unfortunate that they managed to find the back of the net with it.

Back to my point about offensive struggles though. Through three games, the Eleven have scored 4 goals.  Let's look at those goals in a little more detail.  Against Atlanta, Don Smart scored a PK in the 90+ minute as a result of a boneheaded defensive penalty by Atlanta.  Against the Cosmos, Brian Brown scored a 25+ yard chip shot thanks to a boneheaded goalkeeper decision. Finally, against San Antonio, the Eleven scored a goal off of a set piece taken by Mares and finished by Norales and the now famous midfield blast from Pena and poor goalkeeping.  So four goals scored and three of them can be directly attributed to bonehead defending or goalkeeping and the final one was a set piece.  I said it in my first two recaps that sometimes you have to steal a point to stay in the chase.  This game, the Eleven stole two points with that miraculous blast to help their ascension up the standings into 2nd place.  A table, by the way, where Minnesota (arguably last year's best team all year) and San Antonio (last year's champions) are sitting in 10th and 11th place.  It's still early, but what a change from last year to this year.

Let me talk about Pena's goal.  Mostly just so that I can embed it here so we can all watch it again and again and again...

If we're honest with ourselves though, that was not the shot that we want the team to be taking, even sitting with a tie and time running out.  To me, it was like a quarterback calling an audible at the line for a Hail Mary when it's 4th and 1 that manages to find a receivers hands.  Or a basketball player who has missed their last 8 shots taking a three when down by 2 that manages to go in.  "No, no, no, no!" "Yes, yes, yes, yes!" As Sommer stated after the game, "He's done that a few times. Glad he finally hit the target that time."

My favorite part of the shot, besides watching Kempin dig himself out of the net, was Mares.  Mares, you say?  Yes Mares.  Wojcik had a perfect header back down to Pena who looked like he knew from the second it hit Woj's head that he was going to take a shot, but it was Mares' reaction that is starting to endear me to him.  Watch:
Wojcik preparing for the header.

That's right.  There are 10 Scorpions behind the ball when Pena receives it inside the center circle (and only four for the Eleven). No business taking that shot.

Mares' thought bubble - "He's going to shoot." He then takes off toward goal to get a shot on a potential rebound.

An 89th minute sprint towards goal put him ahead of his defender and in a position to get a rebound if needed.

Headed toward goal...
We all know it wasn't needed because Pena's shot drifted over Kempin's outstretched hands, but I approve of Mares' effort.

Like I've said, steal a tie (or two), steal a win and keep moving up the table. They don't always have to be perfect games to keep that unbeaten streak going.


Congratulations to Nicht, Norales, and Pena for making this week's Team of the Week!

Looking at the rest of the Team of the Week, does anybody want to guess which teams won last week?

Congratulations Pena on this week's Goal of the Week!

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