Monday, April 6, 2015

Indy Eleven vs Silverbacks - 02.01

- Opponent: Atlanta Silverbacks
- Location: Atlanta, Georgia
- Attendance: 4,711
- Final Score: 1-1 T
- Starting XI: Nicht, Franco, Norales, Janicki, Frias, Pena, Stojkov, Mares, Pineda, Wojcik, Rugg
- Substitutions: Melgares 62' (Pineda), Smart 71' (Stojkov), Brown 78' (Rugg)
- Unused: Dawson, Hyland, Miller, Ring
- Goals: Smart 90'+ (penalty kick)
- Bookings: Franco 14' (Yellow), Smart 82' (Yellow)

When I sat down to write my recaps of away games last season, they were usually based on very limited information since they were written from the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed and possibly a highlight video.  I didn't have much of an "eyeball" test for the games.  This year, however, I'm hoping to have some more insightful things to say as the NASL has partnered with ESPN to show all of the games on  Using each home team's television feed, the games will be available for all to see.  This also means that you get the home team's commentators and in the case of Atlanta last night, the complete and inexplicable ability to pronounce Kristian Nicht's name.  Repeatedly.  I have much more faith in Brad Hauter and Greg Rakestraw doing a better job than the Atlanta crew.

All that being said, the combination of a full day of birthday parties (I have multiple kids all born in April), a week of a nagging sickness, some issues with the internet feed, and trying to get the kids to bed means that I missed parts of the game.  I haven't yet watched a replay of it, but what I want to discuss I think I can do without the benefit of a second viewing of the game.

When the Eleven decided to release or not pick up the option of several players at the end of last season, I wondered how the team would keep the momentum of the stellar run to finish the season with so many players looking for other teams.  Turned out that it was through  resigning some of those players and the addition of seven new players.  All of the signings pointed to a desire to build from the back as it took awhile to see any forwards added to the roster.  Presumably, the defensive lapses that often destroyed the Eleven's chances of winning games were a key factor in the releases and off-season signings.  Yet two-thirds of the team remain from last season in the hopes that there would remain enough consistency between Season 1 and Season 2 that there would some familiarity between the players.

Unfortunately, what I saw was some of the same struggles as last year.  The Eleven struggled to maintain possession, even though the numbers say the dominated this stat 57% to 43%.  Though my "eyeball test" says that some of that possession was near the end of the game with Atlanta ahead by a goal and hunkering down in a defensive shell to protect the win.  I felt like I saw much of the Eleven midfield being bypassed as the team tried long ball after long ball so I'm not sure about the possession stat.

With a team that looks to be built to not lose games by giving up bad goals, it was the same kind of defensive miscue from last season that gave Atlanta the lead.  This time is was the veteran Janicki with the miscue.  A player who was brought in to help solidify and correct those problems.  Nobody is perfect, but a veteran player needs to clear it out of the box better than he did on that goal.

A goal that occurred within the first 5 minutes after halftime.  The dreaded "adage goal" rears its ugly head again so early in the season.  The adage goal should have its own stat line for the Eleven.

There are personnel choices that I don't understand with the Eleven, but the most confusing to me is giving Don Smart only 20 to 30 minutes a game.  If ever there is a player that seems to have earned a starting position due to his play on the field, it would seem to be Don Smart.  I assume there is a reason for it, but it escapes me why his play, width, and energy isn't being utilized sooner rather than later in games.

Sometimes in a season, especially on the road, you have to steal a victory away from the jaws of defeat and this game completely exemplifies that statement.  A 93rd minute penalty kick goal is the only thing that saved this team from following the same script as last spring.  We've seen what this team can do with very similar personnel from the back half of last fall's season, so while we would like to see a win instead of a tie, at least it wasn't a loss.  After last year's Spring Season, maybe that's enough right now.

Congratulations Frias on being selected to this week's Team of the Week!

1 comment:

Jeff C. said...

By my eyeball test, a good portion of the possession in the first half consisted of the defenders passing the ball back and forth amongst each other (and Nicht), completely unchallenged by the Silverbacks, who retreated into their own end and effectively dared the Indy defenders to bring the ball forward. The defenders consistently declined, intend ultimately choosing to lump the ball forward aimlessly.

I agree that the most discouraging thing about the game (other than the "adage" goal) was the resort to hoof and hope. It was a big part of the club's problem last year (until the final five weeks of the season), especially when Spencer was on the field, and its return was my biggest fear when the club signed Wojcik. On first appearance, my fears seem to have been realized.

Still, a point on the road isn't a terrible start to the season.