Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Indy Eleven vs Fury - 02.07

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Ottawa
- Attendance: 5,245
- Final Score: 1-0 L
- Starting XI: Nicht, Franco, Janicki, Norales, Hyland, Pena, Ring (c), Mares, Rugg, Pineda, Wojcik
- Substitutions: Brown 34' (Pena injury), Smart 84' (Mares), Keller 90' (Ring)
- Unused: Cardona, Frias, Miller, Melgares
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Mares (Yellow 45')
- Adage goals: One

This is the kind of game that happens when you put two teams on the field who are struggling for consistency.  As the Ottawa commentator stated, "I can see why these are two teams struggling to score points because they're struggling to score goals."  Ottawa and the Eleven are the two lowest scoring teams in the league and this game reflected that fact from start to finish.  There were moments from each team where they linked passes together and moved the ball well only to be let down by the final decision or pass.  I would say by their final shot, but given that there were only 10 shots on or off target, combined for both teams, that was clearly its own separate problem.

In the first 15 minutes, the Ottawa commentator stated that it wasn't "quite a snail's pace," but that there wasn't "a lot of speed to the game" and there were "a lot of long balls at the moment."  There were moments in the first half where I felt more like I was watching a tennis match than a soccer game.  Possession felt very minimal as it was booted or headed back and forth between the two teams.  The few instances that I remember the Eleven stringing passes together, nothing ever seemed to be produced from them because they didn't actually shoot on goal.  Hyland had two early crosses into the box that were middle of the six yard line and absolutely nobody was there attacking it.  Good crosses wasted.

There were two specific moments in the first half that concerned from a defensive standpoint.  In the 25th minute, Franco pinched over to help in the center of the field, but when he did so, he left his man completely unmarked and wide open with a clear shot on goal if the Ottawa player with the ball had managed to get the pass away before Franco toe-poked it away (and nearly being called for a foul).  However, I didn't think that he needed to provide help for Janicki at that moment.  It had all the tell tale signs of being one of the frequent defensive mistakes.

The other, and maybe even more concerning, was around the 37th minute.  Franco made a run forward, Rugg tracked back, and ended up with the ball. You can see Janicki telling him to make the pass back to Nicht.  Rugg looks at him and then tries to make a pass up field instead of backwards. The ball went out for an Eleven throw and then Rugg can be seen telling Janicki that he couldn't pass back.  Or wouldn't?  Either way, there were some communication issues.

The start of the second half was much livelier for both teams, but first touches and final decisions continued to be the nemesis to both teams.  So searching balls and wishful thinking seemed to creep back into both teams' game plan. An adage goal given up by the Eleven in the 88th minute and a game between two struggling teams came mercifully to an end.  "Sloppy and floppy" was the perfect assessment from the commentator, though I disagree with their statement of a "solidified defense" for Indy compared to last season.  The Eleven are tied for fourth worse on goals against and tied for second worse for goal differential.  Those aren't exactly "solidified" numbers.

Which got me thinking.  Through 7 games, the Eleven have scored only 6 goals and have found themselves plummeting down the standings.  It's hard to imagine that four games ago, the Indy Eleven were up 1-0 on Carolina with time winding down and 2nd place in the standings nearly in sight.  They then gave up an 85th minute adage goal and have only scored once in the next three games while giving up five (not counting the Carolina goal) and find themselves in last place.  Who scores the Eleven goals?

  • Pena - 2
  • Smart - 1 (via PK) while averaging just 25 min/game
  • Norales - 1
  • Brown - 1
  • Own Goal - 1

So who scored goals last season?

  • 35 goals in 27 games last season
  • Ambersley 6 (2 via PK) - RELEASED
  • Smart 3 (in 38 min per game)
  • Pineda 3
  • Jhulliam 3 - RELEASED
  • Smith 2 - RELEASED
  • Spencer 2 - RELEASED
  • Johnson 2 - RELEASED
  • Norales 2
  • Rugg 1
  • Frias 1
  • Ring 1
  • Own Goal 1
Of Indy's top 8 scorers from last season, only Smart and Pineda are still around.  That's not a good sign.  Indy took a 9 game unbeaten streak into Jacksonville and turned it into a 3 game defeated streak scoring only once during that time on a Pena set piece header.  You have to score goals and Indy continues to struggle converting the few chances they are giving themselves.  Pineda had a shot on goal in the 48th minute that went inches wide and may have completely changed the tenor of the game had it found its way into the side netting.  Yet, the only thing I kept thinking was that if he had just blasted his first or second touch from the six yard line towards the goal, a rebound might have been touched in by a teammate.  His version was pretty, but it didn't ultimately lead to anything more than a Pena shot from 45 yards that misses by a dozen feet.  When you're struggling to score, sometimes you have to score ugly goals.  If that means blasting every touch inside the 18 towards goal to set off a scramble, then so be it.  Ugly goals win games too.

That's what I would be telling the team right now.  Brown, Rugg, Woj, Mares, Ring, Pineda... Shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more. Don't wait for the clean shot or perfect angle. Put it on frame and everybody else attack the rebound(s).  With the exception of the Minnesota game, the defense has yet to keep a clean sheet, but have only given up one goal.  That means two goals will win you a lot of games and you're not going to do that averaging just over 2 shots on target over the last three games.

I think there will be some lineup changes for the U.S. Open Cup game on Wednesday versus Louisville FC so we'll see if that chemistry is any better and what that might mean moving forward.

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