Saturday, May 23, 2015

Indy Eleven vs United - 02.06

- Opponent: Minnesota United
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,524
- Final Score: 3-1 L
- Starting XI: Cardona, Franco, Norales, Miller, Hyland, Pena, Ring (c), Mares, Rugg, Brown, Wojcik
- Substitutions: Smart 67' (Brown), Pineda 76' (Ring)
- Unused: Nicht, Frias, Janicki, Keller, Melgares
- Goals: Pena 49'
- Bookings: None
- Adage goals: None

This time of year means that I become more engaged with the NHL playoffs, but particularly when the Chicago Blackhawks continue playing.  When they stop playing, my interest wanes a bit since there's only so much that my wife can stand and I value my marriage more than the hockey playoffs.  Since she's from the Chicagoland, she's okay as long as they're still playing. I find that there are often a lot of soccer fans who are also hockey fans.  I don't know if it works both ways, but I think soccer fans can appreciate the similarities between the two sports and its, seemingly, second tier status in American sports like soccer.  That seems to be changing for both sports, but they are both always fighting that stereotype.

That's a lot of hockey talk for a post about the Indy Eleven, but I've noticed that while I'm watching one of them, I'm thinking of details from the other.  For example, the other night against the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks were having a stellar first period and completely controlling the speed and action and then gave up a goal on a counter.  The Eleven did this exact same thing against Minnesota. Not including the first 5 minutes of the game where both teams seemed to be getting accustomed to each other and the wet field, the Eleven seemed to hold most of the possession and control the tempo for the next 15 minutes.  Then they gave up a free kick, which Alhassan expertly put into the upper 90 after a slight deflection from Cardona.  "Against the run of play" changed the game after that.

The same thing happened in the second half.  The Eleven had good possession for the first 15 minutes and then gave up a goal in the 63rd minute after drawing even in the 49th minute.  So they were once again playing from behind. If the Eleven played 90 minutes like they played the first 15 minutes of each half, this would have been a different game.  Though, I have to expect that was part of Minnesota's plan given the Eleven's inability to score more than a single goal per game and their persistence in giving up defensive breakdown goals.  Defend, defend, defend, and then counter.

The other thing that I've noticed this season, and the Minnesota game might just be the most glaring (or maybe just most recent) example, is that the Eleven's attacking players are having a difficult time determining when to shoot.  In my notes to this game during my re-watch, I wrote "SHOOT THE ******* BALL!" in the 17th minute and it goes back to my hockey watching.  Sometimes you just have to kick the ball towards goal, as long as other guys are continuing to make their runs, and hope a deflection happens for an "easy" goal. Hockey players do this all the time. They shoot the puck towards the goal hoping to get a deflection off the keeper or another player for a second or third chance at a goal. Which is exactly what Minnesota did for their goal in the 63rd minute.  Put the ball on frame, hard, and be in a position to get a second attempt at it.  The Eleven didn't have a single shot on target in the first half and finished the game with only two.  TWO.  If you only put two shots on target in a game, you're not going to win many games.  It's not like the Eleven didn't have opportunities, they just didn't pull the trigger.  One touch too many or one a touch that gets away from them (Rugg in the 53rd minute that likely would have been a goal for example).  Either way, it gives the defense a chance to get back behind the ball.  I would like to see the attacking players have the same shoot mentality as Pena, but from somewhere closer than 35-45 yards out.  There has to be a middle ground.

The team needs to manufacturer scoring opportunities wherever they can and in the words of Alexi Lalas, "Set pieces."  If I counted it correctly on the replay, the Eleven had a free kick in the 39th minute.  Brown acts like he's going to take it and then Mares put it just over the bar.  While I don't object to the attempt from Mares (though free kicks from that range is where this team misses the brilliance of Kleberson's attempts), there were only three other Indy Eleven attackers inside the 18.  With the height that this team possesses, put them in the area even if it's just to keep the other team honest in their defending.  Even if you're going to take the direct shot anyway.  Minnesota had 6 guys in the wall.  Ten United players behind the ball make it difficult to score even if there was a potential deflection.

I don't even want to talk about Minnesota's last goal in the 83rd minute.  That should never happen and yet goals like it persist with this team.

If you continually give up defensive breakdown goals, you have to score more than the other team. To score more than the other team, you have to shoot the ball on target more than twice.  Both are issues that need fixed immediately, but I'm not sure how they get fixed.  I think the Miller/Norales duo is the proper one as they seem to have a good connection, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Janicki right back in for Miller if his calf injury is healed.  Which attacking player shoots instead of looking for the perfect shot every time? With the obvious exception of Sergio "I'm on the field so that's close enough" Pena...

This tweet by @ali_lindgren perfectly sums up the game and this post for me:
"You know a soccer game didn't go well when there are pictures of the damn rainbow at the game everywhere"

1 comment:

Jeff C. said...

This team has become so frustrating again. I agree that Miller is a better partner for Norales than Janicki is, but Sommer backed himself into a corner by making Janicki captain. Janicki was back against Ottawa, and though I expect Miller to play in the US Open Cup, I'm sure Janicki will be back on the field on Saturday.

As for the offense, I'm simply at a loss. Lacroix may provide an occasional spark, as he did in preseason, but he's hardly an experienced scorer. As for the rest, well, Woj has done some good hold-up work, but except for his knock-down for Pena's long-range shot he hasn't produced goals. And Rugg has just been pathetic, a shadow of the player he was last fall (and even then he didn't score much). I just don't see where goals are going to come from. And, as you say, when your defense ships goals, you have to score.