Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Indy Eleven vs United - 02.28

- Opponent: Minnesota United
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 9.085
- Final Score: 3-1 W
- Starting XI: Nicht, Franco, Janicki, Norales, Keller, Steinberger, Pena, Smart, Lacroix, Brown, Mares
- Substitutions: Miller 45' (Norales), Ring 71' (Mares), Ceballos 86' (Brown)
- Unused: Cardona, Frias, Wojcik
- Goals: Mares 39' (assist Keller), Brown 55' (assist Smart), Ring 82' (assist Lacroix)
- Bookings: Ring 89' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

Injuries coming into the game included Richards (out - ankle), Cuevas (out - leg), Hyland (out - abductor), McKinney (out - ankle), Pineda (out - rib), Stojkov (out - shoulder). Injuries are what has kept this team from performing at a consistent level this entire season. This team has shown glimpses of the form we saw against Minnesota and it makes me optimistic for next season. Though that depends on what guys come back and who find other pastures (or retire?).

I love Ring and Hyland, but Pena brings a different, more physical, presence in the back than those guys are able to do with his defensive midfielder role.  I keep wondering how this season would have gone with a healthy Pena and Mares, who could be spelled by Ring and others. Pena's physical presence allowing Mares to make plays? If only...

I need to give props to Keller for playing a very good game at left back having not played that position for the Eleven this year. He was generally in the correct places, covered well, and made timely runs forward (see below).  Well done.

It's a shame that what was likely the best and most complete team performance by the Eleven came on the same night as they were officially eliminated from contention of making the playoffs. The team played well on both sides of the ball and except for the late goal by Minnesota, played fairly mistake free soccer. The defensive covering was good all night, limiting Minnesota to only a few decent chances, and giving the offense plenty of opportunities to score for the Eleven. While Mares and Keller are the ones who found themselves in the stat book on the first goal, it was created long before Dylan put it in the back of the net. I liked doing it so much for the Scorpions recap that I thought I would pictorially describe the goals for this game.

Let's start with Mares' 38th minute goal.
The entire sequence was started by Norales clear back at the Eleven's own 18-yard box. Norales won a ball back from Minnesota and immediately looked up field where he found Brown, Smart, and Steinberger available on his side of the field.

Norales sends the ball forward to this group with Mares and Lacroix nearby in the center of the field.

Brown perfectly holds the ball while the other four players begin their attacking runs.

Brown passes back to Smart and then immediately begins his own run towards the goal. Smart finds some space, but with a defender near him, he passes towards the center of the field to Mares. Lacroix begins to get wide to give Mares some additional options, while Keller begins to trail the play unguarded.

Once Mares gets the ball, Brown and Steinberger continue their runs towards goal occupying three defenders. To me, here is the key to this entire play and I don't know if it was because Keller was talking to Lacroix or not, but Lacroix changed his run from going wide to a more central run.

That decision by Lacroix meant that the Minnesota defender had to honor the run by Lacroix, which allowed Mares to send the ball out wide to an open and unguarded Keller.

Now that the defender is backtracking, Keller's slight touch to get the ball over the defender's leg meant that he was alone forcing Ndjock to move to cover the near post. Minutes before all of this, Brad Hauter commented that one of the great things about Minnesota's Ramirez is that he floats around to the pockets of empty space. Mares did this exact same thing by holding back around 13 yards out from goal.

Keller drops it off into that pocket towards Mares and Ndjock's body is sending him the wrong direction because of Keller's run. Mares opens his hips perfectly as the ball comes back across his body and the Eleven found themselves on the board first.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever. My man John Keats said that."

The second goal was scored in a different way, but in very similar fashion.

Once again, a defensive takeaway started this sequence. Pena steals the ball and immediately looks up field, just like for the first goal. Pena finds Steinberger and the counter is off and running.
Steinberger turns with plenty of space in front of him and Mares, Smart, and Brown (not shown) all take off for the goal.

The defense starts to close on Steinberger and he lays off a perfect leading pass for Smart.

Smart, with his head up, catches up to the ball and one times it back across the goal to Brown.

Brown one times it back across the goal as Ndjock has all of his momentum, once again, going in the wrong direction to be able to make the save.

Now for the third goal, just because it's just as cool to see it in screen capture form as it was to see it live and in the replays.

That's what you call the "Upper 90!"
The only thing missing from the game was the Eleven's inability to keep a clean sheet on Kristian Nicht bobblehead night.


A few guys to congratulate after this game as Mares and Brown were selected to the Team of the Week and Brad Ring's late goal was nominated and selected as Play of the Week! Congratulations guys!

Plays of the Week:

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