Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Ottawa - 03.02

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 9,140
- Final Score: 1-1 T
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Ring, Paterson, Braun, Ubiparipovic, Lacroix, Zayed
- Substitutions: Mares 51' (Ubiparipovic), Reinoso 63' (Braun), Smart 74' (Lacroix)
- Unused: Cardona, Miller, Franco, Larrea
- Goals: Vukovic 89'
- Bookings: Mares 55' (Yellow), Paterson 66' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

Much was discussed coming into this game about the trio of Falvey, Paterson, and Ubiparipovic facing off against their old team from last year. A team they helped lead to the Championship game with an unbelievable stretch of games in the Fall Season. How they could help scout the team. How they said that the Eleven would beat the Fury.

The thing, though, that was mentioned, but never really emphasized as far as I found was that this Ottawa Fury team is a shell of the team that went to the Championship last year. Like Indy, they have a new coach. Three of their key players are sitting here in Indy and a large chunk of the team found new homes as well. By my count, there are only 7 players on the current roster that were on the team at the end of last year and two of those are goalkeepers.  For all that the three knew the club, they didn't know this team. Much in the way that we're all waiting to see exactly how this new look Eleven is going to perform, Ottawa is in the same situation. Such is the life in the NASL with team turnover.

What that meant was that in many ways, the team that lost by three to the Cosmos last week, outperformed the Eleven this week. The Fury held a 60/40 possession edge, and like I indicated in last week's recap for stats I wanted to watch, they held roughly that same ratio in duels and aerial duels won. Only time will tell if this is the start of a trend.

Last week, the wingers seemed to keep pinching in bringing defenders with them and limiting the passing zones. If the heat maps are to be believed, they did a better job of this, but I remember a couple times when a ball was received on the wings and then taken right back inside and subsequently lost. The times they did it last week didn't make sense to me and it wasn't any better this week.

What does concern me already about this team, despite playing to two draws, is that I have this sense that the "playmaker" position isn't being utilized. With the new Opta stats, I was able to check something without having to make that my focus in my rewatch of the game. Ubiparipovic had 22 touches in the 51 minutes he was in the game, while Mares had 28 in the 32 minutes he was in the game after replacing Ubiparipovic after injuring his hamstring. So a combined 50 touches. While I don't have a good idea if that is enough or not, it seems light for a player that Hankinson stated when Ubiparipovic was signed that "A team’s attack is only successful if it’s based on the ability to break down a defense and create chances for strikers. Those are exactly the skills SiniĊĦa brings with him to club."

So the two players in that #10 role touched the ball 50 times. But it, unfortunately breaks down like this for passes:
Janicki to Ubiparipovic - 0
Vukovic to Ubi - 2
Palmer to Ubi - 0
Falvey to Ubi - 0
Paterson to Ubi - 1 (a corner kick in the 12th minute)
Ring to Ubi - 2

Janicki to Mares - 3
Vukovic to Mares - 0
Palmer to Mares - 3
Falvey to Mares - 2
Paterson to Mares - 1
Ring to Mares - 4

So the two players who are the "playmakers" and are supposed to be linking the defense to the attack were passed to 4 times in the first 51 minutes and then 13 times in the next 39 minutes. The only reason I checked this information was because I remember seeing a ball over the top from Janicki and then his very next possession was the same thing.

So while I remember the incident as Janicki, he wasn't the only one.

The Eleven were again in the range of 25% of their passes being considered "long." While it's still early in the season and I don't want to read too much into it yet, I hope this isn't the start of a trend. Ubiparipovic was the team's first signing of new players during the offseason, explicitly to be able to provide that connect between the defense and the offense and he wasn't used. The lack of passes to Ubiparipovic wasn't quite so stark in the Tampa Bay game so hopefully it was a one-off.

All that being said, I have faith in this defense. This team has a good defensive unit. On Ottawa's goal, there were players back and Vukovic ball watched for half a second, but even then it took a sprawled out Vered to put it on frame, otherwise it would have squirted through dangerously but wide. That didn't happen and the Eleven go down a goal.

Before the game, I was asked if I had a prediction for the game and I said 2 - 0 Indy based on what I saw of Indy against a good Tampa team and Ottawa's loss to New York. However, I reminded myself after of a conversation I had during the preseason game against Louisville when somebody (who will remain nameless for now) said to me, "there could be a lot of 0-0, 1-0 games this season." Until I'm convinced otherwise, I'm not going to predict any multiple goal games. I just don't see it happening at the moment, which is concerning since New York comes to town having scored multiple goals in both of their first two games. That's going to test the "death, taxes, and a draw with the Cosmos" mantra.

So when a team is having a hard time getting their scoring legs under them, sometimes you have to earn a draw on the road and steal a win at home. Vukovic's late equalizer keeps the Eleven in the crowded middle of the Spring Standings, but a surging out of the gate Cosmos and RailHawks have an early lead that hopefully will get reduced on Saturday with an Eleven win over the Cosmos.

Jon. Jon? Over here Jon.


Congratulations Vukovic on getting Team of the Week honors!

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