Monday, April 4, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Rowdies - 03.01

 - Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Tampa Bay, Florida
- Attendance: 5,740
- Final Score: 0-0 T
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Ring, Paterson, Braun, Ubiparipovic, Lacroix, Zayed
- Substitutions: Larrea 63' (Paterson), Reinoso 73' (Lacroix), Franco 82' (Palmer)
- Unused: Cardona, Mares, Smart, Miller
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Ring 53' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

A draw on the road in the first game of the season with the number of changes that this team has seen from last season to this one can never be considered a horrible result. There were moments where the team looked really good, held possession, and seemed to be in control of the game and tempo. There were also moments where they looked completely under attack. Like the last 5 to 10 minutes of the second half where I wondered if my habit of keeping track of adage goals was going to be tested. I'm hoping that that I can stop keeping track of that statistic with this Indy Eleven 3.0.

Despite the difference in possession skewed towards Tampa Bay at 60% to 40% and the pressure that Tampa Bay placed upon the defense, the back four, as well as the defensive midfielders Ring and Paterson, did a really good job of limiting most of the Rowdies chances. I can only remember one time where the defense broke down giving Heinemann a really good opportunity inside the box from a pass Alhassan, but Busch was there to collect it. 

In February, the NASL announced a partnership with Opta, to bring substantially more statistical data to the NASL fans. This additional data is amazing and I can't wait to see how others use this data throughout the season. For now, I'm going to talk about a few stats that jumped off the page at me about this game, including using a few (hopefully not illegal) screen captures.

Under the General Play tab of the statistics, it indicates that the Eleven turned the 50/50 balls into a 60/40 proposition, which coincidentally was the same as the possession battle. The Duels Won and Aerial Duels Won stats are two that I want to keep track of this season. Yet despite the fact that they weren't winning the 50/50 balls, the Eleven held better than a 4 to 1 advantage in intercepting Tampa Bay's passes. That speaks to good positional awareness and anticipation of their opponents' passes.

Switching to the Distribution tab, it shows that nearly a quarter of the team's passes were considered "long." That's another one that I'm curious to watch because mid-way into the second half, I remember thinking that it seemed that Palmer was falling into the Frias category of blasting the ball forward from the backline in hopeful attempts to get the ball into the Eleven's offensive third. Given that the team wasn't winning those battles according to the Duels stats, it wasn't an effective strategy. Similarly, the team had 13 crosses, which averages out to a cross every 7 minutes. While I think this game had a more defensive strategy that other games might have in store, that's still not a lot of attempts to get the ball into the box. Yet, combine the relatively few crosses with the Duels stats and you get a Successful Crosses Percent of zero. That's right, not a single cross found the head of an Eleven player. This is one of those stats that I wish I could rewatch the game to verify. If true, that trend can't continue if the Eleven want to be successful.

Moving onto the screen caps (Opta Data Screen Capture from NASL Match Center). As can be seen from the Heat Map of the game using both teams, this game was clearly played in the middle half of the field. Busch was active, but this graphic is a telling sign that this game was a midfield battle.

Look what happens though, when you take away the heat map associated with Tampa Bay's players. The bulk of the Eleven's heat signature is in their defensive half of the field and maybe just as concerning was the absolute minimal amount of presence within Tampa's box. The Eleven struggled to get into near the goal and it shows.
The last screencap that I thought was representative of the game was the graphic, showing the Average Position where players were located throughout the game. #15, #3, #17, #2 are Tampa Bay's backline and #5 (Palmer), #32 (Falvey), #12 (Janicki), and #82 (Vukovic) are Indy's backline. I love how this graphic shows how both defenses kept their shape throughout the game, but what is indicative of the game is how Tampa's backline is pushed higher on the field that the Eleven's. That means they were able to push the ball more into the Eleven's half of the field, more consistently. The other thing that disappoints me about the Eleven looking at this data is how the entirety of the Eleven's midfield is huddled within the center circle. Some of this could potentially be attributed to the wingers switching sides, but if that was the case then Lacroix would be more toward the center than he is shown. So four of the five midfielders' average position were right on top of each other.

Throughout the preseason games that I saw, I kept thinking that every time one of the Eleven midfielders got the ball on the offensive side of the field, they seemed to drift into the middle of the field instead of keeping their width. When you are playing with five midfielders, if you drift into the middle of the field, it just seemed to clog the passing lanes. During preseason, I wondered if it was just something that wasn't as prominent as I thought it was, but through the first game, my assessment was proven. The other thing that needs to happen if those midfielders do push in though is that the outside backs need to be able to make some overlapping runs and I felt like Vukovic was doing that more often that Palmer. Maybe that's partially why Vukovic's shown slightly higher up the field than Palmer.
"Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.""
- Mark Twain's Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review
Statistics can be useful or they can be a distraction from the game and the results. Regardless, I'm going to be intrigued to find if the Eleven's future games and results compare to the NASL/Opta stats as they did with this first game draw with Tampa Bay.

Congratulations Vukovic for making the inaugural Team of the Week for the 2016 Spring Season!



Jeff C. said...

Great analysis. Like you, I'm pleased by the defensive organization, less pleased about the passing, and hopeful that we can stop talking about adage goals.

Drew said...

Thanks Jeff. Hopefully we'll be able to meet this season.

Jeff C. said...

We'll make sure of it. Won't be this week, unfortunately, as something has come up for me.