Monday, May 30, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Armada - 03.08

- Opponent: Jacksonville Armada
- Location: Jacksonville, Florida
- Attendance: 4,412
- Final Score: 1-1 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Miller, Vukovic, Smart, Paterson, Mares, Gordon, Braun, Zayed
- Substitutions: Reinoso 60' (Smart), Larrea 60' (Mares), Lacroix 82' (Gordon)
- Unused: Cardona, Shaffer, Keller
- Goals: Braun 73' (assist Reinoso)
- Bookings: Miller 28' (Yellow), Paterson 41' (Yellow), Vukovic 70' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

The Eleven took another trip this Spring Season to Florida to play a struggling Jacksonville and came back home with a come-from-behind point. The Eleven were forced into a new lineup using a defensive backline that included Franco and Miller due to Janicki's facial injury last week and Palmer's leg injury, as well as a midfield of Smart, Paterson, Mares, and Gordon. For a team that has been extremely consistent in the lineup of the back four, two changes to that part of the starting lineup in a single week is a big deal.

The good news is that the Eleven's draw at Jacksonville means that they are still undefeated, in second place in the table, with a game in hand on the league leading New York Cosmos. They also have games remaining against Miami, who just won their first game, and a home game against Carolina, whose early season 4-0 win streak has been followed by a 1 draw, 3 loss streak. Not exactly teams in top form at the moment. Their draw on the road against Jacksonville was helped out by Minnesota's loss at home to Tampa Bay and Edmonton's loss to Miami.

The bad news is that the Eleven's draw means that even if they win the games against Miami and Carolina, they may still not win the Spring Season. An undefeated Spring Season could be prevented by the New York Cosmos, who either do or do not, they do not draw. The Cosmos' victory against Rayo OKC means that with the other results on the weekend, the Cosmos are once again in the driver's seat for the Spring. The Eleven still have a chance, but they are going to have to win out and are also going to need help next weekend when Fort Lauderdale plays host to New York. A Fort Lauderdale team that hasn't won at home yet this year.

To keep things interesting, each team has a mid-week U.S. Open Cup game to test their stamina, tactics, and fortitude. Indy, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale all have USL opponents while New York goes against the PDL side Jersey Express. You would have to think the advantage for that one goes, again, to the Cosmos. The Eleven's injuries are going to limit their options as they try to play three games in 8 days since Palmer, Ring, Janicki, and Ubiparipovic are all likely unavailable for action. That's likely why Shaffer, who had been loaned out to Harrisburg City, was back on the bench on Saturday versus Jacksonville. I have a feeling there's a good chance you'll see him at some point in the next couple of games.

So that's what this weekend's result means going forward, but let's look at what happened against Jacksonville.

The two teams came into the game in very different places. The Eleven came in off a 4-2 win against a top of the table Minnesota United, while Jacksonville hadn't won a game in over a month and hadn't scored in just as long. Jacksonville were without key players, while the Eleven really only had the couple of lineup changes and those players have all been starters in the past.

For the first time this season, the Indy Eleven won the possession battle, the Duels Won, and the Aerial Duels Won. From a statistical perspective, everything about this game signified exactly what it became; a 1-1 draw. The Eleven had 319 passes, while the Armada had 321. The Eleven passed long 24.1% of the time, while the Armada did it 24.3% of the time. Even both teams scoring at approximately the 30th minute of each respective half.

What's disconcerting as an Indy Eleven fan is how much the two teams resembled each other in both the stats and the "eyeball test" that I've mentioned in the past on how I evaluate the games. The oldest team in the league with an undefeated season had a very similar look as the second youngest team in the league on a four game losing streak. This team has absolute moments of brilliance. Smart's crosses into the box for Zayed and Braun. Busch's saves. Franco's goal line stop. Braun's goal. This team also has overall games like this one where it would seem like they should win only to come away with the draw.

I suppose the fact that this team has created an expectation of positive results that the fan base has been missing in the past is a good thing, but as I said after last week's game, I believe that this team can be special. I still believe that, but it doesn't mean that it's going to happen in the Spring Season. The Eleven needed to win this game and it's only because of their resiliency that they have kept a glimmer of hope for the Spring Championship instead of a result that would have added them to the list of hopefuls for the Fall Season.


Congratulations to Justin Braun on making back-to-back Team of the Week!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Indy Eleven vs United - 03.07

- Opponent: Minnesota United
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 9,076
- Final Score: 4-2 W
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Smart, Mares, Larrea, Gordon, Braun, Zayed
- Substitutions: Paterson 67' (Larrea), Miller 74' (Janicki), Lacroix 77' (Smart)
- Unused: Cardona, Keller, Franco, Reinoso
- Goals: Zayed 16' (assist Braun), Gordon 49' (assist Zayed), Braun 75', Paterson 90+7'
- Bookings: Falvey 56' (Yellow), Busch 76' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

Any other previous iteration of this team and I would have been concerned about the lack of possession, 38% to 62%, in this game. Any other previous iteration of this team and I would have been concerned about the percentage of long ball passes, 33%, in this game. Any other previous iteration of this team and I would have been concerned about giving up a two goal lead in this game. Any other previous iteration of this team and I would have been concerned about the Duels (and Aerial Duels) Won percentage(s), 45% to 55%, in this game.

This team is different though from every other iteration we've seen in its short history. Those statistics aren't anomalies for this team, even if a couple of them are more drastic than normal. These are statistical trends that define this team. They defend. They defend well and counter-attack. I think this is in the DNA of this team. They are going to keep things in front of them, press the other team, and go forward quickly when the other team makes a mistake.

Are there offensive weapons? Without a doubt. A team doesn't score four goals against one of the stingiest defenses in the league without having players, and in this case four different players, who can score. Zayed, Braun, Gordon were signed to put the ball in the back of the net and all came through in this game. Throw in the defensive players' ability to get forward like Vukovic's assist-to-the-assist on the first goal by Zayed and Paterson's absolutely brilliant free kick ability and it's obvious that this team can score.

Yet this win tells you everything that you need to know about this team and where it can go in the future. This team pushed hard for the first 20 minutes of each half and were rewarded by a number of very good chances and a goal in each of those periods. Then they settled into the game and Minnesota took over the possession. No big deal. They had a two goal lead slip away after a spectacular goal from Pinho and a set piece goal while playing down a man. No big deal.

This team never stops defending and they never stop playing until the final whistle sounds. In the past, any kind of lead felt like it was just a matter of time before a draw or loss happened. I never have that feeling with this team. If you told me before the game that the Eleven would give up more than one goal for the first time all season and still win with a +2 goal differential, I would have said you were crazy. This team hasn't shown that level of offensive output.

I'm also no longer surprised by anything this team does. 90-minute goals? Sure. Two post 90-minute goals to beat the Cosmos? Sure. Four goals against Minnesota? Why not?

I've tried to be optimistic, but have remained hesitant to fully believe that this team could challenge for The Championship. That's just my nature. I believe now. This team is finding their rhythm and remained undefeated while they did it. This team has so much depth that they've already loaned out Shaffer and Woj (anybody else find it ironic that the week that Woj is on the season ticket, he was loaned to another team?), they can bring Paterson off the bench to score the fourth goal, typical starters Ring and Ubiparipovic didn't play, and Reinoso/Franco/Keller didn't play. Mares has shown that he might be a better option with the Starting XI that Ubiparipovic and if that doesn't speak to the depth of this team, then I don't know what does.

I don't know if this team will ultimately win The Championship, but the team's depth, leadership, and abilities, as well as Coach Hankinson's tactical adjustments have me convinced that they are going to be in the discussion. As a fan who has sat through two rough seasons before, that's all I can ask.

Congratulations Paterson on being a Play of the Week Nominee!

Congratulations Vukovic and Braun on their selections for Team of the Week!


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Strikers- 03.06

- Opponent: Fort Lauderdale Strikers
- Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Attendance: 1,048
- Final Score: 0-0 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Gordon, Ubiparipovic, Larrea, Mares, Reinoso, Braun
- Substitutions: Smart 55' (Ubiparipovic), Zayed 66' (Braun), Paterson 81' (Reinoso)
- Unused: Cardona, Lacroix, Keller, Franco
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Braun 61' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

An injured Ring and an illness late in the week for Zayed forced Coach Hankinson to tweak the lineup yet again. This means that with the exception of the first two games, the team hasn't had the same starting XI in back-to-back games. The back five (the backline + Busch) has remained the same minus the 25 combined minutes where Palmer and Vukovic were subbed out in the Tampa Bay and New York games, respectively. So the defense has stayed the same, allowing just four goals in six games and two clean sheets for Busch.

It's the seven players in front of them that Coach Hankinson keeps trying to find the right combination that will open the locked door that leads to an effective and consistent attack. One game is an outlier. Two games is something to watch. Three games is a trend. Six games may be revealing your true identity. Right now, that identity is to defend and counter. Unfortunately, that counter isn't productive.

Through six games, the identity of the team takes shape through some very key statistics. The Eleven are averaging 43% to 57% possession. Coincidentally (or not), they have a nearly identical ratio for duels won (45.3%/54.7%) and aerial duels won (42%/58%). They are also attempting long passes at a rate of 21.7%, a full 7% higher than their opponents. So that means that 1 out of every 5 passes from the team is of the long variety, but they're not giving themselves a fair chance when they do it.

For all the changes in the off-season, I feel like these are things I said about last year's team. There was a constant shuffling of the staring XI and the long passes dominated. The Opta stats indicate that it wasn't as bad as I felt while watching, but it seemed like most of the time that the defense would pass between themselves, the pass would go into the midfield and then go right back to the defenders. The midfield didn't couldn't do anything with it so they sent it right back. The next step from the defense was to send it over the midfielders trying to directly get the forwards involved.

There's something to be said about not losing. More than halfway through the Spring Season, the Eleven are the only ones that can make that claim. Yet, despite an undefeated record, the team still finds themselves squarely in the middle of the table (albeit a congested and tight table). The team picked up a point on the road and still moved down the table from last week. At some point, the fortunate results of the other games around the league are going to turn less fortunate and the draws are going to turn sour.

In a week where Busch's father passed away, he gave a Best XI performance that would make any dad proud. To paraphrase what one of the Strikers announcers said during the telecast, "if this was boxing, the Strikers would have won on points." The Strikers would have won every round and it's only because Busch made some spectacular saves, the Strikers had some poor shot selections, and the woodwork chipped in for a save of its own. Busch kept this team in it with his hustle, calm head, and quick reflexes. To say that the team stole a point on the road is an understatement. Despite the turnover in rosters of both of these teams, this game had every opportunity to look like the 7-1 drubbing the Strikers gave the Eleven the last time they traveled to Fort Lauderdale.

With Minnesota and their nearly 2 goals a game average coming to The Mike this weekend, if Ring is unable to play because of his knee, I wouldn't be surprised if Keller makes his first start of the season paired with Paterson in the holding midfield. Coach Hankinson has said that Keller is healthy and progressing nicely and he made the trip to Fort Lauderdale, which was his first time making an away game roster this season.

Food for thought in closing... Coach Hankinson came to Indy and started the season with a 4-2-3-1 starting lineup. To jump start his offense, he changed to a 4-4-2 and that helped take Zayed off the island he was on and gave him somebody to take some of the offensive burden. Would a 4-2-1-3 work? The back four and the two center midfielders have shown that they can handle things from a defensive standpoint. Relieve Ubi of some of his defensive responsibilities and give him multiple weapons in front of him in which to distribute the ball. With Zayed in the middle part of that 3 with some combination of Braun/Gordon/Reinoso, who have all shown to have high motors, and let them track back as necessary, but release the hounds going forward. When they tire, bring on Lacroix/Mares/Smart and let them run at the defense too.

This team will seemingly always take a defensive first approach, but right now, neither Ubi, Zayed, nor Braun are being utilized to their fullest abilities on the offensive side. Somehow, that needs to be changed.

Congratulations Jon Busch on being selected to the Team of the Week! Well deserved!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Peter Wilt - The Exit Interview

My company during the preseason game vs Louisville
The time is fast approaching where the Indy Eleven's first President and GM officially steps down as a member of the front office staff and joins the ranks of fan like the rest of us. Section 111, Row A, Seat 1 will technically belong to just another season ticket holder, even if that holder's name is Peter Wilt. So before Slaughterhouse 19's Patron Saint takes his talents, (apparent) insomnia, and constantly-on-the-move Honda north to devote all of his time to creating us a regional rival in Chicago, I asked Peter if he would be willing to answer some questions about his time here in Indianapolis. I asked him questions about the business and soccer side of his time here, but also some more personal questions. In true Peter Wilt fashion, he answered all of my questions. In fact, and I'm glad he did it this way, he was more verbose on the questions that weren't directly related to the business and the team. Peter was not only a champion for this team, but he seemed to become a champion of the history of this state and its people and now probably knows more about the State of Indiana than most life-long residents.

I wanted to give Peter the opportunity to answer the questions without feeling like he would have to temper his conversation and could write as much or as little as he wanted so this interview was through email exchanges. Plus, let's be honest, I'm a writer (with three kids) and not an interviewer so it was helpful for me to do it this way too. I've included his responses to the questions below with only minimal proofreading edits, but I have taken the liberty to include as many links as I could to the people and places he referenced. Many of the links take you to Peter's Twitter account because he does an amazing job in that medium of documenting his substantial travels.

Thank you Peter for your time. Both in this interview and your work to help get this team off the ground and running.

1. When you and Ersal were considering the possibility of a team in Indianapolis, there was a relatively small group of fans discussing the idea of a team in Indy. What were some of the things you saw with that group, and beyond in Indiana, that made you believe that a team could succeed in Indianapolis?

PJW:  It came down to three experiences I had the first time I came to Indy to learn about the project.  I think there were 80 Likes on the BYB Facebook page when I first met with Josh Mason that evening to talk over a couple of beers about bringing pro soccer to Indiana at the Chatham Tap in Fishers. That conversation, and the time I spent with Ersal earlier that day, convinced me a team in Indy COULD succeed. As I told Ersal that day, there were a number of variables - some controllable, some not - that would determine if the club would be successful or not. The factors that convinced me it could succeed included the BYB's professionalism, commitment, and organization as described and exemplified by Josh. Ersal's vision, knowledge, and energy were also positive factors, and finally, Indy itself sold me.  The tour Ersal gave me of Carmel and Indianapolis showed me a beautiful and dynamic city ready to add another cultural property to its growing progressive identity.

2. Once it was determined that it appeared to make good business sense to move forward, what were some of the short-term and long-term goals for the team, i.e. 1-year, 2-year, 3-year, 5-year, 10-year?

PJW: From the beginning, Ersal wanted to build an important sports property for Indiana that he and the state could take pride in. He wanted to make sure it wouldn't be perceived as minor league. The target numbers and growth rate was never as important as the club's sustainability. Initial forecasts for tickets have been well publicized in the mid-four figures for average attendance. Similarly, a long term goal of an 8,000 seat soccer specific stadium was discussed. Those initial goals now look modest due to the sensational response of the community.

a. How many of those goals were met?

PJW: All of the initial revenue goals were met….and far exceeded in every area.

b. Which ones were not? Why do you think they weren’t met?

PJW: We certainly planned to be competitive on the field from the start. We weren't competitive in NASL until the 2015 fall season. There are two main reasons we fell short of our goals on the field. I made two bad decisions. The investment in Kleberson did not pay off due to injuries. His salary used up nearly one fourth of our player budget, which effectively put us in the lower third of NASL player budgets. Secondly, I hired a coach without proven head coaching experience. Juergen Sommer met and even exceeded many aspects of his job, but not the ones that meant the most.

c. How many needed to be altered after the team officially started?

PJW: The revenue goals all were adjusted upwards after we recognized in late January 2013 that the season ticket base alone would exceed the previous total attendance goals.

3. Does it disappoint you that you’ll be leaving before a soccer-specific stadium has been approved to move forward? Did you think that it would be an easier sell?

PJW: Yes, I am disappointed and no I did not think it would be an easier sell. While I did not originally expect a new stadium plan to be approved in the short term, as the effort in the 2015 legislation unfolded, my hopes were raised. I believe we did a good job educating the legislators and public about both the value the stadium would bring and the benign funding mechanisms to pay for it. I am confident that ultimately it will be built and I think the end result will be better than if it were approved in 2015.

4. You have helped start or worked with several teams, notably the Chicago Fire, the Chicago Red Stars, the Indy Eleven, and now the Chicago NASL team. How many more upstarts do you envision in your future or does the Chicago NASL start attempt to satisfy an itch to remedy any things that you have learned about running teams in Chicago since your time with the Chicago Fire?

PJW: I can't predict what the future holds, but I do know that I see an opportunity to make something special in Chicago and fill a void for soccer fans there.

5. What is the thing that you are most proud of helping to accomplish here in Indianapolis?

PJW: I'm proud that I was able to assemble and work with a talented, hardworking staff to create a culture of inclusion with so many varied interests in Indiana in support of Indy Eleven.

6. What surprised you most about bringing a team to Indianapolis and joining the NASL?

PJW: The universal love for Indianapolis and desire to work together to support Indy Eleven surprised me. It was wonderful to see all the youth soccer interests unite behind the team and see civic, cultural, social, media, and sporting organizations also support Indy Eleven as strongly as they did.

7. Was there anything that you experienced with the Eleven that you hope you can duplicate with Chicago NASL or future starts?

PJW: Certainly the passion and immediate emotional connection with the club is something that every organization should aspire to happen.

8. Were there ever any moments where you found yourself as Peter Wilt, the fan, and not Peter Wilt, President and GM?

PJW: Whenever I have the opportunity to sit in my seat or stand with the Brickyard Battalion and watch the game I feel like a fan.  And to some extent I think I always carry the fan perspective with me.  Two particular moments I recall being more fan than executive were when Mike Ambersley scored in our first game and when we finally won at home against Minnesota.

9. You seemed to make a concerted effort to learn the history of Indianapolis and Indiana, going so far as visiting each of the county courthouses and several high school basketball arenas. Which ones were your favorites?

PJW: Decatur County's courthouse in Greensburg will always be special due to the trees that grow organically out of its tower. Being able to tour and climb up to the top of the towers of the Johnson County Courthouse in Franklin and the Rush County Courthouse in Rushville made lifetime memories and they happened to be two of my favorite courthouses as well. Reaching the Perry County Courthouse in Tell City late at night July 9, 2014 to complete my 92 courthouse quest was memorable. The lighting of the courthouse and fountain outside it was inspirational.

The gyms in Knightstown, Westchester, Muncie, Marion, Lebanon, Newcastle, Loogootee, Southport, and Southside Turners were my favorite basketball venues for different reasons, but they all shared the commonality of local basketball history. My favorite memory was at Muncie, seeing players lift their disabled team manager on their shoulders to help cut down the net after a state tournament game. Like so many high school basketball games in Indiana, it was emotional and it represented all that is good about the people in Indiana.  

10. What are your favorite things (people, place, event, etc.) about Indianapolis?

PJW: The qualities of unselfishness and local pride are my favorite things about the people of Indiana. Mayor Greg Ballard; Slaughterhouse 19 leader Peter Evans; Golden Ace Inn co-owner Jim McGinley; and author, playwright, and NUVO beer critic Rita Kohn (who is an absolute treasure and one of Indiana's most amazing people) are just four Hoosiers who exemplify those qualities.

There are hundreds of wonderful places that I love in Indiana, but my favorite is the Shrine Room atop the Indiana World War Memorial. The building and its contents are beautiful, strong, educational, historic, and inspirational. The Shrine Room itself is a place that memorializes those who fought in war yet at the same time it is the most peaceful place in the state. I visited the Shrine Room once a week for the last several years. It was my church, a place I could clear my head, become grounded and think more clearly.

Editor's Note: This is also one of my favorite places in Indianapolis. If you have never made a visit to it, do it. Make multiple visits. There is so much to see that I have taken to focusing on a single area on a lunch hour trip. Use your first visit to get the layout of the museum and follow-up with key areas in subsequent visits. The sign over one of the interior doors indicates, "Enter with Reverence, Leave with Pride." I leave every time with pride and humility.

More history, culture, and art can be discovered in Indiana's cemeteries. Some of the best have beautiful statuary, trees, and hills. Crown Hill, of course, is the greatest of all with one of the city's highest points at James Whitcomb Riley's grave and final resting place of John Dillinger, Alexander Ralston, James Baskett, Benjamin Harrison, Zerelda Wallace, and dozens of other historic and cultural luminaries. Hoagy Carmichael's grave in Bloomington, Eugene Debs in Terre Haute, Tony Zale in Portage, Ryan White in Cicero, Frances Farmer in Fishers, Oscar Charleston in Floral Park Cemetery on Indy's west side, the Chevrolet Brothers in Holy Cross Cemetery on Indy's south side, and James Hubert "Tarzan" Pierce in Shelbyville are just some of the other famous graves in Indiana that are on my list of favorite places.

In Indianapolis, my favorite events include any Indy Fringe performance, especially the annual kickoff at the Athenaeum, any charity event at the beautiful Indiana Rooftop Ballroom, any low budget pro wrestling matches at WCWO Arena (an automotive garage on Kentucky Avenue), and any play, concert, beer tasting, or book reading I would attend with the aforementioned Rita Kohn. Outstate (and at Indy's Speedrome) I discovered the fun of watching small oval racing. Dirt and asphalt tracks from Kokomo to Lawrenceburg to Terre Haute's Action Track all provided wonderful entertainment with sprint, midget, and modified car racing. The best out state event I attended by far though was the Schnellville, Indiana Sesquicentennial Parade. There were more floats than Schnellville's population of 170. The community spirit at the parade was wholesome and fun. I attended that parade with BYB leader Andrew Retz and that same day we sought out and found five of Indiana's six moon trees - trees that grew from seeds taken to the moon on Apollo 14. We later filled our bucket list item by finding the sixth Indiana moon tree near Cannelton.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few other places around Indiana that made my time here truly feel like home. My adopted home neighborhood of Irvington has great history, restaurants, and locally owned businesses. Fair Oaks Farms at I-65 mile marker #220 always provided a respite on my commute to and from Milwaukee for a warm grilled cheese sandwich or cold dish of delicious vanilla ice cream and the opportunity to watch the cheese and ice cream being made! And Whiting, an Indiana Lake Michigan shore community that has a feel of a rural Norman Rockwell town with an annual pierogi festival, weekly hot rod shows on its main street in the summer, and the oldest single screen movie house in Northwest Indiana.

The Landmark For Peace Memorial at the site of Robert Kennedy's most famous speech where he told a crowd of his African American supporters about Martin Luther King's assassination on April 4, 1968 is one of my favorite places. I didn't visit it quite as often as I did the Indiana World War Memorial, but it was definitely my second most visited historic Indiana destination. I enjoyed taking people there and telling them the story about RFK's insistence on going through with the planned stop on his presidential campaign, giving the incredible speech extemporaneously and being credited with preventing violence in Indy that night.

Editor's note: Address of memorial - 1702 Broadway St. Indianapolis, IN 46202

All these places and all these people in Indiana always made me feel at home and for that I will always be grateful.

11. One of the things that I’ve always been impressed about by you is your approach-ability and interactions with the fans. I’ve heard others say they are surprised to find themselves having in-depth conversations (not just soccer related) with someone who is so well-known in the soccer business. As you head off to a competing NASL team, how do you want the Indy Eleven supporters, and even casual fans, to remember you and what would you like them to know about you that they might not already know?

PJW: I hope they remember me as someone who cared about their state and worked hard to add a quality team to the Indiana sports landscape. I don't think most fans realize that leading a team is like being a goalkeeper - I get too much credit when things go well and too much blame when things go poorly. It really is a team effort and the successes of Indy Eleven are due to everyone on the team, starting with Ersal Ozdemir and including every team and front office staff member.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Eddies - 03.05

- Opponent: FC Edmonton
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 7,415
- Final Score: 1-1 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Gordon, Ring, Paterson, Ubiparipovic, Braun, Zayed
- Substitutions: Mares 62' (Ring), Larrea 62' (Paterson), Reinoso 74' (Ubiparipovic)
- Unused: Cardona, Lacroix, Miller, Franco
- Goals: Janicki 22'
- Bookings: Palmer 68' (Yellow), Larrea 71' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

Usually by the time I sit down to write about that week's game, I have an idea in mind of the direction of the recap. Then it's just a matter of watching the game again to confirm or deny my initial impressions and solidify what I want to write and start typing. This week's game against Edmonton did not follow the same pattern. I couldn't put my finger on what I wanted to discuss. There was a very nondescript nature to the game, other than the physical nature at which Edmonton played. Edmonton, playing their second game in four days, was content to knock the ball around their defensive third and as I heard Brad Hauter indicate in my review of the telecast, "turn a 90 minute game into a 60 minute game."

Then I remembered that just as the game was getting started, I asked my dad, my photographer, to try and get some shots of Braun. I just had a feeling that he might come into play. Which is why he was able to capture these moments.

That's the aftermath of VanOekle absolutely gifting the Eleven a goal with a bad pass that Braun intercepted just two minutes after Janicki had scored on what was a glorified corner kick. Yet, Braun chose to try and shoot on goal instead of passing to his left where Zayed was ideally placed to put the ball in the net. VanOekle made the inital save, Watson helped clean up the rebound, and the Eddies remained just down a goal. Thirteen minutes later and Edmonton equalized on a well placed ball over the backline that was gently redirected over the outstretched arms of Busch.

I have written a lot on this site the last three years about stealing points and turning losses into ties and ties into wins. I've also written that just a few key moments in a game can decide it. So far this season, the Eleven have been experts at stealing points and making those key moments come in late game theatrics. The thing is that those key moments can happen at any point in the game and can also happen for the opposing team. I think that missed goal was one of those moments. If the Eleven score at that moment, just a couple minutes after putting the first goal on the scoreboard, the Eddies probably do not equalize for the draw.

As Doug Starnes noted on Twitter:
It's hard to think of a 90 minute game coming down to a dozen seconds worth of action, but that could have changed the entire tenor of the game. Though, if we're honest with ourselves as Indy Eleven fans, Jon Busch had the exact same affect on the game at the very end of the game when he completely bailed out the entire backline who watched a ball go over them and completely stopped on the play as they expected an offside call. I've watched that same play be called offside in the past, but you can't just stop on the play. Appeal for the offside call, but keep playing. Busch did that and kept a tie a tie instead of turning a tie into a loss.

Thanks to some favorable results in the other games this weekend, the Eleven find themselves squarely in the mix for the Spring Season title. As much as this team is completely different than the past teams, I recalled having this feeling in the Spring of last year where a win would have put the team in first or second place and the team couldn't get it done. The same scenario was in affect for this game and the result was the same. Will this team be able to get done what last year's team couldn't do? I guess we'll find out on Saturday against Ft. Lauderdale.

Pretty pictures:

This is what happens when photographers get together...

Congratulations to Janicki for making the Team of the Week selection!