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!

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