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!

1 comment:

Don said...

I have never seen a performance like Busch. He was amazing.