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!



Don said...

"Any other previous iteration of this team" would have given up when it got as physical as it did. This team just gets more physical. Sitting at field level the game takes on a different feel and one of the things I have noticed is how tough these guys are. Falvey seems to be one tough defender. Come into his zone, you better be ready to get roughed up.

Jeff C. said...

This game was so much fun to watch, though I confess I din;t much enjoy Minnesota's domination of possession after the first 20 minutes or so--particularly after Minnesota started scoring in the second half. . This was a character game, and Indy responded to the challenge.

This weekend is now a legitimately big game, the closest thing to a must-win game that I can remember Indy having in its short history.