Thursday, June 16, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Chicago Fire - 2016 U.S. Open Cup

- Opponent: Chicago Fire
- Location: Bridgeview, Illinois
- Attendance: 5,543
- Final Score: 1-1 (4-3) L
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Mares, Ring, Paterson, Lacroix, Zayed, Braun
- Substitutions: Youla 69' (Mares), Keller 81' (Ring), Ubiparipovic 97' (Lacroix)
- Unused: Cardona, Shaffer, Palmer, Miller
- Goals: Braun 105'
- Bookings: Braun 27', Paterson 72', Youla 90+2'
- Adage goals: None

There's a lot to like about this game. The result isn't one of them. The Eleven fought hard, played to their strengths, took the lead in extra time, but ultimately fell to the Chicago Fire 4-3 in penalty kicks. Before I get into the game details, let me also congratulate the couple hundred Indy Eleven fans that were able to make the mid-week trip up to Bridgeview for this game. You were loud and could be heard through the online stream of the game. Great job!

The halftime stats showed this as a very close game. Possession was 55%-45% to the Fire, but as can seen from the stats on the left, both team's distribution stats were also extremely similar. They stats look like two teams playing very similar styles of play. About the same for long passes, with similar accuracy, and similar crosses. The advantage actually goes to the Eleven here as they were much more successful in those crosses.

It's after halftime where I think the two teams' break between games came back to hurt the Eleven. The Eleven played an all-out effort on Saturday against Carolina to win the Spring Season in 90-degree temperatures at game time. The Fire hadn't played a competitive game in two weeks due to the Copa America international break. The game shifted as the Eleven's weary legs began to struggle to keep up with the Fire's quick, and much more rested, legs. The Eleven's DNA of playing stout defense was extremely effective until the 111th minute of the game when Accam managed to pull two Eleven players into sliding positions as they tried to overcome their positioning, crossed over the ball, and slotted the ball past an outstretched Busch after taking a deflection off of Janicki.

Their legs just weren't there at the end.

Even before the game started, there was a thought that this game could go to extra time and penalty kicks due to the Fire's lack of form in the start of their MLS season and the Eleven's strong showing in the NASL Spring season. The Eleven's legs just couldn't keep up and a late game injury to Braun is likely why he wasn't one of the players taking PKs. The team fought hard, but just couldn't overcome the short turnaround.

The defense of Franco, Falvey, Janicki, and Vukovic once again proved that the Eleven defense is nothing to trifle with, especially considering they were going against a very speedy front line for Chicago. They maintained shape, went forward well, and tracked back. A couple of poor touches created some opportunities for Chicago, but in 120-minutes of action, I can only recall a half dozen of those.

Until Braun looked to injury his thigh/groin late in the game, his work was typical. Zayed would like to have at least one of his headers back, but otherwise, he too played a great game. Braun's turn and shot on goal after the pass from Ubiparipovic was thing of beauty.

The midfield. Ring and Patterson make a great pairing in the midfield, particularly when the team is set up tactically with them both playing a more defensive roll, which was necessitated for this game. Keller looks to be turning into a great substitute for them, which is good since he had to put in a 40-minute shift due to the extra time. Ubiparipovic came on and made an impact by getting the ball to Braun for go-ahead goal.

This brings me to Mares. I said it after the Carolina game and I'll say it again. That guy needs to see a ball go into the back of the goal. He's been so close so many times and until one of those goes in, the shots that sky over the crossbar look even worse. I have this gut feeling that when it does go in and his confidence on his shot comes back, it's going to be nice to have another threat to score from the midfield, which will only help Zayed and Braun.

Last, but not least, is Busch. I don't want to harp on his age, because he gets enough of that from the TV guys, but there's a reason he's been playing for as long as he has been playing. The guy is cementing himself as legend here in Indy. In a game where all 11 (+3) players were needed, Busch came up with 7 massive saves to help take this game into extra time and penalty kicks. Oh, and in case you missed it, Buschy went the correct direction on EVERY. SINGLE. FIRE. PK. They were all well struck and out of his reach, but he seemed to know where they were going. And that weird as hell run-up by Accam on the last one might have worked on a lesser goalkeeper, but Busch made Accam make the first move. That's a veteran keeper.

The Eleven lost, but fans should be proud of their effort and their fight tonight against a much more well rested team. They may have come out on the wrong end of the penalty kicks, but this team showed tonight that fans shouldn't be worried about a drop off in the Fall Season. This team fights to the end no matter that circumstances.


1 comment:

Don said...

I would like to have been there to watch for myself. I thought the Eleven played well.