Thursday, June 2, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Louisville FC - 2016 U.S. Open Cup

- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 2,145
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Cardona, Franco, Miller, Vukovic, Shaffer, Smart, Mares, Keller, Lacroix, Gordon, Reinoso
- Substitutions: Braun 41' (Reinoso), Zayed 45' (Smart), Larrea 82' (Lacroix)
- Unused: Busch, Falvey
- Goals: Gordon 58', Zayed 68' (assist Lacroix)
- Bookings: Zayed (Yellow 81'), Keller (Yellow 84')
- Adage goals: None

With Janicki on the bench, I believe there were 8 players from each team that were involved in last year's game. So while there has been a lot of change for both teams, that's a majority of the players who remember the Eleven's loss in last year's U.S. Open Cup. Combined with Louisville FC's wins over the Indy Eleven in preseason matches, LCFC came into Carroll Stadium with a ton of confidence. With some injuries to Ring (MCL sprain), Janicki (facial fracture), Ubiparipovic (hip), and Lovel (leg), and a three-games-in-eight-days stretch, Coach Hankinson was forced to play a different lineup than we've seen this season. Even with the players that we have seen regularly, they were in different positions. Vukovic was moved inside to left central defense and Gordon was up top alongside Reinoso.

What is different about this team than in the past is the depth and the player's ability to play multiple positions. Despite all that depth, with the other injuries, the team only fielded 16 players for this game, with two of those being the goalkeepers. So Coach Hankinson's in-game adjustments were tested early when two of the Eleven were hit with knocks. Where the Eleven lined up to start is not how they finished.

By my recollection, Reinoso appeared to be limping somewhere around the 15-minute mark. He never looked like his normal quick self after that and Coach Hankinson was forced to sub him out at the 41-minute mark for Braun. There was a noticeable difference in the effect of Louisville passes back to the goalkeeper with Braun's increased pace after he was inserted. Then Smart took a hard challenge around the 26th minute and was out for a few minutes as the trainers re-taped his ankle. Smart made it to halftime, but then he was subbed out for Zayed immediately after halftime.

Both Braun and Zayed spent the entirety of the halftime out on the field instead of in the locker room as the Eleven found themselves down a goal as a defensive breakdown for the Eleven let Louisville's Hoffman get behind them for a goal in the 21st minute. I'm guessing both players had been hearing what Hankinson had been saying on the sideline and were better served getting physically ready due to the early substitution pattern. Zayed for Smart was not a like-for-like substitution and Coach Hankinson couldn't have done a like-for-like if he wanted. So he placed Zayed in his normal forward position alongside Braun, and moved Gordon back into the midfield, more his recent position. At some point, and I can't recall exactly when it happened, Vukovic and Keller switched giving Vuko the ability to push forward in the midfield and allowing Keller to remain defensive.

The moves created a drastically different dynamic for the Eleven in the second half. Louisville still had chances of their own in the second half, but the in-game adjustments by Hankinson seemed to create a much more settled midfield. That helped create more chances going forward and with that midfield and forward lineup, I don't recall seeing Shaffer pushing forward as much as he did in the first half. During the first half, there were times when he was even with the forwards, attempting to not get called offsides.Vuko has arguably been the best player for the Eleven this season (though I would argue that Falvey's leadership has been just as important...and was missing on Wednesday) and his insertion into the midfield was vital and may be the one decision that helped swing this game.

Death, Taxes, and __fill in the blank__. I'm going to settle the "fill in the blank" once and for all. Death, Taxes, and a Defensive Aerial Duel won by Miller. After Cory Miller's first defensive header, I decided to keep track of how many times he didn't win one. Zero. Every single time a ball comes to Miller, he seems to take it as a personal challenge to send it back as far as possible. He's also going to make sure that the guy he's defending starts thinking about it every time future balls come their way. You may want the ball, but he wants it more. I guarantee it.

The Zayed goal was gorgeous. It was one of those moments when you can see it developing from the seats in the stands and just hope that it all gets rewarded. This time it did. Mares stole the ball near midfield and immediately looked to attack the goal. He found an open Lacroix on his left, who calmly slotted it towards the middle for Zayed to run onto for a one-touch shot on goal. Gorgeous soccer.

LCFC provides something that none of the NASL team's can provide for the Eleven and that's something that resembles a regional rivalry. They may be in different leagues, but the team's records and close proximity are starting to create something that could be interesting moving forward. The short distance also allows the LCFC supporter's section to make the trip to Carroll stadium and make their presence known. I don't have any major complaint about the LCFC supporters, but you might want to rethink chanting "we can't hear you" as you're doing so with a megaphone. To the BYB's credit, they followed that up a short time later with "we don't need a megaphone." Well played BYB, well played.

One last comment.about a topic that I don't normally discuss. Both supporter's sections were vocal from start to finish and both sections chanted "THE GREEN TEAM SUCKS!" within the first 30 minutes of the game. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Great game. Great result. The Chicago Fire await in two weeks, during the break between the Spring and Fall Seasons. That's a great time to take a U.S. Open Cup match seriously.

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