Monday, July 18, 2016

Indy Eleven vs United - 03.14

- Opponent: Minnesota United
- Location: Blaine, Minnesota
- Attendance: 9,460
- Final Score: 2-0 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Miller, Janicki, Vukovic, Mares, Paterson, Ring, Lacroix, Braun, Zayed
- Substitutions: Gordon 12' (Lacroix), Torrado 45' (Paterson), Youla 72' (Mares)
- Unused: Cardona, Smart, Keller, Franco
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Zayed 32' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

"Rarely (and absolutely never  in Indy Eleven history) is a game over within 10 minutes into it, but that's exactly how this game felt in the stands from my house." It's amazing how I can start back-to-back reviews of games with nearly the exact same phrase, but with drastically different results for the Indy Eleven. Beating a team three times in a season is hard enough, but doing so 1) twice in a week 2) at the opponent's home field 3) after a mid-week game that 4) had a 3-hour delay, which 5) Minnesota didn't have to play and then 6) spotted them a 2 goal lead within the first 6 minutes turned a difficult task into a Mt. Everest sized task. Minnesota has only lost one game this year out of the eight games where they've scored first.

Combine all that with the fact that "good Njock" showed up for Minnesota instead of the "bad Njock" whose goalkeeping can be sporadic at times and the good shots that Indy did have were well saved by Njock. Yet, the Eleven weren't doing themselves any favors with their shot selection. For a team who have scored 18 of their 20 goals from inside the 18 yard box, they were frequently taking long range shots on goals. This isn't their forte and it shows as only 2 of their 11 shots from that range forced a save from Njock.

Statistics wise, the Eleven look like they had a good game in all categories except the one that actually matters. The reality is that Minnesota had a two-goal lead within minutes of starting the game and could afford to give up some possession, sit back, absorb the pressure, and then counterattack. It's a tactic that's worked for the Eleven this season and it worked against them this week too.

So the NASL's record 13-game unbeaten streak stays crowded with three teams as the Indy Eleven join the 2011 Carolina RailHawks and the 2013-2014 New York Cosmos as unable to make it to 14. It just shows how difficult it is to keep that kind of streak going. Fortunately for the Eleven, there's no shame in losing the streak to a team of the caliber of Minnesota.

It happened so early in the game, but the Ramirez penalty kick was fascinating. A week before, Ramirez and Busch were in the exact same situation. Afterwards, Busch told everybody that film study showed Ramirez's tendency to typically go to his right. A week later, the two players are in the same position and the chess match begins. Does Ramirez change his direction because he went right last time and was stopped? Or does he go a different direction to alter his tendency? Does Busch stay with going to his left with the thought that Ramirez will stay with his tendency. Or does Busch assume that Ramirez will pick a different location this time? In the end, Busch played to the tendency and dove to his left and Ramirez blasted one right up the center. The strategy of soccer on display.

While the Indy Eleven vs Minnesota game is the focus of this discussion, it's good to note that it was a good weekend to play at home in the NASL. Of the six games that took place Saturday and Sunday, five of them were won by the home team, with each team also keeping a clean sheet. Only Carolina managed an away win against the recently struggling Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Eleven have struggled to get wins on the road, but they weren't the only ones this weekend. Luckily for them, they get to come home for some home cooking and a game at Carroll Stadium. Edmonton is in good form now though having lost only once in their last 10 games so it should make for a good game.


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