Sunday, August 7, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Fury - 03.18

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 7,760
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Miller, Vukovic, Smart, Ring, Torrado, Paterson, Youla, Zayed
- Substitutions: Gordon 64' (Youla), Mares 64' (Paterson), Palmer 76' (Franco)
- Unused: Cardona, Lacroix, Keller, Reinoso
- Goals: Smart 90'+2' (assist Mares)
- Bookings: Falvey 36' (Yellow), Youla 57' (Yellow), Smart 85' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

One of these days, the Eleven are going to not pull out the heroics at Carroll Stadium, but it wasn't Saturday night. A second half stoppage time cross from second half substitute Dylan Mares found the foot of Don Smart (my bet for this week's entry into the NASL Team of the Week) who put it on frame with enough pace that Peiser couldn't clear it and the Eleven grabbed another victory at home. There were opportunities for both teams throughout the game, most notably the 23rd minute attempt from Eamon Zayed that managed to bounce over the goal from 4 yards out. Uncharacteristic of Zayed and a goal there would have likely drastically changed the complexion of the game, but while there weren't a lot of chances for both teams, the ones that they did have were really good chances.

The game didn't have the same offensive explosion as the game on Wednesday, but it might have been a more beautiful game if you're a long-time fan of the Eleven. Don Smart got the winning goal on a cross from Dylan Mares, with Brad Ring involved in the build-up to the goal, all players from the original roster. Instead of losing at the end of the game like teams in the past have done, the team continues their trend of winning at the end of the game.

Maybe as encouraging as anything was that for the seventh time in the eighth game of the Fall Season, the Eleven controlled possession. While that might not immediately seem like a big deal, it wasn't just possession for the sake of possession. It was build-up possession. Probing possession. Possession intended to look for the way to break down Ottawa's 3-5-2 defensive lineup. There was a moment where I couldn't recall how many successful passes were completed between the team as they looked to get the ball into good offensive positions, but it was easily over 20. Ultimately, it didn't amount to an actual shot, but it is a promising change from the Spring Season where possession was very rarely won. Teams of the past often had a few passes in a row and then a long-distance pass over the top. Vukovic still has some of those from 40 yards out, but given his normal placement with those long distance crosses, I'm okay with a few of those.

This game may be remembered for Don Smart's finish at the end of the game, but it's one more step towards making this a formidable favorite to win all games. A "never stop playing" attitude with improved finishing and now a routine possession victory means that they are never out of a game, but can increasingly keep other teams out of it. All that with players like Braun, Ubiparipovic, and Lacroix not playing. That kind of depth should scare a lot of teams as they look towards making runs to get into The Championship. It's a good time to be an Eleven fan.


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