Monday, August 22, 2016

Indy Eleven vs RailHawk - 03.20

- Opponent: Carolina RailHawks
- Location: Cary, North Carolina
- Attendance: 6,106
- Final Score: 3-2 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Miller, Janicki, Vukovic, Smart, Ring, Torrado, Mares, Youla, Zayed
- Substitutions: Gordon 66' (Smart), Lacroix 66' (Mares), Paterson 79' (Youla)
- Unused: Cardona, Ubiparipovic, Keller, Falvey
- Goals: Janicki 20' (assist Mares), Zayed 30' (PK)
- Bookings: None
- Adage goals: Two

I wish that I had been able to find a way to shine a good light on this game, but the simple truth is that this team struggles on the road. Yet, to state that this result was only because the Eleven played poorly would be an injustice to the RailHawks. While it seemed like the Eleven was going to get out of Cary with a draw, the stoppage time penalty kick by Bravo was likely a fair result for a game that the Eleven looked out of sorts, particularly in the second half. There were moments in the second half where Carolina looked like they could move the ball at will against the Eleven defense. Fondy and Bravo, and later substitute Orlando, had the Eleven defense scrambling and the last ditch sliding effort from Ring that preceded his handball in the box was just one of many where the Eleven's defense was playing catch up and only being only moderately successful at times.

Opta/NASL stats for the Eleven defense distribution
In a lot of ways, to me this game had the feel of an old school Eleven game. The Eleven scored a goal off a Janicki header from a Mares' corner kick only to give one back mere minutes later. The new team mentality kicked back in and the Eleven pulled back ahead when Youla was pulled down in the box and Zayed scored the ensuing penalty kick. Carolina took the game to the Eleven in the second half, scoring in the 54th minute, but the game didn't have the recent Eleven feel that they were going to be able get another goal. The Eleven had a Fall Season high percent of long passes with 26.8%. While I was watching, I even had the thought that Palmer reminded me of Jaime Frias. Unsuccessful long ball after unsuccessful long ball. Palmer wasn't the only one though.

Maybe most surprising to me, and possibly one of many indicators of how disjointed the team played was Gerardo Torrado's play. I've come to expect him to play with a consistently calm demeanor, but even Torrado struggled with his passes and decision making. Torrado completed a season low 66% of his passes, which is well below where he has been averaging since coming to the Eleven. He only won 2 of his 9 duels. He wasn't the only Eleven player to struggle, but just the one that was most striking to me because of the way that he has played to date. Statistically, Mares had a decent game and he looked like he left the game, not because of normal substitution plan, but because of an injury to his ribs.

The good news is that this team has shown its resiliency time and again. The bad news is that they apparently don't play as well after sleeping in a hotel and the game against Carolina was the first of three straight away games. Luckily, the Eleven's next game comes against the Ottawa Fury, who have had a rollercoaster Fall Season (LLLWWWLLL) and will be coming off a midweek game against Miami. Given their recent form on the road, an Eleven win against a seemingly inferior opponent isn't a guarantee, but with Indy headed to their own midweek game after that to the New York Cosmos, a win on the road at Ottawa would be a great time to overcome their road issues.


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