Monday, September 26, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Cosmos - 03.26

- Opponent: New York Cosmos
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 9,157
- Final Score: 3-0 W
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Miller, Vukovic, Torrado, Smart, Mares, Ubiparipovic, Braun, Zayed
- Substitutions: Ring 61' (Ubiparipovic), Paterson 81' (Smart), Lacroix 85' (Zayed)
- Unused: Cardona, Palmer, Keller, Gordon
- Goals: Braun 32' (assist Zayed), Zayed 48' (assist Mares), Mares 51' (assist Braun)
- Bookings: None
- Adage goals: None

Zayed to Braun - Goal.

Mares to Zayed - Goal.

Braun to Mares - Goal.

A clean sheet for Busch.

That's the kind of script fans like to see when the Eleven play the league's elite. They didn't have to play from behind. They weren't chasing a goal to try and salvage a draw. They played good team soccer and looked dominant while doing it. They gave themselves a chance to get 9 points against the three teams at the top of the table in successive weekends. They put themselves in a good position coming down the stretch of the Fall Season.

When Braun put the game winner into the back of the net in the 32nd minute, Miller was "the guy behind the guy behind the guy"...behind the guy. Braun's header was fantastic. Zayed's header back across the goal was pinpoint, Smart's cross was gorgeous, but some credit needs to be given to Miller who picked out Smart with a 50-yard pass up the field that set the entire thing in motion. Beautiful one-touch soccer that was rewarded with a goal.

Coming into the game, I thought Zayed might get back on the board in a losing effort. I was correct on the first account, but the effort was definitely a winning one. After the game, I mentioned that I would love to know the mileage run by Mares and Smart and the effort they gave. Smart looked exhausted when he departed in the 81st minute and Mares sat down on the pitch after the final whistle (though that may have had more to do with an injury towards the end of the game). Interestingly about the effort by all of the team was the Average position. While Mares and Smart routinely flip-flopped sides of the field, every single player's average position on the field matched their tactical formation position in the 4-4-2 (diamond), including the subs and where they came onto the field. Mares' position pushes more towards the middle than Smart's, but I attribute that to Mares' tendency to do that normally, plus him shifting to the forward role when Lacroix came on for Zayed.

The reason I felt that Zayed would get on the board, though, is because Braun is back in form and their partnership has provided great results for the team, but also for Zayed specifically. Braun's workrate and hold up play force teams to not be able to focus entirely on Zayed in a way that the other forwards on the team can't provide for him. In the five games that Braun wasn't playing, Zayed didn't score. But in games at home and with Braun playing alongside him, Zayed hasn't gone more than two games in a row without scoring. Since Braun's return, Zayed has two assists so he was due to score based on the season's run-of-form. Braun may not be getting on the board as much as he might like, but he clearly makes the offense better when he's on the field than when he's off of it. I'm glad he's back for the end-of-the-year push into the playoffs.

The team could have used some additional possession during the final 30 minutes to give the defense some spells of rest once they went up by three as the Cosmos pushed to get on the scoreboard, but the guys seemed to want to attack the goal until the final whistle and couldn't resist the urge to go forward, even without having the numbers to do so well. This was reflected in the possession, which was basically 50/50 at halftime, but finished 43/57 against the Eleven. Fortunately, while the team was doing a lot of defending during this timeframe, they were doing so with a significant amount of team defending, with guys shifting in all positions to put themselves into the proper locations. If you're going to do a lot of defending, it's good to see them doing it well.

This was a good result against, what can be argued, is the best team in the league a week after beating, what can be argued, was one of the hottest teams in the league in Miami. A road game against Edmonton next week could solidify the Eleven in the discussion again for the Fall Championship since the Cosmos are also on the road and have had similar road woes as the Eleven.

Congratulations Braun, Franco, and Mares for their Team of the Week selections:


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