Thursday, October 20, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Rowdies - 03.30

- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Tampa Bay
- Attendance: 5,348
- Final Score: 3-2 W
- Starting XI: Cardona, Franco, Janicki, Keller, Shaffer, Paterson, Gordon, Lacroix, Ubiparipovic, Reinoso, Zayed
- Substitutions: Ring 45' (Ubiparipovic), Torrado 65' (Reinoso), Palmer 82' (Franco)
- Unused: Mares, Smart, Busch, Falvey
- Goals: Lacroix 15' (assist Reinoso), Reinoso 31' (assist Lacroix), Paterson 85' (assist Torrado)
- Bookings: Paterson 36'' (Yellow), Janicki 75' (Yellow), Ring 90' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

Shaffer's NASL/Opta Stats Chalkboard
My request for #Minutes4Shaffer (or #MinutesForShaffer depending on how it was used by others) turned into #Start4Shaffer as Coach Hankinson made eight changes to the starting lineup from last Saturday's game, bringing in several players who don't routinely see significant minutes. For the first time since the inception of the team, Shaffer's minutes mean that every single player on this year's roster (not counting Williams and DeRoux who were both signed and released before the first game) saw game action, including Wojcik who saw 14 minutes before his loan to OKC Energy FC. I'm told that Woj will be rejoining the team in the near future, but will not be able to see any additional minutes as his loan ended a day after the NASL roster freeze deadline. Regardless, it warms my cold heart to know that every single player saw action in this Spring Season (and maybe more) Championship winning season. To know that a team, consisting primarily of reserves, went down to Tampa Bay and came back home with a win makes me even happier.

Now onto the game...

Janicki back with full-match minutes. Good to see him back on the field. The lineup around him though with Franco, Keller, Shaffer, and Cardona behind them highlighted exactly how much the backline as benefited this year from the vocal leadership of Falvey and Busch. There were numerous times when this lineup seemed out of sync with each other. Though Tampa Bay was called offside three times during the game and I think all three may have resulted in the ball in the back of the goal so they were clearly communicating enough for the offside trap to work. Overall, given the lack of match minutes together and Tampa Bay needing the result much more than Indy, I think they performed very well together.

This was clearly a game of defend and counter. Tampa Bay held a nearly 70% to 30% possession. They had nearly twice as many shots on goal and more than FIVE times as many crosses. Yet Indy had FIVE times as many clearances so they were doing their job. Team defend, get it out of the zone, and let the speedy midfielders and forwards try to chase down some of the balls to give the D some rest. At one point, the counter worked so well that Indy found themselves on a 3 v 1 break and if not for a poor touch by Gordon, Indy might have found another goal on the board. On a related note, Gordon had a few of those moments this week and it shows why his playing time has fallen recently.

Duke Lacroix! Duke's ability to get past defenders was a key component to Indy's result yesterday given their game plan. He's never really been shy of dribbling at players and trying to beat them with his speed, but in the past, he has often taken one too many touches and found himself dispossessed after a good possession. There were times when I thought the same thing against Tampa Bay, but he managed to keep the ball (nutmegging Mkandawire in the process) and found himself in position to score or assist. The next few graphics are from the NASL Match Center showing the Goal Replay. In each, there's a common theme..."Unsuccessful Challenge"

"Unsuccessful Challenge" - Keith Savage

"Unsuccessful Challenge" - Tamika Mkandawire

"Unsuccessful Challenge" - Darnell King

This was considered an official "Miss" by NASL/Opta Stats. Yet even with all of this build-up, Lacroix still manages an "Unsuccessful Challenge" from Darnell King. The Tampa Bay defense had to be glad to see Duke leave the stadium because he continually tried (and succeeded) at taking the game at them.
After Lacroix ran havoc on the Tampa Bay defense in the first half, the Eleven found themselves up, on the road, at halftime by a 2 - nil score. Given that a loss was going to severely put a hamper on Tampa Bay's chance of getting into the post-season tournament, it's not surprising that they roared back to tie the game in the 68th minute from a couple of goals by Joe Cole. The first, in the 53rd minute, came off a shot from Hristov that Cardona couldn't handle and spilled it out for a 2nd shot by Cole. The second was individual brilliance by Cole and putting a ball that I don't think any keeper could have reached. However, the Eleven continued to defend against a rejuvenated Rowdy onslaught and countered in the closing minutes for their game winning goal by Paterson in the 85th minute. The NASL/Opta Stats shows for Paterson's goal look relatively basic. Keller short pass to Torrado. Torrado dribbles a few paces before passing to Paterson in the middle of the field. Paterson short dribble before shooting from outside the box. Looks simple.

However, beyond just the fact that the Goal Replay doesn't accurately reflect how well Paterson show the ball and the defenders in the way of it, there's a very significant piece missing from it. Keller's run to get them into that position. So I made some edits to the Replay.

After some consistent pressure against the Indy defense, Keller gets the ball with acres of space in front of him (I apologize if I didn't quite get his starting point correct since I'm working from memory on this one). Keller, the team's CB in this lineup, took off up the field with what looked like all intent and purposes of heading to the corner flag and holding the ball there as long as possible. Tampa Bay didn't have many defenders back and so Keller slowed down his dribble, looked around, and found Torrado. Not a bad guy to give the ball to in the closing minutes of a game with space around him and an ability to make good decisions with the ball. He looks around and finds Paterson making a run up the middle of the field. Paterson takes a couple of steps and when no defender immediately stepped towards him, he rockets a shot into the side netting, over a defender's leg, and past the outstretched arms of Pickens.

Each guy made the exact correct decision on this play and that's is completely lost in the "Goal Replay." Keller's decision to take off on the dribble, knowing how many Eleven players were behind the ball, maintained some much needed possession to give the guys a chance to reset. However, his decision to slow down the ball was likely a more effective use of killing the time and further continued to help keep possession. Torrado made the run to help Keller maintain possession. Paterson made the run to further the "counter" portion of the "defend and counter" strategy once it obvious that Keller wasn't just going to go to the flag.

Heady soccer at its best.

There were moments of worry. There were moments of miscommunication. The team returns to The Mike on Saturday for the 4th game in 11 days with a majority of the starters rested. Given the lineup of mostly reserves and playing on the road against a team that needed a positive result much more than the Eleven, I think you have to argue that the Eleven had a game plan and executed it as well as possible.


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