Monday, November 7, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Eddies - 03.33 - Playoffs

- Opponent: FC Edmonton
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,072
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Ring, Smart, Mares, Ubiparipovic, Braun, Zayed
- Substitutions: Torrado 75' (Ubiparipovic), Lacroix 80' (Smart)
- Unused: Cardona, Palmer, Paterson, Gordon, Youla
- Goals: Ubiparipovic 63' (assist Mares)
- Bookings: None
- Adage goals: None

First off, I would like to thank Larry Mason, father of the BYB's own Joshua Mason, for graciously providing me with a few photos of the game for my post since my normal photographer was not able to make the game. Thanks Larry!

Second, and this is probably a different opinion than most, but I would have preferred to see captain Colin Falvey subbed out at halftime or at least shortly afterwards. Having had a soccer-related concussion in my playing days, I tend to take the Taylor Twellman stance that head injuries should not be something to take lightly. NASL may not have the same concussion protocols as MLS or the NFL, but that doesn't mean that a gash in the head should be overlooked. Once it became obvious that the gash on Falvey's head was continuing to bleed (he finished the game on his third jersey, a jersey that was devoid of name or number), I would have preferred to see Palmer come off the bench to fill in that CB role. A role that he has shown recently he is capable of doing and being that enforcer. I get that Palmer paired with Janicki means that you lose the communicator role that Falvey brings, but particularly after the Eleven scored their goal, Palmer and Janicki should be able to find their man and blast the ball back up the field if necessary.

*exit soap box* Now...


In a fairly physical game (see Falvey discussion above), the Eleven came out strong with the intent to try and get on the board early. This was one of those games where both teams tend to defend first and then counter out of it. Yet, the Eleven showed on a few occasions this year that they can take it to teams early and put the game out of reach. Edmonton defends well, but scored less than half of the goals that the Eleven scored on the season (25 to 52, respectively). Their goal scoring on the road was even worse, scoring only 8 goals on the road all year. Even Puerto Rico, who played 10 less games, scored more goals on the road. The Eleven knew this and tried to exploit it. One of my notes that I wrote during the game was related to this tactic and another was that many of the restarts from the Eleven were quick restarts. To the right is the Heat Map from the Opta Stats for the first 15 minutes of the game. There was a lot of play on the right, but what is most interesting to me about that Heat Map is demonstrated when you remove the Eleven's from the graphic.

I always love it when my eye-ball test is confirmed by the statistical data. The Eddies had significantly less possession at the beginning of the game than the Eleven and fewer shots during that period. Once again, Coach Hankinson and the Eleven knew their opponent and tried to do whatever they could to take advantage of the other team's weakness. Coach Hankinson has been quoted in the past about the Eleven playing their game and letting the other team try to figure out how to beat them, but he (and they) know the other team's too and have shown this year to be able to adjust tactics to fit. Playing a team that defends well but doesn't score much? Try to put them behind the 8-ball early.

One of my other notes was that the Eleven gave up some possession towards the end of the first half. Almost like they overexerted themselves a bit in the first 15 and were tiring. Maybe that was the case or maybe the Eddies settled in.
Based on the stats, my observation in the final 15 minutes of the first half wasn't as accurate. Looking at the two graphs, the last part of the first half may have still gone towards the Eleven. Either way, the two teams went into the locker room tied at halftime. A halftime that included some rough stitching of the head wound that occurred to Falvey in the 39th minute as he and Ameobi collided. I think Edmonton's Coach Miller told his team to increase their physicality because there were several strong challenges by the Eddies immediately after half.

Photo credit: Larry Mason
Despite their increased physicality, the Eddies couldn't muster a shot (off target) until the 69th minute. The Eleven, however, managed three shots including the goal by Ubiparipovic in the 63rd minute but not before Braun nearly put one in the goal by laying out to put a Franco cross just off frame in the 60th minute (that Mr. Mason captured fabulously).

Ubi's goal was set up by some strong hold-up play by Zayed and Mares within or near the 18-yard box. What I loved about his goal was the difference in his shot compared to other's shots on goal during the game. Both Smart and Mares had shots at different times in the second half and both went for power on their shots, both putting them wide. Ubi, on the other hand, perfectly placed a ball in the upper 90 that was out of the reach of the 6'-4" VanOekel. Youthful exuberance versus wiry veteran? Maybe, but the goal put the team exactly where they needed to be against a team that struggles to score any goals on the road, much less multiple goals.

Photo credit: Larry Mason
Then the plan could have been defend well until the final whistle. I'm sure that played into the decision to keep Falvey on the field, but if there's one thing this team has done this year, it's team defend. It also wasn't the last time the Eleven threatened the Eddies' goal. If it wasn't for a difficult bounce for Braun to handle within the 6-yard box, the Eleven would have put another goal on the board in the 83rd minute. Though it's still kind of amazing he put it over the goal from that distance.

As can be expected, the Eleven needed some late game heroics to keep the win intact and a chance to win it all in the Final. In the 87th minute, Busch was called upon to make one of his three saves on the day when Ameobi put a header on frame. Busch parried it away before it was ultimately sent out for a goal kick.

The Eleven finished the year undefeated at home due to performances just like this one. They know their strengths, they know your opponent and their weaknesses, and they adjust accordingly as needed.

To be the best, you have to beat the best.

Due to a comeback win by the New York Cosmos against Rayo OKC Saturday night, the Eleven will have to head to New York to capture the title in an intimate Belson Stadium. The last time Indy went to New York, they lost 3-0. I don't expect that result this time, but for a team that has struggled on the road, they certainly have a hard task ahead of them. This team has exceeded all of the fans' expectations so this game shouldn't be any different. They might not win, but I'm not betting against them.


1 comment:

Don said...

Thanks for filling in for me Larry!!