Sunday, March 26, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Deltas - 04.01

- Opponent: San Francisco Deltas
- Location: San Francisco
- Attendance: 4,133
- Final Score: 1-1 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Watson-Siriboe, Keller, Vukovic, Smart, Thompson, Torrado, Ring, Speas, Braun
- Substitutions: Zayed 77' (Speas), Henderson 77' (Thompson)
- Unused: Cardona, Ubiparipovic, Manning
- Goals: Thompson 58' (assist Speas)
- Bookings: Watson-Siriboe 55', Vukovic 61'
- Adage goals: None

The Indy Eleven headed west to kick off the 2017 season in Kezar Stadium, the home of the San Francisco Deltas. In the Deltas' inaugural match in the NASL, the Eleven went into San Francisco without any real data on what to expect from the Deltas, with the exception of some video from the Delta's preseason game against Sacramento Republic the prior week. Yet the Deltas' coach, Marc Dos Santos, has had similar tactics at his previous coaching stops so the Eleven had at least a little bit of information from which to draw.

Knowing that Dos Santos would likely come out attacking in their inaugural game, Coach Hankinson looked to go with a more defensive lineup. Coach Hankinson likes to stress defense first and given that Falvey is still out with his surgery rehab and Palmer and Watson-Siriboe picked up injuries during the final preseason game against Louisville, it's not surprising that the lineup he employed against the Deltas had a defensive look to it. Four defenders and two midfielders in Ring and Torrado who tend more towards the defense than the offense and Saturday's game had the same feel of many of last year's away games. Defend first, attack when possible, and head back to Indy with at least a point from a road game.

Much like the Eleven's first game in the league in 2014, as well as when they welcomed Puerto Rico into the league last year, the home squad got on the board first when Kyle Bekker put his name in the Deltas' record books at the team's first goal scorer when he put one behind Busch in the 31st minute.
Seeing a lineup without Zayed caught a lot of fans' attention as last season's team leading scorer started on the bench. I assumed that he had an injury, but his appearance in the 77th minute off the bench gets the questions going of whether he's not fully match might or if he's taken his starting role for granted. Just like Indy's and Puerto Rico's first games, the away team found an equalizer so that both teams settled for a draw. With Zayed on the bench, Indy's goal came in the 58th minute from an unexpected source.

With the exception of John Busch, the buildup to Indy's goal consisted entirely of the new guys to the team. Watson-Siriboe picked up the ball deep in Indy's third, but picked out Speas on a spectacular cross-field change that allowed Speas to get in a centering cross. A cross that, if we're all honest, Thompson had no business getting his head to as he was surrounded by two Delta players who were, not surprisingly, both taller than him. Significantly taller. He found himself a nice spot between the two defenders and put his header back across the goal where Peiser had just vacated. Thompson didn't get a lot of power to the header since he was falling backwards, but placement trumped power and the Eleven were on the board.

While the Eleven played a very direct style in their first game of the season (long passes statistically at 21%, but it appeared to be more), given the lineup, opponent, and situation, it wasn't unexpected.

NASL/Rob Edwards
This brings me to a new feature this season; The Game Beckons Game Ball. Sometimes this will be a typical Man of the Match kind of designation, and Thompson's first goal in his first professional game to even the match is definitely a worthy moment. Yet, I want to give credit to the effort that Daniel Keller put in during this game. Falvey is unavailable and most of what we've seen in preseason has been Watson-Siriboe and Palmer in the centerback roles, but Palmer's injury precipitated the need for Keller to step in. Keller continues to show his versatility by playing defense, midfield, and seemingly anywhere else that Coach Hankinson requires a smart soccer player. I don't recall ever seeing Keller out of position, even on the goal scored by San Francisco. Keller may be considered depth on this roster, but he once again proved on Saturday that "depth" doesn't eliminate "talent."


1 comment:

Jeff C. said...

Great to see your game reviews resuming for the new season. I also found Thompson's headed goal amusing, as I suspect did most observers. I don't expect to see many more like that.

The game had its moments. But I agree that the long-pass percentage felt higher than reported, and brought back unpleaseant memories of the hoof-and-hope approach of the first season. I'm hoping this was an aberration, as we did relatively little of that last year.