Monday, April 24, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Deltas - 04.04

- Opponent: San Francisco Deltas
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 7,124
- Final Score: 0-0 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Palmer, Vukovic, Ring, Henderson, Torrado, Ubiparipovic, Zayed, Braun
- Substitutions: Thompson 60' (Ubiparipovic), Keller 62' (Palmer)
- Unused: Cardona, Watson-Siriboe, Goldsmith, Ables
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Palmer 44' (Yellow), Ring 67' (Yellow), Braun 71' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

I've spent a fair amount of the last 30 hours (with some obvious sleeping time exception) trying to figure out what to write about a game that was described by a couple that I overheard on the way out as "a very disappointing game." They weren't just talking about the final score, but rather the entirety of the game. With the exception of a few moments for both teams, the game was disjointed for both teams. Neither seemed to be able to consistently impose their will on the other team.

This team has most of the pieces back from a very successful team last year and yet four games into the season they've only been able to muster four draws. Granted, those four games are against only two teams thanks to the NASL's absurd scheduling so it's hard to know exactly where this team (or any of the teams for that matter) really stand, but I don't think anybody really expected the Eleven to not get at least one win at this point in the season. Yet that's exactly where they find themselves, staring at a road trip to league leading Jacksonville this coming weekend.

So what did 30 hours of ponder get me? Unfortunately, not much more than the notes I scribbled to myself during the game. So like the team's apparent desire to bypass the midfield against the Deltas, I'm going to go for the long ball too.

NASL/Opta Average Position
For all the things he is, Torrado is not a left midfielder. Torrado wants to be in the middle of the park and that can be okay when combined with Vukovic's desire to go forward. However, Torrado doesn't have Mares' ability last season to cover defensively when Vuko goes forward. So if Coach Hankinson is going to play someone out of position because of the injuries, putting Torrado on the same side as Vuko seems an odd choice. Torrado's average position was in the middle of the field, right next to Ring and Ubi, Zayed, and Braun are all on top of each other in the middle of the field as well. This lineup created absolutely zero width. More on this in a minute.

Photo: Don Thompson
On the other side of midfield, Henderson's first touch failed him frequently in the game and his defense was hit-or-miss throughout the game. I fully expected him to be one of the first subs after halftime and never would have pegged him to be one of the guys to go the full ninety minutes. Though given who was sitting on the bench, there weren't many other options. Particularly given that Coach has suggested that new signee Adrian Ables was brought on for depth. Yet, Coach's description of him on Soccer Saturday seems to fit nicely with what the team needed in the second half. A quick guy who's willing to take on players. Sounds like Lacroix 2.0. Instead Coach brought on Thompson for Ubiparipovic and Mr. Swiss Army Knife Daniel Keller for Palmer.

Photo: Don Thompson
Frias, I mean Palmer, has never been one to take two touches when one will blast it back down to the other side of the field, but on a day with 20+ mph winds, that approach wasn't overly effective. Palmer's not going to get out-muscled to a ball, but subtlety is not his strong suit.

The man that no coach has been able to keep off the field, Don Smart, was definitely missed. Don's speed, crossing ability, and his ability to stay wide would have been much more effective than the middle of the field gathering. In conjunction with the lack of width provided by the lineup, it's no longer a secret that Zayed isn't going to create his own shots. So if you want to defend the Eleven, find Braun and don't let the offense go through him. His work rate is going to continue to provide opportunities because opposing teams have to account for him at all times, but as of right now, the offense goes as Braun goes. Against San Francisco, Braun only connected on 63% of his passes, 43% of those were backwards, and he only managed two shots (neither on target). The Eleven managed two shots on goal, both of them from headers from Zayed, and both off of crosses. The team could have used some more crosses from Smart, who will continue to be out for a few more weeks. They need to find a better way to break down the final third than what they displayed on Saturday, but I'm not sure how I see that getting done.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This game was difficult to select a player for the Game Ball, but I'm going to have to give it to Jon Busch this week. Buschy finished with 5 saves on the day, none of them more spectacular than the one in the 75th minute when Bekker blasted a shot from 30 yards out that was destined for the upper corner of the goal (see minute 1:10 in the highlights below). There weren't a lot of great opportunities in the game, but that was definitely one that looked like it was destined to end the undefeated streak at 19. While that was the highlight reel save from Busch that helped the team get to a modern-era 20 undefeated home record, his other saves were just as important and were a result of placing himself in appropriate spots in the goal.

Caption This candidate...


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