Monday, April 3, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Puerto Rico FC - 04.02

- Opponent: Puerto Rico FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,064
- Final Score: 3-3 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Watson-Siriboe, Keller, Vukovic, Smart, Thompson, Torrado, Ring, Speas, Braun
- Substitutions: Zayed 46' (Thompson), Henderson 73' (Ring), Palmer 80' (Keller)
- Unused: Cardona, Ubiparipovic, Falvey
- Goals: Braun 5' (Vukovic); Speas 10' (Braun); Braun 75'
- Bookings: Thompson 44' (Yellow); Busch 55' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

NASL/Opta Heat Map - 1st 15 Minutes
Given that yesterday's game against Puerto Rico took place on April 1st, if I told you that the Indy Eleven would score two goals in the first ten minutes, but would need a late game third goal equalizer for the draw, you would naturally expect that I would then say "April Fools!" Yet, that is exactly how the game proceeded. The Eleven jumped to a quick 2 - nil lead just ten minutes into the first half as Braun headed in a set piece cross from Vukovic in the 5th minute and then Braun assisted Speas in the 10th minute on a pass that broke the offsides trap before Speas cleverly chipped Spangenberg. The Eleven were absolutely dominant in the first fifteen minutes (see heat map above), but took their collective foot off the gas and Puerto Rico FC increased their physicality.

A physicality that the Eleven, seemingly, were not allowed to match from referee Luis Guardia. Some of that I'll put on the Eleven for not paying attention to the fact that if Puerto Rico fell down, they were getting the calls. The Eleven continued to fight to stay upright and would not get calls. The couple times where an Eleven player actually felt the contact and went to ground, they too got the call. Match stats indicate the Eleven with 16 fouls conceded to Puerto Rico's 14 fouls, but those two extra fouls were penalty kicks that were awarded to Puerto Rico. One in the first half by Watson-Siriboe and one in the second by Busch. Both penalty kicks were successful, the first from Ramos off the rebound save by Busch, the other directly from the spot by former Indy Eleven player Walter Ramirez.

Zayed was off. Let me rephrase that. Zayed's final touch was off, and only just slightly. He was a halftime substitute for Tanner Thompson and immediately made some deft passes to players. Yet, his own final goal scoring touch wasn't up to his normal standard. For a guy dubbed "Mr. Hat Trick" and "El Raton" because of his ability to be in the right space at the right time and put the right touch on the ball to get it into the back of the net, he had chances to do that and missed on all of them. There doesn't appear to be any injury per se, so maybe there's a bit of him being in his own head about not being in the starting lineup, but he just doesn't seem like his normal self.

Game Beckons Game Ball

Indy Eleven/Trevor Ruszkowski
This week's Game Beckons Game Ball goes to, not surprisingly, Justin Braun. A one assist, two goal game, with the second goal being the game tying goal to salvage a draw and continue an undefeated streak at Carroll Stadium will usually garner a player a lot of accolades. Yet, the man who turned 30 the day before showed his value for this team. Braun spent the entirety of the first half in the offensive half of the field (see first touchmap below) working with Speas to attack the Puerto Rico goal. Zayed's addition to the field in the second half did not push Speas back into the midfield, which is his officially listed position. Officially listed forward Justin Braun dropped back into the midfield and had a third of his touches in the defensive half as he came back looking for the ball and defended. Despite his presence in the defensive half, he seemed to always be available going forward. His work rate is undeniable and if not for an amazing reaction save by Spangenberg in the waning minutes, I would be writing about Braun being a major factor in winning three points instead of saving one.
NASL/Opta Touchmap - Justin Braun - 1st Half
NASL/Opta Touchmap - Justin Braun - 
NASL/Opto Average Position
One last graphic that surprised me during first inspection, but makes more sense as I look at it. The team listed the lineup for the game as a 4-4-2. On paper, that's the players that Coach Hankinson utilized. Their actual use, however, got inverted to a 2-4-4. With Vuko and Franco flying up the wings, their average position for the course of the game actually pushed them into the midfield. That pushes Smart and Thompson higher up the field. It's not a graphic we've seen, maybe ever, for an Indy Eleven, but in an early part of a season where the backline has been cobbled together in a fashion different from the preseason expectations, it looks like the best defense might be a good offense. Coach Hankinson has always stressed defense, but at least for this game against Puerto Rico, they showed that they have the talent and ability to be more offensive in nature. The Eleven are going to play Puerto Rico again on Saturday, in Puerto Rico, and I would be surprised if the team has the same mentality of going forward that they showed yesterday. A draw on the road has often been the goal and back-to-back games against the same opponent would seem like the time that Hankinson (and likely a Falvey led backline) would be more defensive in nature.



Don said...

Great recap Drew.

I do like the photos accompanying the lineup.

Jeff C. said...

Great write-up of a frustrating (though ultimately half-satisfying) game. Like you, I hadn't realized just how far forward Indy was pushing. I definitely noticed the difficulty they had keeping up with Puerto Rico's passing and movement once Puerto Rico got into the Indy end, however--Puerto Rico seemed to zip the ball around quickly and effectively, due in part I suspect to team speed and in part to Indy's patchwork defense. I've been worried about team speed since the team began signing veterans in the 2015-16 winter, and this game did nothing to allay those fears.

I did notice the difference in the way Puerto Rico players and Indy players responded to being touched while on the ball. I particularly recall one of the Eleven--I think it was Zayed--being pushed in the box while on the ball, staggering to maintain his footing, and not getting the call. Extremely irritating. Still, Indy fought back and got the tying goal, for which I'm grateful.