Sunday, May 28, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Eddies - 04.09

- Opponent: FC Edmonton
- Location: Edmonton
- Attendance: 4,096
- Final Score: 2-1 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Watson-Siriboe, Vukovic, Keller, Ring, Speas, Ubiparipovic, Torrado, Braun
- Substitutions: Goldsmith 67' (Ring), Plumhoff 74' (Keller), Manning 89' (Franco)
- Unused: Cardona, Thompson, Poltronieri
- Goals: Plumhoff 80' (assist Braun)
- Bookings: Falvey 9' (Yellow), Torrado 25' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

Losing to Miami in back-to-back weeks is understandable. Unfortunate, but understandable. Losing to the Michigan Bucks in the middle of the week between those two games is also unfortunate, but in my opinion, inexcusable. A week after all of that frustration, the Indy Eleven traveled to Edmonton on Saturday to play a team that has, perhaps, struggled even more than the Indy Eleven this season to get positive results. The two teams played against each other in one of last year's semifinal matchups and this year find themselves competing against each other to not be at the bottom of the table. Both teams have the benefit that Puerto Rico holds down that spot for the time being. A team, like the Eleven, who have yet to win a game this season and who have already fired their head coach.

Going into the game, Edmonton had only managed to score 3 goals all season, two of which came in one game against Puerto Rico. The Eleven needed to go to Canada and find the back of the net against a team that looked like they would have had a hard time scoring multiple goals to overcome any deficit. They scored twice on the Eleven.

This is the face of someone who has kicked the turf and
not one of someone who has been tripped.
Photo credit: NASL/FC Edmonton
I think we can all agree that the first goal by Edmonton off the Corea penalty kick was the result of a horrible sequence of events that exemplifies everybody's frustrations with NASL referees. Corea kicks the ground and trips himself in the penalty box, but because he has three Eleven players near him, a penalty kick is awarded. A penalty kick that even the Edmonton announcers questioned. Torrado's own frustration bubbled over as he used the opportunity to get a drink from Busch's water bottle after the ball had been placed for the kick, then walked straight to Corea taking the kick, touched him on the arm, and provided Corea with some choice words. At which point, he was shown his third yellow in as many games. Personally, I'm starting to think he's just trying to get to his 5th yellow of the spring season so he can take a game off. He's clearly frustrated with the way things are going, but that was not a smart card to receive. The ref, while bad, had no other option but to give him the card. After that, Corea stutter-stepped his way to blasting the penalty kick off the right side of the crossbar even though Busch went to the left. But wait, the call that's never called gets called as the Eleven were charged with encroachment. Corea gets to make amends of his poor first attempt, goes the opposite direction, which Busch did as well, and the Eddies found themselves up a goal in the 27th minute.

For what it's worth, Torrado's yellow card had to be given, but Falvey's yellow confuses me. Falvey's leg never came any higher than his hip and Ledgerwood jumped into the ball and kick. How that goes as a foul, much less a yellow card is beyond me. Did you know that the Eleven have conceded 113 fouls on the season and that their opponents have conceded 114 fouls? Did you know that the Eleven have been shown 18 yellow cards (highest in the league), while their opponents have been shown a total of 7. I've watched every Eleven game and the Eleven isn't that substantially more physical than their opponents. Unfairly targeted? Maybe.

All that being said, Edmonton's second goal off a set-piece was a result of poor man marking. Three different Eddies could have had a chance at the ball that Straith put in the back of the net in stoppage time of the first half. For a team that has been struggling offensively, two goals in the first half must have felt like the flood gates opened. For the Eleven, a two-goal deficit was never going to be an easy task this year. Braun has scored 4 of the team's 9 goals (and now assisted on 3 more) so as I've been saying for weeks now, the Eleven's offense goes as Braun goes. With a two goal lead, at home, and the struggles they've had this year, Edmonton could have parked the bus and defend what has become a fairly inept offense as of late.

The question that we're all asking is what happened to last year's team? Who left and who took their place?

  • Gordon
  • Janicki
  • Lacroix
  • Larrea
  • Mares
  • Paterson
  • Reinoso
  • Shaffer
  • Wojcik
  • Youla
Some of those seem like underwhelming or under-performing players, right? Yet, that list accounts for 21 goals last year. If you total the goals scored by all the returning players not named Zayed? 15. With 8 of those being from Braun. Ubi and Torrado didn't score a single goal in the regular season last year so it's not surprising they haven't done so this year. Goldsmith, Speas, and Thompson have shown promise and have found the woodwork on a few occasions, but two of those are rookies and Eleven rookies have historically struggled to significantly impact the team. I don't think a healthy Smart or Zayed immediately turn this team's fortunes around, but Zayed's ability to poach goals and Smart's crosses are two components that are sorely missed right now. Zayed's presence should also take some of the pressure off of Braun and he's drawing A LOT of attention these days. 

Neither of those guys are due back soon so this could get worse before it gets better. After a string of six draws to start the season, the Eleven have fallen off the cliff the past three games (four if you count the Open Cup game against the Michigan Bucks). A win against another struggling team in Edmonton would have been a helpful boost to the morale. As it was, Brad Ring's assault of the unassuming Gatorade bottle when he was subbed off in the 67th minute was the perfect display of the frustration he feels with the results. 

Can the Eleven climb back out of the canyon? They get a chance next week in San Francisco next week before coming home to the Mike to face Jacksonville. A win in San Fran looks to be an absolute necessity, not only for affect on the standings, but also for the morale of the team.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

DePauw University Men's Soccer - Incoming Freshman

Over the past couple weeks, the DePauw University Men's Soccer team's Twitter account has been highlighting and welcoming in the incoming freshman players. First there were six announcements on May 8th, then another seven announcements on May 9th. At that point, with 13 new players to replace the outgoing 12 seniors, I fully expected that to be the extent of the announcements. However, over the next few days, another 13 guys were announced to be joining the team. With my interest fully piqued as to why Coach Hauter was bringing in that many guys, I reached out to DePauw's Athletic Communications office, as well as Head Coach, and friend of the site, Brad Hauter for more information. 

What I found out was that the original intent, as late as January, was to have a group of about 10 incoming freshman. There are now 27 incoming freshman being brought on to help develop the younger players (I didn't follow-up with why one of the players wasn't included in the Twitter introductions). Seems counter-intuitive, right? Bring on a couple dozen young guys to help develop other young guys? Well, it makes perfect sense if you're starting a reserve squad, which is exactly what DePauw is doing this year.

Game Beckons: "Other than helping the younger players develop, what precipitated the addition of the reserve team? How many expected games?"
Brad Hauter: "That is really the primary reason... I believe in a large roster for depth and competitive energy but the guys towards the bottom are there because they need time to develop... Once we get into the season there are few opportunities for them to grow... This will give them 6-8 matches to showcase themselves and to get needed game minutes."

GB: "How long did it take to get the reserve team going? 
BH: "We had one back about 4 years ago but didn't have the budget to run it... I've been working on the budgeting since then and finally have it set."

GB: "Who do you anticipate that team playing? Do other NCAC schools have reserve squads or will you have to expand beyond the conference for games for them?" 
BH: "Other teams with large rosters (They may not have a reserve team - Centre, Manchester, Wabash), as well as club teams at ISU and IU."

GB: "Will you be coaching both squads or will a new assistant cover the reserve squad?"
BH: "I will be at each but will have our assistant coaches coach so that they can also get 'game minutes'.

Coach Hauter further added that he fully expects 75% of the incoming freshman to really compete for spots on the first or second teams and at least 6 or 7 of them to make an immediate impact. He was careful to not provide any indication to me on which players those might be, but doing a little research on the guys on Hudl and wherever else I could find highlight videos (see Collin Davidson's Hudl site for an extensive highlight reel), I can understand his enthusiasm and optimism. 

Last year's roster was listed as having 31 guys, which then lost 12 of those to graduation. The roster that Coach Hauter provided to me looks like he has also added some upperclassmen to the roster to go with the incoming freshman because this coming year's roster stands at 53 players. Almost half of that roster are midfielders and nearly 75% of the roster comes from Indiana, Illinois, or Ohio. The breakdown of the incoming freshman is even more heavily weighted on those three states with almost 90% of the freshman coming from those states. Given that "95% of our roster comes from our camp system," it's not surprising that the roster is Midwest heavy. The freshman class has a slight edge towards defenders, but just barely. The thing that surprises me most about Coach Hauter's roster is that there are only 5 forwards and 5 goalkeepers on the 53 man roster, with two each being freshman. I can understand only having a couple goalkeepers for each squad, but it would seem like both teams would need to have more forwards in case of injuries.

One of those incoming freshman goalkeepers is Coach Hauter's son, Christian. Christian is one of a couple players where I found football Hudl sites, as Christian was a kicker for Marshall High School. His future teammate, outside back Kyler Schaetzle, was also a kicker for his high school team. Only Christian is considering doing both soccer and football, but Coach Hauter has indicated Christian is going to focus on soccer this season, so he won't be losing any guys to the football team this year. However, Christian's highlight reel shows him kicking field goals two years ago from 47 yards out so he definitely has the leg to play for the football team if he chooses to do so later. Coach Hauter also expects that a few guys may run track, but in general it sounds like he has some good athletes coming to play for him. For example, Butoyi Anaclet out of Mather High School in Chicago, is a top 10 wrestler in Illinois in his weight class, but chose to play soccer.

Welcome to DePauw fellas and I look forward to hopefully catching some games this fall to see you in action. For the Indianapolis area soccer fans who read this site, head out to Greencastle in the fall to catch a game in a nice new soccer (and other sports) stadium and e
njoy a beautiful campus about an hour's drive away. Stick around afterwards and get some dinner at Marvin's. Go with the Garlic Cheese Burger (GCB) and cheese fries. Trust me. 

The following is a summary of the DePauw graphics used on Twitter for the guys:

Butoyi Anaclet - Midfielder

Grady Bruch - Midfielder

Sam Burns - Midfielder

Nick Celona - Defender

Bralin Coleman - Defender

Bennett Curtis - Defender

Collin Davidson - Goalkeeper

Jackson Grabill - Defender

Connor Hamerle - Defender

Christian Hauter - Goalkeeper

Will Jacob - Midfielder

Jonah Jerabek - Midfielder

Ryan Kupiec - Defender

Anh Le - Defender

Zack Leech - Defender

Jake Limauro - Midfielder

Carlos Martinez - Defender

Brandon McInerney - Defender

Philip Mierzwa - Forward

Alec Pipkin - Midfielder

Peter Reuling - Forward

Franklin Rodriguez - Defender

Joe Scanlon - Midfielder

Kyler Schaetzle - Defender

Flynn Sheehan - Midfielder

Edward Velez - Defender

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Miami FC - 04.08

- Opponent: Miami FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 7,439
- Final Score: 2-0 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Watson-Siriboe, Vukovic, Ring, Palmer, Thompson, Speas, Torrado, Braun
- Substitutions: Goldsmith 58' (Thompson), Keller 79' (Ring)
- Unused: Cardona, Manning, Poltronieri, Lomeli
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Torrado 76' (Yellow), Goldsmith 77' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

The thing about doing what I, and the other "grassroots" media, do is that we discuss the team as writers, but we're all fans first. Unpaid writers who needed/wanted an avenue to discuss their team. As a writer, I wanted to get home so that I could watch the replay to confirm what I felt I saw at the stadium. As a writer, I wanted to dive into the stats. As a writer, I want to get the words out of my head and onto the screen in a measured approach.

As a fan, I want to get the words out of my head and onto the screen as fast as humanly possible so that I can put this horrible stretch of results the past week behind me. As a fan, I left the stadium dejected and upset about the result of the game tonight. As a fan walking back to my car, the best my family could come up with for the game was "at least it didn't rain and it turned about to be a good night." As a fan, that's a terrible place to be. When the weather is the best thing that you can talk about from a game.

It could be argued that last year's success created high expectations and a string of draws is no longer an acceptable goal. Despite the injuries that have absolutely plagued this team in the first half of the spring season, there are a lot of good players on this team and they could (should?) have lucked into at least one win in that timeframe against the bottom part of the league. Yet, it's like the first Puerto Rico game in Indy on April 1st broke this team. They came charging out of the gate in that game and ultimately had to get a come from behind draw at home. Since that game, they've score two legit goals since I absolutely refuse to count the two goals in Miami last week created off an own goal by Miami's Freeman and the breakdown in communication between Miami's Vega and Bernstein that gifted Braun a goal. Since that Puerto Rico game, the Eleven haven't scored a single goal at home. The offense is just not working.

The team has looked absolutely terrible at times and that includes, most notably, getting blanked on Wednesday by AMATEURS. After looking completely overmatched last weekend against Miami, Coach Hankinson was able to make some adjustments in the lineup thanks to Speas being back in better shape and Ring back from his red card suspension. That tinkering of the lineup put the team in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Franco back in the right back position and dual defensive midfielders of Ring and Palmer. This put Speas and Thompson as the wingers, Torrado in the attacking midfielder role, and Braun up top by himself.

Indy Eleven/Matt Schlotzhauer
This lineup and tactical formation was built out of necessity of opponent and player availability. What it meant was that the man who has been the bulk of the Eleven's offense in Braun was left on an island tonight. Nearly every time he received a ball, it was with his back to the goal, with at least two defenders on him, often three or four. So when the ball was delivered to him, he had no choice but to send it backwards more than a third of the time, assuming it wasn't immediately stolen away from him. It also meant that the team purposefully played a highly defensive game plan with the intent of counter attacking for their chances. However, a significant number of the counter attacks were of the slow developing kind and that is never going to work against a team like Miami that has as much team speed as they do. They were consistently able to get players back behind the ball to stifle any Eleven attack. The Eleven's defensive to offensive transition was not nearly fast enough against a team like Miami.

At this point in the spring season, winning a game is the goal, not the spring season itself. The Eleven have only managed 25% of the available points, while league leading Miami has achieved nearly 75% of their available points. The injury bug can only be used for so long before it becomes a tiresome excuse. Based on my review of the fans' comments online, patience is severely waning. After losing to Miami tonight, the team's 21 game home undefeated streak came to an end and a road trip to bottom of the table mate FC Edmonton this coming weekend might be a welcome sight.

As a fan, prior to the game I said to my family:
"The team needed a confidence boost by seeing the ball go into the net a few times against a bunch of amateurs. Instead they shit the bed and lost to said amateurs w/o scoring a goal. Tonight they face what some consider to be the best team in all of Div 2 & who destroyed them last week. Tonight is not a rebound game. A draw will be a miracle."

Watching the game, it's almost like I knew what I was talking about.

Lowlight of the Game - I'm fairly certain that the ref stood over the ball meaning that I believe he's supposed to blow the whistle to restart and I never heard one. Beating Miami was going to be hard enough without allowing a goal like this:

The Game Beckons Game Ball

It's difficult for me to find a player in a game like this, but I'm going to reward Torrado tonight. His stats are a little off from his usual standard, but his work rate was on the level of Braun. Torrado was physical with Ryan all night and it cost him a yellow card, but he's one of the players who look like they actually care and was giving maximum effort. Unfortunately, I'm concerned that his effort now, and the minutes he's playing now, are going to come back to hurt the team towards the end of the season. At the end of the game, both he and Falvey were hobbling around so we'll see if his effort tonight turns into another entry in the non-stop injury report.