Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Armada - 04.11

- Opponent: Jacksonville Armada
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 8,516
- Final Score: 1-4 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Palmer, Falvey, Vukovic, Ring, Smart, Keller, Thompson, Speas, Zayed
- Substitutions: Ubiparipovic 45'+3' (Thompson), Plumhoff 64' (Smart), Goldsmith 75' (Zayed)
- Unused: Cardona, Lomeli, Manning, Ables
- Goals: Zayed 10' (assist Vukovic)
- Bookings: Franco 30' (Yellow), Palmer 45'+1' (RED), Ring 48' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: Two

I honestly don't know what to write anymore about this team. Yes, there have been issues, but the lineup at this point should have been able to get at least one win on the season. Looking at the remainder of the Spring Season, I don't see where the Eleven get their first win. This coming week against North Carolina might be their best shot, only because NCFC will be coming into the game on short rest since they play a mid-week U.S. Open Cup game; a game in NCFC against the Houston Dynamo. Based on what I've seen out of the new NCFC (and NWSL's NC Courage) owner, they are not going to take the USOC game lightly, so they will likely play the normal starters in hopes of taking down an MLS squad. If the Eleven can't get a win at home against a tired opponent, the rest of the Spring Season doesn't look spectacular. They turn around and play two away games (NCFC and NYC) before coming back home to play the Cosmos and Jacksonville. Tell me where you see a win in those games right now.

Jacksonville came into Carroll Stadium, which was an impossible location for teams last year, and walked away with a 4-1 win. In the process, they might have also taken three more players out of the lineup for the Eleven as I wouldn't be surprised if Thompson is out on concussion protocol after taking a hard hit ball to the face in the waning minutes of the first half, Plumhoff dropped to the ground as soon as the game was finished after taking a hit late in the game, and Palmer picked up a red card shortly after that. More on that one in a minute, but for a team that has been struggling to keep guys available for selection, the potential for three more guys to be hurt/out is concerning.

Coach Hankinson was quoted on Soccer Saturday that the Eleven wanted to limit Pitchkolan's ability to be the Armada's starting point for playing the ball out of the back. It was clear in the early parts of the game that this was definitely a focus in training during the week because Pitchkolan rarely touched the ball where he wasn't chased into some kind of relief pass instead of being able to calmly start the offense. Pitchkolan had 69 touches, and a 62 of 67 pass completion rate, but he only had one successful pass in the Eleven's defensive half and most of them well in the Armada defensive third. Zayed listened to his coach early in the game because he routinely pressured Pitchkolan, but Speas and Thompson followed his lead and Coach's direction and routinely pressed the backline. The high press helped create some chances early, but the lack of depth and the man disadvantage made that tactic much more difficult in the second half.

Smart is no longer a Super Sub. He's an absolute necessity for the Eleven offense. The Eleven, due to a number of factors, including experience and injuries, do not have a difference maker on the offensive side of the ball. There hasn't been anybody that has routinely take guys on one-v-one, nor run past them to get to balls, nor put in well placed crosses. That all changes with the addition of Smart back to the lineup and was in full display just seconds into the first half when he created two good chances (even if he was only officially given credit for one all game).

I don't like to blame refs for poor results, but this ref made a ton of poor decisions. Starting with the penalty kick he awarded to Jacksonville in the first 3 minutes of play on marginal contact between Gebhard and Falvey, the poor decisions kept coming. One of the last that I remember was when he indicated advantage for the Eleven in the 79th minute when Plumhoff was taken out by Pitchkolan. Once he stopped play because Plumhoff was clutching his knee on the ground, the ref gave Pitchkolan a yellow card. A foul, feet outside the box, that is worthy of issuing a yellow card should nearly instantly be blown dead for a free kick at that spot. That's a much larger advantage at that point in the game.

The decision I can't argue is the red card given to Palmer. Palmer forced the ref to give it to him and there wasn't any other decision that could be made. The second you retaliate, after the play has been blown dead, you're going to get at least a yellow card. The second you retaliate by hitting another player at neck level or above, you're finishing the game in the locker room. It was a terrible decision by Palmer and as a result, the Armada were able to score two more goals while the Eleven were down a man.

This team has the talent. I still believe that, but they seem like they're constantly chasing the game and that makes it hard to get the mojo back. The belief that they had last year where it seemed like the balls were going to bounce their way has flipped 180-degrees and it seems like if a ball can go against them, it will. This team needs a win in the worst way and next week's home game against a NCFC team on a 3 games in 8 day stretch might be the thing that turns a season full of valleys into something better.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This week it's easy to give the Game Beckons Game Ball. Don Smart. He was effective when he was in. He gave the Eleven a dynamic that they haven't had in weeks and they didn't look the same after he left in the 64th minute.



1 comment:

Jeff C. said...

Thank you for continuing to write as this dismal, depressing spring season plays out. This most recent loss was the most dispiriting yet--a three-goal loss at the supposedly impregnable fortress of the Mike. I don't care how bad the refereeing was (and it was). There's no excuse for a result like that.

This team desperately needs an infusion of something positive. The Adidas kit deal and Turkish Airways sponsorship aside, Jeff Belskus seems to have been total bust as team president--he certainly has done nothing to further the stadium bid, which is what he was hired to do. As the losses mount, Hankinson is losing credibility. And Ozdemir, who has clearly been withdrawing financial support from the team, seems to have lost interest. Under those circumstances, it's very difficult for fans to maintain any kind of enthusiasm.

It was great to see Don Smart back, though.