Thursday, July 6, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Cosmos - 04.14

- Opponent: New York Cosmos
- Location: Brooklyn, New York
- Attendance: 6,734
- Final Score: 1-1 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Keller, Vukovic, Ring, Smart, Speas, Ubiparipovic, Braun, Zayed
- Substitutions: Henderson 67' (Ubiparipovic), Goldsmith 73' (Zayed), Palmer 84' (Franco)
- Unused: Cardona, Thompson, Ables
- Goals: Speas 33' (assist Franco)
- Bookings: Goldsmith 72' (Yellow), Palmer 83' (Yellow), Falvey 90' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

A draw ripped from the jaws of victory, the Eleven went into MCU Park, a stone's throw away from Coney Island where Joey Chestnut once again won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest earlier in the day, and led for 53 minutes before giving up a penalty kick in the dying minutes of the game. The good news is that the team went on the road, on a holiday, with a crowd 2,000 people larger than normal for NYC, and came away with a point thanks to a world-class cross from Franco that Speas pushed around Ochieng, forcing him to slip, and then 5-holed Maurer.

The bad news... Well, let's get into that a little. Speas' goal was a bit fortunate in that he was even in position to take the shot on goal because he had a poor first touch that Ochieng should have been able to clear if he hadn't slipped. The Eleven were out-shot 3 to 1, with the Cosmos having more shots on goal than the Eleven had in total. Busch had 9 saves. NINE. That gives him 22 saves in the past three games. There seems to be a definite bend but don't break mentality to the team at the moment, which is odd given that they finally have their offensive weapons back again and were able to field the same starting lineup for the third week in a row.

The Cosmos were short-handed. They have four players away, participating in the Gold Cup with their respective national teams. Andres Flores, Richard Menjivar, and Irvin Herrera are with El Salvador and Dejan Jakovic is with Canada. The Cosmos bench included seven players. One player, Danilo Radjen, doesn't even show up in the team's statistics, three of them still haven't played a single minute this season, one NOW has 10 minutes, another had 20 minutes coming into the game, and Starikov was averaging less than 45-minutes per game. Safe to say, the bench didn't include a lot of depth. It would be easy to say that the Eleven were playing the Cosmos' B squad, but that's overly simplistic. A more accurate assessment was that the Eleven were playing the Cosmos' A- squad.

NASL/New York Cosmos Individual Stats (Through 07/05/2017)

NASL/Opta Stats - Ring 2nd Half Heat Map
There were good moments from the Eleven. Speas' goal. Zayed's near-goal right before the end of the first half. Busch.

Yet, at some point early on, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time the ball went to Ubiparipovic or Ring. Ring finished the game with 24 touches; Ubi finished with 32 touches. For a couple guys who should be moving the offense forward, it seemed like they were non-existent for stretches of the game. Ring, as seen in his 2nd half heat map, touched the ball once outside of the defensive third. Ubi touched the ball 5 times in the second half. Yes, you read that correctly. Ubi, who has been dropping deeper into the defensive half of the field to get the ball in better positions to move the offense, touched the ball 5 times in the 22 minutes he was on the field in the 2nd half.

And now for the PK that shouldn't have been...

"It looks like Ledesma definitely exaggerates the contact there. Knows exactly what he's doing. Draws the ref in on this one..."

The penalty kick call was a bad one, but I think most of us can chalk that up to typical NASL refs and a flop that happens more often in soccer than we care to admit, particularly to our non-soccer sports fans who look at these kinds of things as their sole reason to not watch soccer. If you're reading this blog (hi Jeff and Aaron), you've chosen to look past the flopping and are interested in the finer aspects of the beautiful game.

Choosing to look past the ridiculous penalty call, a concerning thing happened during the penalty kick. This is the 5th penalty kick that opposing teams have taken against the Eleven in just 14 games. Three of those kicks have been scored directly off the kick. The other two were scored off the rebound because the ball fortuitously bounced back to the opposing team's player who was able to score over a sprawled Busch. It did not go unnoticed to the Cosmos that the Eleven have not been the quickest players to the rebound and they played the penalty kick accordingly. While Falvey didn't move at all, Smart and Keller ran towards goal to parry the ball away if Busch once again made the initial save. However, none of them would have reached the ball first because Richter and Calvillo took a running start to the kick and would have, once again, been in a position to score off the rebound in front of the Eleven. See the below video. If the Eleven are going to continue to give up penalty kick attempts, this is something that needs to be addressed.

So the Eleven had a positive result against a team not named NCFC, but they're still looking at a dramatic uphill battle to get themselves into a playoff position. A win at home against the very same Cosmos team on Saturday would go a long way toward shifting the team's momentum heading into the Fall Season.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Busch. 9 saves. Not all of them as spectacular as he's been called to do recently, but he consistently put himself in the right position for saves. Nine of them.


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