Monday, August 28, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Armada - 04.21

- Opponent: Jacksonville Armada
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 8,862
- Final Score: 3-2 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Watson-Siriboe, Keller, Ring, Torrado, Thompson, Speas, Goldsmith, Zayed
- Substitutions: Braun 58' (Watson-Siriboe), Ubiparipovic 58' (Torrado), Ables 67' (Zayed)
- Unused: Cardona, Miller, Vukovic
- Goals: Speas 66' (assist Braun), Goldsmith 90'+2' (assist Speas)
- Bookings: Keller 35' (Yellow), Watson-Siriboe 38' (Yellow), Braun 61' (Yellow), Speas 83' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

Last week, I talked about expectations. While it's unfair to judge a current team by what it has done in the past, that's the nature of sports. Winning teams are expected to continue winning. Losing teams are expected to periodically find winning results, but are generally expected to lose. You expect Real Madrid and Barcelona to be at the top of La Liga. You expect Manchester United and Chelsea to be at the top of the English Premier League. You expect the L.A. Galaxy to be at the top of MLS. You expect the New York Cosmos to be at the top of NASL. When you have a season like the Indy Eleven had last year, and they return the core players from that team, you expect that they will be in the discussion for this year's playoff and Championship races. When they don't lose a single game at the Mike last year, you expect similar results the next year.

However, it may officially be time for "lowered expectations." In ten home games this year, the Eleven have a 3W - 3D - 4L record and are sliding down the combined table. It may feel like a bit early to table watch, but the loss this week to Jacksonville pushed the Eleven further out of one of the playoff spots. It's starting to look like Miami is going to win the "double," winning both the Spring and Fall Seasons, so that leaves the other three playoff spots based on the Combined table. A playoff spot is looking less and less likely for the Eleven due to the continued injury bug this team has found this year. Can we even call it a "bug" at this point? The latest slew includes an oblique injury to Don Smart, a late scratch of Vukovic, an injury to Zayed that was going to limit his minutes during this game, and a return and subsequent departure of Braun. That's all on top of the ongoing concussion issues with Manning and Henderson's injury.

Braun's injury in the 69th minute, and departure in the 74th minute, left the Eleven to play a man down for the next 20 minutes (including stoppage time). A 20 minutes that saw something from the Eleven that hadn't been evident in the preceding 70 minutes. Urgency.

Jacksonville out-hustled and out-muscled the Eleven for vast stretches of the game and it led to a 3-nil lead before the Eleven found the back of the net in the 66th minute on a perfectly placed ball from Braun that Speas slotted home. A minute later, Adrian Ables got his first minutes for the team as Coach Hankinson decided to give the rookie a chance at being a spark off the bench. Two minutes later, Braun goes down, potentially for the rest of the year. As of this writing, x-rays came back negative on his ankle, and an MRI on Monday will shed more light on the severity of Braun's injury. If serious, and if Zayed's minutes need to be further managed, Eleven fans may find out how the partnership of Goldsmith and Ables works.

Braun has continually been the engine driving the offense of this team and his injury, a 3-1 deficit, and a man deficit seemed to galvanize the offense, even in his absense. Or at a minimum, Braun's substitution for Kwame Watson-Siriboe, indicated that Coach Hankinson was telling his team that they may lose 6-1, but they were going to put their foot on the gas offensively. The team came out of halftime, down by two, and started playing more direct. To the left is the distribution for the Eleven in the first 15 minutes after halftime and what it shows is that the team started trying to bypass the midfield. The data for the next two 15 minute spans intensifies that direct style of play even further. The official stats indicate only 15.5% long passes, but there seemed to be an effort to try and get the ball into scoring positions without having to possess it much. That seemed to be because every time an Eleven player touched the ball, they were immediately pressed by the Jacksonville players. At the end of my write-up for the Cosmos game I stated:

The Eleven head home on Saturday to play Jacksonville, who, at the moment, are desperate for a win in the Fall Season as they are the only team behind the Eleven. Sitting in last place. Will that desperation be stronger than the Eleven's home field advantage. At this point, who knows what to expect?
The answer to that question was that Jacksonville's desperation was stronger than the home field advantage. Jacksonville came out hungrier and the Eleven never seemed to match their intensity until late in the game when they were throwing everything forward. Braun's substitute for KWS pushed the lineup to a three back with Ring providing protection and more offensive power. All it took was a seemingly insurmountable lead and fewer players before a bunch of wily veterans and rookies tried to do the impossible.

Coach has said that there are only about 11 or 12 guys on the team that are true "starters" in this league. They currently have a 21 man roster so let's start from the start.

  1. Smart - Starter (injured)
  2. Ring - Starter 
  3. Miller - Recovering from injury
  4. Franco - Starter
  5. Cardona - Backup
  6. Keller - Pressed into starter, but was not slated to be there
  7. Ubiparipovic - Starter
  8. Zayed - Starter (nursing an injury)
  9. Falvey - Starter
  10. Braun - Starter (injured...maybe for season)
  11. Vukovic - Starter (injured)
  12. Busch - Starter
  13. Torrado - Starter
  14. Speas - Starter
  15. KWS - I believe coach feels KWS is starter caliber, but I disagree...
  16. Henderson - Backup (injured)
  17. Manning - Concussion issues, but probably not a starter
  18. Lomeli - Rookie
  19. Thompson - Rookie
  20. Goldsmith - Rookie
  21. Ables - Rookie

So that gets us to a starting lineup that, at least at this point in all of their careers, are not starter level players. There are talented players and we saw some of that with some fancy footwork along the sideline by Thompson to get himself some space for a cross, some early game quick trigger shots on goal by Goldsmith, and Ables' pace that helped stretch the Jacksonville defense late. Yet, we find ourselves watching a team that can't keep a consistent lineup, playing guys that were never intended to be this year's starters, and running out of time to get positive results. Results that were a given at home last year, but have fallen into an unknown this year. While they haven't all be home games, the team has given up 3 goals in each of the last 4 games, for a -5 goal differential. Moving forward, the team potentially has their engine missing in Braun, Zayed nursing an injury, and a bunch of rookies to try and get the team on the board while the defense continues to leak goals.

Consider me concerned.

The Game Beckons Game Ball:

Hard to pick one for this game so I'm going to give it to the new kid, Adrian Ables. As a DePauw alum, I'm glad to see one of my fellow alums find the field as a pro. He found his way onto the roster, much like a walk-on in college. He wanted to practice and be around pros and it eventually worked its way into a contract. His appearance against Jacksonville, and his receiving of the Game Ball is more about me rewarding his persistence and hard work. Congrats Adrian!



Monday, August 21, 2017

Indy Eleven vs New York Cosmos - 04.20

- Opponent: New York Cosmos
- Location: Brooklyn
- Attendance: 6,110
- Final Score: 3-3 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Keller, Vukovic, Ring, Torrado, Smart, Speas, Goldsmith, Zayed
- Substitutions: Braun 72' (Goldsmith), Watson-Siriboe 81' (Torrado), Thompson 89' (Zayed)
- Unused: Cardona, Miller, Ables
- Goals: Torrado 10' (assist Smart), Torrado 14' (assist Zayed), Zayed 53' (assist Goldsmith)
- Bookings: Torrado 35' (Yellow), Smart 90+' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

Expectations are an interesting beast. Two years ago, the expectation was that the Indy Eleven would play above themselves and get a draw against the New York Cosmos because that's what history had indicated. The first six matches between these two teams finished in draws; 3 each in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Then the magical 2016 Spring Season happened for the Indy Eleven and the seal was broken with a 2 - 1 come-from-behind, last minute home win for the Eleven. The Cosmos exacted revenge a few months later with a 3 - nil victory on their home soil, before the script was flipped in Indy for another 3 - nil victory, that time for the Eleven. The teams met a fourth time last year, playing in the Championship Final, which, not surprisingly, officially ended in a draw and the Cosmos getting the edge in penalty kicks.

So expectations from fans of the Eleven are that Indy will be able to get a positive result against the Cosmos.Which is exactly what the Eleven accomplished this weekend in their trip to Brooklyn. A 3 - 3 goal-fest with Zayed getting his fifth goal of the year off a beautiful ball from David Goldsmith. Yet that was the Eleven's third goal. The first two came from an unlikely offensive source. For all of his ability and talent, scoring has not been a part of Gerado Torrado, who had managed a single assist and no goals in his time here in Indy. Yet, he found himself in a shooting position just inside the 18-yard box on a short corner from Smart, and Torrado put it in the back of the net over an outstretched Maurer in just the 10th minute. Four minutes later, this time at the top of the box, Torrado blasted one past Maurer for a 2 - nil lead. A shot that was so hard that it's amazing how fast it got past Maurer. Check it out from the camera behind the goal:

NASL/Opta Attack Stats
With a two goal lead and with so little of the game in the books, the expectation in this series is that the game was far from over, but you would expect that the Eleven would hold on for a win. The Cosmos had other plans. 36 Total Shots other plans. 28 Shots from INSIDE the box other plans. Torrado may have gotten the scoring started, but the Cosmos planned to finish it and found the net in the 29th minute to get them on the board after putting one off of the post in the 19th minute. The posts and crossbar behind Busch saw a lot of action in this game and may be the reason the Eleven took home a draw instead of a loss.

The team withstood a barrage of shots and attempts and if we're honest, survived with last ditch defending for significant stretches. After finding their first goal to give themselves momentum going into halftime, the Cosmos found another one shortly after the break to pull things even. Yet, the fight we saw last year in the Eleven manifested itself again as Zayed's goal in the 53rd minute put the Eleven back on top mere minutes after the Cosmos drew even. The Cosmos' 2nd goal resulted from a long range blast that found the crossbar and a put back off the rebound as Vranjican rushed forward and Vuko and Keller ball-watched. Hustle won out. Zayed's goal resulted from a perfectly placed long ball from Goldsmith and individual effort by Zayed. The final goal of the night came in the 84th minute by Guerra from a corner kick. Guerra was completely unmarked and put the ball in a spot between Busch and Smart guarding the post.

And the second comeback of the night was complete.

In other news... Actually, I don't know if we can call this news anymore. Torrado picked up his fourth yellow card in four Fall Season matches. If the team's leader in yellow cards (his defensive midfield running mate Ring being a close second) gets another yellow card anytime in the team's next 12 matches, Torrado will watch from the sideline due to yellow card accumulation. A card he received that was suspect at best and horrendous at worst.
"I think we have to be honest, right, and Javi Marquez made a meal out of that in the end. Right, I mean, we gotta be honest. He was fouled to begin with and that was a foul, but after that, I'm not sure why he's doing that."
Because teams, seemingly with the exception of the Eleven, have learned that the NASL refs are going call every flop against the Eleven with either a penalty kick or a yellow card. In this case, I think Torrado was going to receive the yellow card for the initial foul and not from Marquez's disgusting embellishment antics, but it's the ref's or the assistant ref's responsibility to realize that there was a flop and issue a yellow card to Marquez as well. These are the things that turn off the casual fan and absolutely pisses off the die-hard fans, while taking away from the game. Personally, I'm tired of seeing this shit.

Exit soap box.

An injury to Vuko in stoppage team was felt to be a penalty kick by the Cosmos players and the Cosmos announcers, but the ref disagreed. However, what it did was remove Vuko from the game in what looked to be concussion protocol by the Cosmos medical staff so that the Eleven were forced to play with 10 for the 10 minutes of stoppage time (albeit some of that time was used by the attending to Vuko).

The Eleven vs Cosmos has turned into quite the rivalry and this game is another in line for most exciting game in the series. Even if you expected an exciting game, this game exceeded all expectations. Don't believe me? What about Eric Wynalda?

The Eleven head home on Saturday to play Jacksonville, who, at the moment, are desperate for a win in the Fall Season as they are the only team behind the Eleven. Sitting in last place. Will that desperation be stronger than the Eleven's home field advantage. At this point, who knows what to expect?

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Photo: NASL/NY Cosmos
Torrado. The fourth yellow card in four games worries me and Busch could have easily received the Game Ball, but unexpected offense in the form of a brace needs to be rewarded so that's what I'm going to do. Torrado, at 38 years old, uncorked a shot so hard from 20 yards out that Maurer barely had time to react before it was in the net behind him. Those are the flashes of brilliance that Indy Eleven fans wish they could see more often. The pinpoint passing and spot-on decision making are one thing, but it's always nice to be reminded that there's a reason he's the second highest capped Mexican international player.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Indy Eleven vs Miami FC - 04.19

- Opponent: Miami FC
- Location: Miami
- Attendance: 5,003
- Final Score: 3-1 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Keller, Vukovic, Ring, Torrado, Smart, Henderson, Speas, Zayed
- Substitutions: Goldsmith 32' (Henderson), Watson-Siriboe 65' (Falvey), Thompson 78' (Torrado)
- Unused: Cardona, Ubiparipovic, Ables
- Goals: Zayed 88' (assist Speas)
- Bookings: Falvey 50' (Yellow), Torrado 63' (Yellow), Ring 82' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

A week after giving up 3 goals in the second half to FC Edmonton, the Indy Eleven followed suite this week against Miami, giving up 3 goals in a 20 minutes span to move a 6-game undefeated streak into a 2-game defeated streak. The Eleven and Miami played to a stalemate in the first half, going into the break tied at nil-nil.A first half that could be best described as being "sluggish." Neither team seemed to have any urgency in their play as both teams were content to knock the ball around their defensive halves of the field and periodically pick their chances to go forward. Miami tended to do this with quick runs and efficient passing, while the Eleven did theirs with minimal players going forward and hopeful balls over the top.

NASL/Opta Average Position
Midfield Rules. Coach Hankinson learned his lesson in the first game against Miami in the Spring Season that the Miami midfield is a force to be reckoned with and you better have some cover and quick attention to them when they get the ball. So he broke out the 4-2-3-1 formation again this game with Torrado and Ring sitting in front of the backline and Speas playing just under Zayed. Smart and Henderson (who was injured and exited the field just after the 30-minute mark) rounded out the midfield. One of the Eleven's strengths this year has been their wing play, but Henderson's departure meant that Goldsmith was brought into the game and the 4-2-3-1 shifted a little more towards a 4-2-2-2 with Goldsmith playing a little higher up the field. Ring and Torrado took turns trying to push themselves away from the holding midfield role, but it was clear their role was to slow the Miami midfield and not push into the attack. Looking at the Average Position chart, this game was played in the middle of the field. Miami was credited with only 9 crosses because seemingly every time a player received the ball, they pushed it centrally. The Eleven were credited with 30 crosses, but they also routinely pushed the ball into the crowded middle of the field.

The Eleven giving up a goal in the 3rd minute of the second half put themselves into a difficult situation. They struggled to generate any offense in the first half and then they were forced to chase the game in the second half, nearly from the starting whistle. One thing I've noticed sitting at field level from time-to-time, Falvey isn't afraid to put a body on a player so that they know he's there. On Pinho's goal in the 48th minute (Pinho would pick up a 2nd goal in the 69th minute), not only was Falvey not providing any defensive pressure on Pinho, he looked like he had no idea Pinho was even there.

Winning in Miami was always going to be a challenge, but the defensive letdowns in the 2nd half and giving up 6 goals in a two-game span (all in the 2nd half) make this a difficult loss to take. It's still early in the Fall Season and the table is crowded at the moment, but this is the kind of game that the Eleven seemed to approach as playing for the draw, but executed as playing for the loss.

Let's talk about some players...

It may have come in the 88th minute, but Zayed needed to see the ball go in the back of the net. He had chances only to see them hit the woodwork or get stopped by a great reaction save. His header off of Speas' cross was perfectly redirected into the side netting.

Torrado picked up his 3rd yellow card in as many games in the Fall Season. Which makes the second time this year that he's had that kind of streak. After he had back-to-back-to-back yellow card games in the Spring, I joked that I thought he was just trying to get to 5 yellow cards so that he could take a game off. Then he missed the next six games in a row with an injury... Guess we'll see what happens next week against New York.

Photo: NASL/Miami

The Eleven would have liked to commemorate Jon Busch's 500th game with a victory, but winning against Miami, in Miami, was always going to be a tall order. Particularly since Miami had come off a 3 game losing streak (including the loss to FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup) and were going to be motivated to not turn their Spring run-of-form into a dumpster fire three weeks into the Fall Season. Yet it deserves attention that Busch has played 500 games in his long career. It's not unheard of to see a goal play into their mid-forties, which could potentially get Busch to the 600 game milestone, but I have a hunch this is his last year. Nothing really tangible to back that up, it's just a gut feeling.

Lovel Palmer - Shortly before this game, it was announced that Cory Miller was re-signing with the team, that Anthony Manning was being placed on medical leave due to continuing concussion issues, and Lovel Palmer and the team had "mutually parted ways." As I write this, it has been announced that Palmer has signed with Miami. The prevailing feeling is one of disappointment with the Front Office staff for letting Palmer go. If I've learned anything in my time covering the Indy Eleven, this is a business. Just like when you are unhappy at your job, soccer players can also find themselves in situations that aren't what they desire. I've never talked to Palmer nor Hankinson about this, but Palmer's release makes perfect sense to me. Palmer is a starting right back in this league. Franco is a starting right back in this league. However, watch this game again against Miami and honestly evaluate whether Palmer makes the same runs that Franco makes. This team needs the interplay between the wingers and the defenders and Palmer was never going to provide that skillset for this team. I'm guessing that Hankinson told Palmer something along those lines and that he valued Palmer's ability to cover where needed. Palmer told him he wanted to be a starter. Welcome to the Town of Impasse. Palmer wanted to be a starter more than stick around here and, as the team has done from its inception, the Eleven allowed him to pursue another path. It's unfortunate that he's headed to Miami, where I'm not sure he will be a starter either, but they're the ones who've shown the deepest pockets this year so it doesn't surprise me that they signed him. This is all guesswork by me, but it seems reasonable in my head.

Photo: NASL/Miami
Which leads us to Dylan Mares. Mares was/is my favorite Indy Eleven player from any season. Braun, Ring, Smart, and Estridge round out my top 5 (in that order if you're asking me today...), but I was truly disappointed to see Mares leave. In conjunction with Palmer's departure, the general consensus in the interwebs seems to be that it's a failure of the team and the Front Office staff that players of this caliber have been able to leave. Seeing Palmer on the bench, you could tell he wasn't happy here and the Eleven couldn't afford to pay Mares what Miami offered him. Again, we grow to love all of these guys who choose to done the Eleven crest and represent us, but it's a business. Running a business is hard under the best of times. Running a business in what looked like a failing league 8 months ago and directly competing with a second Division 2 league adds a factor of difficulty that makes decisions on players even more challenging. Mares is a talented player and is not out of his element in what might be the most talented team in all of Division 2 (NASL or USL) and Indy Eleven fans could certainly use his passing ability and propensity to test goalkeepers from 20 yards out (see his 60th minute goal beating Falvey and Busch while shooting with power in a very small available window), but it was the best decision for Dylan and maybe the best business decision for the Eleven at the time.

That's a long-winded way to say that those two guys have a legitimate chance at winning the Championship this year, are both deserving of it, will have at least one more chance in the Fall Season to torture Indy Eleven fans with their performance, and it still might be the correct business decision for the team.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I think I'm going to give it to Brad Ring this week. Because of plays like this...

Saw the movement, went for the ball, avoided the player. He's been a solid defensive midfielder this year and needs to get the love for it this week.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Indy Eleven vs FC Edmonton - 04.18

- Opponent: FC Edmonton
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 9,072
- Final Score: 3-1 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Keller, Vukovic, Ring, Smart, Speas, Torrado, Zayed, Goldsmith
- Substitutions: Henderson 77' (Torrado), Thompson 82' (Goldsmith)
- Unused: Cardona, Watson-Siriboe, Palmer, Ubiparipovic, Ables
- Goals: Vukovic 66' (from free kick)
- Bookings: Torrado 52' (Yellow), Ring 74' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

In an 8 team league, teams are going to play each other multiple times. The Eleven have seen their fill of the Eddies in the first 18, having now played each other 4 times. Unfortunately with this week's negative result, the Eleven have now played the Eddies to 1 win, 1 draw, & 2 losses. Playing a team this frequently also means that you're not going to be able to surprise anybody with formations or personnel. You are who you are and they are who they are. Injuries will adjust slightly, but given the number of injuries the Eleven had in the Spring Season, there is plenty of video on each player on the roster for which opponents can use to scout.

Yet, the defensive-minded Eddies came out in a much more attacking role than normal, putting the Eleven back on their heels early, continuing their mindset at the end of last week's game. Coach Miller indicated to last week's Edmonton television personnel that he would rather lose 5 - 4 than lose another 1 - 0 decision. That scoreline is a sore spot for Edmonton as they lost 8 games by that scoreline and as such, started attacking early and kept at it forcing the Eleven into poor touches and passes throughout large portions of the game.

The Eleven and Edmonton have routinely played close matches and a single goal has often been the game-winner. While it wasn't the official game-winner for Edmonton, their first goal in the 53rd minute off of a Corea penalty kick seems to be a microcosm of some of the Eleven's issues with referees, penalty kicks, and yellow cards. That was also so much going on during the penalty kick, that I'm going to break it down into little pieces that I want to discuss. The kick also signifies the 4 goal other teams have scored from the spot on the Eleven and another two that have been scored off saved penalty kicks that were followed and put away. Six penalty kicks awarded to opponents in a season seems high to me and there's still another 14 games left to go.

Here's the video:

Is there contact? Yes. Enough to cause a player to be taken out the way that Galvao makes it appear? No. Is the ref in a good position to make the call? Yes. Does he make the correct call? In my opinion, no. No, he does not.

From the video, you can see that the "foul" was called at 50:24 in the game. Yet the ball didn't finally make it into the back of the goal until 52:34. What could possibly happen to take over 2 minutes to take a penalty kick?

The comedy duo of Torrado and Falvey. Once the ball is set, Corea ties his shoes. Torrado has some discussion with the ref, within inches of Corea to give him some extra time to think about his shot. As Torrado backs ago, Falvey moves forward to complain about the ball placement while taking the ref's attention, and Torrado pulls out this gem:

Yes, that is Torrado reaching down and untying Corea's boot. It ultimately meant very little to Corea as he scores the kick and Torrado picked up his second yellow in as many games in the Fall Season, but that's a guy that has a lifetime of doing the little things to try and get into opposing players' heads.

Photo: NASL/FC Edmonton
If you recall, Edmonton were awarded a penalty kick back in May when these two teams played as Corea tripped over his own feet, made quite the show of going to ground, and was another unusual sequence played before fans in Edmonton. Here's my description of that sequence:
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.
Sounds eerily familiar. Continuing from my description...
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.

After all of the festivities this week with Falvey and Torrado, Corea finally prepares to take the penalty kick, stutter-stepped his approach again and put it to the right side of the goal while Busch dove to the left. Edmonton is now up by a goal in a game/series where one-goal games are common. My issue with the last part of this scenario is visible in the screen capture on the right. At this point in the capture, Corea has completed his stutter-step, but the ball is still firmly planted on the white spot on the ground. Yet Diakite, Fisk, and Ameobi (ok, and Falvey) are all well on their way towards goal. Given that Diakite started from the circle, that's a hefty run before the ball is ever kicked. This continues to prove why fans are constantly frustrated with the officiating that takes place in the NASL. If it was encroachment in Edmonton when Edmonton missed the shot, then it is encroachment here when they make the shot.

NASL/WNDY screen capture
<--- Oh, and while I'm at it talking about the NASL referees, this needs to end.

If I was the ref, I would tell them that if they aren't wearing a captain's armband, if they said another word, they would get a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct. I'm not sure if it is a letter of the law, but it might stop the meeting of the minds that some teams think is necessary after every single call.

Edmonton went on to score in the 59th minute, followed by a spectacular free kick from Vukovic, only to see Edmonton put one more on the board in the 73rd minute. After the second goal, I didn't think the Eleven could come back to win it and the final 17 minutes seemed like a formality once they scored their third. The team has talked about the belief that they can win, anywhere and anytime, but that feeling didn't seem to be reflected on the field on Saturday and is definitely a change from their 2016 form. They head down to Miami this week to play a team reeling from their first losing streak all year, eager to prove it was just a blip on the map, so the Eleven need to find that belief again and find it fast.

The Game Beckons Game Ball:

Vukovic. Not necessarily because I thought he overall play was spectacular necessitating choosing him over anybody else, but the guy can hit a damn good set piece. He scored off of one in the 66th minute in the upper left corner and then nearly did it again into the upper right hand corner later in the game. The NASL referees like to call fouls when a player falls out, regardless of whether it was actually a foul, so the Eleven need to fall down in the final third whenever they get the contact. Others seem to be playing the system and with a weapon like Vuko's free-kick left foot, the Eleven need to take advantage as often as possible.