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.


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