Friday, September 15, 2017

Indy Eleven vs North Carolina FC - 04.23

- Opponent: North Carolina FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 7,798
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Miller, Vukovic, Ring, Torrado, Junior, Ubiparipovic, Speas, Zayed
- Substitutions: Goldsmith 65' (Torrado), Smart 81' (Speas)
- Unused: Cardona, Watson-Siriboe, Thompson, Lomeli
- Goals: Zayed 90'+1' (assist Franco)
- Bookings: Torrado 32' (Yellow) - 5th yellow card of the Fall Season
- Adage goals: None

A mid-week game with a chance of rain kept a good portion of the crowd away. Like most/all games in the history of the Eleven that occur mid-week, announced attendance wasn't anywhere close to actual attendance. Regardless, the crowd that did brave the potential weather issues, were engaged and boisterous and towards the end of the game, upset with the home squad. If you're looking for optimism in game recaps, this isn't the place for you today because this isn't going to be that evaluation of Wednesday's game.

The good news is that the team finally found the win column at home in the Fall Season. The team kept a clean sheet, keeping North Carolina FC from doing much of anything offensively, except for the occasional counterattack. Zayed, who's been knocking on the door a lot lately, saw one actually go into the goal, in second half stoppage time. The team's new signing got some playing time (and start). Nobody seemed to get injured.

Yet, so much of this game reminds of the dark days of the first two seasons. The team signed Paulo Junior late last week and all of his paperwork was finalized on Tuesday. So he's really only had a handful of practices with the team. While he played fairly well, there was clearly some missed connections that weren't there because there just hasn't been enough time to get to know his teammates. Due to the injury plague that has befallen this team this year, I fully expected him to see some minutes, if for no other reason than to allow Coach Hankinson a chance to see the extent of Paulo's match fitness. Yet, he was instantly inserted into the starting lineup. That gives the guys on the bench, healthy young guys like Goldsmith, Thompson, and Ables, a kick in the gut, further conveying to them that he doesn't trust them and doesn't believe they are NASL caliber starters. Yet, a guy who hasn't played in the league all year is better? All of this harkens back to when the team was struggling in 2014 and 2015 and guys were brought onto the team and instantly inserted into the starting lineup. Zach Steinberger comes to mind in Season Two, when he hadn't been with the team more than a day or two before being thrust into the starting lineup. Changes like this are concerning for a team's morale, chemistry, and screams of an Owner/Coach desperate for wins as they struggle to keep this team moving forward. Think of Bruce Arena bringing in certain guys for the national team...

Then there's the fact that the team had a man advantage for 50 minutes and it took a stoppage time goal to steal a win at home. FIFTY minutes of playing 11 v 10 and not being able to get a goal. NCFC were always going to be content to come to Indy and rattle off another draw on the road and give their Championship hopes some more breathing room. Once they went down a man, the proverbial bus wasn't exactly parked, but it wasn't moving very fast either. Most of the second half had all 10 guys behind the ball in their defensive half with a 4-4-1 arrangement. There were clear lines drawn at times across the field where NCFC were more than content to let the Eleven's defensive line kick it around the back. Indy kept possession and probed for shots, but then refused to take those shots when they developed. Some of their best chances came when somebody tried to take a shot from 20 yards out. Nearly every time they tried to take the ball further into NCFC's box, a swarm of defensive players was there to thwart the effort. The Eleven don't have a single guy on the roster than can take players on one-v-one to try and break down a parked bus mentality. Smart's close, but he didn't see action until the 81st minute, and his forte lately has been his ability to send in spectacular crosses. Yet, Zayed is the only target available for those crosses. There just isn't any team height with Braun's absence. Paulo Junior's 5'-7" frame isn't helping the cause.

As I left the game, my disappointment at how ineffective the team was with breaking down a man advantage far outweighed my joy that they actually stole the three points. As I walked out, I kept thinking about a rainy game in June 2015, when a Sommer led Eleven had a multiple man advantage and couldn't capitalize until the 8th minute of stoppage time on a blast from Kyle Hyland from nearly 30 yards out to salvage a draw. Peter Wilt shot me a look in the press box that silently said, "that was lucky." On the field, Coach Sommer laid into the effort of the guys telling them that if they didn't do a better job at their job, they would find somebody else to do it. Little did he know that he would be the one removed from his job. All of that came flooding back as I watched an 11-man Eleven squad struggle against a 10-man NCFC squad. It's difficult to consider that a coach with a 75% success rate in his time here might be shown the door, but something is drastically different this year and injuries can only be used as an excuse for so long. Letting go of an entire team is an option, but not a promising one. Which generally puts the coach on the hot seat.

Fifty minutes of ineffectively trying to score a goal when there should be an advantage doesn't help.

Some people will argue that a win is a win. I've referenced this on my site a few times now, but I think this win felt like a loss and that Gloria in White Men Can't Jump is onto something:
"Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic globule, from which one extracts what one needs."
I thought that making the Championship was going to be a long-shot, but with the games remaining, I just don't see it being realistic any longer. I hope they can prove me wrong and use this win as a launching pad, but this was a post out of pessimism, not optimism.

The Game Beckons Game Ball:

Drew Schwier. Sometimes the game means a lot and sometimes it doesn't. The game and this team meant a lot to Drew and it's hard to understand why things happen to good people. I only met Drew once, way back in 2014 when we swapped some gameday posters, but he seemed like a good guy, and his presence was definitely felt in the BYB on Wednesday. I appreciate that the team understood the magnitude of his death and honored him before the game.



1 comment:

Don said...

It felt like a loss to me too. You shouldn't have to play 50 minutes at home with a man up, and get one goal.