Monday, April 16, 2018

Indy Eleven vs Nashville SC - 05.04

- Opponent: Nashville SC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,188
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Ring, Mitchell, Rusin, Ayoze, Matern, Lewis, Pasher, Steinberger, Saad, McInerney
- Substitutions: Watson 68' (Lewis); Braun 83' (McInerney); Guerra 90' (Steinberger)
- Unused: Farr, Speas, Moses, Amankona
- Goals: Saad 15' (assist Ayoze), Saad 34' (assist McInerney)
- Bookings: Ayoze 70' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: One

For the second week in a row, the Indy Eleven scored in the 15th minute to give themselves an early lead and forced their opponent into chasing the game. Unlike last week, the Eleven added a second goal in the 34th minute to further provide themselves with a cushion. However, a lapse in defensive structure late in the first half gave Nashville a dreaded "adage goal" and some momentum going into the break (as a reminder for those new to the site, the "adage goal" is something that Doug Starnes  first talked about with the Indy Eleven as far back as May 2014 on his, now defunct, Eleventh Heaven blog. "There’s this adage in soccer that teams are most vulnerable at the beginning and end of matches, a just either side of halftime, and just after a goal has been scored...For consistency’s sake, we’ll use five minutes as the universal window across the adage."). Coach Rennie had this to say about what happened in the locker room at halftime:
"At half time it wasn’t so much a conversation but a rant to make sure that we don’t do that. You have to respect the game. You have to respect the opponent. You have to respect the whole game until the last minute whether that be half time or the end of the game. We didn’t do that. We let down just a little bit and we got punished. It made the game much harder than it should have been. At 2 nil we felt like we were playing very well and we were comfortable. I thought it the second half we managed the game well and had a few good chances and didn’t give up too many."
After the break and with Coach's rant in their heads, the Eleven took on a much more defensive mentality in the second half. This makes two weeks in a row where the team has had a lead and then moved into a more defensive stance with their tactics. With the exception of the FC Cincinnati game when they were behind and were the ones needing the goal, the Eleven have been forced to withstand some fairly significant waves of pressure and have done so admirably. As a fan, I've never understood the proverbial parking of the bus with a one goal lead because it seems like points are routinely lost by an adage or stoppage time goal.

Fortunately for the Eleven this year, they've done a good job of absorbing the attacks and limiting teams to only a couple of good opportunities. Nashville SC looked to duplicate their late first half heroics with some late second half heroics with a set piece in the 89th minute from just outside the 18 yard box. From Reed's service into the box, Bourgeois put his header on frame, which was out of reach for Fon Williams, but was blasted 50 yards back up field by Steinberger who had drifted to the post on the restart. That's the attacking midfielder defending well late in the game. That's another good sign of things to come.

The USL Matchcenter shows the team starting out as a 4-2-3-1, but I think it played more like a 4-4-2 with Saad and McInerney up top. Saad definitely dropped back at times into the midfield, but recent Team of the Week winner Pasher also pushed forward.


As in the Average Position map shows Pasher as if he was the lone striker. The map plays out like the 4-2-3-1 that the league felt they were playing, but it was, unexpectedly, the left midfielder who was in that "1" spot. When Lewis was subbed out in the 68th minute for Watson, Pasher moved from his left mid position to right mid. A move that I questioned at the time because of Pasher's desire to kick, shoot, or cross with his preferred left foot. Putting him on the right means he's going to turn back to the middle instead of making a cross with his right foot. If you remember, his preference is so strong, he missed a good opportunity in the 10th minute of the game against North Carolina because he couldn't get it on his left foot and instead shot it over the goal and into the stands with his right. Coach Rennie had a reason for the change and was happy with the way he played:
"The first thing of it was that I wanted to shut that side down a little bit more but because of his good defensive work, that happened. And also I think the game changed a little bit at that point, I don't know if you could sense that, but we got a lot of our chances once he went to the right. And that meant the fullback had a different look and he's quite comfortable playing on the right coming inside and that actually I think was when the momentum in the second half changed and the game became a little easier for us. So I think he can do right, left, or left back so that's nice for a coach to have."
Okay, okay, Saad's free kick, and a Sportscenter Top 10:

Seriously?! I could sit here and watch that strike for hours. The bend on that ball made Pickens look silly and that's not an easy thing to do. Luckily for me, I can watch it and his first one, over and over again, because I missed his first goal live. Lucas Oil being Lucas Oil, I was moving between one part of the stadium to another and that's not always the easiest thing to do. While I was away from the field, Saad scored his first goal. Ironically, and sadly, I missed the very first goal ever scored in Carroll Stadium because of the mess of a concession stand issues that first game and I now missed the very first goal ever scored in Lucas Oil Stadium.

While I'm discussing the goals, I thought it was funny that the first goal was scored by a 50-yard pin-point assist from Ayoze and a relatively short kick on goal, while the second goal was a very short assist, but a 35-yard shot on goal. Long/short and short/long. Let's talk about that assist from Ayoze too. Yes, the defender misjudged his jump and didn't get a head to it, thereby allowing Saad to run onto it, but that is an absolutely effective use of the long ball. Perfectly executed. Ayoze put the ball in a position that forced the defender to try to get to it, far enough that Saad could run onto it, but not so far that Pickens had any chance of getting there ahead of Saad off of his line. Pickens had no choice but to stay in his area and then try to make a save once Saad put himself into a better shooting range. It looked simple, but that was a spectacular ball from Ayoze.

I'm still concerned about Fon Williams' kicks out of his goal when he's under a little bit of pressure. I've talked to my trusted goalkeeper source and he's assured me that I shouldn't be worried yet (I'm paraphrasing a little), but that left-footed shank that went less than 20 yards forward and 20 rows into the stands continues to be a troubling aspect of his goalkeeping for me. I hope they get it resolved soon because teams are going to start trying to find ways of taking advantage of his rushed kicks.

A couple of miscellaneous items:

  1. Lewis is dangerous on the right side. He has great skill, but is maybe trying to do too much at times right now. Felt like he overran the ball a couple times trying to make moves. He's also going to need to figure out that the refs in the USL are not the same as the ones he sees playing for Trinidad and Tobago and falling easily likely won't get you a call. What it got him on Saturday was a discussion with the ref about what the ref perceived as potential flopping.
  2. There were some guys behind me this week, who probably couldn't be described as "fans" of the Eleven, but were out, rather, to watch a reasonably priced soccer match in the weather-controlled environment of Lucas Oil Stadium. I can say that, because inexplicably against my personality, I turned around to talk to them after overhearing their conversations. One of them (the one who seemed to know less about soccer than the other) booed at the "umpire" for talking to Lewis about the above mentioned perceived flop attempt. He was also the one that said that he didn't think a stadium for just the Eleven would happen and definitely shouldn't happen "before they fix the friggin' roads." The second one has attended games at Carroll Stadium and liked the noon start and hoped that all of the games started at that time. Thought it was good for families who didn't want their kids out late at night. They both seemed disappointed by the announced attendance of 10,188 having expected to be part of 17k to 20k fans. They were the prime example of residents who may be seeing the team play entirely because the amenities are better at LOS than at Carroll. Either way, they seemed to enjoy the game and I got the impression that they might be back for future games. 

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This is about as easy a Game Beckons Game Ball selection as I've had in the past two seasons of giving out this "award." A Zayed hat-trick might have been a bit easier, but Soony Saad deserves it this week. Not only did he get a brace for the Eleven, but he did it in spectacular fashion. His second was amazing, discussed above, but the first one was special too, also discussed above. When asked about it after the game, he had this to say about it:
"It was a lot more. Jack checked in and the defender had gone with him leaving up some free space. Then Ayoze saw it and played a perfect ball and I was able to out-stride the defender that went for it. It went over his head and I was able to capitalize and finished. I almost thought it was too good to be true. I stayed cool and put it in the back of the net." Coming from a guy who was talking to the media scrum in a bow-tie, "cool" takes on a different meaning (make no mistake, some guys can pull off a bow-tie in a media scrum in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium and Saad is one of those guys. He can also make you feel really old, which he was able to do to me. My issue, not his...).

When he finished the shot, he had three defenders around him and one of the best goalkeepers in the league in front of him and he calmly put the ball in the net. Two top-notch finishes in the first half. I would have liked to see him have more chances in the second half to go for the hat trick, but, as mentioned already, the team took a more defensive stance to the second half. As the team gets more into stride, I don't think we've seen the last of multiple goal games from him nor the other forwards on this team so maybe we'll see another player join Zayed with hat tricks for this team.


Captain Brad Ring - One step closer to officially having 100 appearances for The Eleven



Jeff C. said...

It's a sign of your blog's influence on me that when Nashville scored right before the half my first thought was, "%&$# adage goal."

Saad was a washout at Sporting KC, and the preseason reports I had on him were not great, but he's quickly becoming my favorite player on the new roster.

Unknown said...

Oh, and I missed Indy's first goal at Carroll because of the concessions mess, too. But I saw Saad's first on Saturday (as well as his second). I was really impressed by his composure--it would be easy in a setting like that to rush, or to misfire, or to lose control, or otherwise to choke. He didn't.

Drew said...

The team has such a historical habit of adage goals that it has become ingrained into my thinking and watching of games. Turns out Doug Starnes fell into something that would be a vital part of Indy Eleven with his adage goal article...