Sunday, October 7, 2018

Indy Eleven vs Bethlehem Steel FC - 05.33

- Opponent: Bethlehem Steel FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 14,894
- Final Score: 1-1 D
- Starting XI: Fon Williams, Ouimette, Mitchell, Ferreira, Ayoze, Matern, Moses, Watson, Mares Collier, Starikov
- Substitutions:  Rusin 41' (Mitchell - injury); McInerney 62' (Moses); Speas 70' (Starikov)
- Unused: Lundgaard, Ring, Guerra, Saad
- Goals: Starikov 60' (assist Ayoze)
- Bookings: Moses 58' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

The Eleven came into the game knowing that a win solidified their place in the playoffs, a draw kept them in the running, and a loss took their fate out of their own hands. To prevent that last scenario from happening, the Eleven were forced to fight back from a goal deficit when a ball was sent through to Bethlehem's Faris and he was able to walk into a close range for a shot after a recovering defensive run from Mitchell sent him into a heap on the turf with what looks like a significant hamstring injury. Coach Rennie was unable to provide any indication of the extent of the injury immediately after the game, but any time you see a player crumble like he did, you have to expect that he won't be available to play next weekend against Louisville City FC.

What that means for the lineup, which again was started with the 3 back setup for this game, will be an interesting evaluation during the week. Exacerbating the issue is that Mitchell's replacement in this game, Brad Rusin, also came up lame in the late stages of the game and he was forced to play more up top with Watson playing the defensive role to help nurse the draw across the finish line. Venegas was not available for this game after picking up a knock during training during the week. All of those injuries could create an interesting lineup on Saturday. If those three are not able to go next week, we may see Ring or Moses on the back line, with the team going back to the previously used 4-4-2. Coach Rennie has said that he didn't feel comfortable with a 3 back lineup until Ferreira returned and had some games under his belt with the other guys so I assume he didn't feel that Ring, et al, were capable of performing the way he wanted in that scenario. It will be interesting to see the injury report later this week.

Indy started this game with the three back lineup again with Collier and Starikov up top. Bethlehem's press forced the Eleven to pull Ayoze further back into a defensive role, but Coach Rennie wanted the team to continue to operate with the 3-5-2 mentality. The injury to Mitchell further complicated that tactic with the players being forced to adjust on the fly as the game progressed. Watson described it afterwards as "we went to a 4-4-2 at one point and we went to a 5-3-2...once we got the goal, it was just "we're not going to concede a goal."" and that mentality was evident as I remember at least twice late in the game where Mares tracked a player all the way back to the endline with Ferreira helping out. Both cases resulted in a corner kick, but it was obvious that the midfield was as much, or more, involved in their defensive roles as they were in the forward roles. That's a significant advantage to having players like Mares, Moses, and Watson on the field.

Collier and Starikov worked hard up top, but this was not one of Collier's best games. His hold-up play and connection with the other players were off early. I can't pinpoint the difference, but he just didn't seem to put passes where they were expecting them to go. He didn't play horrible, but he seemed off.

Fon Williams had one of his better games that I can remember. He had a spectacular double-save in the 16th minute and then another in the 83rd minute, all of them requiring him to bail out mistakes from the defense in front of him. When I asked him afterwards about what goes through his mind at times like those, he provided a very thoughtful response:
"Being a goalkeeper in that situation, you gotta put yourself as much in the attacker's mind as possible because at the end of the day, I don't know whether you've ever stood in goal, but it's pretty big behind you. You gotta fill that goal as much as you can. In that scenario, you've gotta realize what's the percentage, what's it going to be? Is he going to take the shot early? In that case, you've got to hold back or is he going to take his touch? In that moment, you got a decision to make whether you can go close him down and go for the presented ball with your body spread. Or whether hang back and be in a reaction save. You hold your ground and try to make the save that way. In the first half, I saw him come into the box, he took a little bit of a heavy touch, and at that point, that made my mind up I was going to come out and make myself as big as possible. Thankfully, in that scenario, it worked my way. Being a goalkeeper, it's all about decision making and it's all a learning curve. You win some, you lose some."
The following is a summary of some of my other notes about the game that I thought were interesting, but didn't deserve more detailed discussions:

  • The 24th minute tackle on Watson by Chambers is how guys blow out knees. Should have been a yellow card for Chambers. It was good to see Chambers finally pick up a yellow card later in the game, even if it wasn't until the 87th minute.
  • In the 32nd minute, Moses got the "1-2-3 foul" talk from the referee. Given the way that Moses plays, I knew it was just a matter of team before he picked up a yellow. Moses managed to make it to the 58th minute before getting a yellow card on a foul that was far less severe than some of the ones from the Bethlehem players that deserved yellow cards, but weren't given.
  • In the 33rd minute, Bethlehem's Ngalina injured himself on the stands, proceeded to walk back onto the field, and then fell down on the field...with a wrist injury. These kinds of things drive me crazy. It creates stoppage time unnecessarily.
  • Matern shot the ball towards goal (it was just his 6th of the season, with only 1 on target)
  • 86th minute McInerney bike attempt, Mares scissor kick attempt on goal just over the bar. That would have been a spectacular way to get a win.
The Eleven are still not officially in the playoffs, nor are the officially out of them either. A win against Louisville City FC on Saturday would be the best alternative; a draw relies on a number of scenarios working in their favor and a loss requires an even greater number of scenarios working in their favor. It going to be difficult to predict how the game will go until more information is known on their injury situation, as well as what lineup LCFC chooses to use since they are already in the playoffs. Do they chose to rest some guys before starting the playoffs the next week or do they play them due to the regional rivalry aspect of the game?

You can only play the team in front of you and the Eleven need the win so that they can avoid scoreboard watching on Saturday night.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

This was the kind of game where I have difficulty giving one player the Game Beckons Game Ball. Fon Williams was vital in the win with the saves that he made, particularly the double save in the 16th minute. Mares was steady in the midfield. Watson played well, both in his midfield role and the defensive role in which he was thrust late in the game. Starikov's goal was important.

Which leads me to my selection for the final home game of the season. Ayoze. For my money, he's the team MVP. In this game, he accounted for 5 of the team's 9 Chances Created. With his assist on Starikov's goal (which was a 50-yard dime and is the long yellow line on the screen capture of his distribution), Ayoze becomes the Eleven's single season assist leader, bypassing Dylan Mares. He's the team's set piece specialist. He takes all the corner kicks. This team would be completely different without him.




Jeff C. said...

I couldn't make it to the last home game of the season. Did the attendance actually look substantially larger than in other recent games?

Drew said...

Substantially larger? Yes.

Nearly 15k? No.