Thursday, April 16, 2015

Don't worry Julius James can't break your ankle this week! (San Antonio V Indy Eleven 4/18/15 Preview)

Scorpions Mascot - Mr Hankey
I am sure for some the most lasting image of the San Antonio Scorpions is that of Kristian Nicht leaning over flopper extraordinaire Billy Forbes and calling him a something or other. But for me it was the bone crunching tackle that Julius James laid out on Brad Ring in San Antonio last year. In fairness he had the decency to reach out later to Brad and apologize for the tackle that saw him ejected from the game, but it was of little consolation to Indy who went the rest of the season without one of their most consistent players because of a broken ankle. The most galling thing about that incident was James escaped with only a one game suspension despite being a player with a history of red cards. This followed not long after Jermaine Johnson was served a two match suspension for a bad tackle that was not intentional but was adjudged to be of a violent nature? It was at the point I started to realize it's too much like hard work to understand disciplinary action in the NASL. We don't have to worry about that on April 18th, Julius James picked up yet another red card in the home opener against Tampa and will serve a suspension for this game.

All that aside, although we have only had one really enjoyable game against the Scorpions, defeating them for a second straight home win in fall last year, I am going to share a few words of respect for this team (as much as it pains me). The NASL in it's new form is a progressive league, and San Antonio have been a big part of that before Indianapolis became a statistic. NASL announced it's expansion into Texas in 2010 and San Antonio would eventually feature in the league in the spring of 2012. The club did a great job in promoting the team and began their NASL history playing at Heroes Field and set the highest average attendance for 2012 at around 9200. Before all that began, Scorpions had already set about construction of the the second only purpose built Soccer Stadium by a team in the modern era of NASL soccer outside of Montreal's Saputo Stadium. Toyota Field is a simple yet impressive and attractive facility for this level and it was completed in a years time. Construction started in February of 2012 and the facility was completed in time for their season opener in 2013. Scorpions finished 3rd in the Spring of 2013 and finished rock bottom last in the fall and saw their average attendance fall by a third from the previous year. However even with a decrease in 2013, an average attendance of over 6000 is nothing to be snuffed at in this league, and in 2014 they pushed that figure back closer to 7000 and as we know, won the Soccer Bowl by overcoming Fort Lauderdale 2-1 on November 15th. So respect where respect is due, San Antonio Scorpions are a very important player in the NASL.

Because of the bye week this year, San Antonio have only played one game so far. In the first round they played hosts to Tampa Bay and found themselves on the end of a 3-1 thumping. Having watched the game I would say the Scorpions were caught cold, Tampa have played 11 pre season games, so despite adding 20 players in the off season, they have had a lot of game time. It showed, Tampa looked like a team who were 5 or 6 games into their season and settled. Despite the result at times the Scorpions showed a lot of speed in their midfield and they can turn on an attack very quickly and also hit the woodwork three times in the game. I thought their keeper looked very shaky, Kempin probably could have done a lot better on the first two goals, especially the first, Tampa scored from a header off the corner, but the ball went right past Kempins face, should have saved it. Add to that Julius James who is their longest serving center back is now out, also Janicki is now with Indy, Scorpions will have to play with two recently added centers who probably have not had much time together. Indy Eleven definitely need to try and exploit that situation. No doubt the Scorpions will be hurting and looking to bounce back from a bad start, but from what I have seen of them Indy have no reason to fear them. The good thing for us, San Antonio have played one game and were not allowed to find their game at all thanks to Tampa.

Unlike their first two games so far, Indy have to use the width and put crosses in to challenge this defense and keeper, in last weeks game against the Cosmos there was not hardly a single cross ball from open attacking play, Eleven did not use the width or corners at all and spent most of the game trying to feed long balls through to the forwards. This is an away game against last years champions, despite Scorpions bad start it's not going to be an easy game, but Indy should be patient in the beginning but try to bring as much attack to San Antonio as possible. We need to find our passing game and our style, despite having a much stronger squad this year, we have yet to cultivate any real shape or harmony. The key to winning this game may come from working extra hard to win the midfield, Scorpions are a fast counter team and if we can break them down early in their own half or in the center of the park then we can take a result from the game. The long balls have to go, we have to get into a rhythm and keep the ball on the ground if we want to keep possession even if that sometimes means going backward to go forward. So far our back line has been solid, they will need to be on their toes in this game, San Antonio are fast and also are more than willing to shoot from distance.

Who's in, who's out for Indy?: Victor Pineda and Judson McKinney will remain sidelined for this weekend's game, Jaime Frias and Sergio Pena will be available to start the game.

What team would we pick?: I think the only change I would make for this weekend would be Ring to start ahead of Pena, judging by his performance I am not sure he was fit enough for the game last week. So.... Nicht, Franco, Norales, Janicki (c), Frias, Stojkov, Ring, Mares, Malgares, Brown, Rugg. Subs: Cardona, Hyland, Pena, Kleberson, Wojcik, Miller, Smart. 

How can we win?: Indy have to win the midfield battle, our forwards and mids need to hustle the Scorpions back line and midfield any time they have the ball, Scorpions are very capable in attack, break them up and don't let them settle to a rhythm. Test their centers and keeper, we need to attack as a team and use the width, low crosses at the top of the 18 and crosses in over to the box, also use opportunities to shoot from distance and test their shaky keeper. Be resolute at the back, pass sensibly and retain possession, make them work for the ball.

Prediction: I don't really want to see another draw, but this is my gut instinct, I am tipping Indy Eleven to 'not lose' for a third straight game. It's going to be a tight game and I don't see a lot of goals, 0-0 or 1-1. Man to watch - Charlie Rugg, if we can play a better passing game and get the ball into the feet rather than coming from behind his head, he can cause all kinds of problems. Even if Rugg is not on the scoresheet, I think he will be pivotal in our attack this week.

Bloody Shambles!

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