|Bog standard hyperbowl?|
The build up to Indy's home opener for 2015 was quite intense, so much so last Wednesday I even found myself being watched by a former World Cup winner and some guy who once played for Al Sadd while I was urinating in a public restroom. A somewhat uncomfortable yet special experience. Billed as 8>7, this was not as some have suspected a screwball emoticon, but rather the jersey numbers of Jose Kleberson Pereira and Raul Gonzalez Blanco. A nifty little piece of marketing, mathematically it could never go wrong.
In the end Kleberson did not play, not sure if that was disappointing to him or not, Raul has never won a World Cup, so its not like he is famous for anything. They probably said hello to each other though at some point, somewhere around 70 minutes before Raul lived up to his billing.
So anyhoo, Indy Eleven don't hold many records at all, except for consecutive sold out games, and that time Kristian Nicht didn't let a goal in for a while, but we can say one thing in the run up to this game that the one team we have never been beaten by in the NASL is the New York Cosmos. Up until this meeting the two teams had met each other three times and played out three draws. Not sure if we can be classed as their bogey team or not, maybe it's just that our lack of playing style totally confuses them, like it did most of last year. I prefer just to say to myself NEW YORK sucks in general, and will never be greater than INDIANAPOLIS!!!
The stadium was packed and rocking again, a 15th consecutive sell out for an NASL game. I stood up near the back of the West End behind the goal and it seemed there was many more people in there than there was tickets sold, and that is not a bad thing, unless of course the stand collapses. People were still streaming in as the game commenced, as is the american way, squeezing every last second out of the tailgate is more important than the start of the match itself of course. It wasn't until about the 5th or 6th minute of the game that you could see the place was actually packed to overflowing. And at the top of the parking garage outside of the stadium, you could see a line of people who were not able to get a ticket catching a free view of the game.
I obviously don't need to bore you with a three page blow by blow account of the game as most of you either were there or watched on TV, if you didn't the replay of the game is still available at espn3.com.
One thing I will note, being in the West End and watching the whole game, what you think you saw is not always how it was when you view the game again afterwards on TV, which I did before writing this. I came away from Carroll after 90 minutes satisfied with a point (well to be honest praying for a point in added time) and thinking we gave ourselves a reasonable showing, only to watch the replay and then resolve myself to the fact that the coaches and the team should be totally unsatisfied with our performance.
In the first 20 to 25 minutes of the first half the Eleven capitalized on a Cosmos team that took quite some time to settle down and find their rhythm, New York were haphazard and incoherent. Most of Cosmos danger play came from Ayoze Garcia and Walter Restrepo in the width but as an attacking force they were not really offering anything at all. In stark contrast Indy seemed to not use any of the width at all, our most opportune moments came from something all too familiar, the dreaded long ball (more of that later). Probably the most precise of our long passes and the one that led to the opening goal came from a breakup of play from Frias and a short pass infield to Malgares who looked up and made a sweet chip forward looking for Rugg. What happened next can only be described as a brainfart by Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer. Charlie Rugg was flanked by center backs and Maurer should have been more trusting in his defense. Instead he ran out some 22 to 25 yards to try and clear the ball but only succeeded in supplying a low header to the feet of Brian Brown, one quick step and a light upward strike from the outside of his left foot and the Jamaican lobbed everyone and curled the ball into the right side of the Cosmos net, scoring his first goal for the team and the first home goal of the season. Fitting that the goal was scored in the 11th minute.
After the midway point of the first half, Cosmos would set the tone for the rest of the game, slowly working their way into a rhythm and controlling possession with crisp short passing and making good use of the width of the field, something we really failed to do during the entire game. To be fair we allowed that to happen, the snap and aggressiveness we showed in the first 25 minutes slowly started to seep away from our team.
The second half was all about Cosmos controlling the possession and Indy Eleven chasing the ball, resulting in a premature onset of tiredness which only got more apparent the more New York kept the ball, stringing short passes together reminiscent of what you would expect to see in a relaxed training ground pickup. The only thing stopping the Cosmos from transferring their steady build ups into goals was Kristian Nicht who was called on to make point blank saves periodically through the last two thirds of the game. However not even Kristian could save us from the clinical finish of Raul in the 65th minute. The 37 year old showed exactly why he should never be trusted, popping up in the right place at the right time, his goal was completely predatory and an example of why he has played at the top level for most of his life. He wasn't marked though and that needs to be looked at. As in the first half Indy's best chances came from long balls for the remainder of the game. We trudged through the second half like a bear with it's back foot stuck in a bucket!
In all fairness Indy is a team still finding itself again, we have started another year with two draws, but it is obvious that we have a much stronger squad with depth in every position, it's just going to take them time to find their style and find themselves. Some of the most apparent things noticeable from this game, we failed to use the width and corners against Cosmos, we very rarely if at all built attacks from the back in this game, the back line rarely moved up in unison and for a lot of the game the middle of the park was bypassed in favor of long balls over the top either from our midfield, our backs or keeper. The long ball was ever present last year and it never worked and it really has to stop, I am not sure if its a tactic we are using or is it just something we slip into when things are not working the way we want them to. Regardless of whether we have the best target man in the world up front, it should never be a preferred choice in today's game. Our objective should be to retain possession as much as possible, I would rather see our midfield pass the ball back to a defender or even the keeper rather than give it away cheaply, the longer you control the ball the more tired the other team gets, Cosmos proved that on Saturday night. I am encouraged by the squad we have now, it's a good squad and we are strong, the guys just need more playing time together.
Commentator Brad Hauter stated in about the 93rd minute that if Indy could hold on for a few minutes and pick up a point I am sure they will be happy with that. I have to completely disagree, they can be happy they did not lose, but a team should never be happy about drawing a game they should have killed in the first half. BE ANGRY and improve, never settle for second best. We made Cosmos look good.
Things to be worked on before the next game: Corners, we only had a few and only the first one was any good, I saw the same thing against Bradley, corners that barely get above head height are a waste of time, get them up and down, cause problems, set pieces are valuable, don't waste them. Short passing under pressure, we really need to improve our possession game, too many times two players were just passing back and fore because they didn't know what else to do, pass it back to the defense, sometimes you have to go back to go forward. NO LONG BALLS, cut that out of our game, if players are pumping long balls in training, make them sit out for 2 minutes and come back in, we need to lose the long ball.
Bloody Shambles Moments: The NASL referees choosing to wear red, despite Indy eleven wearing red socks and Kristian Nicht wearing all red. The color of choice should have been yellow. Jimmy "Bloody Shambles" Maurer the Cosmos Goalie doing his impression of Superman tripping on his cape while trying to save a falling baby.
Bloody Shambles MVP: Dylan Mares once again put in a great shift, but MVP for me this week has to be Kristian Nicht, a string of saves at point blank range won us a point.
Bloody Shambles LVP: Sorry Sergio Pena but you played like a bench player in a amateur co-ed team, no effort in tackling or defending, just running round enjoying the show, not impressed. Must do better.
THIS TEAM IS GOOD, WE CAN DO THIS!!! NEW YORK WILL NEVER BEAT US!!