|Just the one pot of gold though!|
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there may be an Indy Eleven team playing that is winning and rejoicing, but even though under the rainbow we managed to score a goal, it was a another night of frustration and woe for the Eleven in front of their own fans.
Our one goal came from a set piece and a header by Sergio Pena at close range, it was literally our only shot on target in the whole game, outside of this play N'Djock the Minnesota goalkeeper did not have to make a save in the game. Add to that we only had about 4 shots off target pretty much sums up where we are as a threat to any other team right now, no threat at all.
Several changes were made to the starting lineup again some of them forced some of them not, Janicki sat down with a calf problem but was available to play off the bench if necessary, he was replaced by Cory Miller. Kyle Hyland was preferred over Frias, and did a very good job of showing people why he should start games. Indy started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, and elected to play all three of our forwards, deploying Brown and Rugg in a wide midfield position and putting Wojcik up front. Brad Ring received the Captain's armband. This is the kind of formation I wanted to see, but I don't understand why we did not play players who are used to playing in those positions, I know Brown and Rugg can play wide when needed, but it seems odd to not play any of either Pineda, Smart or Melgares from the start. If the idea was if we have our three forwards on we may have more chance to score, well that didn't work, our top scorer this year is now a defensive midfielder. Would Melgares, Pineda or Smart have made a difference in the first half, difficult to tell, possibly, possibly not.
The first half saw us find a reasonable amount of possession and create some good attacking play, the best of which always seemed to be on the right where we managed to play Rugg in several times, but the left was not as successful, Hyland and Brown didn't seem to be having the same success, Hyland on at least one occasion showing his frustration at Brown's passing vocally. Minnesota played as I expected with a very high line, evident when Mares was called back for offside not too far inside the Minnesota half on 12 minutes. For the first 20 minutes or more most of our play came down the right side but nobody seemed willing to throw their body in front of the ball when crosses came in. Right before the 21st minute Erick Norales made a tackle to try and halt a run into the box by Jamie Watson and solid matter hit solid matter and a free kick was awarded to Minnesota about 24-25yrds out. United's Alhassan played a beautiful curling free kick into the top right corner of the net, Cardona positioned well and got fingertips to it but it was not enough and Minnesota took a 1-0 lead. Kyle Hyland brought an extra weapon to Indy Eleven's attack arsenal, a long throw which is a good as a corner anywhere from within the last 20 or so yards of the field. The first time we saw this it started off a series of attacks from Indy around the 28 mark, Kyle's long throw tried to find Wojcik in the area but Watson got his head to it first to knock it down into the center of the 18, but quick thinking and an unwillingness to give up the ball by Brad Ring saw us force a corner from the play as Minnesota scrambled to try and win possession. The arc of Mares corner was a little too high and the ball went by everyone and just over the head of Norales. Indy's next decent attempt on goal came from a free kick after a foul on Rugg at the top of the Minnesota 18, Dylan Mares put good speed on the ball but couldn't keep it low enough, the ball whiffed over the left corner of the goal. Our best chance to level the game in the first half though was in the 44th minute right before half time, another great long throw from Hyland on the left found the head of Wojcik who flicked it up and behind him to the right side of the 18 where it fell beautifully for Brian Brown with space and he totally miscued his kick, had he got the boot behind it the ball surely would have gone in the net, happens to the best of strikers I guess but also just typifies Indy's luck in front of goal right now. Indy ended the half without a single shot on target and a goal down.
Indy started the second half with probably the most consecutive passes they had all night, a total of 12 passes between all four defenders and Cardona, but as soon as we got near that half way line we tried something other than a simple pass, Franco tried to flick it in the air through to Pena and we lost the ball, important to highlight as this seems to be typical of us as a team and its a player confidence issue at times, all he had to do was pass it back one more time and try again rather than buckle under pressure. Throughout most of the game 5 seemed to be our magic number, the average number of passes we could complete before losing the ball. Great work from Pena in the 47th minute to break from the back line of MNU and receive a pass from Mares saw his cut back chip towards goal blocked and sent out for a corner. Excellent delivery from Mares saw Sergio Pena get air time before anyone else at the edge of the 6 yard box and he smashed home a header without any resistance to tie the game up at 1-1. In the 52nd minute Indy had a great chance to go ahead in the game when a perfectly weighted through ball from Wojcik sent in Rugg with time and space but Rugg's first touch let him down and he pushed the ball too far in front of himself before getting a chance to shoot. The Eleven's chances came fewer and far between, despite having a lions share of the possession in the first 20 minutes of the second half. When Minnesota started to get a hold of the ball and string passes together again, it worked for them. After a free kick was played forward from their own half and knocked back down from Norales, Minnesota put together a string of 7 passes, the final one cutting through the Indy defense and playing in Campos on the right side of Indy's box, his low drive left saw Cardona dive and get his fingertips to the ball to push it wide but Minnesota's Justin Davis came crashing in at the back post and slammed the ball home. Our defensive shape was a bit of a mess, this is what happens when a team plays a smart passing game it helps pull players around, Davis was being tracked by Rugg who just couldn't match him for pace, Franco who you would expect to be watching a back post runner and Miller were left in the middle with a good view of the goal. Minnesota had regained the lead 2-1 with 27 or so minutes remaining. Indy replaced Brian Brown with Don Smart shortly after to try and give some fresh impetus, ironically the first ball played to him was a high and fast long ball by Pena that skidded on past the end line. Pineda replaced Brad Ring on the 76th minute, this puzzled me, Brad had a great game and did not look like he was about to give up, he was literally everywhere on the field and was visibly upset as he walked to the bench, upset with the game, upset with coming off? Not sure. I would have replaced Rugg preferably, if he can't keep up with a full back as was evident at the second United goal then he probably needed a rest, or Pena. It made little difference anyway, Minnesota were gradually taking full control of the game and they put the final nail in the coffin in the 85th minute. Pineda got stripped of the ball just inside the Indy half by Vicentini who proceeded to drive toward goal via a smart one two pass with Ramirez who had replaced Campos, defensively we offered nothing at this point, neither Pena, Norales or Miller or anyone else was willing to stick out a leg to try and get the ball and Vicentini crashed through our back line and slotted home a cool finish from left to right past Cardona. Indy were a team already beaten and this was clearly visible at Minnesota's third goal.
Honestly I don't think we played as bad as we did in Jacksonville, and the Florida team should have scored more when we played them. We showed signs of better attacking play and taking the ball to the opposition more, but again I think we tinkered with the lineup too much, I was not so much bothered by the back four, I think it is high time Hyland was given a start, I like that we have Hyland and Frias in the squad for that position, but for me Hyland is much better player technically and physically, and with the addition of the long throws which is like having a half dozen extra corners in the game, I think he proved that he should be in the starting lineup more often. Miller also had a good solid game, couple of giveaways but overall a noteworthy performance. We don't offer anything up front really, and we still cannot transition well from back to front, so playing two strikers in the midfield position made no sense to me, and it has to be puzzling to our midfielders who sat on the bench, we had three strikers on the field and had ONLY ONE shot on target in the game and it was from a set piece, so if the idea was to be more of an attacking threat it obviously didn't work. The commentators said Minnesota were "unbelievably good" I have to disagree, they were good, they did everything a good team should do, retain possession, make smart passes, use all your players in build up and use the whole field, play a high line and keep on top of your opposition when they have the ball. That's what they did and they won, but they were not unbelievably good. Indy has the players with technical ability that can do the same things but we don't, we get 4 or 5 passes together then do something illogical rather than sensible, we played less long ball in this game but when lost for ideas we were still using it as a go to move. I read a lot of comments after the game and listened to people on the way out of the stadium, blaming Cardona for the loss which is obviously wrong, and online people asking how long before coaches get sacked. I also don't understand the rose colored spectacle people or apologists who continue to say well it is only our second season and we are a new team, give it time. Then explain to me Jacksonville, in their inaugural season undefeated at home in three games and a point on the road see them sitting in third place on 10pts with a game in hand over Tampa and New York? If they can do it why can't we? We can't use last years excuse and say we underestimated the level of play in NASL, we have used that one already. We retained more players than teams like Atlanta, they only kept 6 and I think only four of those are playing and the team is being kept alive by the NASL and they are above us, so I am sorry, not listening to it, and it helps nobody to use a sweeping statement rather than an honest appraisal of our play right now. I am still optimistic about our squad, but I am not as optimistic about our ability to make tactical decisions or line up a team. I just some times think we are pulling ideas out of a hat, I warned about this in previous blogs, we are back to tinker tinkering time and continue to fail in finding the right ideas. The more we fiddle with things the worse it will get, nobody will ever settle properly.
Looking at the tables and comparing this NASL season to last year, the two teams who made the playoffs through combined season points were Cosmos and Fort Lauderdale finished the spring season with 19 and 13 points respectively. Carolina narrowly missed the playoffs but had 14pts in spring, Edmonton by comparison had a poor spring, only gaining 8 points, but made a late surge in fall and were unlucky not to make the playoffs. I am beyond imagining a Spring Championship for Indy, even if we won our last four games to finish on 18 we would need to Cosmos to gain less than 3 points in their last three games, that is more likely than us winning four in a row. If we want to have a chance of reaching the play offs in 2015 we need to get back to winning points real soon, Ottawa may be our best chance, our three games after that in spring against Tampa, FTL and Edmonton will be far from easy, Edmonton are playing twice a week right now and their lowly position definitely does not reflect on their playing ability. I think 10pts at least in spring could go a long way to helping our combined tally "if" we can improve as a team throughout fall. The only reason I bring this up is because before too long the people running Indy Eleven are going to be looking at that, if we want to be a big boys team in a bog boys stadium, achieving success this year or at least coming close to it can go a long way to helping us get the things we want.
Bloody Shambles MVP: Without doubt Kyle Hyland, solid performance and I hope he has done enough to keep a starting spot in Ottawa, he gives us a versatility and aggression that was not there before and he looked like he could have played 180 minutes. Honorable mention to Brad Ring, outstanding game, should never have come off, could have potentially had the legs to break down Minnesota's third goal.