|Team Tim starts with a WIN!|
The players no doubt had a weight of uncertainty lifted from their shoulders, it's never fun being in a work situation when things are not going well and no doubt they were more relaxed and comfortable and ready to get to work. It showed in a lot of the game and Indy never once looked like giving up, the equalizing goal before half time was crucial. There was a very sparse crowd at the game and it was evident the home fans were not very happy with their own situation at the moment. Strikers coach Marcelo Neveleff resigned after the defeat, further emphasizing the point that results or at least good performances are expected pretty quickly in this league, Strikers ownership have only themselves to blame, they somewhat acrimoniously fired last years coach after he took them to the Soccer Bowl and now find themselves sitting at the bottom of the NASL pile!
Strikers V Eleven
Indy Eleven played like a hungry team from the start, Strikers were given very little time or space with the ball and this is something we have needed all spring, the players looked like they had something to prove and were not shy with their tackles. Also we were taking shots when the opportunities arose, rather than trying to make one more pass and losing the ball, players were taking those chances, they might not have been pretty at times, but we were having a go. The renewed confidence in the players was evident in the 19th minute, on an occasion where one might expect Franco to play a hopeful lob or chip, he nutmegged his opponent just over the halfway line on the right before making a neat short pass into Stojkov, those little things don't seem important but those are the sparks that keep attacks going and we have been missing those. The end result of that attack was another wild shot by Pineda, but again at least we were taking those first time chances. Ironically though, despite having little or no chances to score in the game it was the Strikers who found the net first.
As the play built up around the Indy box you could hear Kristian Nicht yelling "FIND YOUR MARKS" right before the cross came in, unfortunately Cory Miller was too far from his as Stefano Pinho's downward header bounced up and over the outstretched right hand of Nicht, it was a small black mark on Miller considering his overall performance, but given his height he should have been much more physical with Stefano and closer to him. It was unfortunate and a little too easy, but Indy were not for giving up in any way.
Indy Eleven continued to make life difficult for the Strikers, their only other real chance in the half came in the 32nd minute when Sanchez tried to back heel in a ball from a corner which was denied by the feet of Nicht with a great reaction save. Indy's unwillingness to give up on anything was made apparent in the 43rd minute, a move that started and ended with Pineda who made a good switch from left to right just over the halfway line to Franco on the right, who poked the ball forward to Stojkov, Dragan fought hard to keep the ball and slide left to Mares whilst half way to ground. Mares made a neat back heel pass to Victor Pineda who curled the ball cleanly into the right side of goal. You never want to concede a goal right before half time, fortunately for us the Strikers did.
It would take about 5 minutes or so for Indy to settle into any kind of passing game in the second half, and until about the 55th minute is was like a game of tug o' war until Moura forced a solid low save from Kristian Nicht. Both teams returned to trying to wrestle possession from each other. After 65 minutes Indy made a double substitution to bring on Wojcik and Smart for Mares and Stojkov, that was a little confusing to me as Rugg had barely made any kind of impression on the game but somehow managed to stay on for the whole game, he probably would have been the first to come off for me. The last 25 minutes became almost like a stalemate in chess, both sides working very hard to win possession and neither holding on to it for very long and also neither side really able to finish things off in the final third with both defenses holding their own. Overall outside of the two fast yellows on 82 minutes it wasn't really a chippy game at all, and I don't often give credit to referees but Fitzgerald did a good job of just letting the game play and not whistling for any old rubbish.
Duke Lacroix made his entrance a few minutes before the end to inject a little pace into the game and he certainly did look fast as he chased players looking for possession. He also came close to putting Indy in front after 90 minutes when he fizzed a shot at goal that was palmed away by goalkeeper Ford. Seconds later Rugg did something for the first time in the game and won a free kick, the resulting kick found the head of Norales in the box but the ref adjudged a foul against FTL. The Strikers tried to mount a last attack but from it, eventually Indy wrestled back possession with time for one more attack, and score they did with a play that was started by Duke Lacroix on the edge of Indy's 18. A chip in by FTL was headed clear by Lacroix to the feet of Pineda, Victor held the ball and Duke carried on with the overlap collecting the ball from Pineda on the way, the young forward showed a great turn of pace and timing, pushing the ball past the last defender and running on to it before sliding a ball across to Smart who made a poor attempt at a shot which became as good as a passback , however Smart pressed the ball and the defender could only clear it low between Smart's legs, waiting behind was Pineda to mop up with a shot not unlike his earlier goal, he curled it hard into the upper half of the right corner of the net. It was a sight to behold and Pineda wasted no time receiving a yellow for removing his shirt to celebrate. By the look on Tim Regan's face he was desperate to jump on the ruck of celebrating players as well, I think I saw him have a little cry as he walked back to the other coaches. It was a tough week for everyone, it's amazing what a win will cure though.
Can't really complain about too much, other than I don't think Rugg should have got a full game, too many giveaways and for me what seemed like a lack of interest. I would have replaced him with Lacroix earlier, when you have a player who can create something at one end of the field and help finish it up at the other, perhaps we should see more of him next week.
Bloody Shambles MVP: Victor had a solid game throughout, it was a difficult game for either team to retain possession, but he was in the right place at the right time on two occasions and found the net on both. Two great goals so Victor Pineda gets man of the match from me.