|What the BLEEP just happened?|
Already in fall under Tim Regan we have seen a great performance at home, maybe even two, Carolina have been a force to be reckoned with this year and obviously so have New York. For some strange reason we cannot seem to find that consistency at home that to be honest we have never really had.
Even in our last game against New York where we also had players not fully fit, players out, and some still new to the team, we put in a much better performance, played to a much higher level than we did last night. Within the space of a week we have been like Jekyll and Hyde?
In the games we have played in fall season there have been certain things about our starting lineups that have confused me, not huge things but little things, but each week those little things continue to make no sense to me. If you have been following my previews and reviews then you will know what I mean. I think those little things over weeks can make a big difference.
I talked a couple of weeks ago about the sudden omission of Wojcik, this has been since the Ottawa game. Up until that game he has been the most improving player, scored two goals in two games and been superb in his overall performance in all parts of the field. Yet he has failed to start a game since Ottawa and he should have started the last two?
With Mares being out this week and Norales missing, this can be quite challenging and you want to keep the lineup as familiar as possible if you can, so why did we not bring Richards back into attacking midfield and start Wojcik up front? Richards is an attacking midfielder, maybe not central but he could have been much more effective there.
The pairing of Brown and Richards up front really did not provide too much last week, and we pulled a great goal out of midfield from Dylan Mares to level against New York. So why was the obvious thing not to pull Dane back and start Wojcik who has been on form, and far better form than Brian Brown recently and let Steinberger take the bench on his first game?
I can't explain why we were crap, but this is my take on the game........
It is probably easier to explain this game in the terms of the first 15 minutes and the last 75 or so. As everyone knows the game was decided on a single goal, outside of that trying to explain the lack of real action would be pointless.
It was apparent within the first 15 minutes that somehow Indy Eleven had moved back in time, possibly maybe in conjunction with GenCon or some other sci-fi connection to a time where we thought long ball was cool. Unfortunately this lasted for much more than 15 minutes. Maybe it was Marty McFly's fault?
We had some good early link up play between Steingberger, Stojkov and Franco around the five minute mark, didn't produce a goal but a corner which saw a chance for Ring who knocked down a header wide and out. Outside of that before the goal we struggled to put together any kind of coherent attack.
On the 15 minute mark the defense was split and .. it pains me to say it ... Pedro Mendes found himself alone with the ball in front of Nicht. His shot was stabbed, he actually played his foot on the top of the ball basically kicking it into the ground, but it went in the right direction and into the right corner of the net.
That was basically the highlight of the game. Throughout the rest of the game Atlanta's best chances came from set pieces, as did several of Indy's, outside of that we had plenty of snapshots from various players including Ring, Stojkov, Hyland and Wojcik. Our best chance of a goal was probably in the 83rd minute when Richards for once played a good low ball across the keeper and nobody could throw their body into the ball.
So why were we so bad, I don't see the point of breaking down every minute of the game, it would be a waste of words, and I know this is going to be long already!
A few good stops by Kristian, a good shot on goal by Hyland in the 75th minute, nice attempt from Stojkov on 66, a completely useless free kick from Don Smart in the 86th and so on and so on.... all the rest and in between was just very poor football.
The first part of our problem was Atlanta's formation itself, the easiest way to explain this is they played a 3-5-2 going forward, but with wing backs, which basically means a 5-3-2 coming back. The upshot is they overloaded the midfield area, making it very difficult for us to create any fluid build up play going forward.
We should have recognized this early on, it was apparent within the first 20 minutes or so nothing was really working. Granted we could not have known their tactics before the start, but we should have recognized the situation it was causing earlier and done something about it.
The most obvious thing would have been to give a shout to call one of the forwards, most likely Richards into a deeper position to give more passing options in the midfield area and switch to a 4-5-1. If you are playing a left and right midfield, and an attacking mid in front of a defensive mid, it's easy to see where a midfield five can tear that up, even worse one of the Atlanta forwards dropping back at times to put 6 across the middle.
This effectively spoiled our style of play, and even when we had the opportunity and brought on Wojcik for Brown, we should have moved to a 4-5-1 formation then by dropping Dane back alongside Steinberger in front of Ring to diffuse that midfield problem but we did not, we carried on regardless with a 4-4-2 formation that did not work. Poor!
Add to that we were wasteful in possession, too many times we elected to play a long ball or high ball other than a short simple pass or even play it back the way so we could start again and build a new attack.
This was not just a problem with the defense pumping the ball up, even Kristian at times could have played a short pass at the back, good example in the first half, he came out of his box and gathered a ball at his feet with time, could have passed left or right, Franco was the obvious pass, booted it some 60 yards up to Richards on the right and it went over his head and out, waste of possession. We did that time and time again throughout the whole game. Totally unnecessary!
Our play in the final third was totally ineffective, when we were not trying to play long ball we were trying to play high crosses into the box for two forwards who were vastly outmatched for height by their opposition.
When we were able to keep the ball on the ground going forward, we were trying to do fancy stuff rather than make a sensible pass to retain possession. Dane Richards was the biggest culprit of that, too many times trying to make fancy flicks or back heels without even knowing where the ball will end up? We don't need that, if you are a goal down and under pressure, you need to take control of the game not try fancy flicks and tricks that are going to make people go WOOOOO and then achieve nothing from it other than lose possession.
Not going to put all the blame on Dane, he is not a striker, and we should not be playing him there, we have done it for two games in a row now. Not only that we have paired him with Brown who is not setting the game on fire right now. Wojcik has been the producing striker before the Ottawa game and now he has been benched, what does that say to him and to the team. Our front pairing for two games has produced nothing other than fancy flicks or opportunistic shots and frankly mostly wasted balls.
In the first 45 minutes we very rarely tried to keep the ball down and play proper football, we couldn't string more than 3 or 4 passes together, and more often than not we were more happy to just boot it up the field and hope something would happen. In the second half we kept it more, but still persisted in making illogical aerial passes which either ended up at the feet of an opposition player or out of the field for a throw or goal kick. I can probably count on two fingers when we played a good low hard pass across the box to feet, those came from Wojcik and Richards.
Also we cannot blame the referees for our defeat, I have seen some comments that the referee's screwed us over, sorry to say it but they did not, they had a good game, every time we were fouled they called it and Atlanta received three yellow cards. If every NASL game was officiated like that less people would likely complain about NASL referees. Indy Eleven beat themselves by playing badly, plain and simple.
Sorry for this blog being so long winded, it usually is when we play badly, I can accept playing badly and not getting a bad result, but I can't sit back and watch a completely horrible performance and try to gloss it over. We were horrible, and we need to figure out why and fix it real fast. Losing at home to Atlanta is not acceptable and will not make us play off contenders. Also flashing the checkbook and bringing more players in like we did last year only to do the same thing as last year is not going to help either. WE MUST win our home games!
One of my biggest concerns, even with injuries is we seem to think it is okay to just sign new players and put them straight into a game without trying another option. We didn't need to start Dane in Ottawa, and we did not need to start Steinberger against Atlanta, we can easily field a lineup of players who are used to each other and bring those players in during the game. I am not knocking their ability, Zach did not have a terrible game yesterday, nor did he do anything spectacular, he does not know these players yet so it was not easy for him. So please introduce players sensibly rather than throw them in, I don't think it helps and it makes us look naive!
Bloody Shambles MVP......
This week I am giving it to Dragan Stojkov, I think the amount of fouls he drew showed just how much trouble he was causing Atlanta, he played with a lot of fire in him, gave up on nothing and had quite a few shots on goal as well, also linked up well with his team mates to help create chances. not a great game for anyone but he gave it everything he had.