|Frias tied the game for Indy.|
Once again Indy Eleven are consistent in playing an unfamiliar lineup, something we have become accustomed to. Dylan Mares and Brian Brown returned to the lineup as center forwards in a front pairing. Duke Lacroix was started at left midfield while Victor Pineda returned to the bench.
Steinberger and Smart who made the bench in the last game started while Stojkov and Richards sat out from the beginning. Pena made his first start since May for the absent Brad Ring. Keith Cardona returned to goal while Kyle Hyland made way for Jaime Frias.
In total eight changes from the team that fell 2-0 to Edmonton in Indy's previous home game. The last time we made this many changes in one game was in a 2-0 loss to Edmonton in Canada earlier in August. This lineup however looked a little stronger than in that game and there was power and talent on the bench with Ceballos, Richards, Keller, Stojkov and Pineda.
All the pressure was on Tampa in this game, while Indy have nothing else really to lose, a win for the Rowdies was important before tough games against Minnesota and Ottawa. Three points would also see them move back in to the top four of the combined table.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 Indy Eleven 1
With so many changes one might have expected Indy Eleven to come up against problems early in this game. However despite some unfamiliar player combinations Indy did not seem uncomfortable in any way throughout the first half.
Probably the most notable issue that stood out was very little use of the left side of the field for the Eleven. There was no real chemistry or link up between Frias, Lacroix and Brown on that side of the field. Having Lacroix on the field but not bringing him into the game is unfortunate as he does like to cause a lot of problems.
In fairness though it was Frias first start for a while, for most of the first half he did not give us the same forward penetration that we are so used to with Hyland. Lacroix was picked out only a couple of times in the half, the first a long hopeful ball from Norales that Duke got a foot to but couldn't keep it away from Pickens, the second a much better low pass from middle to left corner saw Duke play a dangerous cross in front of the 6 yard box. As is our usual problem though, nobody followed through to poke the ball home.
Indy's play in this game mostly came through the middle or on the right side. Pena, who had a pretty good game both in attack and defense was first to flash a shot at the Tampa goal from distance but it was too wide to trouble Matt Pickens in the 9th minute.
Dylan Mares who looked fired up and sharp after a long period out for Indy came closest to opening the scoring when his shot beat Matt Pickens but didn't beat the right goalpost in the 13th minute.
Both Steinberger and Brown managed headers on goal in the first half but Indy could not find a finish. It was clear Brown has just not had enough game time, never really looked confident in shooting nor did he find good position in attack.
Tampa themselves had several decent chances in the first half, mostly through free kicks and set pieces with Freddy Adu and Long Tan being in the thick of most of the action. Tampa were technical and sharp in their passing but just seemed to break down in the final third.
In a pretty even contest it was Indy who finished the half strongest putting plenty of pressure on the Rowdies. Marco Franco managed to make a great mazey run which almost took him all the way to goal in the final minute of the half. Sergio Pena had an opportunity on goal from a free kick in added time but blazed it over wastefully.
The second half continued like the first, neither side really taking the game by the scruff of the neck, it appeared to have draw written all over. Almost 20 minutes in though that all changed when Tampa capitalized on a corner after some confusion in the Indy back line.
In the 63rd minute Freddy Adu swung in a corner from the left side of Indy's goal, the ball appeared to be heading to the center of goal right on the 6 yard line where Erick Norales was best placed to clear it. However as the ball came in Norales appears to have got a shout from someone and ducked to leave the ball. It was gathered up and swept into the net by Long Tan at the back post.
It was a disappointing goal to lose, but mistakes are made and there was clearly an error in communication, whether that came from a shout from our players or from Tampa, we probably will never know.
Four minutes later Indy were given a chance to level the game with a free kick in good position. Erick Norales tried to replicate his earlier success in the season but only managed to kick the ball straight into the wall. The resulting ricochet saw theball fall to Jaime Frias some 30 yards out from goal and he cracked a low drive which deflected past Pickens and into the Tampa net.
Jaime's goal ended his game as he dropped with cramp and had to be taken off, Stojkov came on to replace at left back. Shortly before the equalizing goal Dane Richards came in for Brian Brown.
After a goal apiece the game resumed pretty much into what it was before with both sides probing and trying but neither side having a cutting edge in the final third, both goals came in a roundabout way from set pieces and the result pretty much reflected the performance of both sides.
Looking at the positives from this game after a much altered line up, honestly I think there are quite a few. Sergio Pena put in a solid 85 minutes, I actually thing this is one of the best games he has played. Dylan Mares pulled out 90 minutes albeit out of position we will see the benefit of this in our next game.
Jaime Frias was a surprise decision as a starter for me, and never really offered going forward what we get from Hyland but he did score the crucial goal that won the point and allowed us to rest a player for the upcoming game in Jacksonville. It was far from an exciting game but those players on the field stepped up enough to move us away from some of the most recent miserable performances we have had.
It was experimentation again, but it didn't go south as bad as it has some other times and now we are in good shape going into our next game IF we choose our starting line up wisely!
The negatives for me, as mentioned earlier, we failed to create anything on the left side of the field, we were somewhat one dimensional and used the same paths over and over throughout the game and it didn't pay off, we either attacked down the right and tried to play it infield or we tried to go through the middle with little effect. If we had utilized the left side more and brought Lacroix into the game we may have had more goal scoring chances.
Again we were hapless in front of goal, we lacked a cutting edge up front and when we did have chances to score we just broke down. Smart was a good example of that, despite having a good game from midfield had two golden chances and spent too much time thinking when he should have pulled the trigger. Brian Brown obviously lacked game time and confidence in front of goal. This emphasizes my point that we need to try a different formation and play with one forward we know can hit the net. We can experiment all we want but the forwards we have signed are not going to produce, so don't start them.
Bloody Shambles MVP: Honestly there wasn't really a standout performance in this game, honorable mentions for Cardona who had a solid comfortable performance. Lacroix and Mares played very well despite not being played in as much as they would have liked. Most players on the field made very little mistakes. This week I am surprising myself and giving man of the match to Sergio Pena.
Why? Having not started since May I felt he put in a really solid shift, he made 85 minutes and in that time he not only had two solid shots on goal, one of which pulled out a great save from Pickens, he also bailed us out on defense several times which is what you want to see from a defensive midfielder. He used both his height and his wicked curly foot the best that he could throughout the game and I think he deserves it.