Sunday, April 10, 2016

Eleven survive, don't thrive, on cold night against Ottawa. Indy Eleven V Ottawa Fury Review (4/09/16)

Nemanja Vukovic nets late equalizer in 1-1 tie with Ottawa.

By: Caleb Ramp

“Not the three points we were after, but it’s good to see our team not [lie] down and keep the fight to the end.”

Coach Hankinson’s post-game comments epitomize the mixed emotion of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Ottawa Fury. The opportunity for a statement victory may not have been realized, but a statement was still made: a statement that this team, while still a work in progress, is resilient.

2014 and 2015 Indy Eleven don't draw that game. When Ottawa -- who were kept in relative check by Indy's stout defense -- open the scoring in the second half, previous iterations of this squad crumble.

This team didn't.

That Nemanja Vukovic -- the man who lost his mark at the back post on Ottawa's goal (and admitted as much after the game) -- was the same who brought the Eleven level, is a poetic microcosm of the side's ability to overcome adversity: an important trait if they're to make a legitimate playoff push.

Among the positive takeaways, Jair Reinoso continues to impress. His technical proficiency and comfort on the ball were evident again after coming on for a less-than-impressive Justin Braun in the 63rd minute. Once fully fit, it’s hard to imagine the Colombian isn’t a staple starter.

Dylan Mares also stepped in admirably for Indy maestro Sinisa Ubiparipovic. Indy's #10 exited in the 51st minute with a hamstring injury, and will be evaluated during the week to determine his availability for this week's match against the Cosmos. 

I was critical of Dylan during the preseason: he was taking too many touches and ignoring the easy pass. He would dribble into opponents and summarily be dispossessed. Saturday he showed flashes of the player which led the team in assists in 2015.

He needed a few minutes to get settled (earning a deserved yellow card almost instantly), but Vukovic’s equalizer wouldn’t have been possible without an intelligent pass which split two defenders and put Don Smart in a position to swing the deciding ball into the box.

Consistent possession continues to be a struggle, however. "Players are standing and not taking good care of the ball," Hankinson said after the game. "When you do that, you're going to give the ball away often enough where all you can do is defend."

Indy finished with less than 50% of possession for the second time in as many games.

Random Thoughts and Opinions:

  • Miscommunication continued on crosses and angled balls into the box. There were multiple occasions when an excellent ball was played toward the back post, but the attacking player had made an ill-advised cut to the inside (into traffic). 
  • Width is still an issue. Zayed was left on an island several times and was forced to take the ball outside himself and attempt  to put a dangerous ball in the box.  He should be on the end of these, not trying to generate them. Statistically, he finished with three crosses, while starting outside attacking midfielders Justin Braun and Duke LaCroix both finished without even one.

James Cormack's Take:

We seem to be having a real problem with transition between defense and attack. We are still defending very well indeed, but even more so this week the ball is not coming out of the back well. 

We are sitting way to deep for long periods in the game, Hankinson likes players to drop back and cover rather than chase and get tired, but I think on evidence of the first two games we are now perhaps over indulging in this tactic.

Towards the end of the first half we are defending corners with 11 players. Zayed is having to try and make a break from 15 to 20 yards inside our own half with nobody in front of him. Ubiparipović again is way too far back to help build a meaningful attack.

The 4-2-3-1 is good in theory, but some of our players don’t seem to be understanding it so far, we are not using the corners or getting crosses in nor are we stretching the other team with this formation so far.

We get very few crosses in and when we do there are not enough players on the end to make a difference. All I see from this setup and the way we are playing it so far is we don’t let a lot of goals in. That’s it.

As most people know, the longer you go without scoring the higher the chance is the other team will score first. We have to be that team that scores first and not put ourselves in a position to require two goals for a win. We gave Ottawa too much respect, they were okay but not fantastic, we made them look better.

We pulled it back, this will be a huge point looking back on it. It should not have come to that but it would have been very disappointing to lose this game. It is early enough in the season where we can recover from things like this. 

The most positive thing for me in the game was Coach Hankinson’s willingness to change the tactics and formation not once but twice during the game. Switching to a 4-4-2 and then moving to a back three and pushing Vukovic forward showed both he and the team would not give up. 

This is something we have completely lacked in previous years. Historically we have never had a clue how to adapt during a game, this is very encouraging to me. Hankinson is also highly active during games and very animated, I also like that!

Very impressed with our defense again, Falvey and Janicki were superb. We seem to have that part of our game under control. I admired Lacroix for probably being the most aggressive player in the first half and Mares and Reinoso for showing the same aggression in the second. Reinoso looks like a real handful, I think he will be starting games real soon.


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