|Two-goal hero Soony Saad was the difference maker against Nashville SC|
By: James Cormack
After all the pre-match worries of injuries and selection issues, they became null and void on Saturday as Indy Eleven defeated Nashville SC and claimed their first home win of the 2018 USL season.
Carlyle Mitchell returned to the starting lineup alongside Brad Rusin and over the whole Indy's backline played comfortably and confidently conceding only one goal in the first half. We've talked about the strength in depth of our roster many times and Brad Rusin is a great example of that.
The result of the game itself was crafted in the first half and credit should be given to the entire team for a second-half defensive performance that kept Nashville from finding a way to a second goal. In the few short weeks of the season, we've had many great plays to talk about and there were several in this match including Zach Steinberger's 89th-minute clearance of a ball that was going to find back of the net.
|With the ball heading into the goal, Zach Steinberger races in to clear late in the second half.|
Indy Eleven may be accustomed now to shuffling their lineup and the first eleven was eagerly anticipated heading into this game. Carlyle Mitchell proved too strong to keep down and we started with three of the back line that began the match against North Carolina, Mitchell, Ring, and Ayoze. Brad Rusin replacing Karl Ouimette this time.
Probably the biggest surprise was Matt Watson starting the game on the bench, not a bad trick to be able to bring in a captain late in the game to help clinch the three points. 4-2-3-1 has been the most frequent formation we have seen for Indy thus far, Zach Steinberger started in place of Watson alongside Nico Matern in front of the back line and Soony Saad took the middle of the three between Pasher and Lewis. Jack McInerney returned to the starting XI as the lone striker.
Considering the potential for a makeshift backline I had expected Nashville to come out strong and press for an early goal but it was Indy Eleven who controlled possession in the early stages and throughout most of the first half. Thanks to a pass of un-earthlike quality from Ayoze Garcia deep in his own half to connect with Soony Saad in the 15th minute, Saad found himself one on one with Matt Pickens and buried the ball left past the Nashville keep to open the scoring.
|With the defense in his wake, Soony Saad shoots past Pickens to score Indy's first home goal.|
Saad wasn't finished finding the back of the net and some fifteen minutes later scored a second goal that will have every other team in the league playing catchup for the goal of the week. After a foul on Jack McInerney by Liam Doyle 35yrds out from goal, McInerney slid the free kick sideways to Soony Saad who rifled a shot with the outside of his right foot that swerved around the outside of one defender before swinging back to wrong-foot Matt Pickens and put Indy Eleven two goals up.
Roberto Carlos would have been proud of that strike!
|If this isn't the goal of the week there better be some pretty special contenders.|
A tough blow for Nashville but to their credit, they picked themselves up and finished the half strongly. Michael Reed came close to pulling one back a few minutes before halftime with a neat turn just inside the 18, his shot had the beating of Owain Fôn Williams but not the crossbar.
Nashville was not done yet and right at the end of the regular 45 minutes a lay off pass to Lebo Moloto was taken to the end line and slipped back to find Ropapa Mensah advancing on the edge of the 6 who he poked home a poachers goal past Williams to give the visitors a fighting chance going into the break.
That was the scoreline that took the three points for Indy Eleven. The second half was goalless. Nashville stepped up their game and probably took the lion's share of possession in the second 45 but couldn't find a way to goal. Alan Winn had a good opportunity in the 63rd minute but was foiled by Fôn Williams. Not to be outdone in the shot-stopping tally Matt Pickens pulled out big saves to deny Tyler Pasher twice.
|Matt Pickens leaked two in the first half but denied Pasher twice in the second.|
With the final minutes winding down Nashville almost found the back of the net from a set piece on Indy's left. The free kick was floated into the back post and found the head of Bradly Bourgeois. From my position behind the goal, this ball was almost certainly going to find its own way in, if not Robin Shroot would have helped it in but Zach Steinberger stepped up with with a huge clearance to prevent Nashville from tying up the game.
I mentioned Matt Watson earlier. When your team is trying to nail down the three points and the opposition comes out in the second half determined to turn things around its more than just a luxury to be able to bring in three players with huge experience as we did with Watson, Justin Braun, and Juan Guerra, this is something that could prove critical for Indy Eleven over the course of a full season.
It's important to stay grounded and not get over excited, but as a supporter, it's very difficult. I re-watched the entire match again and pretty much everything Greg Rakestraw and Brad Hauter says about this team is on the money. Considering we are at the beginning of a season when you can expect a stuttery start, even with injuries and constant changes this team has never looked to be lacking in confidence on the field or uncomfortable. After the win in North Carolina, this was already our best start to a season in the history of the club.
|Ayoze Garcia. If Tiger Woods played soccer, this would be his approach chip to the green.|
If I were to criticize the team in any way at all it would be for us to use a little more creativity in set pieces and provide better delivery. This is something that will improve with time but when we get opportunities with free kicks in the width and corners we need to start making those count.
We seem to be okay from central positions, Soony's strike from the free kick pass this weekend and also his direct free kick against Cincinnati show we can take chances from there, but with big players coming up from the back which always risks a counter attack, we need to be more creative and more accurate on our delivery in these situations.
That is based on observations from four league games and one preseason match and it is still very early. Maybe I am also being a little selfish but I'd like to see some cheeky plays crafted at the training ground on free kicks from the left and right and from corners. We have a confident and skillful squad of players so why not?
Indy Eleven has a couple of weeks break now, hopefully enough for us to see all of our players recovered and fit for the match against Charlotte Independence, if we can bring a good result from there we can ride confidently on the back of it into two very important back to back home games against FC Cincinnati and Louisville City. The result of those matches could be critical in the long run despite coming early in the season.
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