Sunday, April 19, 2015

BOOM BOOM BOOM Let me hear you say Pena PENA!!! (San Antonio V Indy Eleven 4/18/15 Review)

Mr Boombastic, say me fantastic!
Well I am never one to blow my own trumpet, but outside of getting the score prediction wrong, almost everything I had hoped and asked for this week came true including picking the correct starting lineup, cutting down on the long ball, using the width more and testing an untried center back pairing and a seriously dodgy keeper. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe Juergen read my blog :P

Scorpions took to the field on Saturday night, hurting from a humiliating first week loss against Tampa eager to prove to the some 6000 empty plastic seats in attendance just why they were champions last year. Scorpions kitted up in a uniform somewhat akin to a NASCAR pit crew, half light grey on the front, light grey on the back and light grey shorts and socks. Indy wore their white away jerseys? The commentators remarked later in the game that this was probably the lowest amount of contrast between jerseys they had ever seen at Toyota Park. I am guessing neither team wanted to clash with the abundance of empty plastic chairs on display.

I can forgive myself now for face palming after Indy kicked off the first half, made only two or three passes before Frias played the first long ball of the evening resulting in a loss of possession as the ball went out of play for a throw. Have to admit my heart did sink a little. However despite little action in front of the San Antonio goal in the first half, Indy played their best football of 2015 in the opening 45 minutes, better use of the width, less long ball play much better possession play with good overlapping between the full backs and the midfield, particularly down the right side with Franco and Stojkov. The Eleven forwards pressed and harried defenders as did the midfield, it was exactly what we needed. San Antonio had multiple chances to score, mostly from range, which was a sign that our boys were doing their job. Kristian Nicht again made a string of great saves throughout the half to deny Scorpions any scoring chance, they came closest to scoring in the 39th minute when a slightly deflected shot was parried by the left hand of Nicht, the late deviation of the ball off of Janicki's thigh caught Nicht off guard and the ball spilled across and bounced off the knee of Omar Cummings towards goal, but was saved with a timely header Greg Janicki who had regained position, a heart stopping moment for everyone. It was a pretty even contest otherwise between both sides in the first half, Dylan Mares picked up the only yellow of the first forty five!

I was reduced to watching the game in a bar where there was no sound for the game, so I am re watching now and I have to say the SAS commentary team are a laugh a minute, some of the funniest moments were their explanation of how Julius James broke Charlie Rugg's foot last year (they apologized and corrected 10 minutes later) and then lines like 'A BIG SWING AND TWO SCORPIONS COME TOGETHER' referencing a shot from Brian Brown. Also smatterings of baseball and ice hockey references like "hooking". In the last ten minutes Brad Ring picked up a yellow, they named two other players and couldn't figure out who got it even though it was being announced across the stadium. God Bless America!

Second half was much more of the same both sides trying to find a chink in each others armor. Marco Franco made a fine headed clearance in the 48th minute to deny the Scorpions an attempt on goal. A minute later Jaime Frias took a taxi up the field and decided to walk balk forcing Brad Ring to cover his position and make a perfectly timed slide tackle to deny Scorpions another free run to goal. Frias was starting to be posted missing more and more, he really needs to get a handle on prioritizing his defensive position over his attacking position.

In the 51st minute a disappointing giveaway pass by Mares found the feet of a Scorpions attacker, the Eleven midfield slipped and scrambled, Mares failed to recover with a mis timed tackle and Brad Ring lost his footing before he could tackle outside the center of the 18, Norales pushed into the center to cover and the ball was slid left to the advancing Omar Cummings who was unmarked, again further left Frias was watching the game failed to cover the shot and the result was the opening goal for San Antonio. Not much Kristian Nicht could do about it and his frustration as usual showed, pounding the grass with his fists.

To be fair to Indy they got back up and got on with it, nobody's head went down and Indy continued to probe San Antonio as they did us for some kind of avenue to goal. 10 minutes later Indy found what they were looking for, I had a feeling our best chance in this game would come from a set piece as smart defending by the Scorpions thus far was making it very difficult to get anything to our front two. A foul on Charlie Rugg on the right side forced a free kick a few yards in from the line near the 18 of San Antonio, Don Smart would enter the field of play in place of Malgares before Mares would take the kick. A well placed ball in by Mares found the head of Norales in the box who slotted the ball home for Indy's equalizer.

Outside of the Scorpions goal, Nicht was rarely tested again in the game, both sides continued to probe, probably the next best chance we had again came from a set piece with Brad Ring almost finding the back of the net with a header in the 74th minute.

Wojcik would replace Charlie Rugg in the 65th minute and Sergio Pena came on for Stojkov in the 80th minute, Indy moved to a more defensive lineup in what looked to be a 4-2-3-1 with Pena and Ring sitting in front of the defense and Brian Brown sliding out left leaving Wojcik the lone forward. It was somewhat ironic that this more defensive line up would result in THAT goal. As much as I like to bash the long ball, Indy had a target man on the field in Wojcik now and when Norales lifted his head in the 89th minute and picked him out perfectly with a long lofting pass, Wojcik did what any good large forward should do, keep your back to goal, win the ball and look for an advancing player and knock it into his path, in most cases large forwards either win the ball or draw the foul. The knockdown header was perfect and landed at the feet of Sergio Pena, a quick step and a strike with the outside of his right boot from some 40 to 45 yards out fizzed into the upper right corner of the San Antonio goal, keeper Kempin has to take a lot of the blame as well, he wasn't even far off his line and if you see a ball coming like that from 40yrds you should be better placed to tip it over, instead he ended up scrambling in the back of the net like a fly stuck in a spiders web.

Anyone watching the game had to be stunned at that goal, it was amazing, and it just knocked everything out of the Scorpions, Indy simply knocked the ball around and finished up the added 3 minutes and took three points home as well as moving into second equal in the league table.

This was a much more impressive performance, our best so far, the only thing I found really strange is that our forwards never really got anything in the game, whether that was just a difference in positional setup by both teams or not I am not sure, Rugg and Brown rarely got any service and for his time on the field Wojcik did the only thing he was really called on to do. But sometimes it's like that, sometimes you have to rely on your big players and set pieces, if that's what it takes then that's what it takes. The thing that makes me happy is we still look like we can improve a lot AND we are beating good teams. This makes me feel that some time soon somebody is going to be on the wrong end of a hammering from this team. Things are starting to click, can only get better from here. Bring on Carolina!

Things to be worked on before the next game: We corrected a lot of things, and we used the width more in this game than in others, but not enough, lets see more service from the midfield to our forwards and bring them into the game.

Bloody Shambles Moment: Jon Kempin, still can't stop laughing, having watched him in two games now he doesn't deal with anything around head height well. Poor goalkeeping. The SAS commentators throughout the match.

Bloody Shambles MVP: There were several great performances, honorable mentions to Franco, Nicht and Norales most players on the field put in a good shift but this week I am giving it to Greg Janicki, was a solid captain, saved us from losing  a goal with that header off the line but was solid and composed throughout the whole game in his first time returning to his old team. First class.

Bloody Shambles LVP: There was nobody on the field obviously that could really be termed least, but as for overall performance I am picking out Jaime Frias, he is a player that has continually improved since last year, but there is this wanderlust thing he needs to nip in the bud, if he can become more tactically aware and improve his positioning he would be a much better player, was saved embarrassment by Brad Ring on a dangerous break and posted missing at the Scorpions goal. He'll figure it out eventually.

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