Monday, November 14, 2016

There Was No Joy In The Brickyard - Eleven vs Cosmos NASL Final REVIEW (11/14/2016)

Indy's Greg Janciki succesfully fended off New York attackers all evening. Photo courtesy of NASL, Michael Stobe.

By: Brandon Cockrum

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the supermoon was shining bright;
a supporters band was playing somewhere, and somewhere smoke was lit,
and somewhere men were laughing, and somewhere children had shouted; 
but there was no joy in the Brickyard - the mighty Eleven had missed out.

Deciding the league championship with penalty kicks, after 33 games and 120 minutes of battle, will always be a difficult pill to swallow for whichever club misses out. And while narrowing down a game of such import to a few kicks just 12 yards from the goal seems harsh it remains the only, best way that has been found to decide a match winner when none can otherwise be found. It’s tempting to say, Let the player’s play, but as seen on Sunday evening, pushing the 22 men on the field any further, many of whom were cramping, limping, and had nothing more in their tanks, begins to seem torturous.

For two hours at tiny Belson Stadium in Jamaica, NY, the Indy Eleven and New York Cosmos played a final worthy of a much larger audience. Despite the final 0-0 scoreline, the match featured end-to-end action from the first kick, the teams trading off control of play, and narrow misses by both sides. Only the Cosmos found joy at the end of their journey but the Eleven had much to be proud of, for the only thing that separated the two squads were just a few kicks out of thousands.

The Eleven were unlucky to not get on the scoreboard 10 minutes in after a clever turn and shoot from near the top of the penalty box by forward Eamon Zayed. With his only official save of the night, New York goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer dove to his left, reached out a hand and parried the ball out of danger.

Indy continued to control the match for the next ten minutes, primarily through the efforts of right midfielder Don Smart. The winger repeatedly beat his opponents on that side of the pitch, midfielder Yohandry Orozco and right back Ayoze, finding good positions to deliver crosses and shots that tested the Cosmos defense.

Indy's Don Smart threatened New York's goal for 90 minutes and make a key defensive play. Photo courtesy of NASL, Michael Stobe.

By the 30th minute, the Cosmos had found their footing and were leading the run of play, finding four quality chances over the next ten minutes. Big defensive plays by Indy’s goalkeeper Jon Busch and Don Smart were able to keep the Cosmos off the scoreboard. 

At halftime, Eleven coach Tim Hankinson swapped out left midfielder Dylan Mares for Gerardo Torrado, a defensive midfielder. Mares had a quiet first half in the attack and the Cosmos found some of their success through his side of the field. Clearly the Eleven were trying to shore up their defense in favor of offense.

The match slowed first for the first 20 minutes of the second half as the teams dug in for the season’s final half of play. The Cosmos played with more possession and were able to threaten Indy but Busch again came up big as he commanded control of his penalty box. Torrado scuffed both a pass and a shot in dangerous positions, raising eyebrows among the Eleven faithful.

In the 70th minute, the resilient Don Smart popped up again, working with Torrado to create the game’s most electric moment. Near the top of the penalty box the two played a give-and-go, with Smart launching a streaking shot that beat a diving Maurer but that could not beat the crossbar.

For the remaining twenty minutes of the match the Cosmos controlled possession and missing hopeful attempts at the Eleven goal. The Eleven dodged a weak penalty shout in the 82nd minute and with hopes of playing hero, New York’s David Diosa and Eleven’s Zayed both missed opportunities in injury time to punch in a match winner.

Indy's Brad Ring shielded the defense and played quality football all evening. Photo courtesy of NASL, Michael Stobe.
The two 15 minute periods of extra time saw the match slow as the intensity of the previous 90 minutes took its toll. By the end of extra time players on both sides were playing primarily to not give up a goal and struggling to stay up with the play, or even upright, in a few cases.

In the end it doesn’t matter which players made or missed penalties, only that one team made more than the other. It would be unfair to attach blame to any of the those brave enough to put themselves in position to miss a shot or not make a save in the penultimate moment of the season because there was so much that happened prior that could or even should have decided the outcome of the match. And while the Cosmos and their supporters left the stadium late Sunday with the trophy and all the joy, the Eleven walked away with just as much honor.

Indy Eleven Man of The Match: Don Smart, midfielder
New York Cosmos Man of the Match: Jimmy Maurer, goalkeeper

Match Statistics
Match Highlights

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