Sunday, June 18, 2017

No Smoke Without Fire: Indy Eleven V North Carolina FC REVIEW (6/17/2017)

Goals, three points and a clean sheet - Indy Eleven secure first victory of 2017.
By: James Cormack

For the first time in 2017 Indy Eleven were able to field what could be claimed as their strongest starting eleven. The return of Justin Braun to the starting eleven was a welcome sight as well as Craig Henderson returning to give extra depth to the Indy bench.

Although it may not have been planned as such, after 12 games this year it looks as though Colin Falvey and Daniel Keller may be our most reliable and secure center back pairing. Keller always somehow seems out of place in midfield through no fault of his own, center back has been where we have seen his best and it was no different last night.

The Boys in Blue were aggressive yet patient and hard working. Defensively there was no fault and at times it seemed like Brad Ring was putting in two shifts in midfield and at the top of the 18 yard box with our back line. Indy were composed, alert and determined when not in possession and it paid off as they left North Carolina with very few clear chances in the game. 

New gloves worked a treat for Jon Busch, first clean sheet since 6th May.
After a goalless first half, a measured and clinical approach to the match saw them rewarded with their first goal in the game in the 60th minute. A low ball from Ben Speas into the front of goal from the left caught the Carolina defense and keeper napping and confusion between Silvestre and Connor Tobin saw the ball pop up and spin towards goal. 

An attempted goal line clearance from Carolina found the body of Justin Braun and the ball found the back of the net. It may not have been the prettiest goal Justin has ever scored, but you have to be in the right place at the right time.

Ben Speas was again involved as Indy Eleven doubled their lead in the 84th minute, this time with the finish from a David Goldsmith assist. Don Smart found Goldsmith advancing in a wide position on the right and the Indy forward played a perfect pass in behind the defense to the far post and Ben Speas was there to slam it home for Indy's second. Justin Braun was also available but would have been called offside had he made an attempt to connect with the ball.

It was a nervous last ten minutes for the faithful supporters as we have recently seen a two goal lead evaporate in San Francisco, but not this time. Indy Eleven tightened up and kept Carolina out, Jon Busch was the difference in stopping the opposing team pulling a goal straight back stopping a close range driving effort by Saeed Robinson.

Ben Speas was key in producing the goals required for Indy's first win in 2017
The Carolina effect.......

It's worth mentioning that again North Carolina FC formerly known as the Carolina Railhawks seem fated to be involved in multiple key moments in the history of Indy Eleven. Not only were they the first team we played in the NASL they were also the team we beat to achieve the first win in the clubs history at Wakemed Park in 2014.

The Spring Championship trophy of 2016 provided Indy with their first ever silverware in the club's short existence thanks to a required 4-1 win over the Railhawks in the final game thriller dubbed "Miracle At The Mike". Now North Carolina have aided and abeted in the Eleven's first win of 2017.

It's a strange quirk of fate, but I am not going to complain, we probably should be thankful for all the help they have given us over the years.

Defense, defense, defense.......

It goes without saying that Colin Falvey when fit and able is always going to be the first name on the team sheet, likewise Marco Franco and Nemanja Vukovic are equally as critical. It would however be amiss to not mention the efforts of Daniel Keller and Brad Ring when discussing our outfield defensive presence.

Brad Ring played deep a lot in last night's game and at times it looked like we had a five man defense. 100% of tackles were won, six clearances and three interceptions at the back added to 29 of 32 passes made were completed. Daniel Keller had nine defensive clearances and four interceptions. 

But the heat map for all four of the Indy Eleven back line and Brad Ring combined shows just how effective we were in nullifying any threat from North Carolina FC. In the 4-1 defeat against Jacksonville our overall defensive activity was more spread out and we were up field too much whereas in this match the back line and defensive midfield was more concentrated and covered every area of the final third for Carolina.

Full match activity of Franco, Falvey, Keller, Vukovic, and Ring.
With Brad Ring putting extra work in at the back with Keller covering the edge of the 18 yard area and the deep side of midfield it allowed Falvey to concentrate solely on the area in front of goal for most of the game and because of improved cohesion and communication between all five players it required less expenditure of energy. North Carolina played a pretty flat 4-4-2 and struggled to find gaps, and when they did Jon Busch was flawless.

When you have one of those days where everything required to shut a team out goes according to plan all that is left to do is make sure one of your attempts at goal hits the back of the net and you have three points, Indy Eleven did that twice from six shots on target. North Carolina had a total of 14 shots, the fact that 8 of those came from outside the box provides further evidence of how difficult Indy Eleven were to break down.

Brad Ring once again was literally everywhere.

What happens now.....?

We won, it's a great feeling. We moved from rock bottom and put teams below us but we still have a long way to go. When you realize that our current standings for 2017 are poorer than the team of 2014 for their first 12 league games, albeit only through goal differential, you know there is a lot to be done.

Indy Eleven need to show they are not a 'one hit wonder' and move forward with the belief they can achieve the same results against any other team regardless of where they play them. We now play the same team again in Carolina next week with a good understanding of how to defeat them.

We have had bad luck with injuries, bad luck in games but we have also had poor performances as well and at times we have beaten ourselves. One win can change a lot, it was no different in 2014 after our first win against Carolina it gave us a boost and within a short time we had also defeated FC Edmonton on the road as well. We need to make sure the confidence and relief we take from this win carries forward into each game.

Being able to field a strong lineup like this week after week will certainly help, but that is not something we can really control, just keep your fingers crossed that we can remain injury free. We have time on our side and twenty games left to prove why we should be worthy of a playoff position in 2017.

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