Eddies down the hapless Eleven

Another match, another disheartening performance by the Indy Eleven. Let’s dig in…

The Lineups

The Tactics

     After a rough performance against Atlanta, Tim Regan retained only three starters for the midweek match versus Edmonton in Cory Miller, Greg Janicki, and Zach Steinberger. The changes were implemented mostly to avoid tired legs in a congested stretch of the schedule and, perhaps, partly to motivate the squad, but they really didn’t produce a marked difference on the pitch. Put simply, Indy disappointed on offense and defense.

     Once again, the Eleven struggled to create chances, highlighted by the fact that Edmonton keeper Matt VanOekel was only forced to make one save. Indy’s best opportunities came in transition, when wingers Don Smart and Duke LaCroix interchanged freely with forwards Charlie Rugg and Wojciech Wojcik. Oftentimes, the midfielders would end up centrally while Rugg and Wojcik picked up the ball on the flanks. This lateral movement and interchange was surprising considering that the group of players on the pitch hadn’t seen much game action with another. While this lateral movement was crucial in finding and creating holes in the Eddies’ defense, Indy sorely lacked horizontal runs that would take a player behind the defense and into a scoring position. That, in part, led to the Eleven’s struggle in the final third, despite a number of decent solo performances.

     Individually speaking, Charlie Rugg, who has struggled in recent weeks, was relatively impressive. He was effective in finding holes in the defense and holding up the ball, and even stepped up to create his own shot on multiple occasions. Wojcik was similarly successful holding up the ball, but neither he nor Rugg set up their teammates particularly well. Wingers Smart and LaCroix found most of their success during quick counterattacks, where both of the pacey midfielders served as outlets for longer passes. On LaCroix’s left flank, Jaime Frias often bombed forward in support, in contrast to the more reserved Judson McKinney. Frias was solid defensively as well, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in for Kyle Hyland more often. Skilled depth options like Jaime Frias are invaluable, especially in stretches like the one Indy is in with three matches in seven days. 

     Indy’s number ten spot, thin for most of the year, is suddenly three men deep. Zach Steinberger had another solid performance, holding onto the ball confidently and doing a good job of pressing Edmonton in their buildup. While he may seem to be an unexceptional creator thus far, the Butler graduate is skilled in what I would call the art of the hockey assist, meaning that he often puts his teammates in positions to serve other teammates around goal. That said, the Houston Dynamo loanee hasn’t had much chance to show off his own true creative capabilities with a frankly uninspired forward line in front of him. I still think that Steinberger would be better served as the more offensive-minded holding midfielder in the double pivot of a 4-2-3-1, but he did put in a fair performance Wednesday night. If Brad Ring isn’t good to go this weekend and Marvin Ceballos is ready to go, I’d be intrigued to see Steinberger operate as a deep-lying playmaker in place of Daniel Keller, who did a less than stellar job of shielding the Eleven defense.

     Despite giving up two goals, the Eleven were fairly decent defensively, other than a few key lapses. The back line lacked chemistry, and it showed in some of the chances created by the Eddies. Twice in the second half an Edmonton player found their way into the heart of the box inbetween two defenders, only to have their header go astray.  On both chances, Indy’s center halves clearly failed to communicate in regards to who should pick up the marauding attacker. Earlier, around the thirty-fifth minute, Shola Ameobi exploited a large swath of space between defenders Judson McKinney and Greg Janicki to create an invaluable chance. Edmonton midfielder Daryl Fordyce had intelligently positioned himself outside the box such that Daniel Keller had to commit to marking him, forcing Cory Miller to step up and press the oncoming Edmonton attacker. Accordingly, Greg Janicki stepped over to fill in at Miller’s spot, leaving a gap between himself and right back Judson McKinney that Shola Ameobi ran into to receive a pass. Luckily for goalkeeper Keith Cardona, Ameobi’s shot went wide. 

     On a positive note, the Eleven did well in containing Jamaican winger Lance Laing. While he wasn’t invisible, the Copa America and Gold Cup veteran was dealt with for the most part. McKinney, in concert with Don Smart and his impressive work rate, kept Laing off the scoresheet, although he did draw the clinching penalty for Edmonton. The bigger issue, in my opinion, came on the first goal rather than the penalty.

     It could be considered a positive that Indy didn’t give up a goal in open play, instead conceding both goals off of set pieces. However, set piece defense has become a massive dilemma for the Boys in Blue in recent weeks. Kristian Nicht has been, to put it bluntly, abysmal against set pieces this season. I hoped that Keith Cardona would do better, but he conceded a goal off of a corner kick, although the blame should fall more on Greg Janicki than Cardona. Janicki kept tabs on his man competently enough, but he was completely outdone in the air, leading to a fairly easy Edmonton goal. Indy’s goalies have been pretty good in the run of play this season, and both Nicht and Cardona seem to be good communicators, but neither keeper deals well with set pieces. I’m not necessarily calling for a change in personnel, but something needs to be done.

Quick Hits

  • The referee for this match was, well, horrible. He was incredibly inconsistent in calling penalties, notably giving a handball call to Lance Laing after he chipped a ball into Janicki’s arm but denying a penalty in Indy’s favor for a similar offense.
  • My heart warms every time Tim Regan contests a call after months of Juergen Sommer. This, of course, refers to three members of the staff standing up to jockey for a penalty when Rugg chipped a ball into an Eddie’s arm in the box.
  • Coach Regan’s substitutions were sensible as usual, but none had a massive effect on the proceedings. Brian Brown did create a few chances for himself off the bench, but was otherwise fairly quiet, and Dane Richards and Victor Pineda were pretty invisible.
  • The tussle at the end of the match was a good thing, in a twisted sort of way. Obviously you don’t want a fight to break out, but it showed that the guys were frustrated with their play and knew that there was an issue.
  • Indy lines up against Ottawa this Saturday, hoping to avenge a 4-2 loss earlier this Fall. Erick Norales will make his return, and Marvin Ceballos will likely debut.
Eddies down the hapless Eleven

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