Indy Eleven will be happy to be coming home after suffering their first loss since last September to the Jacksonville Armada. However, the Eleven will have to face an in form squad in Minnesota United. In this edition of Lady Victory and Her Quest for Glory, I will give a quick recap from the Eleven- Armada game, scouting report on Minnesota United, and questions Eleven need to answer heading into the game this Saturday against the Loons.
First, I want to start out by saying I was touched by Jacksonville Armada and their relationship with Holden Dillard. Although I never knew Holden, he seemed like a good soccer player and great kid. Anytime a member of the soccer community is gone it effects the entire community including, Indiana. As we rallied and supported Rachel Fiege’s family, we need to do the same for the Dillard family. You could tell Saturday was for Holden. It started with the Jacksonville Armada holding a powerful tribute and then playing for him. Even Jacksonville Head Coach Guillermo Hoyos echoed this in his post-match interview.
There were four take a ways from Eleven’s game against the Armada. First, Indy Eleven was coming off a bye and you could tell Eleven player’s legs were heavy, their touch was off, and overall they were rusty. Sometimes in sports we hear the phrase, “too much rest is bad.” This was obvious in the first half with Jacksonville firing several shorts and accumulated nine corners with Eleven’s first shot on goal not coming until the 36th minute. Second, the heat in Jacksonville and the baseball turf played a huge role in how Eleven played. Although temperatures have reached the 80s in Indiana, it has not been consistent compared to Jacksonville’s weather, this affected some of the Eleven players. The Armada share their home with the Jacksonville Suns, a double-A minor league affiliate of the Miami Marlins. The Suns have played away from home for two weeks and the turf on top of the infield has started to settle but bumps and large divots were present. In retrospective, I am glad Eleven and the Indianapolis Indians did not agree to play their games at Victory Field. Although, having a one time double header in August would be cool. The third take away, was the speed of play and athletic quickness of the Armada. This came as no surprise with Jacksonville’s roster filled with coaches or players with La Liga, Barcelona F.C., and Manchester United experience. This was replicated in the Armada’s formation, style of possession, and mind set in front of goal. Which brings me to my final point. This was the first game in which Indy Eleven’s defense looked vulnerable. The defense was stretched at times allowing the Armada to create more dangerous attacks, shots, and corners. This could be due to the fact that Keith Cardona was making his first professional start Indy Eleven with the lack of communication and familiarity between Cardona and the back line.
PREVIEW: MINNESOTA UNITED v. INDY ELEVEN
All-time series record: Minnesota leads 2-0-1
5/14/14: At Minnesota. Loons win 3-2.
8/16/14: At Minnesota. Loons win 5-1.
10/11/14: At Indy. Eleven win 2-0. Goals from Pineda and Jhulliam. After first home win in franchise history, Eleven fans rushed the field in celebration.
Eleven: Kleberson. Out indefinitely with torn Achilles.
Minnesota United: N/A
Coach: Manny Lagos
Record: 1-3-1 (W-D-L)
Position in the league: p8
Goals for: 5
Goals against: 5
Leading goal scorer: Pablo Campos, 2
Leader in assists: Miguel Ibarra, 2
Last game: 1-0, W. Goal was scored in open play with a cheeky back heal from Pablo Campos as Miguel Ibarra had the assist.
Starting 11 v. ATL: GK- Ndjock; CB- Dias, Calvano; LB- Davis; RB- Venegas; DM- Pitchkolan, Vicentini; M- Watson, Alhassan, Ibarra; F- Campos.
Do not allow yourself to get caught up in Minnesota United’s current position in the standings because their record will fool you. The Loons, as they are referred to, are coming off their first win of the season against a good Silverbacks team. In addition to the win, Minnesota United will finally be able to have a consistent starting 11 and sub rotation now that star player, Miguel Ibarra is back with the team until June (I discuss Ibarra in more detail later on in the Players to Watch section). This will be a tough game for Indy Eleven. But they are very aggressive when playing in front of their home crowd, so expect both teams to get up and down the pitch very quickly with Eleven and the Loons looking to strike often. With this in mind, Sammy Ndjock and Kristian Nicht should be the busiest players on the field.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Miguel Ibarra: Last year, Ibarra was one of the best players in the NASL. But since being selected by Jurgen Klinsmann to join the US National Team, Ibarra has taken his game to a new level. You will be able to tell from watching him on Saturday night why he is the best in the league and deserves to be playing for the national team. Ibarra typically plays on the left side as an attacking midfielder so expect majority of the Loons attack from that side. I am sure Juergen Sommer is having sleepless nights pondering who will slow down Ibarra (an obvious question I will ask in Questions for the Game section).
Pablo Campos: The NASL modern era all-time leading goal scorer with 48, missed the majority of the 2014 season with a severe knee injury sustained in pre-season. Campos is back in the squad and putting the ball in the back of the net. Campos only has two goals so far this season, but expect him to be contending for the NASL Golden Boot Award (league’s leading goal scorer) as he did in 2011 with 12 goals; 2012 with 21 (won golden boot); and 2013 with 13.
Christian Ramirez: With Campos out last year, Ramirez stepped up and contributed majority of the offensive fire power for Minnesota United and picked up several awards. Ramirez was named NASL Young Player of the Year, Golden Boot, Goal of the Year, and Best XI Selection. The 2015 season has been a different story for Ramirez, as he has only recorded one goal so far.
Kristian Nicht: You read that correctly! Nicht is back with Indy Eleven. After transferring to the Montreal Impact of the MLS and starting in the biggest game in their history, Nicht found himself 3rd to 4th on the depth chart and playing time limited. The Impact placed Nicht on waivers and after clearing, found himself back in Indianapolis with Eleven. This will be a moral boost to the club after the 0-1 defeat in Jacksonville and we should expect the same stingy defense as before.
Daniel Keller: Indy Eleven signed Keller earlier this week to add more depth to the defense and brings the roster up to 22 players with; 3 goalkeepers, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders, and 3 strikers. Eleven now has 4 players on their roster from Indiana after signing Keller. Playing time will be hard to come by as, Franco, Frías, Janicki, and Norales getting most of the playing time on the back line.
A new segment but one I feel is important. If I am going to give a scouting report on Eleven’s opposing time then I should include another aspect, the referees. This is for those going to the game to better understand and anticipate how the game will be controlled and allow everyone to enjoy how both teams play and not dwell on the referees. It interesting to watch players, coaches, and fans become upset with the referees for a “bad call”, a card given, or refusing to allow a penalty. However, at the end of the day it is the coaches and players who influence themselves on well their team plays and not the referee.
In three games the center referee has awarded 79 fouls, 8 yellow cards, and 3 reds. This is for an average of 2.6 yellow cards per game and 1 red card.
QUESTIONS HEADING INTO THE GAME ON SATURDAY
How will Indy Eleven contain and slow down Miguel Ibarra?
How will Indy Eleven respond in this game after coming on a 0-1 loss to Jacksonville? If, Eleven wishes to contend at the top of the table, then this is a must win game.
The strikers for Eleven have played well but this has not shown up on the stat sheet. Can Brown, Rugg, and Wojcik find the back of the net against a team who have allowed 5 goals in 5 games? Against the Scorpions and Eddies, Minnesota gave up 2 goals in each game.
Will Minnesota United have extra motivation on Saturday, after last year’s game at Carroll Stadium against Indy Eleven? If you were there, watched the game from home, or saw highlights from the game, this was Eleven’s first home victory in franchise history and a whirl wind of events that took place after the final whistle.
After announcing they will be joining MLS in 2018, Minnesota has seen a boost in attendance from last year. If the Loons are granted a downtown stadium, expect this to have influence in Indianapolis concerning Eleven’s future stadium.