Miami FC wins 2-1
The game of soccer maybe the only sport where you can dominate every stat category and still lose the game. Indy Eleven, the champions of the NASL Spring Season and playing in good form in the fall, experienced this situation on Saturday night in Miami. The Eleven had 20 total shots, controlled 53.1% of the possession, completed 299 of their 349 passes, had an 81.6% passing accuracy in their opponents half, 8 corners, created 47 crosses, won 12 of the 15 tackles they were involved in, and intercepted Miami on 21 occasions. Yet the most important stat of all- Indy hit the post twice.
Miami FC jumped out early as Dario Cvitanich was able to slide the ball past several Indy Eleven defenders and goalkeeper Keith Cardona for a goal that was directed by a Rhett Bernstein’s header from a corner in the 4th minute. As the Eleven dominated from that point forward, with Omar Gordon’s strike hitting the post in minute 10, Miami found the back of the net again in the 85th minute. Former Eleven player, Blake Smith, found an unmarked Ariel Martinez who blasted a left footed strike past Cardona outside the eighteen yard box. Many thought the game was over but the Eleven had other plans. Right before the 90th minute mark, Don Smart played a dangerous cross from the right side into the box. Éamon Zayed was able to control the ball and somehow get it past the goal line near post as Daniel Vega was slow to react. The Eleven had one more chance in the 96th minute of stoppage time but Nemanja Vukovic’s free kick hit the post.
The Eleven only made one change to the starting lineup from their last game against FC Edmonton. Making a personnel change does not always result in a team changing their approach to their game tactically but in this situation it did. Goalkeeper Keith Cardona saw his first NASL action of 2016 for Indy Eleven on the road. Which begs the question; why did Cardona get his first start of the season in league play on the road when the team looks shaky in the back? The Eleven seemed out of sink to start the match and going down a goal did not help as the ‘Boys in blue’ struggled to balance the added defensive responsibilities with Jon Busch out while trying to push into the attack at the same time. Understandably Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson sat out Jon Busch for a much needed mental break. But it may have better suited the Eleven to have Busch start against Miami, then rest during the week and allow Cardona to start Wednesday night in a more comfortable environment at home. Now as the game went on Cardona became more relaxed and made some spectacular saves to keep the Eleven in the match which shows the type of player he is.
Now the Eleven did rotate some players into the match that had not seen action in a significant amount of time as, Siniša Ubiparipović and Jair Reinoso, who had been out with injuries came on as substitutes. Both impacted the game and gave the Eleven much needed fresh legs. A fully fit Ubiparipović looked like last year’s Ubi and filled the role of a true attacking number 10, something the Eleven have missed at times this season. However, the biggest influence Ubparipović, Reinoso, and Don Smart gave the Eleven was width in the attack. Prior to their substitutions, the Eleven’s two outside defenders, Nemanja Vukovic and Marco Franco, were the widest players respectively. Unfortunately, they could not push farther into the attack, as they are accustomed too, out of respect for Miami’s counter attack and added defensive responsibilities.
The added width helped the Eleven go from attempting 11 crosses in the first half to 36 in the second half. This added pressure on Miami’s defensive allowed more players to join in the attack and create more options for the Eleven in the final third. Yet the Eleven could only convert on 4 of those crosses. One of the keys for the Eleven to be successful is to be clinical in the final third. The Eleven did everything in their power to be clinical. They hit the post twice and that was the difference.
When teams lose it’s because of poor play or they are inadequately unable to handle their opponent tactically. But not this Indy Eleven team. They always out produce their challenger and Indy players are able to have profounder and deeper connection to the game; physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually than the rest of the NASL. A loss only makes these connections stronger which is why those adversaries traveling to The Mike on Wednesday and Saturday should fear a first round knockout.
What’s next for the Eleven
The Eleven play at home Wednesday night against the Jacksonville Armada at 7:30 local time. On Saturday they host the Ottawa Fury.