It was a feeling that permeated the brain as soon as New York touched the ball.
They were out for blood. We denied them the Spring Championship and we were going to pay.
Maybe the boys were due for a slide. Maybe that’s something that just happens in professional sports from time to time. To most people. I just still believe this team isn’t “most people”. They’re better than most. But they sure aren’t showing it lately.
The first half was horrid. New York’s pace was impressive and their transitions were impeccable. Two quick goals were the result. Though the Eleven showed more signs of life later, they never truly stopped making the sort of bad mistakes and poor decisions that cost them early on.
After the half, no one but Hankinson thought subbing in Omar Gordon for Brad Ring would fix the Eleven’s problems in transition—or on defense. Posession and passing had been lackluster and the midfield was failing both to absorb the attack and to produce accurate final passes in transition to the forwards. Hankinson’s substitution strategy for Gordon didn’t pan out, but to be fair it never really had a chance to do so. Corey Miller committed an unforgivable foul in the box during the 52’ and was promptly sent off the field, prompting an even more vital substitution. Getting really low on centerbacks here, people.
Having Daniel Keller go on immediately following Miller’s red card was a forward-thinking move from Hankinson. With Miller excluded from this Saturday’s action, defensive options are running quite low for the Eleven. Now, after seeing some smart play by Keller, Hankinson will have a better idea of how to use him in a hodgepodge back four this weekend.
We’ve already identified many of the team’s current struggles. Not a lot has changed in three weeks. Some struggles—like dwindling player availability—have obviously gotten worse. But it’s safe to say there’s a new struggle-bus factor, too: team mentality.
Being unable to win a game on the road since April takes a toll and produces a snowball effect. We can only hope the snowball is rolling to the bottom of the hill at this point, but halting that trajectory will have to wait for a week and another Floridian road trip.
In the meantime, the best way to combat the mentality issue will be a very, very forgetful memory over the next couple of days. The boys need to get home, do what they do best on at home on Saturday (easier said than done, being this depleted and gassed) and then take some much needed rest before trying the road again in Fort Lauderdale after a week.
So, I’m going to temper my expectations for Saturday. That being said, there is one item I believe the Eleven can no longer wait to address.
That is: how Eamon Zayed has become the poor, disheveled ruler of a very lonely island. He needs a goal, and he needs the service to get to that goal. Now.
It’s true that playing three matches in a row on the road with a midweek game at the end against the top team in the league… is quite the task. But I’ll never stop preaching that this current team has been and is capable of better. They remind me of it by continuing to chase the game after they get down. Busch proves it by incessantly barking orders and giving direction to the defenders in front of him. Palmer even shows it when he chooses to walk away after a momentary burst of anger and a yellow-card shove.
Don’t forget, these guys were once the top team in the league. That wasn’t luck and it wasn’t a mistake. They can get there again.