Déjà vu all over again.
Another road game, another 3-2 loss with a late consolation goal, another Kleberson penalty, another Monday with the Eleven losing in the league. The trip to league-leading Minnesota was always going to be a big ask for Indy, and while there were positive signs, the team traveled home with no points and a drop in the standings.
Minnesota United FC 3-2 Indy Eleven[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG4UURG5umA%5D
Another frustrating loss for the Eleven.
The first goal came at 23′ on a quick transition by Minnesota. Even though Indy had good numbers back to defend, poor positioning and quick passes from Juliano Vicentini and then Miguel Ibarra set Simone Bracallelo free down the near left channel. Bracallello’s cross found Daniel Mendes in front of goal (where he’d drifted away from Erick Norales). Mendes’ off-balance finish was well wide, but Christian Ramierz found it at the far post for an easy tap-in. The goal was well executed by United, but Indy were disorganized and off-balance on the transition.
The second goal, just two minutes later, was a distillation of the first. It came on another counterattack, this time off an Indy corner. The chance was created by an excellent Ibarra pass that again set Bracallelo free, with only Kyle Hyland back to defend three United attackers. Bracallelo’s pass found Mendes just inside the box, and he took one touch before finishing smoothly past the onrushing Kristian Nicht. 2-0, and Indy were in a deep hole on the road.
Indy continued to attack, and got a goal back at 42′. Mike Ambersley’s excellent cross found Pedro Mendes at the far post. Mendes headed down across goal… right into the path of the inrushing Bracallelo, who toe-poked hard into his own net. It was a bit harsh on Bracallelo; if he didn’t get a touch, Dylan Mares was perfectly placed to finish it himself. One of those ‘own goals’ that was forced by good attacking play.
So 2-1 to Indy, which would have left them a lot of hope at halftime. Instead, Minnesota won the game just before the half, at 45+2′. It came, of course, on yet another counterattack. Another excellent Mendes pass found Ibarra this time, again on the left channel. Norales defended Ibarra well, allowing his defense time to get back, but Ibarra found Aaron Pitchkolan alone at the top of the D. His one-time finish was rifled into the far corner, leaving Nicht no chance and slamming a dagger into Indy’s hopes for points. It’s a great goal — probably goal of the week material — but again Indy was caught out on the counter.
Indy fought hard in the second half (gave up some chances, too) but the second goal didn’t come until stoppage time. A dangerous cross into the box from Hyland was handled by Jamie Watson, and Indy received their second PK of the year. Kléberson buried it… and then buried it again, after he was asked to retake it. 3-2, and Indy were close. But again there just wasn’t enough time to complete the comeback.
Minnesota carved Indy up via our right flank on all three counterattacks. It’s surely no coincidence that Juergen Sommer pulled right back Fejiro Okiomah at halftime, replacing him with Kléberson. Okiomah was caught far upfield on all three goals. That might well have been a tactical decision rather than a mistake, but the hook at 46′ says something wasn’t working either way. Okiomah has only started the last two games, taking the RB job from Chris Estridge. It’s also worth noting that AJ Corrado was subbed from his wide-right midfield position at 46′ in the Tampa Bay game, and has been an unused sub since. Obviously, the right side of the pitch is an area of concern for Sommer.
The team has plenty of heart and effort, and that makes them easy to root for. The defensive lapses can be trained out — I hope. We’ll see if there are any changes for Saturday. Still, a draw wasn’t that far away, and that’s not bad for taking on the top team in the league, in a tough stadium. We’ll lick our wounds, build our enthusiasm, and march on to next Saturday!
Week 4 was again interesting, though Minnesota and Fort Lauderdale are opening a gap on their challengers. The week saw two more away wins and an ugly five red cards — three in the Carolina-New York match alone.
Atlanta Silverbacks 2-1 Ottawa Fury[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jnSFPe3VtE%5D
Atlanta cruised to a 2-1 win over Ottawa in Atlanta. The two Atlanta goals came on either side of halftime — the first at 44′ on a header from Deon McCaulay on an assist from Jaime Chavez, the second at 50′ from Chavez on a beautiful cross from Blair Gavin. Ottawa got a late goal from Omar Jarun (assist from Siniša Ubiparipović) at 90′, but as with Indy, it was too late to change the game.
Atlanta climb the table to 6th on their second win in a row, and keep within shouting distance of the leaders. Ottawa slide to 8th, one above Indy, with their one win giving them a single point advantage over Indy’s two draws.
Carolina RailHawks 1-0 New York Cosmos[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h57eI4nVr0I%5D
Carolina sent New York to their second straight defeat with a 1-0 match marred by three red cards. The RailHawks opened the scoring at 12′ with a tenacious run right down the middle from Cesar Elizondo. After beating two defenders, he laid a perfect pass to Ty Shipalane; Shipalane still had a lot of work to do as his first shot was saved by keeper Jimmy Maurer, but he found the rebound and slotted it home past two onrushing defenders.
Both teams continued to fight, and had chances at goals, but the fighting got a bit too literal. At 56′, Sebastián Guenzatti was sent off for Cosmos with a straight red when he retaliated after aggressive challenges from two Carolina players on the sideline. The sides evened at 10 men when Connor Tobin was shown his second yellow at 63′ for a rash slide-in on a breakaway. Then the RailHawks went to 9 men at 68′ when Kupono Low saw a second yellow for an aggressive slide in on a dangerous cross into the box. Carolina had to endure sustained New York pressure for the last 15 minutes of the game, but keeper Akira Fitzgerald was up to the task (and was named NASL Player of the Week for his efforts).
Carolina maintains an 18-game home undefeated streak, while New York drops points yet again and falls back into the logjam at 4th on the table. Carolina moves up to 3rd, five points off leaders Minnesota.
San Antonio Scorpions 0-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjF_25t4AQA%5D
Tampa Bay made the trip to San Antonio and came away with the 0-1 road win. The goal came from Shane Hill at 51′ on a rolling shot to the left corner from outside the 18-yard box. Scorpions keeper David Bingham reacted late — probably unsighted as the shot came through a forest of legs.
Tampa Bay had its own desperate defending to do, as defender Blake Wagner was sent off for his second yellow at 78′. The defense adjusted well, and goalkeeper Matt Pickens pulled off a string of saves both before and after the card; Pickens can probably feel that he made as good an argument for Player of the Week as Fitzgerald did for Carolina. Tampa Bay climbs to 7th on their first win, while San Antonio drops to 5th.
FC Edmonton 1-3 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Fort Lauderdale continued their strong run, traveling to Edmonton and mocking the Eddies defense with a 1-3 road victory. The match started defensively, but Fort Lauderdale opened the scoring at 40′ on a Martin Núñez goal (assist Fafà Picault). Picault turned goalscorer at 63′, scoring on the assist from Darnell King. Edmonton pulled one back at 73′, Daryl Fordyce scored on a header from Tomi Ameobi to make it 2-1. But Fort Lauderdale were assured of the victory at 78′, when Eddies defender Albert Watson handled the ball in the box. Watson saw red for his infraction, and Mark Anderson converted the penalty for the Strikers and sealed the points.
Fort Lauderdale keep pace with Minnesota in second place, while Edmonton remain below Indy at the bottom of the table, with only a single point from four games so far.
Tale of the Table
|1||Minnesota United FC||4||4||0||0||5||12|
|2||Fort Lauderdale Strikers||4||3||0||1||2||9|
|4||New York Cosmos||4||2||0||2||3||6|
|5||San Antonio Scorpions||4||2||0||2||-1||6|
|7||Tampa Bay Rowdies||4||1||2||1||-1||5|
|8||Ottawa Fury FC||4||1||0||3||0||3|
Approaching halfway into the season, Minnesota have maintained their perfect record and have a three-point lead over Fort Lauderdale. The Strikers keep pace, the sole difference being their 4-1 loss to Carolina, who trail them by two points in the standings. New York lose their second match in a row, falling into a virtual tie with San Antonio and Atlanta. Tampa Bay advance closer to contention with their win over San Antonio, while Ottawa, Indy, and Edmonton all lose to remain in a tight group at the bottom of the table. With five spring games remaining, the bottom teams are fast losing hope of contending for the title, switching the focus to amassing points in hopes of a playoff spot at seasons’ end.
Week 5 brings Indy back home to The Mike for a visit from last-place Edmonton, giving the Eleven a great chance to get the elusive first win. Three other games will play on Saturday, while New York hosts a rare Monday game against Minnesota.
Saturday 10 May
- Ottawa Fury FC vs Tampa Bay Rowdies (7:00PM EDT)
- Indy Eleven vs FC Edmonton (7:30PM EDT)
- Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs Atlanta Silverbacks (7:30PM EDT)
- San Antonio Scorpions vs Carolina RailHawks (8:30PM EDT)
Monday 12 May
- New York Cosmos vs Minnesota United FC (7:30PM EDT)
Indy will be desperate to get a win at home against Edmonton. The Eddies will want to climb off the bottom of the table, but they’ll have to score goals to do so, and that might play into Indy’s hands. The Rowdies visit Ottawa in another bottom-half (7 vs 8) matchup, so a win for Indy will guarantee a move up the table.
The top half of the table have plenty of interesting matchups. Minnesota will look to maintain their perfect record, but they’ll have a tough challenge with a visit to New York. Cosmos will be hungry to stop their two-game slide, and a win would put New York back into Spring title contention. Fort Lauderdale will look to reach their fourth win at home vs Atlanta, while San Antonio hosts Carolina in a 3rd vs 5th matchup. The top-heavy slate of games could cause quite a bit of upheaval in the top of the table.
For now, the Eleven are on the outside looking in. Saturday will be the perfect chance to turn that around — a perfect time for that first franchise win.