Well, that was a great game and the team is on top of the table with 9 points. The rain held off until the very end, and the crowd was in great spirits. But how did the team do?
Edmonton likes to park the bus
This is a popular phrase, and is usually used about teams that play a very defensive minded game plan. Their formation was very similar to ours, and in play typically ends up being a 4-1-4-1. What the 4 midfielders typically did was press up the field, and clog the passing lanes between our back four and our midfielders.
For much of the first half, we tried to move the ball in the air, which led to a number of fifty fifty balls and Edmonton in the first half had a number of chances on counter attacks. However, by the second half Minnesota began to take over, and the fact that Edmonton had played 3 games in 7 days was beginning to wear on them.
Edmonton played very physically on defense, a we never really seemed to figure out how to keep from being pushed off the ball. Our offense includes some smaller players, and other teams might look at what Edmonton did, and chose to play Minnesota very tough, and dare the ref to call it.
The Defense and Goalkeeper
The defense was a mixed bag. Dias had a great save off the goal line early in the game, but they also had a costly near turnover that led to Calvano to have to foul an Edmonton player to prevent him from getting the ball with a shot on goal. They also seemed to have trouble communicating with Van Okel, with a couple of balls almost caught in no man’s land between Van Okel and the defense. Again, we let a couple of good looks at goal with an Edmonton player coming to the goal line and then passing it in front of goal. The team needs to figure out how to prevent those types of crosses, because a better finish on one of those would have led to the dreaded 1-1 tie with Edmonton.
Venegas and Davis had some great runs up the field, with Venegas doing a good job on free kicks and Davis’s run on one build up leading to a fantastic chance on goal that Franks couldn’t convert.
Somewhat of a strange decision led to Franks starting in one of the defensive midfield positions. He played the more box to box midfielder, which gave him opportunities to use his skills in attack. He was eventually replaced by Jordan, who had been my suggestion for the starter. Neither was all that great in the position. Jordan did a better job on the press, while Franks has a better first touch on the ball, although he did turn it over and only quick thinking by our centerbacks prevented a shot on goal.
Pitchkolan was for the most part quiet during this game. With the high press by Edmonton, both Franks and Pitchkolan had difficulty finding space to move in the middle of the field.
Our wings in Watson and Daley needed to do more to help move the ball out of our end. While Watson did a solid job of link up play with Ramirez, Ibarra, and Davis, but Daley was too stationary. While that might have been the strategy, it seemed that our attacks on the right side bogged down too quickly at midfield because he was sitting back, waiting for the pass. It wasn’t until the second half that Minnesota really began having good passes to space and players ran onto the ball, rather than standing still and waiting for the ball. Once we started to have success with our midfield play, our chances on goal became much stronger.
Ibarra was by far the best on the field. His runs both with and without the ball were able to break down the defense and move the ball quickly out of our end and into the attacking third. While he wasn’t rewarded with a goal, his teammates also didn’t do him any favors as a number of shot attempts were miss hit or struck right at the goalkeeper.
Ramirez had a couple of decent looks at goal, but was unable to convert. His runs seemed less effective, and it likely was due to the centerbacks of Edmonton keying on him. Many of the passes to him were cut off by the defense.
A win’s a win, but…
Overall, the team did not look as strong as they have in the previous two games. While they were able to win in the end, it took a fortuitous hand ball and penalty kick by Bracallello. The team didn’t seem to play together nearly as well as they did the previous two games. Still, nine points in 3 games is a great reward for the effort, time and money spent in the preseason. Even in this game the team looked more organized and fit than their opponent. Hopefully against another team with a strong defense in Indy next week, they will create more chances on goal.
Manny Lagos chose not to use all three subs. At home, with a lead and the depth that he has, it seemed like that might have been a mistake. A player like Mendes or Polak would have been great to bring in for the last 5 minutes to give them game experience this season and spell Ibarra or Ramirez.