In this addition of Lady Victory and Her Quest for Glory, I will recap Indy Eleven’s 3-0 win over FC Edmonton, give highlights of the spring season, and what to look for in the upcoming NASL fall season.
Indy Eleven had a mission in their last game of the spring season. First, the Eleven needed to get three points to stay in contention for a playoff spot and record their first home win of the season. Second, Indy had to display a dominate performance that fans could be proud of and remember heading into the short summer break. The Eleven did more than this. Indy received three points for their efforts and recorded their first clean sheet of the season. In addition, scoring their largest margin of victory since last season in US Open Cup play. Interim Head Coach, Tim Regan, started with the same lineup against the Eddies as he did in the the previous game against Fort Lauderdale, which also resulted in a win. Although, FC Edmonton were missing some key players, the Eddies tactical approach was that of a true road team. The Eddies had all eleven players behind the ball looking to convert the few chances they were given into goals from counter attacks. For the Eleven, this match against Edmonton was the best game they have played all year. The Eleven dominated from the start and had two corners in the first three minutes. The Eleven’s first chance came in the 10th minute when Dylan Mares’s cross found Erick Norales, whose header glanced off the top of the cross bar. Edmonton’s goalkeeper, John Smits, was kept busy in the first half as Indy looked strong in the final third. The Eddies best chance of the game came in the 20th minute as Edmonton worked the ball down the left side but Frank Jonke’s header was well above the crossbar. The Eleven finally broke through in the 39th minute as Mares played the ball forward to a wide open Brian Brown who was able to turn and take a left footed shot 25 yards out to find the back of the net. In the 43rd minute Dylan Mares initial shot was blocked by Smits who could not hold on to the rocket sent right at him. As Brad Ring went in for the rebound, Smits took Ring’s legs out from under him and the center referee awarded a penalty for the Eleven. Dylan Mares converted the penalty in the 44th minute.
At halftime, Edmonton switched goalkeepers as Matt VanOekel came in for Smits. However, this change did not help the Eddies as their frustration boiled over in the 67th minute when Cristian Raudales’s forearm struck Victor Pineda in the face, resulting in a straight red card. In the 77th Duke Lacroix came into the game for Pineda. Lacroix’s substitution was a success in the 82nd minute when Charlie Rugg delivered a ball through traffic to find Lacroix. In return, Duke took three touches before sliding the ball under VanOekel with his left foot. This was Lacroix’s first professional goal of his career.
I was really impressed with Indy’s build up to each attack, their patterns of play, and combinations through the midfield that resulted in three goals. The credit should go to Brad Ring and Dylan Mares who was able to combine with the outside midfielders and forwards. When the Eddies did advance the ball and threatened to score, the Eleven’s counter attack was superb for the second week in a row. Indy was able to shut down Edmonton’s attack and find target players, Ring and Mares who was able spring Indy forward. This win took Indy Eleven from 7th to 5th place, while the Eddies finished the spring season in 10th.
HIGHLIGHTS OF SPRING SEASON
As the book closes on the spring season and the New York Cosmos hoist the trophy, it is time to reflect on Indy Eleven’s first 10 games of 2015. I will start with the low points and finish with the highs because there were more positives than negatives to take away from the spring season for Indy Eleven.
- The first low of the season was Indy Eleven’s trip to Jacksonville when they suffered their first loss of the season. This started a downward spiral for the Eleven as they suffered a four game losing streak. Indy also bowed out of the US Open Cup during this time. The four losses in a row saw Indy only score 1 goal while allowing 7.
- Director of Soccer and Head Coach, Juergen Sommer, and assistant Paul Telfer were released of their duties. Sommer, was the first coach in Indy Eleven history and guided the Eleven to their first victory in franchise history against Carolina, with their first home wins coming against Minnesota and San Antonio. The 2015 season was promising as the team took points in their first four games and was as high as second in the table. However, the four game losing streak saw Indy fall to bottom of the table and Tim Regan replacing Sommer on an interim bases with Kleberson as his assistant.
- Sergio Peña took the 2015 season by storm with his play and goal scoring ability. Peña’s big breakthrough came on the road against San Antonio with his game winning goal from 55 yards out that was awarded NASL Play of the Week. Peña solidified the defensive midfield position with his ability to distribute the ball and generate the attack. At the same time, presenting a physical force in the midfield to disrupt the opposition’s ability to push forward. After suffering an injury in the first half against Ottawa, Peña has not been in the lineup since.
- The first high of the season was Indy Eleven taking 6 points in their first four games. The Eleven collected three points against the defending NASL Champions, San Antonio, with draws against Atlanta, New York, and Carolina.
- Indy Eleven had their first two players named NASL Player of the Week with Kyle Hyland and Victor Pineda taking home the honors. In addition, Sergio Peña was awarded Play of the Week in week three against San Antonio. Erick Norales has been nominated four times for the league’s Team of the Week.
- Dylan Mares and Brad Ring are my MVPs for the team. Their performance in each game has help the Eleven on both sides of the ball. Ring’s play as a defensive midfielder has shut down the opposition combined with his ability to be a target player in the counter attack has helped Indy advance quickly into their final third. Mares, has improved dramatically since last season and leads the team in assists and is tied for first in goals this year. Mares is best when he includes both outside midfielders and forwards in the attack. We never like to see players go down with injury but with Kleberson and Peña out, Mares and Ring has stepped up big for the Eleven and have made the most of their opportunities. My ironman award goes to Marco Franco who has played every minute of the spring season for the Eleven. His stamina, ability to shut down defenders in 1v1 situation, and push into the attack to create numbers up situation for Indy.
- This spring, the Eleven recorded 13 goals scored while allowing only 12 in league play. Which is a much better goal difference compared to last spring when Indy allowed 20 goals and only score 14. In addition, the Eleven did not record a clean sheet in the 2014 season.
FALL IS COMING
As Indy Eleven takes some time off before preparing for their exhibition against Mexican side, Morelia, the fall season is a few weeks away. With this there are some big questions that need to be asked prior to the season starting.
- After guiding the team to two wins in two games, will Indy Eleven lift the interim tag off of Tim Regan and award him the position on a permanent bases? If not, who will the Eleven appoint as the next head coach?
- The 4-4-2 formation with a diamond in the middle has worked in these last two games. Will the coaching staff keep this formation or change it?
- The fall season consists of 20 games. In addition to Saturday matches, Indy will play four games on Wednesday, one on Friday, and one on Sunday. In fact, to start the month of August, the Eleven will play three games in eight days. Rotating the squad will be a major factor if Indy Eleven is going to make the playoffs. Do the Eleven have a deep enough roster to contend for a playoff spot?
- Will the team add new players to the roster and what position will this player play? Will this player(s) be a local talent or take an international spot?
- Last season, Kleberson lead the team in scoring with 8 goals. This spring, the goal scoring responsibility has been distributed evenly with Brian Brown, Dylan Mares, Sergio Peña, and Victor Pineda netting 2 goals each. Will this trend continue in the fall or will we see the emergence of Brown and Duke Lacroix take over these duties?