James Higdon reviews Indy vs. Ottawa
Indy Eleven struggled even getting a point on the road after Brad Ring’s equalizer evened the score to a 1-1 draw with Ottawa Fury FC this past Sunday. The Eleven’s point on Sunday is their seventh point out of a possible 30 in away competitions this season.
Post-game stats shows that both teams were evenly matched when it came to possession, but our vulnerabilities were evident in the difficulty the Eleven had winning ground and aerial duels, as Ottawa dominated 63 percent and 57 percent of those, respectively.
Things took a shaky start early in the match after Ottawa’s Ryan Williams found his way into Indy’s box in the third minute and fired off a shot. Luckily, Falvey was quick to respond and force the ball over the crossbar.
Indy’s first attempt at a goal came in the 10th minute after our former “super sub” Don Smart ran the ball up the right side of the box and crossed to the center for Dylan Mares to receive and shoot, but with defensive pressure mounting from the Canadian side, Mares only saw the ball over the bar.
It was easy to see that old habits were going to die hard after 45 minutes of watching Indy force long balls and cross attempts that were either quickly absorbed and turned into Ottawa retaliation, passed directly to Ottawa players, or found their way out of bounds. Indy had about a 26 percent success rate out of 19 crosses. Most of our plays were up the left side of the field with cross attempts into the box, and that became predictable fairly fast. Indy’s 4-4-2 lineup assured that Ottawa’s attack would have a hard time finding its way to our goal, but left little creativity for our own strikers up front. These tactics mixed with our defensive wall was enough to keep the scoreboard reading 0-0 at the end of the first half.
Second half saw some play changes with Indy shifting from 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1, moving Smart and Ring into more attacking roles. This was crucial for Ring’s 64 minute equalizing goal after Ottawa’s Tommy Stewart scored a header off a free kick deflection in the 59th minute. While crosses were still prevalent, our attack tended to focus more on pressing and short passing.
The action began to dwindle as time moved on, as a mixture of heat, humidity and exhaustion settled onto the players. Eventually, storms moved in during the 83rd minute, halting play for nearly 30 minutes. After the restart, scoring efforts between the two teams had ground to a halt.
With Indy’s odd, three game schedule this week, their performance shouldn’t be too surprising. Ottawa on Sunday, an away game against the Cosmos on Wednesday and another home game on Saturday would be taxing on any team. Our performance could be reflective of trying to stay rested and in form to attempt to take down the current table toppers in the Empire State. Perhaps, on the pessimistic end of it, it reflects how exhausted our players are already on the road. Away games have always been the Achilles’ heel in Indy Eleven’s history, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that is. Hopefully we can take lessons learned in our draw and push forward to regain our throne on the top of the Fall NASL table.
Jordan Kalt previews Indy vs. New York
You never grow out of the elementary principles of ball movement. But sometimes teams struggle with it anyway. Whether due to the stress of success and expectations or the pressures of the road, good habits for on-field transition can deteriorate. Lately, that seems to have been the case for the Eleven. Successful ball movement feels like it’s at a season low, and the attack is stuttering.
The three-game home stand at the beginning of the month went off splendidly, putting just as many wins in the books. But a three-game road war ends tonight against the New York Cosmos; and this stretch hasn’t been nearly as successful. Following a loss and a draw, only a win against the Cosmos tonight could edge the three-week stretch toward success.
Supporters’ hopes remain high that a strong finish is in store for the team over these final two months leading into the playoffs, a spot in which Indy is already assured. Encouragingly, Hankinson seems keenly aware of the problems in transition and the importance of building confidence on the road. The New York Cosmos sit atop the table and certainly dangle a nice carrot in terms of a confidence boost. The Cosmos are a full three points ahead of Indy Eleven in both the fall and combined tables, so pulling even with them would make the return home to Indiana much, much sweeter.
The Eleven’s locker room is filled with veterans and will have no shortage of intelligent voices before tonight’s game. Hopefully they speak up and step up. Falvey needs to reestablish the incredible chemistry this back line once had before his injury. Torrado should be able to lead the charge to firm up passes in and around the midfield. And Zayed will be most instrumental if he can break his personal scoring rut and in doing so remind this team what it feels like to break through walls again.
Not long ago, Indy had shown a fiery passion for making adversity their slave. Tonight’s road-war finale will require that exact mark of zeal.