Saturday brings a new dawn and a new day for the Indy Eleven. Defeat behind them, they turn their attention to a hallowed ground that has always treated this team quite well: Michael Carroll stadium.

Hankinson and crew know they have to get back to the beginning—back to basics—and begin to put together a good run of form in time for the playoffs in November.

BYB community-mogul, Andrew Retz, shared his thoughts with me on whether losing these recent road games could have an effect on a Championship game away from home:

“It’s no secret that Indy struggles on the road but a playoff game changes everything. You’re no longer fighting for a point or three, but a Championship. I don’t think previous regular season results mean anything in that scenario.

“I think there are far more important things to consider than previous away results. Form overall and health. The advantage we have is that we don’t have to fight up until the end of October for a playoff spot. We can get Ubi, Falvey, Braun, etc. healthy.”

The injuries have been costly. Especially to the defense. Recent results have showcased that, as the Eleven’s once stingy defense has suddenly given up seven goals over the last three games.

Through the fall season thus far nearly all of Indy’s defensive starters have seen time on the sidelines due to injury. Early weeks saw Lovell Palmer spend time out of play although Marco Franco filled in admirably. Colin Falvey’s influence was perhaps the one missed most after he pushed himself to breaking point in the run up to the Spring Championship. But it almost as soon as Falvey was back, Greg Janicki was down and out. Times have been tough but one way or another, this next stretch will become a proving ground for a team that still seeks the Championship.

Facing Tampa Bay tomorrow night will be an opportunity for the Eleven to remember who they are and begin to dig a good groove again. As many work their way back from injury, it will also be a chance to see how deep this roster goes and whether Hankinson’s coaching prowess can live up to past success while helping his team forget recent failures.

With an eye toward the problems that might be addressed this match, Eleventh Plague headman, Zach McNulty, said:

“Offensively, they need to create more opportunities. Feed it to Zayed up the middle and let him do what he does best… I feel like Zayed has disappeared.”

Regaining that early offensive flair must certainly be an objective tonight. After being dubbed a team of last-minute winners earlier in the year, the club had actually walked that moniker back over the last few months. Instead, they created a habit of getting out to an early lead with Eamon Zayed ever-present in a mixture of multiple goals. He had been on pace to win the NASL’s Golden Boot not long ago but struggles in the midfield and an injury to attack-partner Justin Braun saw his chances diminish and then disappear altogether.

The Golden Boot is actually still attainable for Zayed, despite his recent drought. With Braun just now beginning to practice again, Zayed will have to create some chemistry with whoever Hankinson decides should serve as his counterpart for the match. The midfield behind Eamon will have to become more creative, possess the ball for longer spells, and then make accurate passes into the final third of the field. As for Eamon himself, he simply needs to shake the feeling of last month’s point-blank misses. When Eamon scores it goes a long, long way to raising the confidence of this team—and the crowd at Michael Carroll.

Perhaps a goal from him tomorrow night will get us back to winning ways and keep our unbeaten record at The Mike intact. 

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