It was hard to tell what displeased fans more: Indy Eleven losing 1-2 to the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers or attempting to watch the beIN SPORTS en Espanol broadcast fumble through the camera control panel. I wish I could write about the latter of the two options, but due to the nature of the blog, I’m contractually obligated to write about the Eleven’s defeat.
As stated above, Indy Eleven took a knee to the Strikers 1-2 Saturday night as our “Boys in Blue” struggled to find their pace on the road (again). Goals from the Striker’s Paulo Junior and Maicon Santos, both early and late into the match, gave the Strikers momentum for their three points and their new fifth place position on the NASL Fall table. Despite an 88th minute goal from Justin Braun after returning to the starting XI, Indy couldn’t pick up the remaining pieces for a draw or a win. Following suit with Newton’s Law of Gravity—what goes up (on the table), must come down. The 2016 Spring Champs have now trickled down to fourth place for the Fall.
According to the beIN broadcast, Indy Eleven appeared to be running a 4-2-4 line-up in the beginning, with Omar Gordon, Don Smart, Justin Braun and Eamon Zayed leading the attack. In midfield, Indy placed local legend Brad Ring and MMNT superstar Gerardo Torrado. In defense, Nemanja Vukovic, Lovel Palmer and captain Colin Falvey all had their regular starting positions, with Daniel Keller getting his second start of the season while Cory Miller is still out on suspension and Greg Janicki recovering from injury. Although, the beIN SPORTS report conflicts with Opta’s statistics and the team’s website, which states that the team ultimately decided on a—you guessed it—4-4-2 line-up overall; Gordon and Smart fell back to midfield and left Braun and Zayed up front, once more.
Looking at the Opta stats, Indy led the way in many categories, including: possession (57 percent), interceptions (8) and total passes (319), but other categories spelled demise.
One aspect of play Indy Eleven has always focused on is crossing, with this match being no exception. Indy put out a total of 32 crosses, a staggering amount in comparison to the Strikers measly 14, but of those 32 crosses, only 22 percent arrived to its target destination. Our players are relying on crossing too much; crossing that has become a staple to our style of play. It’s becoming apparent that crossing is starting to be more of a problem than a solution to our winning situation. We are focusing too hard on long balls either driving up the pitch or from the corner into the boxes, which in turn is allowing defending players to quickly crowd around our offensive efforts. It’s a strategy that is becoming increasingly more predictable on our end.
I think a potential solution would be to move one offensive midfielder to a third attacking option up front and focus on short passes through their defenses; 4-3-3 formation. This puts less pressure on Zayed and Braun on converting crosses into goals. While it could be too late to start running a new line-up this season, this could be something that can be addressed and improved upon in the off-season/2017 pre-season.
Although the 2016 season is approaching its end, Indy Eleven still have more than enough time to bounce back and reclaim their throne. Their plays will need to be more conservative and they can’t leave any room for errors in the coming weeks. Hope isn’t lost yet.