So that’s what it feels like to win again.
After watching that match most people would be shocked to learn that the Eleven had not won in five straight games. Learning further that the Eleven are still undefeated at home through 15 games would add to the confusion.
But if you’re reading this, you probably already knew these stats and were scratching your head along with us through that winless drought. With a 2-1 score line over Miami FC—an improved team also considering a playoff run—the Eleven have turned it around just in time.
Many felt that a change was needed to reignite the fire that had burned in so many bellies throughout the Spring season. Lately, players had seemed uncharacteristically apathetic on the pitch and lackluster performances were often the result. Saturday night showcased much of the old team again. There was drive and determination and creativity. And it was indeed a change that seemed to get them there.
When Tim Hankinson arrived last spring he talked eagerly about using a formation that would feature Sinisa Ubiparipovic at the top of a diamond shape in the midfield. This never panned out. Maybe the team didn’t take to it, maybe Sinisa wasn’t playing well enough, but he saw less and less playing time and eventually went down with injury. Meanwhile, Indy Eleven changed formation and found other ways to win.
Well, the diamond is back and so is Ubi. This time it seems to be working.
Having Ubiparipovic up top saw Torrado fall back in front of the defenders, occupying more of a defensive midfielder role. As much fun as it has been to see the attacking side of the field littered with pinpoint passes from “The Mexican Legend” (as one Eleventh Plague crony endlessly refers to him) defensive midfielder does feature Torrado’s skillset much better.
Speaking of pinpoint passes, Ubiparipovic seemed to display a renewed love of getting the ball forward and finding the strikers when they needed it most. Much improved since the Spring season, his play was thoughtful, composed, and effective. Zayed and Braun were clearly pleased, displaying more life up front than supporters had seen in weeks.
The latter of the two, Justin Braun, was in particularly good form. Defenders knew it, too, which helped open up the play that saw Don Smart put in the game winner in the 56th minute. Indy’s first goal, on the other hand, had nothing to do with Hankinson’s tactical changes or Braun’s breakneck game pace. It was just Dylan Mares being Dylan Mares. And we never get tired of seeing that.
So, change was clearly needed and change is what we got. Now Indy has a full month of matches ahead of them and time enough to get in good form before the playoffs. If Miami was tough, it gets harder next. The New York Cosmos return to the Circle City on Saturday and the Eleven travel to Edmonton the week after that. If they want to build on the win over Miami with a good run of form, it will mean taking down the top of the table. But hey, we’ve done that before.