Put your coaching licenses, diplomas, degrees, fan memberships, arm chair coaching, analytics, and “I watch the Premier League so I know everything about soccer” away. This match for Indy Eleven in Bayamon, Puerto Rico has nothing to do with tactics, starting line-ups, stats, or referees. Instead, it has everything to do with how Indy Eleven approaches this match mentally as they have an enormous psychological hurdle to overcome on Saturday. First, the Eleven were the overall better team this past week against PRFC on the stat sheet and where more aggressive to start the match. However, the Eleven walked away feeling like they dropped two points, ill-equipped to handle the gamesmanship of the opposing team and distractions of the referee. Second, the Eleven only won two games on the road last season. Tomorrow is not a must win game for the boys in blue with the way the standings look after two weeks. But the Eleven do need a jolt to push their season toward an upward trajectory.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR INDY ELEVEN:
Play your game while adapting to the conditions:
At the end of the day players still have the most influence over the game than anyone other force, including referees. Our sports culture tells us to bask in the glory of the official’s mistakes. In doing so, we forget how to approach our own game. This Eleven side must stick to their game and deal with the adversities that come their way in the form of the referee.
What makes a good team stand out over the others is the ability to play their game while adjusting to the conditions. This Indy Eleven team is capable of playing expansive soccer. They will be able to play this style in Puerto Rico but will have to make some slight modifications as the pitch is smaller and bumpier than what they are used to. They will have to take extra precautions in the back to secure their touch as they move the ball forward and play one-to-two touch to stretch PRFC’s defense.
Put together a full 90 minutes:
Against the San Francisco Deltas the Eleven got out to a slow start as they were trying to ride the wave of the Deltas’ energy to start the match. By the closing minutes of the second half the Eleven were dominating the match, knocking on the door for a go ahead goal. Against Puerto Rico, Indy was the team that got out to a flying start only to let PRFC back into the match and forced the Eleven to scramble for the equalizer. The Eleven must put together a full 90 minutes and clean up the few mental mistakes Saturday in Puerto Rico.
Two weeks in a row Indy Eleven have allowed two goals due to mental lapses in the marking department. Part of this has to do with the unfamiliarity between the new players in the back, while the other half is mental. Colin Falvey and Lovell Palmer will be a quick fix and should stabilize all aspects of the defense. At the same time, Anthony Manning and Kwame Watson-Siriboe could be the future duo in the back. If this is the case the Eleven will have to enhance their senses and be aware of the microscopic details this spring to help with the longevity of a positive goal difference.
Clinical in the final third:
While the Eleven were able to generate width in the attack by switching the field allowing Gerardo Torrado to have the most passing combinations to Marco Franco and Nemanja Vukovic and generated a total of twelve shots with three forwards the team struggled in the crossing department. This week in Puerto Rico it will be crucial for the Eleven to continue to switch the field and convert the crosses of Don Smart, Speas, and Vukovic because they will not be able to have the amount of advanced players given the pitch conditions.
What hurt the Eleven last week was the gap between the center midfielders and the forwards. It will be up to Thompson or Siniša Ubiparipović to make the connection between Brad Ring and Torrado and the forwards in order to generate attacks from more dynamic positions.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Last year Justin Braun was an unknown soccer player to the state of Indiana. But fans of the boys in blue quickly fell in love Braun’s style and attitude towards the game. It took Braun a while before finding his first goal as a member of Indy Eleven but once he did, there was no turning back. Two games into the 2017 spring season Braun already has two goals and an assist to his name. A new strike partner in Ben Speas has complemented his work horse mentality and should be a force against PRFC’s physical back line this weekend. Of course, Braun will want to return the favor to PRFC after what happened last time Indy Eleven visited Puerto Rico.
If one thing has been consistence over the past three years it’s this: when Don Smart is on, Indy Eleven is on. This past Saturday Smart had 4 unsuccessful crosses, while going 1-6 against the Deltas in the first match of the season. If Smart can connect on his crosses we will see the flood gates open in the final third. The crossing inefficacies cannot be squarely placed on the shoulders on Don Smart. The runs and waves of attack have to be staged better from the forwards and midfielders for Smart to show case his skills. Once this happens, Smart and Indy Eleven will be on.
Last fall, Hector Ramos carried Puerto Rico on his back leading the team in goals and assists. This past Saturday, Ramos continued the tradition by leading the team in touches (66), completed 27 passes, had 3 shots from inside the box, and did his due diligence on defense by winning 6 of the 11 duals he was involved in. Look for Ramos to give Indy’s back line fits and tantrums for the second week in a row. It should be a good matchup between Ramos, Lovell Palmer, and possibly Colin Falvey.
PROJECTED LINE-UP V. PRFC:
Indy Eleven: Colin Falvey (sports hernia), may see action this weekend but should be back to a full 90 minutes when Indy returns home on April 22nd. Siniša Ubiparipović (back), questionable.
PRFC: Jordi Quintilla (quad strain), out. Yuma (ankle sprain and quad contusion), questionable. PRFC is waiting MRI results for Tyler Rudy for a possible sports hernia or abdominal strain.
CONCACAF officials will be overseeing this match.
Puerto Rico FC hosted Indy Eleven in their inaugural match last July in Bayamon. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
Indy Eleven leads the series against PRFC with a 1-2-0 (W,D,L) record.
April 7th is Brad Ring’s birthday.
PHOTO CREDIT: ALL PICTURES WERE TAKEN BY MATT SCHLOTZHAUER