BY: ERIK ALBERS
When travelling to Bayamon, Puerto Rico to face PRFC, you have three things that are a given: you can expect high humidity, a loose patchy field, and a constant barrage of counter attacks by the opposing team. With the humidity reported to be near 80%, and the pitch looking extremely “CONCACAFy”, it was only up to PRFC to finish out the trio of expectations… and of course they did not disappoint. All of this added up to an exciting back and forth game (at least for the first 75 minutes).
If that wasn’t enough, Indy came in to this match with a few knocks to starters that would see an already small roster leave some valuable playermakers back in Indianapolis. With Jon Busch nursing a pinched nerve in his neck, and the attacking prowess of Ben Speas and Tanner Thompson with some injuries of their own, Indy would have to look at its bench to fill the gaps.
Fortunately for the Eleven, Colin Falvey was set to make his debut this season against PRFC. For a struggling back line, this could not have come sooner. He got the start next to Lovell Palmer, even though he wasn’t able to go the full 90. His activity and leadership on the back line was noticeable.
Alongside Colin, Craig “don’t call me Chris” Henderson and Eamon Zayed won the rights to start from good play shown in the second half of the previous week’s match against PRFC at home. Keith Cardona got the much needed start in goal for the injured Busch. There is no other way for a keeper to gain confidence than getting a start against a team that is arguably one of the most active offensively in the NASL.
Here is how the two sides would line up
Would we get the opportunity to see last minute heroics again like Souleymane Youla’s late header to steel a point in extra time last year?
How it played out
From the opening kick it was clear that Indy was looking to build from the back and PRFC was looking to counter per normal. And with a few early turnovers in the midfield by Indy, the visitors fed right in to PRFC’s specialty allowing the hosts to show what they do best… attack attack attack! They are so quick on the counter that they seemingly skipped the midfield all together. Once they intercepted a ball, it was straight to the big man, Hector Ramos. Pito, as he is affectionately called, continued to be a massive target for PRFC. His ability to stand up defenders and receive the ball caused issues for the struggling backline all match long.
In the 19th minute, former Eleven Walter Ramirez found himself with the ball at his feet to the leftside of the box. Walter passed in an easy ball across the top of the box to an unmarked Ramos allowing him to slot it in to the left side of the goal giving no chance for Cardona to have a go at a save.
Indy would have its chances as well. The play of marathon man Justin Braun and the on point crosses and free kicks of the left footed Nemanja Vukovic would keep the hopes alive for an equalizer. As the half was nearing an end, in a play that only spanned 8 seconds from goal kick to goal, Indy scored to tie it up before halftime. Keith Cardona launched the ball to the feet of Braun in the PRFC’s half. He then made a nifty flick of the ball to spin the defender and send Braun towards goal. With PRFC witnessing first hand Braun’s goal scoring abilities last week, the 3 last defenders swarmed towards him to shut down his shot. Braun responded with a no-look pass to the opportunistic Zayed who was able to slot it past the PRFC goalkeeper to the opposite side of the goal just before the half whistle.
Of note, Indy took another hit as Don Smart had to come out of the game due to injury right before the half ended. Our middle is experiencing quite a bit of injuries currently. The good news… Indy doesn’t play again until April 22nd, which should give players some time to heal up.
In the second half of play, both teams continued to show similar game plans to what they attempted earlier in the game. For Indy though, with Ubi coming in at the top of the diamond and Torrado playing the midfield like a Torrado 10 years his younger, it seemed to allow the Indy midfielders to string more successful passes in the buildup of play. But also like the first half, Indy again was prone to give the ball away at times. PRFC predictably countered quickly giving the ball to Ramos at any chance they could to no avail. Both teams were desperately looking for the go-ahead goal.
In the 72’ it was time for Falvey to come out. He was by far the most active defender. Indy will be in better hands going forward with him back in the lineup. Kwame Watson-Siriboe came in as his replacement to play alongside an already laboring Palmer. It was at this time that the wheels seemingly fell off for both teams. The humidity and up and down action of the first 75 minutes was noticeably apparent on the players. Play on both ends became sloppier as the game grinded to a halt.
Each team would get a few more chances before the end of the match. With nothing coming to fruition though, it would leave both feeling as if they left 2 points on the table. The game ended with another predictable Indy draw.
PHOTO BY: PUERTORICOFC.COM