Indy Eleven are still looking for their first win of the 2017 season. Yes, you read that statement correct. Hard to wrap your head around that assertion after the year the Eleven had last season. Just four seasons in and the Eleven have had more down than ups. But the hiring of Tim Hankinson along with the crew he was able to bring in has spoiled Indy Eleven fans for all the right reasons. Now Hankinson faces his toughest challenge to date with Indiana’s team. When the final whistle blows to complete the 90 minute contest on Saturday night, we could see some major changes if things do not go as planned for the boy’s in blue. It’s do or die for the Eleven.
The good news for Indy Eleven is they play Miami at home in the second leg of the back-to-back. The other good news is the Eleven will have Brad Ring back from his red card suspension. As both teams played on Wednesday night in U.S. Open Cup action it will be interesting to see how Hankinson changes the confidence and motivation within his squad for Saturday night’s match after an embarrassing outing Wednesday night. For Alessandro Nesta and his Miami FC team, they will look to stay top of the league while rotating the roster against a familiar opponent.
Keys to the game for Indy Eleven
Answer the questions: Has the coach lost the locker room? Motivation? Why so many draws? Team shape? Transition? Injuries? Depth of the roster? As Indy joins Puerto Rico as one of two remaining teams without a win, 3 points would answers all those questions and many more Saturday night. As Al Davis once said, “Just win baby.”
Change the formation: Is the 4-4-2 diamond in the middle conducive for Gerardo Torrado and that’s why he has been highlighted as the MVP of this team to start the year or is this formation in place to help the team overall? Now that Smart and Speas are back I think it’s time to switch the formation to allow the entire team to be involved and help in different aspects of the game. A flat 4-4-2 would help generate width in the attack and allow for additional crosses. Hankinson could revert back to a 4-2-3-1 with the lack of depth at the number 10 and forward position. Put your four to five best attacking options that play with a silver shovel, allowing four to six players to apply pressure as soon as Miami wins the ball. It will be interesting to see how the Eleven will line-up against a team they faced seven days prior. A wrinkle in the tactics for the Eleven may help catch the most powerful team in the NASL off-guard.
Defense: Miami was able to dominate and take chunks of space at will because the Eleven was slow in their transition to defense, taking away space and gaps, absence in having a first defender applying pressure with the second and third defender covering, and sliding their marks in a zonal defense. A much improved defense this outing will help the onslaught of attempts by Miami and will not place Jon Busch in vulnerable positions.
Players to watch:
Don Smart and Ben Speas: Two top players within the NASL known for their attacking mindset are back and fully fit for duty. This will seem like Indy Eleven’s engine is receiving their boost package prior to their match with Miami. Speas has to be the spark plug in the midfield that transitions the Eleven from defense to attack. In addition, Indy must supply Smart with a plethora of crossing opportunities which he has to convert on those moments. Of course, Smart and Speas have to be active in placing themselves in successful positions to receive and convert their distribution.
The Miami FC
Dylan Mares: No-brainer. The former Indy Eleven play maker returns home for the first time in a different shade of blue. It was thought that is minutes would be limited on a star studded team, but that has been far from the case. Mares has started all 7 league games for Miami and already has 2 goals and an assist to his name. But the stats that stand out the most that the Eleven miss tremendously is his 84.4% passing accuracy per game while averaging 51 passes per minute. The other void left by Mares the Eleven are desperate for is his ability to attack with pace when the ball is at his feet. I won’t mention that Mares leads Miami in chances created and total crosses which are additional issues the Eleven are struggling with.
Vincenzo Rennella: Although Rennella signed with Miami last season, he is starting to package a breakout season with the club in 2017. Rennella leads the team in assists (3), shots (17, 11 on target), and is tied for the team lead in goals with 2. Look for Rennella to pester Indy’s back line with his ability to score, distribute, and cross as he did against the Eleven last weekend, picking up a goal.
The man who started and created the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Carl Fisher, later went on to build Miami Beach.
Dylan Mares (South Bend/Zionsville) and Brad Rusin (Crown Point) are two Miami FC players from Indiana.
PHOTO CREDIT: Trey Higdon and The Miami FC