Indy’s unbeaten streak at home, which began at the beginning of last season, was essentially at 22 games in all competitions including the friendly against the Mexican powerhouse Pachuca. Not many teams in any sport can boast a home field advantage to the likes that which Indy was able to produce. Teams coming to The Mike were playing for a draw at best. Of those 22 games, 16 were wins. That’s a lot of points earned for Indy, and only 6 total points allowed for opponents.
With multiple excuses to fall back on, that streak was sure to not last long. Those excuses being: lack of roster depth, injury plagued starters, and a tighter working budget. With that said, the previous two games would prove to be an even better sign for things to come. The loss to the same Miami team last weekend, as well as the more damning loss to the non-professional PDL side, Michigan Bucks, on Wednesday was an ominous sign that this weekend wasn’t going to be the regularly blissful affair afforded to the Indy Eleven supporters.
Speaking of roster depth and injuries, Indy is beginning to turn the corner. Nemja Vukovic and Marco Franco would get the starts at fullback. A much needed addition to help get this attack moving forward. Not to be outdone, attacking midfielder Ben Speas would see his first NASL action since the second game of the season. Of note though, last weekend’s late substitute Don Smart did not dress for the game. Let’s hope that his exclusion from action on Saturday was more from Coach Hankinson thinking that he is not quite match fit yet and not due to a re-injuring of his leg. We will probably learn more in the coming week.
In addition, Eamon Zayed was also excluded from this game. Word is that he is still recovering from a rib injury. How would that play out in regards to Hankinson’s formation and lineup?
It actually made it somewhat easier. Last weekend’s match had already made up his mind for him. Hank went in to this match with the thought of deploying a more defensive formation. With two up top not really working too well last weekend, and the midfield of Miami running rough-shot on Indy, he decided to come out with 2 defensive midfielders, leaving Justin Braun to ride solo up top.
Here is how the two sides would line up
How it played out
I’ll go ahead and just get this out of the way. Indy lost by a score of 0-2. That score may sound more lopsided than it actually was. Indy was looking to slow down the game. Make it a slog. Grind one out. And their game plan was working. Mares and Richie Ryan were noticeably less effective than they were in the previous meet up. If you look at Mares alone, his touches were down roughly 25 percent. And with Brad Ring and Lovel Palmer there to clog up the middle, Miami was forced to play wide.
It wasn’t until the 28’ that Miami was able to find the net. Off of a free kick won by Mares, Miami set up for what seemed to be either a shot on goal or a looping cross to the box. At least that was what the Indy players thought was going to happen. Instead, Miami played a quick ball to an open Kcira, which caught the Indy players completely off their guard. Indy was still trying to figure out whom to mark for the potential cross when the ball was played away from the bunch and to the open Kcira. Kcira, after drawing the scrambling defense, passed it in to the 6 yard box to a closing Enzo who then tapped in the ball at point blank range.
Except for that one lapse in concentration, the game plan appeared to be working. Miami, who had 60 percent of possession on the night, wasn’t really getting any great shots on goal. Play would continue through to half time and for roughly another 15 minutes after halftime with more of the same.
Indy began to feel good and made a tactical change to push for the tying goal. In around the 60’ mark Indy appeared to have adjusted to 3 at the back, which allowed Vuko and others to get up the field. With the increase of offensive mindset, Indy’s back 3 were susceptible to being caught out. From the slightest of miscommunication errors, where Ring held up and Watson-Siriboe and Falvey failed to collapse to the middle of the box, another goal was allowed. It was all that was needed for Poku to break in on goal. The open Poku received a dink of a pass from Michael Lahoud through our defense that sent him in one on one with Busch. In that instance there isn’t much that you can do. Busch came out to cut off the angles only for Poku to send the ball through the slightest of seams around Busch and in to the back of the net.
No more goals were had after that. It ended as many suspected prior to the start of the game. Indy isn’t in a place yet where we should expect wins, especially against a division 2 juggernaut. I do, however, think that it will come. It might take a few acquisitions at the halfway point, or for Indy not to be snake bitten with injuries, but brighter days are to come.
Will Ersal fork over the cash to bring in someone who can potentially make an impact? Who would that be? Where are this team’s holes? Do we need someone at center back that is quicker and able to recover when beaten? Wouldn’t it be great to get Cory Miller back in the fold? My hopes probably aren’t the hopes of others, but I think the team would be for the better with his return. With that said, there are many questions as to where this team goes from here. I for one am an optimist. This team has players that will fight, a coach that knows what he’s doing, and a fan base that should cheer and push them out of this temporary hole that they have found themselves in at the beginning of this 2017 campaign. Onward to face the Eddies!
PHOTO BY: MATT SCHLOTZHAUER