If you are a fan of a NASL team, then you know that one of the many hurdles that a team has to prepare for is the amount of travel required. In a week’s time, Indy had the following itinerary: a road game roughly 1800 miles away against FC Edmonton, back home for a few days of training, followed by jetting out to the west coast nearly 2300 miles away to play the newly expansion side San Francisco Deltas. The Deltas too were coming off of a week that included a trip to NY to face the Cosmos, then a midweek Open Cup match against a very tough USL side Phoenix Rising (which they won), finishing up with the home game against our very own Eleven. It’s just part of the league.
Despite the travel, both sides were feeling good. The Deltas have been playing strong lately, although mainly on the road. They appear to be the new road warriors of the NASL a la Rayo OKC of last year with 9 of their total 13 points coming from road games. Indy, on the other hand, coming off of a tough loss on the road to the bottom of the league Edmonton team, was surprisingly in good spirits. Coach Hankinson revealed that the team had one of this year’s best weeks of training.
With the focus leaning towards a tactically defensive game plan, Indy was hoping for a grinder with the possibility to steal one late. One of the reasons for the defensive mindset was the ever rotating list of injuries. This season’s largest offensive threat, Justin Braun, suffered a calf injury against the Eddies. With Braun and Don Smart not available for the game, and the amount of goals Indy has let in this year, it wasn’t hard to see why Indy would field the team that they did on Saturday night. Good news, Hank stated that he expects both to be part of the plan for next weekend’s home stand against Jacksonville.
Here is how the two sides would line up
How it played out
In the first half, Indy attempted to play the role of disrupter to the Delta’s attack. With three defensive minded players in the midfield, Indy wasn’t looking to attack first and defend last. Any semblance of an attack came from long balls up to Eamon Zayed, which didn’t produce many if any shots on goal. With that in mind, the possession percentages in the game were drastically lopsided. The Deltas ran away with 70% of the possession. That amount of possession was bound to produce results.
Although the score remained 0-0 at the half, Deltas had plenty of chances that could have seen the game put out of reach quickly for the away team. Unfathomable near misses and brilliant saves by Jon Busch were the only thing that kept the ball out of the net in the first half. Chances at 22’, 25’, 32’, and 34’ were threats on goal that should have had the home side ahead at half. The free kicks and crosses sent in by Cristian Portilla and Kyle Bekker were consistently finding the heads and feet of their big men. 10 total shots by the Deltas in the first half, not many if any by the Eleven. The plan for Indy “appeared” to be working. There was no mistake though; the Deltas were eventually going to land one of those opportunities.
Right before the half, there was a scary moment involving Indy’s captain, Colin Falvey. Charging in to kick a ball away at midfield, his feet slid out from underneath. Unfortunately for Falvey, the Deltas’ Reiner Ferreira was closing in on the ball at the same time. As Falvey fell, the kick from Reiner connected with the bridge of Falvey’s nose. He would eventually make it to his feet after several minutes of play and concussion protocol. With blood coming from his nose, he was sent to the locker room for a little extra time to recoup before the start of the second half. And we would see Falvey right back out on the field 15 minutes later, not that anyone ever had a doubt. Could we see our captain next week with a face mask? I doubt a potential broken nose would keep him out of any home game.
At the beginning of the second half, probably fueled by the scoreless tie at the end of the first half, it was clear Indy’s game plan adjusted slightly. Off the start, Indy looked to build up from the back when they had the ball and appeared to emphasize higher pressure when they didn’t. Of notice was the position of Lovel Palmer up the right side. His play edged further up the field as confidence grew.
Even though the Deltas nearly scored on the Eleven in the 52’ off of a ball sent in by Portilla that missed a diving two footer by Thom Heinemann, Indy didn’t appear to be perturbed. In the 56’ Zayed nearly placed the ball in the goal to put the Eleven on top. One minute later our other striker did just that. Our other striker? Ok, I may have exaggerated there, but the goal placed in the back of the net by Lovel Palmer around a closing Romuald Peiser was something that Indy Eleven fans haven’t seen yet from the defensive bruiser. His cut through the back line and one time curling hit from the ball delivered by Ubi was something that I didn’t think he had in his arsenal. Indy 1 SF 0.
With spirits soaring, and the Deltas missing more opportunities, the legend himself Brad Ring decided it was his turn as a defender to get on the score sheet. In the 79’ a dumped ball to the top of the 18 yard box deflected out to Ring. Ring quickly sent the ball in on target, low and to the left, past Peiser. It was taken so quickly off of the volley and so far out that the Deltas appeared to have been caught off guard. Indy 2 SF 0. First win of the season for sure now for the Indy Eleven.
Down 2 to 0, the Deltas put the attack in to overdrive. Cross after cross after free kick after free kick was sent in to Busch’s domain. It was all that Indy could do to keep most of them out. And most of them they did, except for 2 that found the back of the net in the 84’ and the 93’ just before the end of the game. Indy 2 SF 2? Reflecting back to Saturday night when I was watching the game, I think I just let out a sigh and shrugged my shoulders as if I knew this was always going to be the outcome.
I’ll call this one a disappointing tie with a bit of an upswing. There were positives and negatives to take away from this one if you are an Indy Eleven fan. The negatives: the Eleven walk away after leaving points on the table, Kwame Watson-Siriboe seemingly able to lose sight of any person he is defending, no scoring from those meant to score. The positives: road trip over, defenders starting to score (an often overlooked gem of last year’s team), possible Zayed-Braun-Speas-Smart attack at home this coming weekend. Let’s hope for 3 points this weekend!
PHOTO BY: NASL.COM