Coming in to this past weekend’s match against the Jacksonville Armada, Indy Eleven were riding a wave of good play, collecting 10 out of a possible 12 points over the last four matches. That upswing towards the end of the Spring season is the turn around the team needed to pull themselves out and away from the bottom of the league table. The only draw in the past four matches came in an away game against a scrappy NY Cosmos.
One of the main reasons for that upswing is the health of Indy’s roster. This week is no exception. Gerardo Torrado found his way back in the fold after a great week of practice following several weeks on the injured list. Even though he was not one hundred percent match fit, Coach Hankinson was willing to give him the start in the role that an absent Sinisa Ubiparapovic had occupied over the past several weeks. His comments after the game reflected his satisfaction with having Torrado back contributing to the success of the team and suggested the like for like role that both Torrado and Ubi fill.
“…very pleased. He did the defensive work as he always does. His calm in building the possession… spreads very much like Sinisa on the ball.” – Coach Hankinson
The new way of playing the 4-4-2 where the formation is more of a flat midfield with two defensive mids appears to cater Torrado’s style of play more however. He’s forward when attacking, providing those key passes out wide, and a stalwart next to Brad Ring when teams are on the offensive, which in turn is forcing teams out wide and out of their comfort zone. There is no denying though that, in the past four matches, Ubi has more than shown that the Ubi of old is back.
With Ubi gone this week, it will be interesting to see who starts in that midfield role at the top of the pseudo diamond when the Fall season starts in a few weeks against FC Edmonton. One thing is for sure though, even with the lack of roster depth, we now have a healthy roster with more options for Coach Hankinson to pick from in the second half of tough games when legs get tired.
Indy’s opponents, the Armada, started the season off hot, but have begun to even out over the past four matches. With only grabbing 5 out of the possible 12 points available, they find themselves trending downward, but still right in the mix for one of those four playoff spots. Also, due to a previous postponed match against Puerto Rico due to rain, the Armada had to play a make-up game on Wednesday night. Quick turnarounds, along with the necessary travel in the NASL, can tire out the best of teams (OK maybe not Miami).
Here is how the two sides would line up
How it played out
It was clear from the beginning of play that Indy was going to follow the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality when it came to style of play. The forwards were pressing and the center mids were compacting play on defense. It’s a tactic that has disrupted a lot of teams lately forcing shots from outside of the box while also turning the ball over attempting to build out of the back. This match was trending towards the same result.
Good play moving forward by Indy was creating plenty of corners and promising play, but nothing was threatening the opposing goalkeeper. Unfortunately for the BYB, if Indy was going to win, the goals were going to have to come on the East End side of the field in the second half as the first half ended with no goals from either side. The smoke would have to be chambered, but not for long.
Three minutes in to the second half, Indy recorded its first goal of the match. Following a corner won by Indy, the resulting ball sent in was cleared by Jacksonville, but not cleared enough as it found the feet of home team just outside the right side of the 18 yard box. Ring redirected the ball across the field to an attacking Nemanja Vukovic. What he did next was enough to help solidify earning NASL player of the week. After side stepping an oncoming defender, he was able to place the ball over and around the keeper in the top left side of goal. The shot was very impressive given the angle and proximity to the defenders and goalkeeper. 1-0 Indy!
In the 63’ Craig Henderson came on for Torrado. It was to be expected that Torrado wouldn’t last the entire match, but his play during this match is very promising for the push towards that playoff position in the upcoming second half of the season. What wasn’t expected was the entry of Henderson. Recently he had some shaky defensive plays that many had thought would have put him out of Coach’s mind. I could have seen Lovel Palmer as the replacement at this point if Indy was looking to sit back and defend its lead, but Indy had different plans.
Henderson immediately made an impact. In the 68’ Braun found himself attacking up the middle. He then tapped the ball out to Don Smart who then crossed the ball a bit too far, but luckily to the feet of Eamon Zayed. Zayed then sent the ball back in to the 6 yard box to the feet of Henderson with his back towards the goal. With a very “Braun-like” turn, he shot the ball to the right side just out of the reach of the keeper and in to the back of the net. 2-0 Indy!
Play would continue back and forth for the remainder of the game, but neither side would see another goal.
Of note is the performance that Jon Busch has put up over this current unbeaten streak. Over the past 5 games, Busch has had a total of 28 saves along with 2 shutouts. If he can continue his recent form, Indy’s chances of securing a playoff spot should be a given.
Next up for the Eleven is a much needed week off. There is no summer exhibition this year, which for a team that has had plenty of injuries and a solid several weeks of play is a good thing. Coming in the second part of the season rested and on high spirits is far better than starting it off tired and mentally drained. Go Indy!
PHOTO BY: MATT SCHLOTZHAUER