Monday, September 19, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Miami FC - 03.25

- Opponent: Miami FC
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 9,356
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Miller, Vukovic, Torrado, Smart, Mares, Ubiparipovic, Braun, Zayed
- Substitutions: Lacroix 59' (Mares), Ring 66' (Ubiparipovic), Keller 84' (Zayed)
- Unused: Cardona, Paterson, Franco, Gordon
- Goals: Mares 25' (assist Braun), Smart 57' (assist Zayed)
- Bookings: Mares 50' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

On a night that included beer steins and a wiener dog parade (see some photos later in this post) as part of Oktoberfest activities, it was a couple of the Indy Eleven OGs who got on the scoreboard to put and end to the team's five game winless streak. And while the win stopped the red hot streaking Miami FC, keeping the Eleven in a good place in the combined standings, it was far from perfect.

The Eleven, though, are getting healthy again as we come into the final stretch of the Fall Season and getting guys back into the lineup. With some additional options from a healthy roster and a spot secured in the Championship, Coach Hankinson made some tweaks to the formation against Miami by lining up in a 4-4-2, but did so more with a diamond arrangement with Mares on the left, Smart on the right, Torrado in the defensive mid spot, and Ubiparipovic in the playmaking mid spot. This created a new wrinkle from the Ring/Paterson combination as dual #6s. The diamond shape combined with Mares' tendency to pinch into the middle to allow frequent overlaps from Vukovic who likes to get forward anyway. However, like last week, it also means that Vukovic's advanced forward position provided for counters from Miami on that side of the field. Notably one in the 79th minute where a save by Busch prevented damage from Vukovic being out of his defensive position.

It's one more example of Coach Hankinson utilizing the roster and tactics to prepare the team for the future.

Dylan Mares scored in the 25th minute on a 25 yard blast to the lower left corner after receiving a pass from Braun who looked like he was the intended target from a clearance from Miami FC's goalkeeper Vega. In what will be a tumultuous and potentially Fall Season championship determining three weeks, where the Indy Eleven will play all three teams ahead of them in the Fall standings, it's vital that the Eleven take advantage of their opponents' mistakes and Mares didn't hesitate to take the shot on goal when none of the Miami defenders stepped to him. With the goal, Mares moved into a tie for second place for career NASL goals for the Indy Eleven with Kleberson and alone in second place across all competitions.

Not to be outdone, fellow OG Don Smart tallied his eighth career team goal in the 57th minute on a deflected header from Zayed on a Vukovic cross to also bring himself level with Mares and Kleberson. Neither guy was in the starting lineups when the season started, but have continued to show why it is difficult to keep them out of games. By my count, Mares became the career minutes leader in NASL minutes for the Eleven and became just the second player to reach the 50 Games Started threshold (in all competitions; NASL, USOC, & friendlies). Ring is also closing in on that mark as well, with both potentially bypassing current leader in Nicht by the end of the season. Mares and Smart are 1-2 in Indy Eleven Career Assists, respectively; 1-2 in Career Games Played; 2-4 in Career Goals; and 2-3 in Career Points.

In the mix on both goals, either directly or by occupying defenders, was Justin Braun who is a welcome return to the staring lineup. While Gordon and Youla are good players, they're connectivity with Zayed does not produce the same kind of results. While Zayed didn't manage many shots, having the hold-up play and work rate from Braun back in the mix, will certainly help his chances at more goals. Zayed tends to score in bunches and getting Braun back in the lineup with him is good timing with the Cosmos coming to town.

So that covers the good. Now for the not so good. The graphic to the left shows the comparison between the first half and second half touch maps, though a similar comparison could be made with the distribution graphs comparison. The Eleven finished the first half with a 51% - 49% possession advantage, but finished the game with a 46% - 54% disadvantage. After the Eleven got out to their 2 - 0 lead, the run of play turned more towards Miami and was exacerbated once Miami got their goal. As can be seen from the graphic, the number of touches that the Eleven had in the offensive final third of the field is visually reduced. Given that we've seen the offensive firepower of the Eleven on display at various times this year and that the goal differential of the leading teams has come into play already, it would have been nice to see them keep their collective feet on the gas instead of falling into a defensive shell.

But I'm nit-picking. A win at home against a team at the top of the table is a good thing and that's what the Eleven did on Saturday night.

"Back off Blake. I got this!"

As promised, here are some photos of the wiener dog parade:


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