Monday, April 4, 2016

Eleven return north, undefeated and a point to the good! Tampa Bay Rowdies V Indy Eleven Review (04/02/2016)

Clean sheet for all (photo Lucas Carter)
By: James Cormack

The Boys in Blue opened their 2016 NASL season with a hard earned point on the road at Tampa Bay Rowdies. It may not have been the most exciting match but at the end of the day we remain unscathed and have a point in the bag.

Make no mistake, the Rowdies are widely tipped to be a playoff team this year, this is a valuable point gained for us and two points lost for Tampa Bay.

Opening games of a season are always hard to predict and sometimes can be the best times to cause upsets. Indy may not have been 100% ready fitness wise, and had some last minute roster juggling, it was never going to be easy.

Considering that, the first half of the game could not have fallen more in Indy's favor. Tampa did not come out of the blocks fast. The first 45 was played at a reasonably moderate pace, and Indy did not run around chasing the game which meant we could go in at the break reasonably fresh.

Chances for Indy in the first half were relatively slim. Tampa managed to send in Tommy Heinemann a few more times than we could send in Zayed or any of our attackers. Stout defending and good goalkeeping kept Tampa out. Jon Busch looked lively with good reaction, evident in the 18th minute when he came out to win a 1v1 with Heinemann in the 18th minute on the edge of the area, clearing with his legs.

Tampa upped the tempo in the final ten minutes of the first half but still couldn't find a way to goal. Indy's best chance before the whistle fell to Nicki Paterson, but his shot from distance went wide before the break.

The Rowdies came out with renewed vigor in the second half. The first ten minutes brought some intense pressure around the Indy box culminating in probably Tampa's clearest chance of a goal in the 53rd minute when a cutback to Heinemann in front of goal was saved and cleared by the legs of Jon Busch at close range.

Indy's best chance on goal came in the 78th minute when an in swinging corner from Paterson was fisted away by Pickens, it eventually fell to Éamon Zayed who tried to place his volley away from the Tampa keeper and into the far side of the net, but Pickens recovered well to punch clear again.

As the half wound down Tampa found more and more space down our left hand side thanks to Darnell King who bossed that area like an over stoked steam train. There were quite a few heart in the mouth moments but Tampa continued to fall short in connecting with their chances.

Indy began to sit deeper and deeper, not so much a park the bus tactic but as the Tampa pressure increased we found it harder and harder to get out. The bulk of possession Indy had throughout the game was in our own half of the field. With players like Ubiparipović and the rest of our attacking midfield spending a lot of minutes behind the half way line, it was difficult to mount a meaningful counter attack.

There is a lot that is positive to take out of this game. We never looked overawed at any time, we never panicked. Even under moments of intense pressure the team dealt with it, they communicated well, dusted themselves off and got on with it.

Ultimately, every game we play this year is going to throw up things that need to be looked at, there will be things we could have done better and things that can be worked on in the week following. At the end of the season it will be points that put teams into the playoffs, not glorious or inglorious defeats. I don't care if the game is boring, ugly or beautiful, as long as we accumulate!

I feel much more confident in this roster going forward after viewing this game.

Also, albeit a small feather in our cap, after three trips to St Petersburg since 2014, we have never been beaten there by the Rowdies. They need to spend more time thinking about that than we do in figuring out how to win there!

Janicki's activity. Blue triangles indicate
interceptions, purple triangles indicate
clearances. From NASL's Matchcenter.

Caleb Ramp's take on the game....

This one played out pretty much as I expected. We successfully executed a conservative, pragmatic game plan (which included starting Vukovic at LB, Janicki and Falvey in the center, as predicted) with the focus on grinding out a result. On the rare occasion the back line was beat, Jon Busch handled the incoming ball coolly and efficiently.

I continue to maintain the opinion that Indy will have one of the best defensive records in the league this season. I've said before, we may be in for more 0-0 and 1-0 results than the fan of attacking soccer might prefer, but results win championships, not beautiful play. That isn't to say that goals won't come - a season opener on the road against playoff-caliber competition simply was not the time to push for them.

Ultimately, this game showcased the new-look Indy Eleven and the significant positive impact that our much-heralded experience - on the sideline and among the players - will have on the teams final points tally. Good things are coming!

Random thoughts:

  • Greg Janicki, while not perfect, was as good as we saw him at any time in 2015. He led the team in passing accuracy percentage, connecting on 31 of 34. He also led the team in clearances (9) and interceptions (5).
  • Indy was the only team without a successful cross in the opening week. Poor service is something which has plagued us in seasons past, and something which will need to improve in the future. Conversely, the Eleven led the league in interceptions with 23 - a number which quantifies our stout, active defense.
  • Jair Reinoso's touch map is rather intriguing. The 73rd minute sub played significantly wider than either of our other outside players, effectively hugging the sideline the entire time he was on the pitch. I'm curious whether this was at the express request of Hankinson in order to provide width, or if this is where he naturally ends up. Will be interesting to track this in the coming weeks.


For the 2016 NASL Season we have teamed up with Éamon Zayed and Playworks Indiana to raise money for children's charity. For every goal that Éamon scores this year in all competitions we will be donating a cash amount to Playworks. We encourage you to help with this initiative even if just a dollar per goal. Please CLICK HERE for more details and we will inform everyone interested in how to sign up for this very soon! For more information on Playworks you can visit their website here.