|Midfield choices, who starts and who doesn't? (Nicki Paterson and Gerardo Torrado pictured)|
By: James Cormack
The one thing you can probably be sure of, tomorrow's match between Indy Eleven and Minnesota United is unlikely to be a dull encounter. These two sides have never been involved in a draw, in seven previous encounters Indy Eleven have won three and Minnesota has won four. All three of Indy Eleven's victories have been at Carroll Stadium.
This match will also see the leagues two highest scoring players face off against each other, Éamon Zayed and Christian Ramirez. Goals are something that has never been lacking when these two meet, in all seven meetings a total of 28 goals have been scored, an average of four goals per game.
The teams last met on May 21st in Indianapolis with the result going 4-2 in Indy Eleven's favor. Since that match both teams have won 6pts in NASL League play, Indy with a win and three draws and Minnesota with two wins and two losses. Indy Eleven opened the fall with a lackluster draw in Puerto Rico while Minnesota started with a bang defeating Carolina Railhawks 5-1 at home.
|Danny Cruz and Omar Gordon|
Both sides progressed from their opening matches in the US Open Cup against USL opposition and both teams exited at the hands of MLS opposition. During the season break both teams played in exhibition play against Liga MX opposition. Indy Eleven defeated Mexican champions FC Pachuca 1-0 while Minnesota fell to León 4-2.
Coming into the last game Minnesota United were on a hot streak with five wins and a draw in six games, the defeat to Indy Eleven saw a mini slump which ultimately was responsible in some part for the Loons missing out on the Spring Championship. Minnesota ended the Spring with the 3-1 win over Miami and put five goals past Carolina in their fall home opener. Despite some key injuries within their roster they are finding their feet again and are scoring for fun.
Christian Ramirez emulated Éamon Zayed's heroics of scoring a hat trick against the Railhawks by scoring one of his own against the same team last weekend, also grabbing the golden boot top spot from Zayed. Since the final game of Spring Indy Eleven have scored three goals in three games against Chicago Fire, CF Pachuca and Puerto Rico FC.
It is fair to say both teams have been struggling with various injuries over the course of Spring, despite still being undefeated Indy Eleven have had their share of dropped points and sub par games. This game is going to be a close contest, maybe we'll see the first ever draw, who knows? Minnesota will be keen to make up for the previous encounter and as ever Indy Eleven will try to keep up their record of raising their level in the toughest games.
So can we expect many changes...?
As far as Minnesota goes it seems like they have found a good formula in their last couple of games, despite missing key players such as Ben Speas they have found a good midfield combination that has complimented their defense and are allowing less goals. Main problem is they can't start the same line up as last week because Jeb Brovsky picked up a red card and is suspended.
To me it always seems weird to see a Minnesota lineup without the versatile Vicentini in it so he would be the obvious choice to slot in alongside Pitchkolan. Otherwise I doubt there will be any other changes to their starting XI.
Indy Eleven may elect to start the same lineup this week as they did last. It is unlikely Colin Falvey will feature and will be given as much time as possible to recover from his groin injury, we have the comfort of knowing we have a post season to look forward to so there is no point in bring players back prematurely and risking further complications.
Jair Reinoso also is unlikely to be ready and although Don Smart may feature in the 18 man roster the likelihood of him getting a lot of time on the field is slim, may not yet suit up. One of the big question marks is who will start in the midfield.
|Siniša Ubiparipović is a threat!|
I would see it as logical for Tim Hankinson, while not wanting to make too many changes, to use the fact we have qualified for post season as an opportunity to take advantage and implement some player rotation so that key players are getting adequate competitive field time. Considering that if there are any changes to the lineup this week I expect Lovel Palmer will start in place of Franco, and possibly Souleymane Youla in place of Justin Braun.
I have been impressed with Youla so far but I feel he needs more game time and experience in this league, and Braun with his pace and physicality would be a menace to bring on later when the game has slowed and legs are tired.
That one is a big 'if' though but not unlikely, Zayed and Braun together caused the Minnesota defense and Sammy N'Djock to have nightmares at the Carroll, but I think Braun coming on later could also cause the same difficulties. So we have options and no harm in using them.
Wild Card lineup: Given that we know Tim Hankinson can sometimes pull surprises from the bag, I am not ruling out the possibility in a change of formation and Indy could start with a 4-2-3-1 and elect to bring in a part of the roster we often forget.. Siniša Ubiparipović could be that pivot behind a lone forward that could help find a way to the Minnesota goal, he is also a player more than capable of striking from anywhere inside the final third? A triangle of passing between Ubi, Ring and Paterson could put both wings and the center forward into dangerous positions.
Potential Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Miller, Janicki, Vukovic, Mares, Ring, Paterson, Gordon, Youla, Zayed. Subs: Cardona, Franco, Braun, Torrado, Keller, Ubiparipović, Lacroix.
We don't need to ask if we can win, we know we can.....
I think the key to pulling of a win in this game will be not only how we deal with Minnesota's midfield coming forward, but also how we find a way of playing through them in attack. It will certainly be more difficult than the last game. There is nothing to say the Loons defense or goalkeeper won't be as shaky as they were last time, but getting to the point of pressuring them may be the difficult task.
The Minnesota defense and midfield will be much more connected and the rout to goal will be more difficult. Indy will need to look upon every set piece and corner as gold dust and make sure that they take full advantage of them.
We may see some route one football although I hope not too much, we have physical players up front that have the ability to win balls in the air and take full advantage of them. With Vicentini and Pitchkolan in the mix in front of the back four that may prove a lot more difficult.
Quick accurate passing and taking advantage of space when it is available will be the key to getting to and behind the Minnesota defense and finding goals, a far as us defending we will have to press hard in midfield and break down any Minnesota attack as early as possible, I know the way we setup we some times like to let the other team come to us, that could prove costly against this Minnesota team in current form.
Who to watch...?
This may come as a surprise, but if I had to put a bet on a player being MVP this week I am going to pick Jon Busch, in the absence of captain Colin Falvey he provides a lot of experience and communication at the back. Minnesota are going to go for the throat, and I have a feeling Busch, with a big performance, could be the Adams Apple that frustrates Minnesota all night.
As always Bloody Shambles and Permanent Relegation are supporting Playworks Indiana children's charity with our #EamonZayedRule initiative. We are donating money for every goal Éamon Zayed scores this year and you can choose to play along or just make a one off donation to help us reach our target of $2000. Click Here for More Information.
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