|Omar Gordon and Maicon Santos at Lockhart Spring 2016 (Photo: Rolando Otero / Sun Sentinel)|
By: James Cormack
Indy Eleven are a side far removed from that which suffered it's biggest ever NASL defeat at the hands of Fort Lauderdale Strikers 7-1 in 2015. Since that game Indy Eleven have also not lost to this weekends opposition, winning two and drawing one of the last three meetings.
Also vastly different will be the Indy Eleven team that takes to the field in Florida this weekend compared to that which drew 0-0 there back in May of this year. It may surprise some to note that match was the only NASL league match for Indy Eleven in 2016 where Éamon Zayed did not start the game.
Gorka Larrea and Siniša Ubiparipović made up the central midfield while Jair Reinoso and Justin Braun started up front. It was a poor game for us and on the night we thanked goalkeeper Jon Busch for a string of saves to keep the Strikers out, he was undoubtedly man of the match, a performance he dedicated to his late father.
The Strikers visited Indy Eleven in mid July and faced a more familiar starting XI in a match delayed by severe weather. When the game finally began Indy ran out 3-0 winners, scoring all three goals in the first half of the game.
Another difference this time around will be the location, the spring match was played at Lockhart Stadium, a long time home for The Strikers, this match will be played at Central Broward Stadium, a venue designed for Cricket, it is the only venue in the United States certified by the International Cricket Council for One Day International play.
|Possibly the strangest home of a US Soccer Club to date. Central Broward Stadium.|
We are well used to teams playing in stadiums formerly used for Baseball but Broward Central is indeed a strange choice. Among the other tenants of this stadium are the Fort Lauderdale Fighting Squids (I'm really not joking) an Australian Rules Football team who play in the United States Australian Football League. Their division is called the Eastern Australian Football League, which is not actually in Eastern Australia it's in Eastern USA.
Broward Central is also host to USYS (United States Youth Soccer Association) and Floridians FC who play at US Soccer's fourth tier PDL (Premier Development League). It's a strange choice of venue over Lockhart, no doubt one chosen for financial reasons. The Strikers average attendance this year is little over 1300 and for their last midweek game they only drew 455 people.
Is everything okay in Fort Lauderdale?
There are a lot of stories and rumors surrounding the Strikers at the moment, mostly without firm evidence and often quoting unknown "sources" but it does seem not all is well with one of the NASL's original founding teams, there is no smoke without fire!
Attendances have been going down for some time that is something that can't really be hidden, the Strikers drew a little over 1000 in their final game at Lockhart against Jacksonville. For their opening game at Central Broward, unsurprisingly it spiked up over 2000 with interest in a new venue then bombed again to 455 for a midweek match against Minnesota before rising again to 1800+ against the Cosmos last weekend, NYC are one of the biggest draws in the league, this attendance is surprising.
Reports surrounding the club say that several times this year players have not been paid on time and the latest rumor now is that the owners of the club are putting it up for sale, but there is no official confirmation from either FTL or the NASL on this. It has to be an uneasy time for Strikers fans, if the rumors are true it also is not a good sign for the league.
After a pretty decent run in Spring which left them with a chance in the final round to still topple Indy Eleven from the top and a decent run in the US Open Cup which took them as far as playing Chicago Fire after the MLS side had knocked Indy Eleven out of the competition, their results since have been less than favorable. Strikers have only won 3 of their 12 games in fall with 5 losses and 4 draws.
Does this mean they are ripe for the picking, probably not. Despite any reported issues the players are still professionals and they don't step on the field to lose. They have drawn their last two home games 0-0 against two of the toughest teams in the league Minnesota and NY Cosmos.
|Justin Braun ready to start?|
There won't be a completely clean bill of health for this game, but the players got some much needed rest and relaxation this week before getting back to training. Cory Miller will return to the roster after suspension. Greg Janicki is unlikely to feature, he was still in a boot after the Tampa game. Marco Franco did not make the bench against Tampa but is back in full training this week. Justin Braun made his comeback last week and is over his injury and possibly ready to start a game.
Tim Hankinson again intimated this week that away form is something that Indy Eleven need to improve on. With the four teams around Indy Eleven in the fall standings all playing each other (NYC v MNU, FCE v MIA) now would be as good a time as ever for Indy Eleven to win on the road, something they have only done once in 2016. If Indy Eleven still have ambitions to win the fall they must take some wins on the road, those points help when others around slip up.
If Hankinson takes the opportunity to start Justin Braun we could see a return to familiar lineups that have won some of Indy's biggest games this year. Cory Miller is not a guaranteed starter, Daniel Keller gave a good showing of himself at center against Tampa and was voted man of the match by supporters.
It will also be interesting to see if Omar Gordon will start after grabbing a goal against Tampa, if Braun comes back in coach has the option of putting him on the left, which would mean dropping Lacroix who put in a reasonably sold 90 last weekend. Dylan Mares also has been used at left but started on the bench last week.
With the season end looming ever closer Hankinson may decide to rotate in other positions to keep players fresh, possibly Paterson for Torrado again, maybe Smart will get a rest this week and Mares may start on the right. Rotation would not surprise me, we want to stay competitive but we also want to have each player in shape come playoff time.
As usual all guesswork on my part, we have a tough game against Miami FC next week so we may or may not see some rotation and some players being protected a little. I do think we will go with the 4-4-2, this has shown well for us when playing against teams adopting any kind of 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation as the Strikers likely will.
Possible Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Keller (or Miller), Falvey, Vukovic, Lacroix (or Gordon), Torrado, Ring, Mares (or Smart), Braun, Zayed. (see what I did there?)
Possible Bench: Cardona, Miller, Franco, Gordon, Smart, Paterson, Ubiparipović (how do you fit everyone in?)
Thanks to all who helped us raise a further $59.00 at the BYB Tailgate last Saturday for Playworks Indiana. 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.