|Éamon Zayed and Juan Arango (left) could both use a hat trick this weekend.|
Two particulars games this weekend mean a great deal for two of the teams involved. Three playoff spots have been confirmed, Indy Eleven will play FC Edmonton and New York Cosmos will play whichever team achieves the fourth place in the combined table. There are two teams remaining who can grab that spot, Rayo OKC who currently sit in the fourth place position in combined standings, and Minnesota United who trail them by three points.
The challenge for Rayo OKC and Minnesota is they will both face off against the top two teams in the league. Minnesota United will entertain the Cosmos at home in a game they must win and hope that Rayo OKC lose. Rayo will face Indy Eleven at home and require one point to clinch the final playoff spot.
But what do these games mean for New York and Indy Eleven if anything? The Cosmos can have a hand in deciding who they will play in the playoff semi final, as can Indy Eleven. Simply put if they don't want to play Minnesota United one week later they can work to make sure that MNU does not get three points.
|Current combined standings, only Rayo OKC or Minnesota can clinch the fourth playoff spot. (nasl.com)|
Indy Eleven's match in Oklahoma could be described as unimportant, unless of course you are Rayo OKC, but if you ask Éamon Zayed his opinion may be different. After scoring last weekend against Puerto Rico FC he has put himself within three goals of equalling Cristian Ramirez's current goal tally of 18. As we know Éamon did not get the nickname "Mr.Hat trick" for no reason.
Zayed is not the only player trying to catch Ramirez though, to add even more interest to this coming weekend, Juan Arango of the Cosmos also sits on 15 goals. If the Cosmos can lock out Ramirez and Arango scores a hat trick there is potential for a three way tie for the golden boot. I wonder what odds a bookmaker would give on that happening?
Of course Rayo OKC's Michel could also get in the mix by scoring four goals but we don't want to talk about that happening.
There is less pressure on Rayo OKC to actually win than there is for Minnesota, but they definitely will not want to lose. A draw would be enough to see them through to the semi final against New York. I am sure Indy Eleven would like to cap their regular season with a win, but I would rather see OKC play New York in the semi than Minnesota.
Without disrespect to the loons I think Rayo are a team that has found the key to beating the Cosmos and if they were to beat them in the semi final then Indy would for sure host the final. Rayo have drawn in New York, defeated the Cosmos 3-0 in Oklahoma then only lost once in NYC by a single goal to nil.
I think this will be a closely contested game and Indy are certainly not heading to Oklahoma to simply make up the numbers. It is certainly a game we can win but I have a feeling this game could well be a draw. Indy Eleven have faced Rayo OKC two times and have one each game away in spring and home in fall by two goals to one.
|Siniša Ubiparipovič has done well to craft himself a starting spot late in the season.|
The big question for Indy Eleven, or more specifically Tim Hankinson is who do we start. There are good reasons for going with your most favored starting XI as prep for a semi final against a potential playoff team.
It does however give one last opportunity to try any player who may be on the fringe of starting to see who is most likely to be your preferred subs or most likely to stand in if someone gets injured, Lacroix, Paterson, Franco, Torrado for instance.
The other concern for me is knowing that we have no real back up for central defense. Do we rest one of Janicki or Falvey and keep them on the bench? Last week Lovel Palmer went off with a head knock, the last thing we would want going into a playoff game is a lack of personnel on the back line, so it may be an option that Hankinson exercises.
Judging by the last five to six games I think the current most favored starting XI would be Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Smart, Ring, Ubiparipović, Mares, Braun and Zayed. I think this is how we most likely will lineup on November 5th.
If it is Hankinson's intention to play his playoff lineup in the final game then this is how we may start. The overall fitness of Gerardo Torrado is not known. He did not appear in the roster again in the match against Puerto Rico FC, but should be available for some game minutes.
As we know our only real injury right now is Cory Miller who is out for the rest of the season. Palmer was removed from the field for fear of concussion in the last game but should be recovered enough to feature in the squad for Oklahoma.
Éamon Zayed is an NASL Golden Ball nominee and has a chance to challenge for the NASL Golden Boot in the final match against Rayo OKC. All season long we have been raising money for Playworks Indiana childrens charity in conjunction with Éamon. We have pledges for every goal he scores, donations from tailgates and watch parties and other groups.
If you would like to help us with one final push consider donation to the #EamonZayedRule. You can read more about this initiative here, or if you are already convinced you can simply CLICK HERE TO DONATE. All donations go directly to Playworks Indiana and will help them to help kids have more fun at schools throughout the city.