|Nemanja Vukovic's late wonder strike keeps Indy Eleven unbeaten in pre-season.|
By: James Cormack
One week before Indy Eleven and Louisville City's respective seasons begin the two teams met in Evansville to shake off the last remnants of offseason rust and prepare their teams for competitive football. Indy Eleven will play San Francisco Deltas next Saturday evening while Louisville entertain St. Louis in an afternoon kick off in their USL home opener.
Indy Eleven started the game with a mostly recognizable lineup. With the absence of the recovering Colin Falvey the starting back four in front of Jon Busch consisted of Marco Franco at right, Lovel Palmer and Kwame Watson-Siriboe at center and Nemanja Vukovic at left back.
Brad Ring wore the captain's armband and partnered Gerardo Torrado in center midfield with Siniša Ubiparipović at right midfield and Ben Speas out left. Éamon Zayed and Justin Braun made up the front two.
Don Smart, Craig Henderson, Anthony Manning, Keith Cardona, Christian Lomeli, Daniel Keller, Tanner Thompson and an un-named trial player made up the bench. A quick spot of google searching leads us to believe the unknown player was David Goldsmith formerly of Butler Mens Soccer (correct me if I am wrong). There was no sign of Dino Williams or Cory Miller at the game.
|Éamon Zayed had a superbly chipped goal crossed off, appeared onside to everyone but the linesman.|
In the first half chances were few and far between for Indy Eleven, the work rate was there but the 4-4-2 formation seemed very flat to me and not a lot of creative play. Marco Franco and Vukovic worked well in moving the ball forward into attacking areas with Ben Speas and Ubiparipović working well in combination with the backs.
Indy Eleven's best chance came from a forward pass by Vukovic to Zayed who appeared to be onside when the pass was made and chipped the ball over Louisville keeper Gregory Ranjitsingh and into the back of the net. Zayed was called offside by the linesman.
Louisville City had three good chances on target at the other end but Jon Busch was more than a match for their strikes. Louisville were very fast on counter attack and gave Indy Eleven a lot of trouble at the back positions from the start especially on our left side. Both sides drew a blank and went in 0-0 at half time.
The refereeing was at times a little suspect, but it was a pre season game. Brad Ring picked up a ridiculous yellow after making a challenge and playing the ball against his opposing player who went down over it, there was no real contact with the player.
|Former IU midfielder Tanner Thompson put in a solid second half shift.|
Indy Eleven made one substitution at half time bringing on Don Smart into the right midfield and removing Justin Braun which allowed them to move Ubiparipović into a more attacking role. Smart looked as sharp as ever in the second half causing trouble for the Louisville back line at every available opportunity.
The second half saw two goals, one for either side. The first came for LCFC after they were awarded a penalty from a Lovel Palmer tackle inside the box for which he received a yellow card. Lovel was a little lucky not to see a second yellow only a few minutes later after somewhat heavy challenge on the right side of midfield. Cameron Lancaster delivered from the spot kick past Jon Busch to put his side 1-0 up in the 52nd minute.
The rest of the game for Indy was mostly about giving players game time. Tanner Thompson came on shortly after Don Smart and looked very impressive for his time on the field, pacey, aggressive and and always willing to run at defenders.
Craig Henderson looked very composed, found good position and closed his opposition down well and looks like he could prove to be a very valuable signing. Keith Cardona, Daniel Keller, Anthony Manning and trialist David Goldsmith all saw game time as well.
As we saw many times in 2016, Indy Eleven proved once again they are never a team to give up on a game at any point and Nemanja Vukovic caught on to a bobbling ball outside of the Louisville 18yd box and cracked a beautiful shot into the far right corner of the net. Probably one of the best goals I have seen scored by an Indy Eleven player and scored right before the final whistle to pull off the draw for Indy Eleven.
|Don Smart and trialist David Goldsmith (?) causing trouble for the Louisville back line.|
I am a little unsure if this is the best formation or lineup I have seen, it is the first time I have seen the team in preseason but I think the the way we played is a little too flat. There was very little being done creatively in the middle behind the forwards and most of our chances were being created from runs into the corners.
Last year it took a few games to find the right model and I think we may see the same again this year. Hankinson has proved in the past he has no problems shaking things up even during a game, so I am not overly worried about it. For me everything was overly defensive and not enough spark in attack.
As far as being match ready the overall condition of the players and work rate seems to be there and cannot fault anyone for lack of effort, we defended well in all ares of the field and on the whole quick to close down our opposition. If I look back on how we looked going into the first game at Tampa last year, the difference this year in fitness an condition is not comparable, we look much more like a team ready for 90 minutes of competitive league play.
Most outstanding player from this game for me was probably Marco Franco, his work ethic was unquestionable in defense and attack. A lot of penetration in the opposition half taking the ball to their defense and interplay with team mates was very good throughout the whole game. Honorable mention to Ben Speas for outstanding work rate on the left side, I still think from a distance he looks like Dylan Mares.
With Colin Falvey still recovering I am a little concerned about the back line in front of goal. Lovel Palmer has a lot of strength and aggressiveness and is solid at right back, but I am a little uncomfortable with him inside the box, he could easily have been red carded yesterday and that could be a problem in competitive games going down to ten men and losing a central defender. Will require a little more caution in a real league match which I think we will see.
We are ready! Only competitive games will allow us to find the right combinations for this roster but I have no doubts we are still a team that will be very difficult to beat once this all kicks off for real.
|Marco Franco is probably a worthy nominee for Man of The Match in Evansville.|