|Exactly how it feels. Photo: James Cormack|
By: Jordan Kalt
Three games in eight days. Thousands of miles of international travel.
Such was the weight of exhausted repetition on FC Edmonton’s shoulders. And yet, somehow, the Eddies came out and looked much like the defensive squad of yesteryear.
Indy Eleven’s perpetual challenges took a different but familiar shape. With what felt like nearly half the roster once again sidelined due to injury, Indy's starters didn’t have to begin the match fighting physical exhaustion in the same way as Edmonton. It was more a question of going full-90' with a will to win and break out of this drawn out agony.
At the end, I believe they were found having rightly given all they had. Pulled up and clutching their knees alongside the weary Canadian travelers, the Eleven exhausted their options and their energy, but without a win to show for it.
How many times must we repeat this?
Turn! Turn! Turn!
To everything a season. Exhaustion is a complicated season. It’s both physical and mental. Though they've never sprinted along the pitch for a single minute outside of the club's first home win, you can still tell supporters are in a state of exhaustion. Endless draws.
Six in a row.
The players are there, too. As much as the fans may want a win, nobody is as sick and tired of drawing these games as individuals on the Eleven's squad.
Then There Were Positives
Edmonton came out with strength and conviction but Indy Eleven absorbed the pressure until they were able to begin bending it back on their opponents near the end of the first half.
Keeper, Jon Busch, and center back, Colin Falvey, seem comfortably inside their old groove again. Our defensive shape and organization was at a season best. This is directly attributable to Busch and Falvey’s leadership and communication, though Daniel Keller deserves a very special mention of his own for a remarkably good night filling in for the injured Vukovich.
Likewise, Indy’s midfield worked themselves into good shape after a slow start. Aerial duels began falling consecutively to the home side near the middle of the match as Edmonton’s fatigue started to show and experienced stalwarts such as Torrado and Ring tightened the screws.
In this area of the pitch Ubiparipovic has really come into his own. The long injuries and uncertainty of last season are behind him and he appears to have that number ten role all to himself again. His masterful feeds have been key in seeing the team build play from the center midfield and the top of the box, dynamics which were decidedly on display Saturday evening. May the nights of forty hopeful crosses into the box never be seen again.
And it must be said that on the front lines, Justin Braun and Eamon Zayed have never looked better. Their link-ups have become multifaceted and much more reciprocal. In this match, Braun developed a particularly titanic struggle with Edmonton center back, Pape Diakite, which every Eleven supporter was dying to see end in a self-satisfied goal.
The Wise and Dissatisfied
With a significantly shortened deck of players, Hankinson pushed the starting eleven as far as he possibly could and their conditioning held up well under the pressure. It was just before the 80th minute when the coach put in his first sub, newcomer, Jason Plumhoff, who made a notable impact.
Hopefully Plumhoff will be yet another in a stellar series of player acquisitions by Tim Hankinson this year. The player budget has been notably reduced for 2017, but Hankinson has made the best of it. Yes, there have been many injuries which have certainly cost us early on and roster depth has been a constant struggle. But I never would have thought the team’s record would survive so many big-name injuries as it has and that is all thanks to Hankinson’s eye for talent and congruent pieces.
A retention like Daniel Keller may have seemed a small thing in the offseason but could become a linchpin with Vukovich out now. Similarly, inconspicuous additions like Tanner Thompson and Jason Plumhoff promise to keep the club hungry and in the hunt through the rest of this injury stretch.
|Tanner wants more. Eddies say, "no." Photo: James Cormack|
You Already Know How This Will End
Following a well-earned yellow card early in the match, Brad Ring got tangled with a flailing opponent in the 90th and was shown his second card and a path off the field. What hopes the Eleven may have had of a last second victory seemed to dissipate with the shift to a ten man lineup.
The final attempt of the match fell inside the box to Justin Braun and as he lowered himself for the hopeful, traffic-jammed guess at a bicycle kick, the play at once became a fitting analogy for the overall feelings of these first six games.
We are doing so much right. We are so often in the right place and at the right time.
And we're still stuck in this cycle.
The win still hasn't come.
But I will say this... as healthy players begin returning over the next few weeks, some unlucky club is going to find themselves on the receiving end of a very angsty and talented Indy Eleven team. It will come.
Post match reactions from Colin Falvey, Tim Hankinson and Justin Braun. Also available on iTunes and Stitcher, search for "Bloody Shambles Soccer"