Friday, July 21, 2017

Indy Eleven are beginning to Spring into the Fall Season

Indy Eleven are prepared to take the Fall Season.

By Brian Cook

It seemed like the beginning of the season for Indy Eleven was a bad day wrapped up in a reboot of Groundhog's Day. No matter hard they tried they kept reliving the same play over and over again it just seemed to never change week to week. Part of that stemmed from how bad injuries were for Indy Eleven but no matter the case it seemed like Indy Eleven were in for a rough season.

And then, suddenly, everything clicked. The last five games of the Spring Season were the personification of Bill Murray's quote in Groundhog's day. Today is tomorrow, and Indy Eleven got healthy, got hungry, and determined to make good on the expectations put on them since the start of the season. Here are a few things that have changed over time during the Spring.

Team Chemistry:

The concept of team chemistry having a tangible difference on and off the field is a subject debated on blogs, groups, and generally throughout sports. No matter the sport the question "does it really matter?" revolves around the idea that the longer the same set of players play together the better they will play. For Indy Eleven early on in the Spring it clearly was a sticking point. A point where the injury bug that had it's teeth deep into the muscle of the team came to affect how players would play. 

A back three while risky has proven to be effective for Indy Eleven

You can have the best players on the field night in and night but the overwhelming need for cohesiveness and fluidity offensively is a concept that can often make or break victories in sports. Indy Eleven was no exception as they wrapped up the Spring Season winning four of their last five games with a starting eleven that was widely seen as their strongest eleven. 

While not a huge play the small detail of not taking the free kick ahead of the cross in the box by Vuko was clearly something that was worked on and planned and the boys eventually would earn a penalty kick which was eventually scored by Don Smart.

Knowing where players are has helped Indy Eleven build on a slow start to 2017

While Hankinson put his best foot forward and pushed Indy Eleven into the best position he could at the start of the season it was pretty clear that injuries were hurting the quality of player to see the field and damaging team chemistry as players were occasionally in positions and roles that weren't natural to them. 

Moves like Daniel Keller dancing around the backline or Lovel Palmer playing central midfield worked but it was easy to see this wasn't natural nor was it something that should occur past players who were out returning from injury.

Defensive upswing:

A glaring issue that faced Indy Eleven this season was where the defense would sit. While returning was club captain Colin Falvey, Nemanja Vukovich and Marco Franco there was still unanswered questions as to who would replace the roles left by the retiring Greg Janicki as well as the strength of the reliable Cory Miller. 

Both were key in different areas in 2016 and it seemed early on in 2017 with the tactical adjustments that Tim Hankinson instituted inside of the 4-4-2 he molded in 2016 it looked as if the club would struggle defensively and rely on the boots of Braun and Zayed for support.

And Indy Eleven didn't really give fans much in the way of disagreement early on. Players like Kwame Watson-Siriboe were just as close to mark someone as he was to be a bull on roller skates in a china shop. The defense lacked cohesiveness and the same awareness it garnered from the success earned a year ago. 

Marking seems to be a skill waiting to emerge

Indy Eleven were challenged. It was clear that 2016 did them no favors and that the North American Soccer League was prepared to be even more challenging in 2017. But as time has gone on and season has progressed we have seen that Indy Eleven are truly learning from theirs mistakes. 

This is mainly due to finally having the healthiest and strongest eleven this team can put on the field actually on the field. It almost feels like the last five games of the season were, in reality, the start of the season instead of the end of the Spring season.

Jon Busch: A Fine Wine:

Soccer/Football is one of the few professional sports where age can really be only a number. To a certain degree of course, but players like Alessandro Totti from Roma who just ended a career with the same club and retired at the age of 40. 

Enter Jon Busch. Both as a leader and a player Jon Busch has helped carry Indy Eleven since joining the club in 2016 and for all intense and purpose is the reason that the club hasn't dwindled down the table any farther. 

Busch, 40, is more than likely retiring baring some sort of change, his role with Indy Eleven has been with the club helping train goalkeepers and could send up sticking around after his playing career is over to help grow the likes of Keith Cardona and Christian Lomeli. Regardless of what next season holds it's clear that the success for Indy Eleven rests on the shoulders and gloves of Jon Busch.

Jon Busch's performances during the 2017 Spring Season has helped hold the club together

Busch's consistency, leadership, and awareness with stop the ball has led Indy Eleven to be in a position that early on seemed unreachable.

Where will they Fall?:

It shouldn't come as a shock but the NASL season break couldn't have come at a better time for Indy Eleven. While going on a break isn't helpful for consistency the injuries and subsequently draining aspect of the season has taken it's toll team. It took a majority of the Spring for the Boys in Blue to find their form and now that they have found it they can use this break to get healthy, get smarter, and get consistent with that form. 

Where will Indy Eleven finish the season at? It's hard to say. With the NASL it's sometimes a turn of the key on whether or not you have good or bad form. Indy has all the tools as well as the understanding of how to achieve success this season. It's really up to them what they want to do with it. For now, let's enjoy the season break and hope we get to see the quality of play the last five games gave us as we venture into the Fall season

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