|It's about time we saw some Victor!|
I think it's in Indy's best interest if New York and Ottawa can just keep beating teams, we don't have to play either of them again and as they are holding down positions one and two, any damage they can inflict on other teams will work in our favor providing we can win our own games.
The aforementioned teams played each other on Wednesday and drew 0-0, which is pretty much good for everyone else, we need to worry less about Cosmos and Ottawa and more about the other eight teams in the league outside of ourselves.
In the rest of the games this weekend the results that would be most helpful for Indy would be draws in the games between Atlanta and Edmonton, Jacksonville and San Antonio and wins for Ottawa over Tampa and New York to beat Carolina. If that were to happen and Indy can win in Florida, it puts a whole new complexion on our playoff chances.
There is no doubt in my mind if Indy wants to be in the playoffs they must win one or two games on the roads, they missed a very good opportunity in Atlanta, I think Ft. Lauderdale provides a similar chance. It may be a little tougher this time around, when we beat the Striker in spring we caused the sacking of their coach Marcello Neveleff.
In the wake of that match Gunter Kronsteiner, the manager who took the Strikers to the Soccer Bowl last year was reinstated as coach, they have only lost two times in ten games since his return and have won four and drawn four. So it will by no means be easy and a tougher test than Atlanta in my mind.
Indy Eleven currently sit only four points away from the fourth place Tampa in the combined standings, with so many games to go that can look like a trivial amount. But we have two away games against two very in form teams before we get back home, it is extremely important that we try to keep that gap the same or as close to the same as we can before meeting Jacksonville on September 5th at Carroll Stadium.
Form and previous encounters......
As we still have two games to play against the Strikers this year, there have been only four previous meetings between these two sides since Indy joined the NASL. The first meeting took place in Fort Lauderdale in the spring of 2014, Indy fell by three goals to two, goals by Kleberson and Norales were not enough to counter.
Since that opening match Indy have drawn 0-0 at home and lost 2-1 in Florida again in Fall of 2014. In the opening game against the Strikers in 2015 our boys managed a 2-1 road win, a result which gave Tim Regan a win in his first full game in charge of the Indy Eleven and also saw the termination of Marcello Neveleff as head coach of Ft. Lauderdale.
Indy Eleven enter this game on the back of a win and a draw at Tampa and Atlanta and as we know a terrible run of form preceded that with three straight losses. After losing to Cosmos and Atlanta in early August the Strikers are now three games undefeated, after a high scoring 3-3 draw at home to Cosmos they have defeated Tampa and Edmonton in their last two games.
The return of Gunter Kronsteiner as head coach of the Strikers has turned around their year and created a very hard to beat side! Indy will have their work cut out for them to take a win here, if they do it can be marked down as a great achievement at this stage of the season.
Who's in, who's out, who is going to cause trouble...?
Dylan Mares is very close to a return, as is Sergio Pena, unfortunately I doubt we will see them appear for this game, with three games in the space of a week coming up, it would be foolhardy to risk either of them in this game. Unless you live on Mars, you will probably know that Erick Norales is suspended for this game for trying to swap shirts in regulation time.
Good news for Indy Eleven fans, Brad Ring has travelled with the team and has been moved from not playing to questionable. The fact he has travelled means he may see some game time. Will be surprised if he starts, but if Indy can get a foothold in this game then Brad would be a valuable player to bring in late to help shore things up.
With a look ahead to two upcoming games in a week after this one, I expect to see a little rotation in the lineup for this game. I really would like to see Pineda start in this game, he should be ready, and in the spring win over the Strikers he scored both goals. He loves to mop up stuff from the back of the 18 and we need goal threats.
I think the key area for Indy Eleven, to get any result on Saturday is going to be the central defensive midfield position. With Norales out and Janicki stepping in, and no offense to Greg, we have that air of unfamiliarity at the center again, it will need cover and whoever plays CDM is going to have to play for 90 like he is expected to play 120!
This is my lineup, and my opinion, with Norales and Mares out, we need to make sure any set piece opportunity is taken advantage of! Mares and Pineda have been our best delivery of 2015 so in my mind Pineda must start, we need to go with strong defensive players in midfield and a quick and intelligent offense for counter attack.
I would continue with a 4-4-2 diamond and play as follows... Nicht, Hyland, Miller, Janicki, Franco, Pineda, Steinberger, Ceballos, Stojkov, Lacroix and Richards. If we play this formation with Richards sitting a little behind Lacroix at center forward, I think we could be very dangerous.
Depending on how the game stands in the second half, if Indy are defending a lead or are drawing, I would give Stojkov a rest for Smart later in the game, bring Brad Ring in for Steinberger and possibly later rest Richards and bring in Brown or Wojcik. I think I would definitely prefer Steinberger as starter in the CDM position and let Keller start on the bench, despite he has been playing very well. In the next two road games, this may be our best chance of three points, and rest some legs for the game against Minnesota.
The players to watch for Ft. Lauderdale, believe it or not Walter Ramirez has not only been on the score sheet twice in recent games, he is also serving as playmaker to the real goal threat for the Strikers, the Brazilian Stefano who has scored 3 of their last four goals in 2-0 and 2-1 wins over Edmonton and Tampa. Keep numbers 21 and 29 out of the game and you may have a very good chance of winning.