Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reviewing Indy's Preseason

Éamon Zayed
We care because we love this team and I have asked James and Caleb to put down some thoughts on Indy Eleven and their beloved team's current state. This will be free flowing and conversational so try not to be alarmed by the Shambolitry or the haphazard style of this post.

James Cormack will be posting in Red.

Caleb Ramp will be in Blue.
Aaron Gunyon will be green.

How is the team looking so far? 

[JC] Overall looking at all the players, I would say they look very rusty. We didn't start as early as some teams do and it is showing a bit. Each preseason game is a different lineup so not easy to gauge. From who I would expect to start a game I have seen enough to see the makings of decent side, but they look a bit further away from being ready than I expected.

On the whole I have only seen a couple of players on the roster who have not really played as well as I might have expected but I have not seen all the games. Most of them even when losing have not given me the impression they were giving up.

My biggest concern every year has been the defense, obviously losing Deroux is a problem. I think short term we can work around this, but I'd be happier if we would sign someone so we are picking the defense from 8 rather than 7 players.

[CR] Preseason means different things to different people.  Some see it solely as an opportunity for experimentation, and the necessary catalyst to build match fitness. Others feel—and rightfully so—that in a squad where every position is supposed to be hotly contested, the natural competition for playing time should lead to positive game results – especially when playing primarily lower-level sides.

Injuries have set us back significantly. Losing DeRoux is something we can overcome (Franco is looking increasingly comfortable on that side, and would be my current choice as starter given the current roster), but it puts us at a disadvantage relative to the rest of the league. This roster has undoubtedly improved from last season, but the relative improvement compared to the NASL as a whole is yet to be seen. Losing a talented and experienced defender—both in the NASL and with Coach Hankinson—who was expected to be a plug-and-play starter is not something that can be instantly recovered from.

So far in 2016, our overall quality fluctuates wildly when certain players are or aren’t present. While this can be encouraging for the regular season when our first team is seeing a full workload, it also leads me to believe that the squad isn’t as deep as we had originally thought. Dylan Mares was tremendous last season before his injury, but we haven’t seen the same player in 2016. We’ve also yet to see anything at all from newcomer Justin Braun.

[AG] I will be brutally honest when I say that I don't think this team is where they wanted to be at this time. They are not ready for the season to start due to several factors. The most important one being fitness and injuries which have held player development up in favor of healthier bodies. 

This team is not ready to go 90 minutes in a meaningful game and that is not going to be the case tomorrow either. The away game to Tampa will come far to quickly for this squad.

What are your impressions of Head Coach Tim Hankinson?

[JC] He has impressed me a lot in his openness to explain his intentions and ideas to people, he is not one to keep secrets about what he is doing or what he wants. I think although preseason results have not been great you can see a methodology in what he is doing, the time he is giving players and how he is deploying them.

He strikes me as someone who begins by sitting back and watching, allowing players to express themselves while he observes. Early preseason he is asking them to show him what they have. As things moves on and he changes lineups and minutes for different players then he is looking more closely and expects more and probably talks back more.

I get the impression he is not someone who is going to have his time wasted by players. In the past many of us as fans look at our team selections and subs and scratch our heads. With Tim Hankinson I don’t think we will see that, we won't see as much tinkering.

[CR] My favorite thing about Coach Hankinson is his honesty. It would be far too easy for him to bring out the tired “it’s only preseason” rhetoric, blame injuries, insist the only focus is fitness, and downplay any negatives. Instead, he’s repeatedly stated that this team should be putting in better performances and better results. He’s lamented the spells of non-existent possession, and has vowed we will do better. Listening to him for even a few moments will increase your Soccer IQ and give you an itch to lace up and run some drills.

I’ll admit I was among those underwhelmed when his signing was first announced. In a few short months—and even before a meaningful ball has been kicked—I’ve completely bought in. Regardless of how this season goes, we can say with certainty that inexperience or apathy on the part of our coaching staff will not be the cause. He won’t accept anything but the best from our players, teaching or admonishing as appropriate. He also won’t mince words with the public. All of this is refreshing change from what we’ve endured in previous seasons.

[AG] I really like talking to him. He is honest about his team and his expectations and he shows tremendous desire to communicate and to teach the game. I want to play for him, however I am not a professional and I don't know how he is getting along with the actual players. It is far too soon to tell that.

My one concern is that he is running things exactly how he has for the last 30 plus years. He is a great soccer mind and he knows it. How adaptable is he during the course of a game or during the wacky split season in the NASL?  

He does have a great head of hair though.

Has anyone impressed you?
Colin Falvey

[JC] Colin Falvey has been a rock at the back, he is a no nonsense defender and does not accept sloppiness. He is comfortable on the ball and also doesn’t panic, but if in doubt he is not going to waste any time in the getting that ball as far away from his goalkeeper when he has to. We really need that kind of player who can bring stability in the back.

Erick Norales was a good tough defender, it was tough to see him go but I think with Falvey we have found that same aggression and toughness but he adds a leadership element and is a great communicator. Combine him with Jon Busch at the back and I don't want to be that player that upsets them.

[CR] Duke is progressing into the player that we all hoped he would. He’s electric. A nightmare combination of speed, intelligence, and endless determination. He’s quick enough to force an errant pass when pressing defensively; smart enough to know when to take the shot himself and when to lay it off. He’s played a crucial role in the bulk of our chances and goals this year, this is a trend we should expect to continue into meaningful play.

It’s also important to note that a few of our key cogs in the midfield (namely Ubiparipovic and Paterson) haven’t seen many minutes due to injury concerns and rehabilitation. When they’ve been on the pitch, they've shown flashes of brilliance. Sinisa has tremendous vision and operates very well in tight spaces, pinging passes to dangerous areas or playing the triangles to maintain possession as appropriate. Nicki has already showcased his uncanny ability to switch play on a dime with pinpoint accuracy (almost regardless of distance), playing a winger into space and kick-starting the attack.

[AG] Éamon Zayed-But I knew he would.  He is a pro and a goalscorer.  He wants the ball and he wants to finish and he is upset by anything less.  Put him down as an automatic starter week in and week out.  

He looks fairly fit right now and he has already had a game where he went the full 90 and put away an equalizer with a diving header in the 85th minute.  Concerns about playing on turf and older knees may pop up in the future but the only question right now is where to deploy him most effectively.  

Hankinson has used him in a variety of attacking roles to see what he can tolerate and to see where he performs best.  For me, I want to see him as close to the goal as possible and I think Zayed would agree.

Pick your starting lineup right now!

[JC] Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Vukovic, Franco, Ring, Paterson, Stojkov, Ubiparipović, Lacroix, Zayed.

[CR] Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Vukovic, Franco, Paterson, Larrea, Stojkov, Ubiparipović, Lacroix, Zayed.

[AG] Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Vukovic, Franco, Ring, Paterson, Stojkov, Ubiparipović, Lacroix, Zayed.

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And don't forget to support your Boys in Blue as they take on Butler University on March 23rd at 7:00 PM in Westfield. Admission is free.

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