Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Indy Eleven Wagon Train Heads West! - Rayo OKC v Indy Eleven Preview (4/30/16)

Soccer team land rush in Oklahoma!
By: James Cormack

The NASL turned a few heads, and a few more were scratched when they announced expansion into Oklahoma City with Rayo OKC.

In 2015 the USL's Energy OKC made their debut and did very well, and were one of the leagues leaders in attendance and season ticket holders.

In November of 2015 the league announced that Rayo OKC would be the next franchise in the league and would begin play in spring of 2016, giving the new club only around six months to build a team and a fan base.

There were many skeptics about this expansion and whether there was room for two clubs in Oklahoma City, myself included. Does this make Energy OKC the Sooners and Rayo the Boomers?

Rayo OKC signed former Scorpions coach Alen Marcina who has since then assembled a pretty impressive roster. The owners have sunk a lot of money into the team and local publicity so it remains to be seen which team will survive the soccer land rush in OKC. Hopefully for the sake of supporters both thrive.

Rayo have already had their bye week and so far in their first three games sit one point behind Indy Eleven. Last weekend Rayo won the class of 2016 battle, defeating Miami FC by three goals to two in Florida on their first road trip. They had previously drawn Edmonton at home 0-0 and lost 3-2 to league leaders Carolina Railhawks.

Indy Eleven have hit their bye week at a good time, when you can defeat the Cosmos and get a couple weeks off it's always a good time. The off weak gives Indy a chance to get all of their players back in shape.

All players are training and available for selection. It will be interesting to see how coach Hankinson picks the bench for this game, with Ubiparipović and Larrea fit enough to play, Reinoso returned and a match fit Omar Gordon in town.

After the success against the Cosmos it is probable that we will see the same starting lineup again. If Indy Eleven can play with the same aggression and determination as they did in their last game, a result here is very achievable.

Rayo OKC are thin on defenders and have conceded five goals in their last two games. Indy Eleven have conceded two goals for the season, one penalty and one goal in open play. Former Indy Eleven stopper Erick Norales has not been available for Rayo at all this season.

Futty Danso, Rauwshan McKenzie and Kosuke Kimura have been regulars in the back line with either Michel or Jarad Van Schaik at left back (both listed as midfielders but it's as clear as mud), #4 Juanan appears to be the only available back up. I would imagine Marcina will be addressing the issue of goals conceded, hopefully they won't find the answer to their leak before Saturday night.

Rayo's new turf surface may look similar to Indy's but it won't be entirely the same. The new turf surface was laid on top of an older turf surface so it probably will be a little softer and more forgiving and probably take some of the bounce out of the ball, passing on the surface should be of a similar pace to home... fast and furious!

A win for Indy is certainly there for the taking if we show patience, provide enough scoring opportunities and stay strong to the final minutes as we have done in all games so far. Coming away from Oklahoma City without being defeated is highly likely but Indy should not settle for a point in any game now. Each gained point helps in the grander scheme of things.

Good luck to the traveling support from the Brickyard Battalion and Slaughterhouse-19, the weather forecast for game day is very good, 73 sunny and clear with a chance of weak beer in the Stadium. Have fun and be loud!

Caleb Ramp's Thoughts:

Through the first three games, Indy's defense has lived up to even our heightened preseason expectations. Rayo OKC, however -- boasting tremendous attacking talent and a potential matchup nightmare -- will be the biggest test for the defense to date.

The Eleven looked their most vulnerable (and conceded their only open play goal) against the 4-3-3 of Ottawa Fury (a goal which remains the Canadian side's only of the season). Ottawa repeatedly found success behind the Indy fullbacks with early balls over the top and longer passes played into space.  Expect Marcina to instruct his men to exploit this weakness, and Rayo's forward trio -- Robbie Findley, Billy Forbes, and Richard Menjivar -- is as lethal in space as any in the league.

It will take excellent spatial discipline and coordination between the back four and defensive midfield for Hankinson's squad to keep a clean sheet on Saturday. The good news? They may not need to.



For the whole of NASL 2016 Bloody Shambles and Permanent Relegation have teamed up along with Indy Eleven striker Éamon Zayed to raise money for Playworks Indiana. We will be donating money for every single goal Éamon scores this year, including the two he has already. Please join us and support this cause. For full details and how to either sign up and pledge or just make a one time donation - please read the following blog! Please share this for us and use the hashtag #EamonZayedRule

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