Sunday, April 23, 2017

Unbeaten and unsatisfied: Indy Eleven vs SF Deltas Review (4/22/17)

Solid play from Marco Franco and Colin Falvey helped earn Indy their first clean sheet of 2017.

By: Caleb Ramp

The start of the 2017 NASL season has been frustrating for supporters of Indy Eleven. Spoiled, perhaps, by the ease in which they would dismantle teams at home in the latter stages of last season -- outscoring opponents 25-5 in the fall season. 

Four draws from four matches (including a squandered 2-0 lead) have left many trying to determine who or what to blame. Being held scoreless at home for the first time in the Tim Hankinson era only adds fuel to the fire. 

Soccer is a game of thin margins, however. If a few pivotal moments thus far had gone Indy's way -- had Braun's third goal against Puerto Rico not been disallowed, or had any number of painfully close chances from Indy's forwards this season found their target -- the narrative would undoubtedly be different.

The impact of key injuries should also be taken into account -- though it could be argued that the very apparent lack of depth (especially when compared to last season) is a failure in and of itself.

Broken Wings:

Injuries to Don Smart and Ben Speas (both expected to miss another few weeks, per Tim Hankinson) resulted in Gerardo Torrado and Craig Henderson starting on the outside of a 4-4-2 diamond. 
Unsurprisingly, neither looked particularly comfortable. 

Torrado, to his credit, linked up well with Sinisia Ubiparipovic (who found himself in the starting lineup for the first time in 2017) -- but the Indy attack repeatedly fizzled in the final third. After the game, Hankinson criticized the number of unnecessary touches and low-percentage passes the Eleven had taken: "We weren't thinking productively enough."

On the right, Henderson had a game to forget. Turnovers, misplayed passes, inaccurate cross attempts, and defensive errors plagued him from the opening whistle. The absence of Don Smart -- and the lack of a suitable replacement -- dramatically limited the area of the pitch San Francisco was tasked with defending. Unable to find consistent success through the midfield, Indy often opted to bypass it altogether -- a less-than-ideal strategy when playing into wind gusts of 20+ MPH.

LEFT: Ben Speas and Don Smart vs SF Deltas (3/25/17)
RIGHT: Gerardo Torrado and Craig Henderson vs SF Deltas (4/22/17)

It's not all bad for the Boys in Blue, though. Despite doing so in a fairly unimpressive fashion, drawing the Deltas meant setting an NASL record with 20 unbeaten home matches, and the extended 16-game Spring season grants Indy a bit more time than usual to get healthy.

Four games, four draws -- but only four points from the top of the table. League-leading Jacksonville Armada await.

That's a new one.

Post-Game Audio (with Tim Hankinson):

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