Friday, April 13, 2018

When The Going Gets Tough - Indy Eleven V Nashville SC PREVIEW (4/14/2018)

Could Watson (left) or Matern (right) help solve Indy's defensive puzzle this week?

By: James Cormack

Indy Eleven will take to the field at noon on Saturday for their second home game of the season. With two wins on the road and a defeat in their home opener to FC Cincinnati, Indy will be looking to give the home support something to celebrate in Lucas Oil Stadium when the final whistle comes around.

There a lot of big question marks surrounding the availability of players for Indy's back line, and I am sure while Nashville and former Atlanta Silverbacks coach Gary Smith won't be taking anything for granted, the Nashville supporters may feel this is a good opportunity to take three points on their first visit to Indianapolis.

The one thing we know for certain is that Karl Ouimette will not play, after a red card last week in North Carolina, Karl was served with a three-match suspension which was subsequently reduced to one match. This adds to Martin Rennie's already depleted crop of defenders. Reiner Ferreira was injured in the match against FC Cincinnati and Carlyle Mitchell was removed from play late in the match against North Carolina FC.

If none of these center backs are available that leaves Indy Eleven with only one available, Brad Rusin. As a result of the Ferreira injury, Brad Ring has been filling in at right back so that Karl Ouimette could slide in to partner Mitchell. The question now is what options can Rennie look at to provide a starting four (or three) at the back that can be comfortable together and will we need to form up in such a way to limit the chances of the opposition running at our defense?

Karl Ouimette (far left) saw a three-match suspension reduced to one. Will miss Nashville match.


Here follows a lot of what-iffery, in the event Indy Eleven does only have one center back available.

Start a back three with Rusin in the center? My only reservation about this would not be the ability of Rusin to command that position, but the lack of game time he has with the rest of the team, and that we would be trying something for the first time. Indy could play this formation with Ayoze and Ring and pack the midfield with five and limit the amount of work the defensive line has to do. This would be very high risk but could also be very productive if Braun and McInerney are paired in front of a five-man midfield.

Play the 4-2-3-1 again? Who lines up alongside Rusin if no other center backs are available? I think my first choice would be Nico Matern, at six foot tall it seems obvious and he also likes to play deep against the back line. This would then leave us with a selection problem at defensive midfield with Brad Ring already positioned at right back. 

I am only speculating here but one option would be to replace Brad and move him to a more natural position. Seth Moses is comfortable at right back and has played there before, if Matern is dropped back into central defense with Rusin and Moses started at right back this can allow Ring and Watson to make up the central midfield pairing. Zach Steinberger in front with possibly Lewis or Saad and Pasher on the outside behind Justin Braun or Jack McInerney.

Could Matt Watson play at center back and captain the team from there? This is another option similar to above, Matt is 6ft or thereabouts and if Rennie wishes to leave Brad Ring at right back he could play Matern and Steinberger together and bring in Juan Guerra into attacking midfield. There are many options that can be played in front of the back line, but the options for defense are limited.

Put me in coach! Carlyle Mitchell may well turn out to spoil Nashville's afternoon.

All pure speculation and at the end of the day, I don't think any of these scenarios are going to happen. I am also not the coach so don't listen to me anyway.

Having watched the previous game against North Carolina twice now I have a feeling that Carlyle Mitchell will line up in the back alongside Brad Rusin. Mitchell did take a reasonably severe knock to his knee in the first half last week, but he's a big lad. Considering the weather was deteriorating and the temperature dropping during the game it is highly possible he developed cramp while slightly favoring one leg for about fifty minutes.

Carlyle is in training and I think come kick-off time we will see him in the starting lineup. Even if I am wrong, and Martin Rennie has to come up with a completely new back line, I don't think any perceived weaknesses our defensive injuries or suspension may cause will be a major factor in the game.

Besides that, Nashville still has to get past Owain Fôn Williams. So there.

Where is Kevin Venegas...

A quality player we still have not seen yet, he appears to be in full training and as we saw last week with Ayoze coming straight into a starting lineup, we may also see Venegas for the first time this weekend. Considering that Ouimette is out and Ferreira is not ready to return we need defenders on the bench. The former Loon may even start and displace Brad Ring, but he at least should make the game roster.

A starting back four of Venegas, Rusin, Mitchell, and Ayoze is pretty formidable for any team, and if Ring continues at right back there'll be no complaints from me.

The Form...

Nashville is a new team to everyone and the USL is a new league for us, very difficult to try and formulate an opinion of the outcome of this game with very little knowledge of the opposition or previous matches.

Nashville has played four games this year so far. They began their season away to Louisville and lost 2-0 before drawing 0-0 in their home opener against Pittsburgh. They come into the game against Indy on the back of two wins against Bethlehem Steel (1-0 A) and Charlotte Independence (2-0 H).

Ooh Statistics! Worthless at this early stage but I needed an image in here.

Louisville is a tough place to start but Indy Eleven is probably going to be Nashville's toughest opponent since that game. With no disrespect to Charlotte, they got off to a bright start against lesser opposition and I would not be expecting them to set the league on fire this year.

Likewise Indy have lost their only game against what could be considered a playoff contender, FC Cincinnati. Away wins at Richmond and last week against North Carolina who are now 0-3 in games gives very little indication of how Indy will fare against those teams expected to be in the postseason.

Indy Eleven has been as I expected, very difficult to play against and are conceding few goals. Two clean sheets in three games and only one goal conceded in their single defeat. FC Cincinnati was a real test for Indy and they were unlucky not to leave the field with a point. Indy does not have a scoring issue, we are only three games in and we have any number of players in our bag of tricks that can and will find the back of the net.

It's probably best described as a finely balanced matchup that is hard to predict. I don't see Indy Eleven's selection worries as being a major factor in this game, I have previewed matches in the past where our opposition has been in a similar predicament or worse and we've failed to win those games.

Prediction - Probably not a good idea for me to jinx things but I actually think Indy Eleven can win at home for the first time this year, but not by any great margin, 1-0 or 2-1. 


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