The Indy Eleven are full throttle down the stretch having recently dispatched Puerto Rico FC by a score of 3-0. While PRFC may not have been near the leagues elite this year, the opponents don't seem to matter to the boys when they play at Carroll Stadium. Saturday's score was the third consecutive home match with an identical tally for Indiana's Team. Indy's convincing victories over New York Cosmos and the Carolina RailHawks seemed to carry an edge to them. Perhaps revenge was the underlying theme and motivation for embarrassing the league leaders and removing hope from playoff hopefuls.
But what did Carmelo Anthony's team do to deserve this? Nothing. Saturday's win was a cold-blooded assertion of dominance at home. The Indy Eleven conclude their 2016 season being undefeated at Michael A. Carroll Stadium (13-3-0). It's a historic edifice that no doubt strikes fear into the hearts of all challengers. The Eleven have now recorded 37 goals this year during 16 NASL matches in the Circle City. Their 2.31 goals per game average is only made more impressive by their +26 goal differential as hosts.
Indy's offensive firepower has been on display all season. The team has put away a record setting 50 goals thus far, but there are currently no signs of slowing down for this team. Indy has put up nine over their last three. Saturday night's heroes were Indy's usual suspects and team leaders. Justin Braun (8 goals), Eamon Zayed (15 goals) and Dylan Mares (5 goals) all found the score sheet against PRFC last night. Coincidentally, those same three found the back of the net a month ago against the aforementioned New York Cosmos...in the same order. Also tres a cero. That three goal outburst came at a similar junction in the match and lasted over a 20 minute span just like it did against the Melos.
Indiana's team leads the NASL in assits (36) with an impressive 11 different players registering helpers in 2016. It may not be surprising, but Zayed (6), Braun (5) and Mares (6) top that category for Indy as well. All three currently find themselves in NASL's top ten for assists which is further testament to Indy's scoring prowess. There is no need to do it alone when you have a team this deep and this strong.
So much has been said about Justin Braun's work rate and Eamon Zayed's nose for goal that some might incorrectly assume Indy's attack begins and ends with that dynamic duo. Dylan Mares makes it the the terrific trio. Indy's all time assist leader (13) is also second on the all-time scoring list with 10 goals.
Mares has earned his starting job and proven himself to be indispensable in his attacking role. His ability to slash inside and to put defenses on their heels allows space for others to join the attack. The left-side pairing of Nemanja Vukovic and Mares in midfield has proven to be a well balanced tandem. Mares naturally drifts toward the action in the center of the pitch and Vukovic tends to fly up the wing and provides the width needed from that side. It's an open secret that while Vuko lines up at LB, he earns the bulk of his defender pay in the attacking half.
Indy's 4-4-2 diamond is actually a very well oiled 3-5-2 in when the aggression is turned up.
Tres A Cero has become a reoccurring scoreline. Saturday's contest was the fourth one this year. It also marked the sixth time Indy had bested an opponent by three goals at home. While defense wins championships, it is the offense that fills the highlight reels. Four of Indy's last six opponents have been held scoreless, but the fear comes from insurmountable numbers. The pressure for visitors to score at Carroll is causing them to crack.
How do you beat a team that scores so frequently at home? How about when they concede less than 1 goal per game?
Look ahead to the game in OKC and the conclusion of Indy's regular season next weekend. The outcome of the match is insignificant, but positive momentum heading into the postseason will surely be a plus. It's proven that the trio of blue shirts, shorts and socks are nearly invincible, but the practice of winning on the road (wearing white checkers) still might be needed yet this season. The team that Coach Hankinson unveils in Oklahoma will very likely be the group fans see on November 5th. There will be few dramatic changes as the time has come for the end of the season push.