Indy Eleven wrote another chapter in the classic tale of Jekyll and Hyde at home on Saturday while adding three more points for the combined standings (49 total). The Eleven won 3-0 to avenge a recent road loss to Carolina and simultaneously dashed any hopes the Railhawks had for postseason glory. Indy put away goals in the 45th, 77th and 90th but more importantly held their opponents scoreless for the second straight match.
Which is the good one? Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. One is impotent on the road and the other is a terrific force at home. Indy is simultaneously among the best and the worst of the NASL. A strange elixir has given Indy the second best home record 12-3-0 and the second worst road record 1-7-6. While the boys in blue haven't lost at home since last October, the boys in white haven't won on the road since their first away game in early April. Indy has taken only three points from nine away games this fall which is good enough for last in the NASL.
The Indy Eleven have exceeded expectations at home and throughout the entire course of the 2016 campaign. Every goal scored and every point earned sets a new club record. Indiana's team has dramatically improved with version 3.0, but they may wind up being second best on the year. They are second in goals scored (44). They are the guaranteed second seed in the Championship. They are tied for the second best defense having allowed only 29 all year.
The team that finished 2014 and 2015 with goal differentials of -11 and -12 respectively now has a positive 15 this season. It's also second best.
The postseason picture comes closer into focus with each week as we approach the conclusion of a record setting year for Indy. While we cannot know what the future holds, we can predict how current trends will play out and how those trends affect Indy and its supporters. Indy was the first team to clinch a playoff berth with their Spring Championship and that fact should not be forgotten, however, the smart money doesn't include Indy on the road.
Indy traveled to Jacksonville midweek and failed to score on a team with a terrible defense and nothing to play for. The Armada have been improved over the last few games, but only have two wins at home in 2016. Jacksonville has a dramatically negative goal differential and yet Indy have only managed to tie Jacksonville twice in two trips to Florida.
Flip it now to consider the Carolina Railhawks and their most recent demise at Carroll Stadium. A Railhawks win on Saturday would have injected them into the thick of a playoff hunt for the fourth and final spot. Carolina had everything gain and a loss would effectively render their remaining games to mere pageantry.
Beating the playoff contender and drawing with the basement dweller in the same week is curious, but Indy has been consistent with this all season. It's frustrating for fans. At home it is "game on" and away it is ..."Meh, I am not really feeling it."
It's a stark contrast for the two manifestations of the 2016 Indy Eleven and it's one that I have contemplated all throughout the year. I have considered weather, travel accommodations/conditions, and I have landed on one acceptable explanation.
It comes down to the Brickyard Battalion. The singing, smoking, standing, drinking, boisterous group that propels this team to victory. You love this team and this team loves you. They simply wont perform for anyone else.
It is important to get your tickets for next weekends fixture as well as the first ever playoff game in Indy Eleven history on November 5th. Get to #TheMike and get ready to celebrate. If some bizarre turn of events would allow Indianapolis to host two playoff matches, then you might just get to see a curious, frustrating, but special team make 10,000 plus lose their collective minds.