Let me first apologize and say that I don't know the proper protocol. Eamon Zayed now has 2 hat tricks for Indy Eleven and I have given him zero hats. Hat tricks are rare in soccer and they have been so rare at Carroll Stadium that the issue had never truly arisen before. Zayed put in his 11th of the season on Wednesday in front of 8,000 fans. He finished chances in the 16th, 58th and 65th minutes while contributing to the highest score in Indy Eleven history. The Eleven defeated the Jacksonville Armada comfortably with a 5-2 advantage. Do we owe him hats?
There were no hats to be found but Mr. Zayed was saddled with yet another load of bricks from the Brickyard Battalion. I hope that is sufficient and we will be sending your 8,000 hats with Amazon Prime here shortly, Mr Z. Perhaps you can use the hats while sitting on your new patio that you are sure to be building soon.
I caught up with Zayed after training on Friday and asked him some questions about the season. I wanted to know his thoughts about the team and the stadium, but I wanted to know how he is doing it. It's hard to keep count on the goals and the records, but Zayed now stands completely alone with the club record for goals scored. He is both the all-time leader and the single season record holder. Those numbers wont stand. They will be broken again by the international striker known affectionately as Big Z.
While the media scrum surrounded Coach Hankinson during the post game interview session on Wednesday, Both Eamon Zayed and Nemanja Vukovic could be heard going over some of the evenings events. It was playful banter among friends and teammates, but Vuko was giving Big Z an earful over some perceived missed opportunities. I don't think it was serious criticism for Zayed who has 8 more goals than his defensive counter part. Zayed had this to say about it after Friday's training session.
"I got 3. Could have been 4, I mean I'll take it. I had 5 chances. 3 out of 5 is not a bad return. I'll take it every week. The main thing is that we are creating the chances. I felt Don Smart came on against Miami and played exceptionally well. He's a different type of player I feel from the other wide players that we have. He started the other day against Jacksonville. He created my goal and 2 other chances for me."
Zayed is not wrong about Smart. He is a different type of player and he has assisted Zayed in each of the teams last two matches. The interesting thing here is that everyone is coming alive with talk about how good Don Smart is. Zayed brought it up and he elaborated without any follow up from me. Zayed has a lot of respect for the work Smart has put in this season and is happy his teammate has found success this year.
"He's done well and he deserves to start...I'm delighted because I know what he brings. For me he's the best crosser on the team. Obviously I'm a guy who lives off of service."
I don't want say that Zayed is the only player that can score or that he is the only route to success, but you don't have to look to hard to find trends or key stats. 10 of Zayed's 11 have been at home and Indy is a team that has struggled to find the net on the road.
"At home, we're playing well. We're flying. We're getting results...I feel we can beat anyone in the league at home."
Zayed managed only 13 touches in Miami in spite of astronomical volumes of crosses. While he did convert in the 89th, the team fell short of the ultimate goal. With 28 touches just 4 days later, the outcome was a complete reversal. What is going on there? An obvious correlation between the leading goal scorer's involvement and the success that comes from that. Feed big Z at home and away and to do that you need Don Smart.
"Sometimes you connect with players...I know when he [Don Smart] has the ball what he wants to do and perhaps what he's going to do. If I go near post he looks for me on the near post. If I go far post he finds on the far post."
Today is another home fixture for the boys and they face their expansion cousin Ottawa Fury yet again. I don't expect a hat trick every time out, but I wont complain if it happens. The win on Wednesday was needed because it restored the teams collective confidence. The result in Miami is not the story of this team defined by resilience and grit. The season is only recently past the halfway point and there will be more goals to come. Indy has 8 wins at this juncture which equals the total number of wins from 2015.
Records were made to be broken. Wear a hat next time.