The road is a lonely and unforgiving place. That is where the Eleven found themselves on Saturday night as they dropped their second straight away game. Two weeks ago it was Minnesota, but this week it was Miami FC that bested the boys in blue by a score of 2-1 (see footnote). The visitors were not outclassed but they were beaten out of the blocks yet again. Miami's first goal came just 4 minutes in and that set the tone for the contest.
It's not quite a pattern, but it is a trait to watch. Indy's visit to Minnesota had a similar feel with goals conceded before the team could get the match or their legs completely under them. Mistakes in the early minutes created a 2 nil deficit that Indy were not able to overcome. One got the feeling that Saturday vs Miami might yield a similar result, although not for a lack of trying.
There were times throughout the match that I almost felt sympathy for Miami. I thought how cruel it was to let them think they had the upper hand. It felt that it was only a matter of time until Indy would equalize, but as the match wore on, that feeling subsided. Indy chased the game for too long in the Florida heat.
Indy had the majority of possession and record setting performances. 47 crosses I would assume would be the club's new high mark. Passing percentages were well above average for the Eleven. Brad Ring and Gerardo Torrado went off for a dizzying combined 93% on 92 attemts. Eamon Zayed now has 9 goals across all competitions which puts him ahead of Kleberson for Indy's all-time scoring lead. He has 8 in the NASL which equals Kleb's output, but he's done it at a faster rate than his predecessor.
Miami's last outing was 3-3 draw vs the Carolina RailHawks. The two times Miami went up, they were brought back level in a back and forth match. Miami had given up 7 goals already during 4 matches played in the fall. This one seemed ripe for a comeback win, but it wasn't to be.
Did you know? Miami held a two goal lead for the first time in their NASL history. It was short lived, but it is worth noting. Only two teams in the NASL put up multiple goals on the Eleven in 2016. Minnesota have done it twice now during home and away matches, but Miami have themselves a bit of a scoring tear going on. 9 goals in 5 games during the fall. Impressive considering that Indy came into the match boasting the best GAA of the fall and being second only to FC Edmonton on the entire season.
Coach Hankinson did what he had to and what he could with his subs. There was nothing wrong with the performances from Ring or Torrado, but they made way for SInisa Ubiparipovic and Jair Reinoso in the hopes of creating some magic in front of goal. Don Smart came on for Omar Gordon sometime around the hour mark and his impact was felt immediately. The crosses rained down all night long and the shot tally climbed in concert with the game clock, but Miami countered and Indy were down 2-0 before fully coming alive and claiming an elusive goal in Florida.
Subbing off two very solid defensive midfielders for two attack minded options tells us two things about Indy Eleven and their coach. The first is that they are always going for it and the second is that he is willing make in-game adjustments when the original plan is not getting it done. The lineup that finished the game is probably the most dangerous selection that Indy could muster in any competition. There was a lot of firepower out there.
There was enough time for an equalizer after Zayed's mark in the 89th, but Indy has gone to the well a few too many times in the dying minutes and came up dry. They had a chance, but it was a chance to steal and not a whole chance to be honest. It's impossible to know, but perhaps the extra attempts to throw everything forward is what led to Miami's second score. Although, there were players in good defensive positions and it might have just been Miami's time for a bit of fortune in the game's closing stages.
One of the things that I was looking for during this match were the things that Coach Hankinson has told me he was looking for as a measuring stick. The idea is to get 50% of possession, completed/accurate crosses and shots on goal. Lets see how they did according to Opta Stats.
53% possession-23% completed crosses-29% shots on goal (excluding blocked shots)
This is a stumble and not a tailspin. The sky is not falling but the Indy Eleven do have some issues to work out with regards to stepping off the bus and getting their heads in it early. No team wants to chase for 85 minutes and that is especially true with such a busy week ahead.
Truthfully, this loss doesn't do anything to impact the tremendous season that Indy Eleven are having. This season, like all others, will be a work in progress until the end. Jacksonville Armada are next to face the Eleven at Fort Carroll where Indy have hosted 3 games, 3 victories and 3 shutouts this fall. I do not envy them. Indy's last midweek fixture was at home and Ft Lauderdale can tell you how that went.
Footnote: The team was actually wearing white as they tend to do on the road. Indy remains undefeated while wearing blue shirts at home. They have recorded 8 straight wins wearing blue shirts and blue shorts. I still refer the Indy as the boys in blue whether they are home or away. The team is also 2-0-0 wearing novelty socks. Anyway I really like the alliteration saying "bested the boys in blue" so that's what the footnote was for.