The annual tradition that pits Indy Eleven against Indiana University Men’s Soccer, now in its third year, is an excellent opportunity for a group of pros just beginning to coalesce and find their chemistry at the beginning of their preseason to test their collective skills against the products of one of the nation’s strongest collegiate programs.
But it’s more than just a pro versus the varsity starters exhibition, it’s an opportunity for players new to the state of Indiana to learn what it means to be a Hoosier.
When the pros stepped onto the turf at the John Mellencamp Sports Pavilion last night, they saw the words writ large on the walls behind the goals: “Play Hard … Play Smart … Play Physical…” When the whistle blew to start the game, they learned how it felt to see that philosophy in action. The Hoosiers came out hard.
Indy managed to score the first goal, thanks to the hustle of Brad Ring, an Eleven player who played college ball at IU from 2005-2008. As the team’s Tweeted recap explained:
“33′ GOAL INDY! Ring’s stinger from 30 blocked right into path of Smart, whose far post cross is nodded home by Zayed.”
IU continued its aggressive press, however, and managed to score and equalizer within 5 minutes. The first period concluded without any additional goals. The second period ended scoreless, as well. So the series no stands at 1-1-1, with Indy taking the first win in 2014, IU winning last year and the two settling for a tie on Friday.
What can be learned from the experience and put to use for Indy as the team continues in 2016, working though its preseason toward its home opener against the Ottawa Fury on April 9 at Michael Carroll Stadium in Downtown Indianapolis?
Here’s a word they can meditate upon moving forward: Finesse.
The word came to mind Friday as a solid Indy scoring opportunity sailed high and wide of the Hoosier net, the result of a ball blasted that could have used instead finesse.
The word applied to other instances, namely on a couple occasions where players employed showier techniques when simplicity would have work just as well. For instance, why opt for an outside-of-the-foot pass, flicked over a defender’s head with the hope it would be controlled by a rushing attacker when an simple inside-of-the-foot pass delivered with finesse to feet would have been more effective — and included the benefit of maintaining possession? The hopeful flicking (as well as hopeful blasting from deeper) often resulted in the ball stuffed right back down on Indy’s defense.
In a brief exchange after the game, when asked his thoughts about the frantic pace which Indy exhibited in the opening minutes of the match, the Hoosiers’ head coach, Todd Yeagley, said he thought the long ball blasts spoke well of his team’s aggressive efforts to step up.
Paraphrasing Yeagley here: “Most college teams would hold a compact back, trying to absorb what the [more experienced team] brings. But the Hoosiers are fit, we’ve been working out together for two months, while Indy has been back in training for just a few days. Rather than hold back, we decided to press. I don’t think they were anticipating that much pressure.”
In an interview with Greg Rakestraw’s Soccer Saturday, Indy midfielder Dylan Mares offered his post-game analysis. He noted that the 9v9 indoor format was challenging for his squad, the field smaller dimensions presented a different dynamic with two fewer players on the field.
“It’s definitely fun playing those guys (Indiana) because they work hard, they’re athletic — and it makes it challenging for us,” Mares said. “It’s not necessarily a walk in the park just because they’re a college team. And you can’t go in there thinking that. I don’t think we did.. I don’t think we came off on the right foot. But, again, it’s preseason. We’ve only been at it a week and half, two weeks now. It helps us learn a little more about ourselves going forward.”
First half notes from the sideline:
Opening minutes, Indy pacing seems rushed. They crashed many long balls.
The first scoring opportunity worth noting: an Indy forward stumbled in front of goal, leaving Brad Ring with what seemed like a good scoring opportunity. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Then came an Indiana onslaught, a couple Hoosiers succeed in working to the far right corner of the field, bringing a mess of Indy defenders with them, they quickly dropped to a teammate rushing the right corner of the 18. As Indy Coach Tim Hankinson is screaming “Step to the ball!” a Hoosier shot forces keeper Jon Busch into action.
Indy counters, but IU is right back on the attack, forcing another Busch save. Then comes another excellent attack in which a player whose name we should know (Help Me Out Here IU Soccer Media), weaves through what seems like three Indy guys and should have scored. Alas.
Then, yet another potent fast attack from IU.
At least one Indy dude begins grumbling and Hankinson encourages him to “stay in the game (and) not loose cool.”
Don Smart enters, Siniša takes a break.
Brad Ring springs an attack from the right and Don Smart and Eamon Zayed finish the kill from the left. Goal!!!
Ring and Smart have been leaders from the team’s inaugural season in 2014. Zayed, the League of Ireland’s 2011 Player of the Year, is new to Indy this year. (Among his attacking accolades are many noted hat tricks.)
IU responds with a immediate counter from the left flank, but the shot flies wide.
Then Indiana’s Phil Fives finds a pocket — sensed by Yeagley, who screams, “There it is!” — as the kid presses from the center, then pulls wide and rips a shot from around the right corner of the 18. Scored equalized within five minutes!
Maybe three minutes later, IU shoots again, only denied the inner net because Busch threw himself in harm’s way. The resulting corner results in IU forcing Busch into action yet again. At the 1-minute-mark, IU unleashed another decent shot that sailed wide of the goal.
The second half brought a whole new starting lineup for Indy. [How many changes did the Hoosiers make? We’ll have to wait for IU to fill in the blank on that one.] The Eleven fielded many familiar Indy faces in the second half, just one new team member, Neil Shaffer.
“Possession!” Hankinson instructs.
“Why let him have it?” the coach asks a player he wished stepped up to shut down an IU possession more quickly in the midfield. “Walk forward and keep him to one side!”
To the team he advised, “Hold the ball up, building deeper and moving forward!” Also on several occasions, “Shape! On your block!”
Assistant Indy Coach Tim Regan informed the frontline, “Don’t always be looking to turn by yourself. Trap it and pass it … if it takes you more than two touches, it’s not good enough!”
Aside from IU forcing one last Busch save, Indy pressed hard enough to cause Coach Yeagley to yell at his defenders not to attempt anything fancy when the Eleven’s frontline were swarming the goal like sharks smelling blood in the water. When the pressure gets dangerous on D, Yeagley said, “it’s up and out, there’s no touch!”
His father, also the father of the IU Soccer program, former head coach Jerry Yeagley watched quietly from the sidelines, a subtle grin of what appeared to be satisfaction often spread across this lips.
Scoring Summary and lineups courtesy of the great John Koluder, Indy Eleven’s communications captain:
INDY – Eamon Zayed (Don Smart) 33’
IU – 38’
Indy Eleven 1st Half IX (3-1-3-1): Jon Busch; Lovel Palmer, Colin Falvey, Nemanja Vukovic; Nicki Paterson; Brad Ring, Sinisa Ubiparipovic (Don Smart 30’), Justin Braun; Eamon Zayed
Indy Eleven 2nd Half IX (3-1-3-1): Keith Cardona; Marco Franco (Don Smart 77’), Cory Miller, Neil Shaffer; Daniel Keller; Dragan Stojkov, Dylan Mares, Duke Lacroix; Wojciech Wojcik (Greg Janicki 67’)