We try to find the silver living in a disappointing draw for Indy Eleven.
As the playoff push heats up, Indy Eleven find themselves in the thick of it. The Eleven have been fighting a tight schedule, inconsistent play, and battles with injuries during this stretch. The team is attempting to secure the second playoff berth in team history, their first in USL play, and every match has become an almost must-win scenario. Unfortunately, Indy had another defensive lapse and cost themselves valuable points on the road. Let’s dig into a frustrating 1-1 draw with Atlanta United 2 and see why the Eleven showed positive signs, despite a poor result.
Formation Changes Spark Offense
Early this season, Indy had been known to operate in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The team was focused on playing strong defense and protecting themselves from sustained attacks. While this led to clean sheets, it hampered the team’s ability to dominate games and put shots on goal. As this team has gelled together, a change has taken place that has unleashed the Eleven’s potential.
While matches against the bottom teams aren’t always good benchmarks, Indy has had strong offensive performances against Toronto FC II and Atlanta United 2 in the past week. The team has lined up in a 4-3-3, allowing more players forward and sustaining attacking moves for longer periods. As a result, especially against Atlanta, Indy controlled the match and put pressure on the backline. The Eleven had 13 shots against ATL2, including three on target. Instead of getting frustrated, they continued to push and eventually were rewarded with a second-half goal off of a corner-kick.
Indy found multiple ways to attack Atlanta and finally looked like the talented outfit they are on paper. Most matches will not feature as strong of a defensive performance and won’t result in as many blocked shots. If Indy can remain patient and keep on this path, they will continue to take pressure off of the back line and put the team in positions to win.
Lack of Formation Change Hampers Defense
While the 4-3-3 has been a revelation for the offense, it has caused the defense some issues. Against TFCII, the formation allowed them to strike on counter attacks without adequate backline cover. In this match, the same issues arose and cost the Eleven valuable points.
While the equalizing goal can be written off as a fluke goalkeeping error, it came about from sustained ATL2 pressure. Towards the end of the match, Indy were unable to sustain the same amount of control and it cost them. Atlanta kept pushing for the tying goal, forcing Owain Fon Williams into making a good save. As ATL2 came in for another attack, the Indy defense failed to clear a chip into the box. Dylan Gaither got onto the end of the ball, put a devastating move on Fon Williams, and slotted the ball into the open net.
With the change in formation, Indy have opened up their offensive game. However, Martin Rennie has struggled in making the appropriate changes mid-match to maintain leads when they arrive. For two matches in a row, the Eleven have given up leads they should have maintained. After seeing these two collapses, it simply comes down to making simple changes to match game conditions. When the Eleven lead, they need to get into the habit of switching back to a more defensive setup. While this may be viewed as “negative” play, it will get the results Indy needs to earn their playoff place.
The good news is that this is a simple change that the Eleven should be able to make easily. The work they put into learning defensive formations early on will pay great dividends, as long as they utilize that knowledge. By reading the match and responding to what the opposition is doing, Indy can salvage lost points and continue marching toward USL Cup.
The Bottom Line
Indy should be disappointed to come out of Atlanta with a draw. Considering their respective positions on the table, Indy should have won this match easily. However, a failure to adapt doomed the Eleven to another frustrating result on the road. This issue is not new but will improve with time. Martin Rennie is learning, just as his players are, and Indy are working to improve on their weaknesses. While being upset is understandable, Eleven fans should see this as a team that is willing to make changes to improve their efforts. This effort will pay off eventually, and Indy is on track for some exciting soccer in the near future.