Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven at Rayo OKC
Sunday, October 30, 2016 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Miller Stadium - Yukon, OK
Puerto Rico FC: â€‹
Media Game Notes:
Last Time Out – Indy Eleven 3 : 0 Puerto Rico FC
In the final regular season game at Carroll Stadium, Indy Eleven enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over Puerto Rico FC thanks to goals from Justin Braun, Eamon Zayed, and Dylan Mares.
A cool October evening at "The Mike" started out with a bang as Indy attacked from the get-go, often getting the better of the chances in the opening minutes. Despite their heavy attack, it wouldn't be until the 36th minute that they would open the scoring when Justin Braun took a Sinisa Ubiparipovic pass and beat Puerto Rico FC 'keeper Trevor Spangenburg in front of the East End. Still barreling forward, Indy Eleven would also score their other two goals in the first half - Eamon Zayed off a rebound from a missed penalty and Dylan Mares off a bouncing ball just outside the area - to put them up in high fashion at the break.
Though the second half saw opportunities fall to both sides, neither would capitalize and Indy achieved something only two other clubs had before them - extending their home unbeaten streak to 18 straight games with the opportunity to continue that in the 2017 Spring Season. The win leaves Indiana's Team in second heading into the final regular season game against Rayo OKC.
Last Time Out - Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0 : 2 Rayo OKC
For a surging Rayo OKC still looking to lock up the final postseason spot, it was vital for them to pick up the three points against another playoff contender in the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Thanks to second half goals from Sebastian Ibeagha and Pecka, they did just that to get one step closer to a potential semifinal against the New York Cosmos in The Championship.
After a scoreless first 45 minutes, it only took five minutes into the second half for defender Sebastian Ibeagha to open the scoring. The centerback capitalized on an error by Strikers' 'netminder Bruno and knocked it in the back of the net, much to the chagrin of the host side. As Fort Lauderdale battled back, Rayo OKC 'keeper Bryan Byars made three crucial saves to preserve the lead before getting some extra help late in the match. Just before full-time, substitute midfielder/forward Pecka received a pass from defender Michel and buried the second goal of the game, clinching the all-important win and giving his side some much needed relief.
The three points saw Rayo OKC jump into fourth place in the Combined Season standings with Minnesota United FC faltering, and means that a positive result against Indy will guarantee them a spot in the postseason under new head coach Gerard Nus.
One Down, One To Go...
With a semifinal matchup against FC Edmonton looming on November 5, the "Boys in Blue" have just one regular season game to focus on - but it is one that could have massive implications on the postseason given how Saturday night's games shake out.
As only one result hangs in the balance, only the pair of Rayo OKC and Minnesota United FC are in contention for the spot, with the latter hosting Fall Season champions the New York Cosmos on Saturday night in a make-or-break game. Should Minnesota lose or draw against New York, the spot is automatically Rayo OKC's by way of no other team being able to draw level on points. However, should Minnesota defeat the Cosmos and match OKC's points, it would be up to the westerners to at least draw with Indy Eleven on Sunday night to ensure they earn that spot.
Head coach Tim Hankinson was bullish on the matchup, saying that, should Rayo indeed secure postseason qualification before they meet at Miller Stadium, some fringe players may get a chance to get more minutes. Should the opposite happen, however, it may not be the same story. Either way, postseason slots are set in stone this weekend, and it could all end as early as Saturday night.
Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: MF Duke Lacroix
He's been nominated for Young Player of the Year, he recently won NASL Play of the Week for his goal against the Rowdies, and now, Lacroix has another chance to show his stuff this weekend should he earn the start against OKC. Having not made the bench the last time the two met in a 2-1 win at "The Mike" in August, Lacroix will be somewhat unfamilar territory to Gerard Nus's men, though his blinding pace and quick feet are a secret to no one in the league.
Should he operate on the left side, it's possible he goes one-on-one with OKC right-back Kosuke Kimura, who has registered 31 appearances this season with one assist. The sturdy defender saw all 90 minutes of action against Indy in August, but could not contribute much in the loss. However, should Lacroix be employed on the right side he may be facing left-back Jarad Van Schaik, who has only registered 16 appearances this season. It appears to be a tale of two different sets of players for the University of Pennsylvania grad if he makes the starting XI, but he would once again get an opportunity to push for further postseason minutes if he can impress "Coach Hank" once more.
Who to Watch, Rayo OKC edition: MF Michel
Always a dangerous option from a midfield position, Michel continues to be the one to watch from a Rayo OKC perspective. With 14 goals in 27 appearances with a pair from a set-piece chances, the Brazilian's eye for goal is well documented. Though he was not on the scoresheet against Indy in August, he did manage a goal during Indy's 2-1 away win in April, beating Eleven 'keeper Jon Busch from a free kick just outside the area.
Adding to Michel's goal threat is his passing ability and distribution. Though he has just three assists on the year, he has created 42 chances and boasts a conversion rate of 31.1% - an impressive mark for a midfielder. Sitting top the scoring charts for his club, forward Robbie Findley's four goals in 21 appearances are a distant second, meaning Michel will be the biggest threat to watch from open play and on set pieces for this road trip.
Match-up to Mark: GK Jon Busch vs. FW Billy Forbes
Relatively quiet in the only two meetings between Indy and OKC in history, midfielder Billy Forbes has not left his mark on the matches that he would have wanted against the "Boys in Blue." In August, Forbes featured for 86 minutes and completed 12/15 passes but only registered one shot on Busch's goal, which was easily saved by the veteran 'keeper. However, if Rayo ends up needing at least a point from this game, the Indy 'netminder may see more of Forbes than in the past.
One thing going against Forbes and co. though is Indy's incredible run in recent games. Conceding a total of two goals in their last four games that also included three clean sheets, what made Indiana's Team such a threat in the Spring Season has returned at the right time in the fall - their defense. As Greg Janicki and Colin Falvey take the reigns once more, it will fall on the hosts to break down whoever slots in the backline this weekend, which is easier said than done.