The New York Cosmos have made the postseason all three seasons of play. They’ve won the Spring Season (2015), Fall Season (2013), and Combined Standings (2015). In both of the years previously listed, they won the Soccer Bowl. They’ve beaten Atlanta, Edmonton, Ft Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Ottawa, San Antonio, and Tampa Bay.
And then there’s Indy.
1-1, 2-2, 0-0, 1-1, 1-1, and 1-1. The Cosmos and Indy have played each other six times, games that have always resulted in a draw with the goals averaging out to one per side per game. The Cosmos came back twice last year, Indy once.
But this time, the Cosmos might finally break the curse.
Indy’s offseason was spent making massive overhauls to the roster. Gone were players like goalkeeper Kristian Nicht, defender Erick Norales, and midfielder Kleberson. In their place, players like defender Nemanja Vukovic, goalkeeper Jon Busch, and forward Eamon Zayed. They acquired a trio of players from 2015 NASL Championship Final runner-up Ottawa Fury: midfielders Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Nicki Paterson and defender Colin Falvey. Other key acquisitions were made like veteran NASL defender Stephen Deroux and incoming Jamaican talent Dino Williams. Even a new head coach was brought in as Tim Hankinson took the reins from interim head coach Tim Regan.
But, the preseason did not go as expected.
Losses to Ottawa, the Orange County Blues and Louisville City, draws with FC Cincinnati and St. Louis FC, and less than convincing results against college teams filled their preseason.
In a preseason article from Bloody Shambles, Hankinson indicated his displeasure with the quality and work ethic of players on the team. He indicated changes would come and soon.
Deroux and Williams suffered injuries that would sideline them for months before they even put on the uniforms. Their cuts, along with Dragan Stojkov’s, would be announced just four days before their first match, Stojkov being cut to free up an international spot.
So after two games, how have the Indy Eleven held up? Not too badly. With matches played against the Rowdies and the Fury, they have forced draws against both, only scoring one goal in two games, but also only permitting one in the same time frame.
Much like Gio Savarese last year, Hankinson has used a 4-2-3-1 formation. While this has not boosted their offense, it has provided more depth on the defense and allowed them to hold their opposition to three or less shots on goal in their last two games.
In a match against a team with the firepower of the Cosmos, I wouldn’t expect them to try to match up offensively. While possessing a bright spot in Duke Lacroix, new acquisition Zayed tends to play too wide to make an impact on the attack, choosing to set up plays rather than be in position to finish them. In fact, the only goal scored in their two games so far came from defender Vukovic.
I doubt Indy will muster the offense to keep up with the Cosmos and will create few chances with themselves while the Cosmos offense will work to overwhelm their defenses and do what no team has been able to do consistently, test Jon Busch. Their biggest challenge may come in replacing Ubiparipovic, who left injured last week and was replaced by Mares.
I normally would not expect the Cosmos to make changes, but it’s unclear what Ruben Bover’s condition is after the injury that knocked him out of last week’s game at the end of the first half. If he is healthy, expect the same line-up as last week. If not, I’d think we see Flores out there as Gio attempts to keep a high-performance formation in shape. I also think Orozco gets his chance to start.
Indy Eleven (4-2-3-1): Busch, Vukovic, Janicki, Falvey, Palmer, Paterson, Ring, Lacroix, Mares, Reinoso, Zayed.
New York Cosmos (4-1-4-1): Maurer, Ayoze, Mendes, Ockford, Freeman, Lahoud, Flores, Kranjčar, Arango, Orozco, Arrieta.
Final: 3-1 Cosmos