After dismantling Swope Park Rangers 5-1, the New York Red Bulls II continue their road trip in Indianapolis against Indy Eleven. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM EST at Lucas Oil Stadium on Wednesday.
The “Baby Bulls”, having righted the ship after their loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, now look to extend their win streak to three in a top-of-the-table clash with Indy Eleven. They still hold the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and sit two points clear of Nashville SC.
Indy Eleven pose the most serious threat to their position, however. They sit in 4th place in the Eastern Conference, but have played 3 less games than NYRBII. They only sit 6 points adrift of the top spot, making this a match of serious interest for both teams. The Eleven have rattled off wins in 3 of their last 4 games, tying their most recent game against Louisville City. More importantly, they have not yet lost a home game this season, winning 8 and drawing 4.
Although they look to be a formidable opponent, in the two teams’ previous meeting, the Baby Bulls took care of business. Back in April, NYRBII took all three points from their clash with the Eleven, despite trailing early at the hands of Dane Kelly in the 13th minute. However, a Jared Stroud penalty cancelled out Kelly’s opener in the 60th minute, and Tom Barlow scored a trademark goal to flip the score nine minutes later. Indy didn’t threaten throughout the game, with RBII outshooting them 28-5, and couldn’t contain the Red Bull attack. However, they are a very different team at this stage in the season.
With massive implications for seeding at the top of the USL Championship table, this is a major clash for both sides. A win for the Eleven pushes them firmly into the race for the top seed, while a win for NYRBII consolidates first place. With both teams in fine form, it should be a great contest.
Indy Eleven play a very unique style, lining up with three at the back and two strikers. They split the field into two halves, with their two anchoring midfielders and five defenders not moving past the halfway line when they don’t have the ball. The two strikers and attacking midfielder rarely drop into their own half, unless they are collecting the ball. They rely on driving runs from their wingbacks, and, occasionally, their center backs to provide width. Their forwards drop into the midfield to provide options while the two anchoring midfielders drift wide to offer options to the wingbacks.
In the first matchup between these teams, the Baby Bulls were able to limit the tight interplay on the flanks for the Eleven and held the Indy attack mostly in check for the game, despite being hit on the counter attack early. They were able to exploit the lack of mobility of Indy’s three at the back, catching them too deep on the play leading to the Stroud penalty, and too far up for the Barlow goal.
Players to look for
Tyler Pasher (FW): With somewhat of a revolving door at the striker spots this season, Tyler Pasher has been the only consistent scorer for the Eleven this season. With Dane Kelly having massively cooled off since the start of the season and Thomas Enevoldsen being offloaded to Sacramento, much of the scoring load has fallen on Pasher. He has been able to carry this load however, being the only player on the team to strike double digit goals, also chipping in with two assists. His blazing speed and movement make him a wreaker of havoc on a defense, as he drifts wide, drops into the midfield, and makes searing runs in behind depending on the state of the game. Coupled with his finishing ability, he is a handful for any defense.
Ayoze (DF): While his numbers certainly don’t jump off the page, he is a veritable threat for this Eleven team. Despite only registering 1 goal and 3 assists this season in USL play, he has been a very good creator from the left wing back spot for Indy. He is an excellent dribbler and passes the ball well in tight spaces. He serves as the set piece and corner taker for Indy, almost always delivering an excellent cross. According to USL’s statistics, he is joint 16th in terms of chance creation league wide, having created 48 chances. He has a sweet left foot, and is always a danger whenever he receives the ball.
Jean-Christophe Koffi (MF): The University of Virginia product has put together an impressive year in his first season for NYRBII despite a somewhat rocky start. Very little of the work that Koffi does will wind up on the stat sheet, but his defensive contributions this year have been critical. His ability to go from box to box with ease, recovering the ball and springing the attack has been unbelievable this season. He sits second in the team in tackles and first in duels won, also chipping in with 29 interceptions. The importance of his work for this team can’t be overstated.
Edgardo Rito (DF): In his first season for the Baby Bulls, the Venezuelan right back has been dazzling. He has scored twice this season, including one last weekend against Swope Park Rangers. He has also registered an assist this season, but his play this season goes far beyond his numbers. His ability to beat players off of the dribble and force dangerous balls into the box has created havoc for teams this season, and he serves as a unique threat on the right side.
His blazing pace and dribbling ability make him a serious offensive threat on the right wing, particularly against teams like the Eleven who can be caught in transition short a man on defense, leaving their center backs to try to defend against him one-on-one. This could be an excellent game for him.
Photo by John Perdicaro