Indy Eleven’s plague of injuries
INDIANAPOLIS — Every season has it’s unique challenges and 2017 will be no different for the Indy Eleven. What is different is the injury carousel with players hopping on and off with great regularity. While some players have remained relatively healthy throughout, others just can’t stay injury free, or even on the active roster. I am reluctant to name healthy players for fear of angering the soccer gods that are clearly already displeased with Indiana’s team. Injuries are a part of any sport, but Indy Eleven’s shallow roster has highlighted a handful of notable losses.
Don Smart was a player hoping to be the first in club history to crack 100 appearances. He could still do it but time is running out for the Jamaican who is currently 11th on the team in minutes played. My count also has him at 90 games and he is one of only a handful of players who have been with Indy since the inaugural season. He is one of two who have been around since the opening training camp in the spring of 2014. I will not mention the other one. Smart will miss at least one more week with a strained oblique and that will give him exactly 10 games to close out this grueling campaign.
Craig Henderson is new to this year’s Indy roster but no stranger to the injury report. He is now out with a calf strain and has been unavailable the last few games. This is one of the players the team was counting on for veteran play off the bench. He has only 13 appearances with four starts, but he takes the field in almost every game when he is healthy. His absence makes way for rookies like Tanner Thompson, but the leap from college to the pro game is noticeable. The 30-year-old Kiwi with 13 years experience is looking at 1-2 more weeks of bench time.
Both Henderson and Smart have missed time already this season for other ailments. The same is true of Nemanja Vukovic. Last year’s ironman made his second stint on the injury report a short one. The bright spot here is that Vukovic is expected to go this weekend. He was healthy enough to be considered a game-time decision last week. He looked strong taking free kicks during training on Friday.
The most improved player award in the 2017 season goes to Daniel Keller. He has proven himself time and time again. And he has been instrumental to the success Indy has enjoyed this season. Because he is so important to this team, it is only proper for him to also succumb to injury. Keller was spotted wearing tennis shoes on the training grounds which is never a good sign for starting the following day.
There are other various players dealing with ailments. Some of those are known, but part of being a professional is playing through pain. There are more than four players on the Indy roster that would love some extra recovery time, but they simply aren’t going to get it. 21 players on the official roster and three of them are goalies. Any more players go down and head coach Tim Hankinson will have to call his own number.
Sinisa Ubiparipovic spent his morning on the exercise bike. He is a player that hasn’t really been 100% since he signed with Indy Last season. No matter how you slice it, yet another experienced player is unavailable. Healthy bodies for tactical training would also be of some benefit, but I imagine Hankinson is afraid to have his players do anything other than pillow-fight during practice at this point. There obviously aren’t enough for 8v8 so you can forget about 11v11 formations in preparation for opponents.
And so we get to Justin Braun. The look on his face told the story last weekend. He knew what we knew when he was subbed out after playing a handful of minutes in the second half. We just didn’t know the extent. It will come as no surprise that Braun will be out indefinitely. The team is currently awaiting additional results of an MRI and therefore Braun’s treatment/recovery process is unknown. It is a tough blow for Braun and a team that has been struggling to stay healthy all year.
There just isn”t enough depth to deal with this much adversity. Even still, the Eleven are only a few points out of a playoff spot. It is still within reach although the odds lessen with every dropped point and with every bump or bruise.
The players are still fighting. The 3-2 loss to Jacksonville is a testament to that. It would have been easy to roll over after giving up three goals at home. The boys in blue clawed back a goal even after Braun went down and even while playing with 10 men. Indy fans are going to see more David Goldsmith than they expected this year. The same is true of Adrian Ables . Both rookies have that fresh out of school look and both are going to be getting more minutes as the season closes out. One has their first professional goal and the other has recently had their first professional start. The silver lining is giving the young guys a chance to prove themselves and maybe earn a place on future Eleven squads.
The much anticipated return of Cory Miller may just be what the doctor ordered. I would put his start at very likely given the injury to Daniel Keller. He will get his first action in over a year on Saturday against the San Francisco Deltas. You may recall Miller had a season ending ankle injury that required surgery and a lengthy recovery process. Maybe that’s a coincidence. Maybe it’s nothing. The Indy Eleven have played the Deltas to a draw in all three previous meetings this season. Some have felt like wins and others have felt like losses. Funny how that works.
You can follow Aaron on Twitter: @agunyon
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