|The bright lights of Carolina proved too much for the Eleven on this night.|
By: Brandon Cockrum (@brew_wallace)
After a three game homestand that saw Indy Eleven claim three victories and nine points, the club hit the road for the first of three away matches. Game one found them in Cary, NC, at WakeMed Soccer Park taking on the Carolina Railhawks.
At the start of the 2016 campaign, the Railhawks were tabbed by many to be a dark horse playoff candidate, and they lived up to the hype, initially. After winning their first four games in the spring season, the Carolina club lost the plot, managing only two more points the rest of the way. The club used the break between the Spring and Fall seasons to add attacking talent with the addition of starting forwards Matt Fondy and Omar Bravo, a Chivas Guadalajara legend. Their results have improved since the break but the Railhawks have still struggled, largely due to the league’s most generous defense gifting goals to opponents.
Indy began the match with the same lineup as seen in the previous week's home victory over RayoOKC, with the exception of Cory Miller replacing a hobbled Colin Falvey in the center of the back line.
After kick-off both teams began testing each other, resulting in a few half chances and two dirty goalkeepers. At the 20th minute the game began to reveal itself when Eleven defender Greg Janicki rose above three Carolina defenders and goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald to direct a beautifully served corner kick from Dylan Mares into the back of the net.
|Janicki scores his fourth goal of 2016.|
Carolina forward Matt Fondy answered quickly, with a languid turn at the top of the box followed by low drive that snuck past a diving Jon Busch and inside the far post. After being shut out in his half season playing in Jacksonville, the Armada castoff has now scored four goals in five matches for the Railhawks.
An eventful ten minutes wrapped up with Indy forward Souleymane Youla earning a penalty kick for the Eleven. After winning a duel in the Carolina box the Guinean forward was pulled down by Carolina defender Drew Beckie. Facing a boisterous RaiIhawks supporter’s section, Indy’s talisman, Eamon Zayed cooly knocked his kick above a diving Fitzgerald to put Indy up 2-1 in the 30th minute.
For the remainder of the first half both teams continued attacking primarily from wide positions, Carolina testing Busch with long range efforts and the Eleven able moving a bit deeper into Railhawk territory.
The second half saw the home side come out on the front foot and find an equalizer in the first ten minutes. After a Carolina cross that Busch punched high and wide to his left, Railhawk defender Stephen Miller volleyed a looping ball back into the mixer, only instead of finding a scrum of players the ball found the inside of the side netting. Game tied, 2-2, 54th minute.
|Intentional or not, it still counts.|
The 64th minute saw the game's first controversy as match referee Mark Kadlecik reversed his initial penalty call following a conversation with his linesman. The resulting free kick was a blast on frame from the top of the 18-yard box that found Busch ready with a stout save.
Carolina paced the game’s second half and threatened Indy’s goal throughout, with the Eleven unable or unwilling to maintain sustained possession and able to muster just a few chances on goal. This pattern broke up a bit around the 70th minute after both teams made substitutions and the visiting club began looking a little more likely to find a third goal.
Across all of their 2016 contests, Indy had scored 11 goals in the final 15 minutes and allowed only 2. A poor Carolina defense came into the match having allowed 29 goals in 18 games. Despite being ineffective in the second half of the match, the table was set for Indy to do what they do best and earn it’s second road victory of the season, and also begin to change the narrative that they can't win away from home.
Carolina, however, had other plans and flipped the script on Indy. In the second of three posted minutes of injury time, a sliding Brad Ring incredulously used his hands to knock the ball of the foot of a Carolina attacker deep in Indy’s box.
|No denying this penalty shout.|
On the ensuing spot kick, a diving Busch correctly guessed the direction of Omar Bravo’s penalty effort but was unable to get a hand on the shot. A minute later the match was over, a deserved 3-2 victory for Carolina.
With the loss, the Eleven drop to third place in both the fall and combined season standings, trailing FC Edmonton and New York Cosmos.
The loss also continues Indy’s road woes. Since an April 30 victory over RayoOKC, the club has recorded four draws, three losses and zero wins away from Indiana.
The club is on the road for their next two matches, first away to Ottawa on Sunday, Aug. 28, and then at New York on Wednesday, Aug. 31. They return to the friendly confines of Carroll Stadium for a Sept. 3 match versus the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Will they return to Indy from two tough road matches having remedied their home sickness, or will they be in desperate need of three points and a warm embrace from the Brickyard Battalion?
While possession and passing accuracy weren’t necessarily the downfall of Indy on Saturday night, it certainly played a key role in the team being unable to finish off an inferior foe, and, ultimately, allowed Carolina to remain in the game until they found their injury-time match winner.
|Red: Carolina // Blue: Indy|
As always Bloody Shambles and Permanent Relegation are supporting Playworks Indiana children's charity with our #EamonZayedRule initiative. We are donating money for every goal Éamon Zayed scores this year and you can choose to play along or just make a one off donation to help us reach our target of $2000. Click Here for More Information.