|Éamon Zayed knocks home Indy's second on the rebound after an initial penalty save by Spangenberg|
By: James Cormack
After two years of struggling to find their way in the NASL, Indy Eleven successfully managed to achieve being undefeated at home for an entire NASL regular season. As well as that they have seen home wins against Louisville City FC and FC Pachuca the Liga MX champions. Indy Eleven are now undefeated in their last 19 home games in NASL stretching back to a 3-1 win over Minnesota United on October 17th 2015.
Despite already achieving a playoff match on Nov.5th after winning the Spring Championship, Indy Eleven are not letting off the gas with three consecutive wins including a first fall road win in Tampa last week and 9 goals.
Puerto Rico FC made their first ever visit to Indianapolis and were shown no sympathy. The two teams met in Puerto Rico's debut match on July 2nd in an aggressive encounter that ended 1-1 after Souleymane Youla rescued a point for Indy in added time.
The most important factor in this match for Indy Eleven was simply to not lose. After resting starters and making changes for the away game in Tampa the Eleven welcomed back several. Captain Colin Falvey returned at the back with Greg Janicki as did Vukovic and Lovel Palmer. Dylan Mares and Don Smart provided the width in midfield with Ring and Ubiparipović completing it behind Éamon Zayed and Justin Braun in attack. Jon Busch returned to goal.
It took a large part of the first half of the match for Indy Eleven to find the breakthrough against the visitors, and the match again proved to be a little over physical at times just like the last. The first half saw several delays including a serious concern after an over physical challenge on Jon Busch and then Lovel Palmer had to exit the match after a head knock. Puerto Rico's Oliver who made the challenge on Busch walked after a red card for another aggressive tackle in the 38th minute.
|Siniša Ubiparipović provides the assist to Justin Braun to open the scoring|
Shortly before Puerto Rico FC were reduced to 10 men Indy Eleven finally found the net to open the scoring. Nemanja Vukovic came close to putting Indy ahead on 27 from a dead ball but his free kick was saved and pushed onto the bar by Spangenberg. Vuko was involved in the build up to the initial goal.
Greg Janicki found Vukovic deep on the left with a pass from center, Nemanja applied great vision to thread a pass around the right back and into the 18 finding Ubiparipović who sent the ball in to the front of goal and Justin Braun mopped up with a tap in from 6 yards to put the home side ahead in the game.
It was all downhill for PRFC in the first half from this point. A goal down and a man down Puerto Rico would have been aiming to go in at the break without conceding any more, and it looked like they might achieve that until a late flurry from Indy Eleven.
In the 45th minute Don Smart was pulled down in the 18 by his shirt and drew a penalty which Zayed stepped up to take. To his credit and despite the final scoreline Trevor Spangenberg had several fine saves in the game, and he got down well to block Éamon's initial kick but the ball spilled back out and Zayed knocked home on the rebound to put Indy Eleven 2-0 in front right before the half time whistle.
As the whistle approached and the clock wound down, Dylan Mares seemed unsatisfied with the scoreline and added one of his own. With a 2-0 lead and a man advantage the match was pretty much won, Mares made sure it was dead and buried before Puerto Rico could even catch a breath.
Deep into first half added time Mares founded himself in an advanced position ahead of Justin Braun, Indy's No.20 picked up the ball in the middle of the park and found Dylan Mares just outside the D of Puerto Rico's 18 yard box. Some nifty footwork and a side step to lose the defender gave Dylan enough space to drive a shot low into the right side of Spangenberg's net.
The game was over but to their credit Puerto Rico did well to stop any further scoring in the game, with 10 men they held Indy to 0-0 in the second half. Still a convincing win for the home side and of course a win that made sure Indy Eleven would not be beaten at home in the 2016 NASL regular season. Considering our fortunes in the first two years of competitive play, there is no getting away from just how huge and achievement this is.
"Every club in the world talks about taking care of your home games first, you want the stadium, the atmosphere, the way the players feel when they walk on the field to feel like this is their fortress, they are here to defend it with everything they've got , and we hope that feeling will carry us through the semi finals and into the final." Tim Hankinson, post match.
Indy Eleven move on to Oklahoma City to play their final regular season game next Saturday in a game that could decide who makes the final playoff spot for 2016. It's between Rayo OKC and Minnesota United who will host the leaders New York Cosmos. Rayo OKC currently have a three point lead over Minnesota.
Éamon Zayed took his NASL goal tally to 15 after scoring against Puerto Rico and has also scored one in the US Open Cup against Louisville City FC. All season long we have been raising money for Playworks Indiana using the #EamonZayedRule. There is still time to help us raise more if you would like to make a donation per goal or any amount of donation CLICK HERE TO DONATE. If you have previously pledged an amount per goal for this year we will be sending out an email notification after the match against Rayo OKC.