|Now wearing No.2 goal scorer Dylan Mares returns to Indy Eleven in 2018|
By: REBECCA TOWNSEND (aka The Pitch Bitch)
A clutch player scored a clutch goal just in time to save his club from a confidence-killing tie Wednesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Midfielder Dylan Mares, a native of Zionsville Indiana, played for Indy Eleven for its first three seasons before heading to the NASL's Miami FC at the beginning of the 2017 season and continuing into the NPSL with Miami FC II. After winning a league championship for the latter, Mares accepted Indy's offer to return for the balance of the USL season. He arrived just in time.
Indy Eleven opened the evening strong, scoring two excellent, run-of-play goals in the first 25 minutes. The first came from Ben Speas from the top of the 18, following a laser-like pass from Nico Matern (the team leader in passing accuracy) deep in Indy's defensive half. Jack McInerney (the team's leading goal scorer) jumped on a loose ball minutes later, forcing his opponents to pay a heavy toll for their failure to achieve control.
Optimism and euphoria were shortlived, however. Before halftime, the visitors found Indy's net twice, as well. The first came from a Tsubasa Endoh free kick at the top of the 18, sent straight over the wall, curving into the upper left corner of the frame. The equalizer came when Toronto's Jordan Hamilton nailed a loose ball, keeping it low and on target to slide just inside the post.
"WTF are we in for now?" the collective thought bubble could have read as the crowd waited for the second half to begin.
They didn't have to wait long. The True Hoosier Mares showed why he's worth every last cent he is paid (and more) in the 58th minute. Receiving the ball in midfield, ably weaving through the pressure of multiple players as his teammates fan out to provide options, and draw additional pressure, out to both sides. Toronto, like a deer in the headlights, was caught flat-footed, not knowing whether the true threat lay with Speas to Mares' left or with Soony Saad, also within striking distance.
True to one of the most basic tenets of soccer, the most pressing threat lays with the ball itself. And in this case, the ball lay at the feet of a home-grown soccer prodigy, a prodigal son sent away to the wild beaches of Miami, only to return home as pure and trustworthy as before he left. (Or could he have even grown better in his absence?!)
Indiana's own Dylan Mares could have passed to Speas or Saad, but with his excellent passing and control, he held on just long enough to freak everyone out and then delivered the kill shot.
"It was well done by everyone else," Mares said in post-game notes from the team. "They gave me the space to create an opportunity.”
|USL Eastern Conference playoff positions as of 8/23/2018|
Mr. Mares, reliable sources tell me that at least once in my career as a soccer chronicler, I've raised the hackles of some of the boys in the locker room, a posse that may have included you. I have memories of John Koluder asking me how well I'd like it if someone told me how to do my job after I shared one of my most valuable soccer lessons: "the big butt turn" aka "how to throw every last thing you have at an opponent when they're about to beat you." I thought Koluder's question was pretty funny considering I was a professional reporter — a position in which pretty much everyone felt qualified to chime in about how I could best do my work.
Here's another nugget of wisdom: You needn't worry about the critics. Just keep doing you.
I'd like you to know, young man, that watching you grow as a player over the past five years is one of the greatest joys I've had doing this job. Welcome home, buddy! Here are what the Pitch Bitch game notes say about you last night, just before you scored — then edited to reflect your goal:
"Dylan hustling on D, in the midfield taking hits, making plays, absorbing pressure, SCORING!"
I couldn't ask for anything more. Keep up the good work!
And that goes for the rest of you guys, too. How well you're working as a unit. How deeply talented you are. How many of you who deserve to play because you show up and work hard every day have to instead be graceful about sitting on the bench? Or worse yet, be here and not even able to play because of injury. Your collective spirit is encouraging, vibrant enough to carry us through the tail end of this season.
Game notes recorded a lovely bit of ball handling and teamwork in the waning minutes of the game between Speas, Ayoze, and Matern, setting up a tasty shot opportunity for another new teammate, forward Elliot Collier, stepping in around the 80th minute, his second match with Indy.
We will need to be deeply grounded for the gauntlet that lays ahead: A road game against Atlanta United FC 2 on Sat., Aug. 25 (watch party at Union Jack at 7 p.m.) will precede a three-home game stretch in seven days. The next home game will be at 7 p.m. Wed., Aug. 29, against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. See IndyEleven.com for schedule details.
Fee-free tickets are available for purchase through the Brickyard Battalion supporters club at BYBtix.com. The team has plenty of good deals, as well, at IndyEleven.com.