It was a night filled with anticipation and excitement. The New York Cosmos, No. 1 in the North American Soccer League (NASL), had come to town. A showdown between two giants was about to unfold. The feeling in the stadium was electric. There was a buzz before the game as fans spilled into Carroll Stadium. Both teams are on a direct course for the playoffs but for this evening, only one team could emerge victorious.
From the beginning of the game, it was all about the Eleven. Within the first ten minutes of action, Indy launched four legitimate offensive attacks. All shot attempts were stopped short by some outstanding goalie play. After the initial dominance of the Eleven, the Cosmos finally got their offense firing. The two teams traded fruitless possessions through the first 20 minutes. Both defenses had a bend but don’t break mentality. Every time the opposing team would get within scoring range, the defense would tighten their grip and clear the ball. Things got feisty as this style of play continued. Both sides were frustrated with the lack of scoring output, and shoves and kicks became more frequent. The officials let the teams play and rarely blew the whistle, which meant for an entertaining brand of soccer. The score remained deadlocked until the 32nd minute when Indy’s Justin Braun snuck the ball past New York’s keeper. Immediately following the goal, an angry Cosmo’s squad pushed the ball downfield in a well-run approach. It was not to be, however, as an Eleven defender stole the ball on a beautiful tackle. The rest of the half was a goalkeeper showcase. There were many quality shots fired, but all ended up in the gloves of the keeper. When the halftime horn sounded, Indy clung to a 1-0 lead.
There was a certain grogginess to both squads coming out of the half. There was a lack of passion and drive. Within a few minutes, the pace quickened. Indy resumed their shot taking tendencies, which paid off well for the Eleven. Eamon Zayed scored in the 48th minute off a well-placed pass from Dylan Mares. New York allowed this goal because of a dangerous attack plan, setting four men on the midfield line to be prepared to take the ball on offense. The shorthanded defense could do little to stop Zayed as he flashed into the box. New York again made an aggressive push following the goal. After losing the ball, Indy made a push of their own, which resulted much better than New York’s. Indy netted it’s second goal in three minutes, this time coming from the foot of Dylan Mares and assisted by Justin Braun. The two goal swing sent the crowd into a frenzy, cheering madly for the hometown athlete. New York stepped up their somewhat reserved offense upon reaching the 3-0 deficit. The offense made brave moves and took every open shot opportunity they had. They had some quality looks that just came off the foot wrong, sailing high or wide of the net. Indy, on the other hand, delved into a prevent scheme, where they bled the clock on offense and gave absolute effort on defense. The plan proved effective for the Eleven, as they hung on for the victory over New York by a score of 3-0.
Reflecting on the game, Coach Tim Hankinson said, “We haven’t forgotten about the spanking in New York. The thing we didn’t do in New York is we didn’t make defensive plays. We didn’t step up to tackle, we didn’t step up to block, we didn’t step up to chase players or disrupt them. That was a big part of tonight’s win, to make sure that we did that so they didn’t have free looks at our goal. Our guys did an outstanding job with that.”
With the win, Indy has bumped themselves into the number two spot in the season standings, trailing only New York. Next for the Eleven is FC Edmonton, who currently sits at third.
In regards to the impending Edmonton game, forward Justin Braun said, “It’s big for us. We closed the gap on that first place tonight. I think if we can go in there and pick up three points that will make that gap even closer. Hopefully we can push for a fall title and an overall combined standing title as well.”
The Eleven play FC Edmonton October 2 at Edmonton. They look to narrow the gap on New York and pick up a convincing victory against a strong Edmonton squad.