From the first time Tim Hankinson spoke to the fans in Indianapolis, he had said he was looking for warriors. It's not an uncommon philosophy in sports, but it is one easier said than done. He's found them! And they defend Carroll Stadium with a grit that would inspire General Lew Wallace and his hipster beard.
The Eleven held the Fort on Saturday night and battled hard against the visiting Minnesota United FC. The 1-0 scoreline will not tell the full story but the Indy Eleven were once again victorious at home. The banks of the mighty White River are still safe and the checkered banners still hang proudly around the stadium. The Mike has become a fortress.
Indy Eleven are undefeated on the season due to technicalities and definitions, but there is no denying the Indy Eleven's stats when playing for the Brickyard Battalion at home. This team really likes red and blue smoke.
- 13 goals during 6 home games in NASL competition.
- 4 wins and 2 draws in NASL competition.
- 6 wins and 2 draws including USOC and a mid-season friendly
- 5 game home win streak (Including wins against both the best of the USL and Liga MX)
The boys in monochromatic blue (At Home) are the most dangerous team in North America right now. This team is both inspiring and inspired when playing in blue socks, shorts and shirts. Jon Busch is the only exception because he plays 10 feet tall wearing sweatpants and a dad hat.
Jon Busch is 39 but still managed to unlock gamebreaker mode in the 37th minute. He guessed correctly and denied a penalty attempt from from Christian Ramirez who happens to lead the NASL in goals. Busch had it the whole way in a classic "ball never lies" scenario. That save kept a 0-0 score heading into the halftime break and and was what paved the way for Dylan Mares' second half performance.
There are three players remaining from Indy Eleven's original 2014 roster. Mares is one of them and proved why on Saturday night. Mares stole the show and Man of the Match with not one but two game changing plays.
Luck is what happens when practice meets preparation.
Mares converted from distance with a perfectly weighted ball in the 78th minute. He intercepted Lance Laing and punished Minnesota by himself while simultaneously forcing goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock to question everything he knows about physics.
And Mares was the hero again. This time it was in the 90th minute. Every one of the Eleven were beaten on a corner except for the native Hoosier patrolling the goal line. He was in a perfect position and he headed the ball clear in the end. After the game Mares was asked about his positioning during that play. His response was simple and matter of fact. He didn't seem too impressed with his game winning save.
"I am always on the front post."
The score held after 5 minutes of stoppage time. Celebrations and congratulations among the players showed just how truly devoted to each other and the result they were. This game meant something. The team was yelling and embracing as if they had just achieved glory in an ancient battle.
Even with a guaranteed home match in the playoffs, the Eleven are pursuing greatness and hope to claim more victories in the process. Winning the NASL Spring Season has allowed them the chance to rest, but they aren't taking it. The team knows how important home field advantage is to them and the The Brickyard Battalion. This team has stated goals of going undefeated and raising more hardware like they did on Saturday. An idea that sounded crazy three months ago seems surprisingly attainable today.
The spring trophy was shared but it will be put away as a reminder. Although it is a beautiful sight to behold, as a fan of this team, it is not the ultimate goal. The warriors will keep grinding out points through sheer acts of will, heroism, and guts and we will love them for it.
The next few days will once again test the inner strength of this team. Moments of heart and brilliance may be called upon with an upcoming home match on Wednesday and the Minnesota rematch only three days later. A poor man's home and home fixture will be sandwiched with a visit from Ft Lauderdale Strikers.
"It's going to be one of those things where we have just got to come in mentally tough. We have 3 games in one week and we have just got to stay focused. Everyone has to be ready." -Dylan Mares
The advantage in the Wednesday match will surely go to the Eleven as they are hosting and with one more day of rest. The strikers will be road weary having traveled to Edmonton on the Sunday before. It will be tough as the Strikers are on a bit of a run themselves, but I think the real challenge will be in not looking too far ahead to the looming trip north.
The dying moments at Ft. Carroll got more than a bit chippy on Saturday. Minnesota will have 6 days to stew and to study. Their gameplan wasn't really that far off and the offside trap was very effective against Indy. The Eleven will be thinking and preparing for one game at a time. Indy having bested and embarrassed a team with championship ambitions will provide more than enough fuel for the Loons to bring everything they have, but Indy Head Coach Tim Hankinson will have something up his sleeve for sure. His substitutions and changes on Saturday earned Indy 3 points.
The second annual Game of Kings euchre tournament is coming up. Register Here
It will be held at Chatham tap in Fishers with proceeds to benefit Playworks Indiana. Prizes and Championship Belts will be up for grabs.
Game of Kings II: The Reckoning July 20th