Indy Eleven are still undefeated and they went to bed with second place in hand. The boys hosted the league leading Minnesota United and didn't back down. Then they made their presence felt and provided one of the best goal parties in Indy Eleven history. Three new Indy players made their first appearance on the score sheet at Carroll Stadium in front of 9,000 fans.
"It's a great atmosphere here. The fans are amazing. It's way different back home, but here...they just want you to play. They just give you that spirit to play and I love that." -Omar Gordon
Although the stay in second place will be short lived for reasons I described in my preview, the positive emotions and the momentum will carry this team much further than I could have imagined. The most meaningful game of the year did not disappoint as Indy rose to the occasion and played to their potential.
What a predicament to have. There are just too many goals to break down, but lets talk about why the first goal was so outstanding and we can talk about the rest another time.
Indy is a counter-attacking/counter-punching team! They defend first and look to hit hard on the break. Nemanja Vukovic had another impressive night and his aggressive play from the back just mind freaked the entire Minnesota team in the 16th minute. Play on! and the Loons were caught ball watching as a flock of Indy attackers gashed the middle of a formidable NASL defense.
What makes this goal important? For Indy Eleven? So many things.
- The ball from Vuko was perfectly timed and weighted
- Justin Braun made a great run to find himself with a ball at his feet and headed toward goal
- Eamon Zayed continued his run
- Braun made the pass!
There was nothing that could be done because Eamon Zayed doesn't miss from there. The pressure and the ability to get forward so quickly is what this team has wanted all year long, but that was the first time we have seen it work so well. It was a sign of things to come.
That Indy Eleven goal proved to the league that these boys and these strikers have class and that they can score on anyone. The Loons had conceded four goals through six games and that included four shutouts. Scoring early helped take some weight off of the home side. Minnesota has a potent offense but they had given up all four of their goals allowed on the road. It was important to make Minnesota chase early and to plant the seed of doubt in their minds.
Minnesota did not roll over
Nobody thought they would but Indy took a 1-0 lead into halftime feeling pretty good about themselves and then they scored again. Welcome to the party Omar Gordon! What made that goal was Braun's early cross. It was very dangerous and although Zayed couldn't connect, Gordon never gave up on the play and was able to beat everyone to a ball in the box and finish from a tough angle. 2-0 to the good guys.
"After I see Eamon go in, I see that the angle he had, it's impossible for him to get off a good shot. So let I just see if I follow up and if I am lucky enough for it comes 'round, I'll just tap it in." -Omar Gordon
I find it hilarious that Gordon thought Zayed's angle was impossible, but his was no problem.
Either way-Busch to Zayed to Smart to Braun to Zayed and a finish from Gordon took about 11 seconds and 6 total touches. That looked easy and it again shows what this team can do when the offense is firing on all cylinders. Two forwards and two outside midfielders connecting on the same play is going to lead to chances like that.
The most dangerous lead in soccer
The cliche came to life on Saturday and Minnesota let everyone in Indianapolis know that they are also pros and they came to play. Minnesota has always had a gifted offense but Stefano Pinho is a new addition and a proven scorer in the NASL. He capitalized on some miscommunication and disorganization with Dylan Mares out temporarily from injury. Mares would return but the damage had been done and Pinho's goal is a "Play of the Week" Contender.
"They're a very talented team. They're preparing their roster for Major League soccer. They have spent more money than normal trying to get the type of players that they can carry forward into that roster and on top of that-Let's face it-Minnesota is year in and year out one of the best teams in the league." -Tim Hankinson
2-1 turned to 2-2 on a set piece by Minnesota but we just want to talk about Indy today. It is worth noting, however, that MNUFC did score two on this Indy team. It is the first time all year that the Indy Eleven have given up two in the same match, but it is right about the average production from Minnesota. They now have 12 goals in 7 games so their scoring was good, but Indy was just better.
So many players had a great night and all the players will celebrate the win, but way to go Justin Braun.
- Sacrifice your body to lay it off for the #EamonZayedRule and the kids in goal 1
- Great run and well placed 1st touch cross to EZ again resulted in goal 2
- First to the ball and another tough (some would say impossible) angle finish in goal 3
Braun earned the go-ahead goal, remembered to climb into the west end and collected his brick after the match. If there was ever a player that needed a goal, it was Braun. He made it 3-2 and but it might have felt like it was worth more than that.
"It was big. As a forward you wanna get that first one off your back, but I think the most important thing is we got three points tonight. It was a hard fought victory for the team. Again we showed this team is never going to give up...We're going to fight 'til the end." -Braun
From where I was positioned I could see the weight evaporate from his shoulders. He has been giving a lot on the field but just could not find the net. There was a great moment after the post-goal jungle-gym celebration were Braun and Zayed could be seen talking to each other. Good teams and and great teammates celebrate each other and their individual accomplishments. I have no doubt that was one of those moments, but EZ was encouraging Braun just before the goal too.
"Right before the free kick, he turned to me and said get yourself the winner. He and I are starting for form good partnership up there and hopefully there be more goals to come as the season progresses." -Justin Braun
The Man From Motherwell
Nicki Paterson made it look easy. The second half substitute is a set piece monster and he threatened on his first one but it was just over the crossbar. That would not be the case in the 97th minute.
Again Justin Braun! Your holdup play in that stage of the game! Don't sleep on this team. They play to the final whistle. Busch to Zayed to Mares to Braun to Zayed to Mares. Fucking fantastic team play to get a ball in an extremely dangerous place at the feet of an unsung hero tonight in Dylan Mares. It took 15 seconds from Busch's boot before Mares was fouled just outside the 18, but it took less than one second for the referee to show Justin Davis the exit.
Minnesota was beaten before Paterson stepped up to the ball, but that was a good stamp on the game. Around the wall and side netting was the insult to injury that 9,000 fans wanted to see. 4-2 Indy Eleven. Full-time followed soon after.
"...To come back with the kinds of goals we got in the end was a tremendous night for the fans and for the team itself." -Hankinson