Indy Eleven douses waterlogged NCFC 2-1
Posted June 25
Two weeks ago, Indy Eleven was winless on their 2017 season. It now has two victories in a week’s time, both over the North Carolina FC. Dovetailing off last week’s 2-0 result, Indy came to WakeMed Soccer Park tonight and left with a 2-1 win.
Prior to their dual wins over NCFC, Indy Eleven had seen their appearance in last year’s NASL championship final devolve into an 0-7-4 start to this year.
“We’re a team that was a little hung over in attitude from getting to the final last year,” said Indy Eleven manager Tim Hankinson “We did not have the same fire and ‘something to prove’ mentality in the preseason.”
Following tonight’s match, the maffick in a raucous Indy locker room, separated from the media room by only drywall and late night plans, told the tale.
“I think they want me to buy them beers tonight,” Hankinson quipped. “It’s been a long, frustrating three months.”
Kickoff tonight was delayed for over an hour by another summertime squall. Consequently, a well-drained yet slick pitch dictated the early play, and North Carolina FC took advantage in the 9th minute. Nazmi Albadawi feed a cross that pinballed its way to Billy Schuler near post. Schuler’s shot caromed off the woodwork, but Tiyi Shipalane was conveniently positioned in the goal mouth to guide the rebound across the goal line for a 1-0 lead and the speedy South African’s third goal this season.
North Carolina FC has traditionally struggled against tall strikers, and it faced two tonight in Indy Eleven’s Justin Braun and Éamon Zayed. In response, the Oaks’ defense appeared rooted in place. In the 21st minute. Indy fullback Marco Franco delivered a cross that found Braun, whose rose between and above center backs Connor Tobin and Christian Ibeagha to power a header that took one hop past NCFC goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre.
Indy forged ahead two minutes later when Braun slipped a diagonal through ball between Tobin and Ibeagha to Zayed, whose ensuing shot deflected off Ibeagha’s heel and past a helpless Sylvestre for the 2-1 lead.
North Carolina manager Colin Clarke chose to credit Indy’s offensive prowess for the goals.
“Their first goal was a helluva cross, helluva header—world class,” Clarke said. “The second one, you defend and it takes a deflection.”
Clarke substituted Saeed Robinson for offensive dynamo Lance Laing at the outset of the second stanza. According to Clarke, injury was not the reason.
“I didn’t think [Laing] was good enough tonight,” Clarke explained. “I didn’t think he wanted to work hard enough, so I decided to make a change.”
Indy appeared poised to push their lead to two goals after Kareem Moses was whistled for a penalty in the 56th minute for taking down Nemanja Vukovic in the area. But Sylvestre guessed right—in more ways than one—and saved Zayed’s kick from the spot.
In the 61st minute, three shots in the box by North Carolina FC went for naught. Schuler’s initial attempt was saved by goalkeeper Jon Busch before Albadawi’s follow-up was blocked by Vukovic. Robinson’s final try was also parried high by Busch.
That’s all NCFC would muster, as the team has not only lost consecutive games to Indy Eleven but also extended their league winless skid to five matches.
Hankinson credited his team’s Lazarus-like return to health for their recent revival.
“Our depth doesn’t allow us that when you have injuries to starters, you can maintain the quality of play,” Hankinson said. “This is the second time we’ve been able to put a starting lineup on the park. Every week it’s been one guy is in, two guys are out. We’ve had as many as seven starters out during this three-month stretch.”
On the other hand, Clarke chided his attackers’ failure to convert chances to goals.
“We created enough chances, had enough opportunities in front of goal,” Clarke said. “Yeah, Brian had to make saves and defensively we got stretched at times. You’re going to when you’re chasing the game. But we have to start taking more of those chances.”
North Carolina FC (4-3-6, 15 pts.) remains mired in fifth position in the NASL table. Following a ten-day break, NCFC hosts league-leading Miami FC for a star-spangled tilt on July 4. In the meantime, the questions about this team’s ability will only grow louder and more pointed.
“The answers are going to be in that locker room,” Clarke said. “We’re limited to some of the things we can do, so we have to look within. If we feel that we can make a move that makes sense for us, then we’ll do that. But right now, for the rest of this [spring] season, our roster is frozen, so we won’t be able to do anything.”
NCFC: Sylvestre, Moses, Ibeagha, Tobin, Black, da Luz (Marcelin, 77’), Shipalane, Albadawi, Laing (Robinson, 46’), Schuler, Fondy (Fortune, 73’)
IND: Busch, Falvey, Franco, Keller (Manning, 84’), Vukovic, Smart, Speas, Ring, Ubiparipovic (Henderson, 66’), Braun, Zayed (Goldsmith, 76’)
NCFC: Shipalane, 9’
IND: Braun, 21’ (Franco); Zayed, 23’ (Braun)
NCFC: Ibeagha, 29’; Moses, 56’
IND: Smart, 45’; Busch, 88’