By Jordan Kalt and Michael Carney
On a beautiful night under the lights at Michael A. Carroll Stadium Indy Eleven got their US Open Cup revenge on Louisville City with a come-from-behind win on Wednesday night. The Eleven will now advance to play the Chicago Fire of the MLS in the next round.
Louisville took control early as Chandler Hoffman scored in the 21st minute from a George Davis IV through ball at the top of the eighteen. The Eleven did not get on the scoring sheet until the 58th minute when a poor clearance by LCFC goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh allowed Omar Gordan to collect the ball and fire a low shot into the back of the net. The Eleven sealed the win in the 68th minute as substitute Éamon Zayed was able to redirect Duke Lacroix’s cross in the goal off the counter attack.
This is only the second loss of the season for Louisville City. They should take reassurance in the fact they were on the brink of eliminating a team from a higher league and that they dominated the game for long stretches. Louisville City controlled possession in the first half and in front of goal through their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. By having three central midfielders Louisville was able to play numbers up and forced the Eleven to chase the game early. Indy adjusted their formation to a 4-2-3-1 in the second half, eliminating the mismatches Louisville exposed in the first 45 minutes. This did not stop LCFC from creating chances to score and perhaps their best opportunity came in the 67th minute when Hoffman fired a free kick past Keith Cardona but was denied by the crossbar.
It is also encouraging for Louisville that they played well with their captain and defensive midfielder, Aodham Quinn, on the bench. Guy Abend and Paolo DelPiccolo were able to frustrate the Eleven when they tried to play the ball through the middle. On the offensive side, Abend and DelPiccolo distributed and cleared the ball, helping Louisville generate counter attacks going forward.
Dealing with multiple injuries and even one player with an Open Cup suspension, the Eleven entered this match with an extensively altered lineup. In the early stages of the bout this was most evident on the defensive side of the ball where it took players time to settle in and establish confidence in one another. After poor communication resulted in Louisville’s opening tally, Nemanja Vukovich—at center back instead of his usual role on the left—did well as captain to settle the back line and stop the bleeding.
Victory for Indy Eleven would be achieved through a remarkable display of coaching brilliance. Tim Hankinson, having begun the game relying heavily on second-stringers in the usual 4-4-2, began to shake things up as early as the 41st minute when he brought on regular starter, Justin Braun. In the second half he revealed more of his plan, putting in front man Eamon Zayed and moving Omar Gordon back into his accustomed position on the wing. Proving that he can play just about anywhere, Vukovich switched with Daniel Keller and moved into the midfield in the 56th where he dominated possession and helped the wingers create chances.
Having shifted formation, individuals, and played “gotcha” with Louisville through his lineup, Tim Hankinson finally opened his hand to reveal a late, blistering attack which overwhelmed Louisville City for the win. Indy Eleven now remain the only undefeated club in the United States.
Indy Eleven’s next U.S. Open Cup tie will be with the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on June 15th at 8:30 EST.