Indy Eleven continued its wonder run with a “Miracle at ‘The Mike’” caliber goal from former super sub-turned-starter Don Smart in the 92nd minute, tallying 1-0 over Ottawa Fury on Saturday night.
The Eleven’s record with the former NASL champion contenders was 1-1-5 in all competitions prior to the match, leading Indy to force more aggressive plays. Ottawa followed suit in an attempt to topple Indiana’s Team from the top of the Fall table.
Indy Eleven’s starting XI differed very little from the line-ups of previous matches with the exception of a few players. Coach Tim Hankinson ran a 4-4-2 formation, bringing Colin Falvey back in the Captain’s seat alongside his wall of defense; Nemanja Vukovic, Cory Miller and Marco Franco. The midfield felt the dominating presence of Nicki Paterson, Gerado Torrado, Brad Ring and Don Smart. Leading the attack was our usual suspect, hat trick hero Eamon Zayed and Souleymane Youla in place of Justin Braun.
Tension on the pitch was high from the first whistle. Ottawa’s defense had no issues projecting their voices in frustration towards each other after Youla and Paterson managed to slip between the cracks in their walls several times—each time either forced out or cleared by the Fury.
Ottawa found their first chance in the 13th minute after Ottawa’s Eddie Edward snuck into the 18 yard box, but ultimately ended left of the goal after being forced by Indy’s goalkeeper Jon Busch.
Next chance came for Indy in the 23rd minute when none other than Zayed, eager to continue his impressive NASL goal count (11), caught a cross into the box from Paterson. Unfortunately, Zayed missed, sending it over the crossbar into the Brickyard Battalion.
There were several trips and hits that seemed to go unnoticed by the match officials, including an elbow into Ring’s ear. The officials finally opened their eyes in the 35th minute after Ottawa’s James Bailey brought down Ring with a hard sliding tackle in the left-midfield. Falvey, red with rage, rushed in and retaliated with a shove, causing both teams to circle up in “schoolyard fight” preparation. Officials issued both Falvey and Bailey with yellow cards and that was an end to majority of the action in the first half.
The beginning of the second half picked up pace fairly quick with Smart seeing the first scoring opportunity in the 50th minute after a cross from Zayed, but the chance went whizzing past the former super-sub. Many more chances of this nature came through several of our players, including Youla and Jamaican striker Omar Gordon (who came in for Youla in the 64th minute). Vukovic tried to repeat his strike from Wednesday, but it sailed just past the far right post.
Gordon, too, had his opportunity toward the end of the match, but pushed it past the right post once more.
The clock struck the 90th minute and the sideline official added on the final three minutes of play. Stadium attendees were on the edge of their seats as the Eleven began the final push for their much needed three points. Our players continued to dominate possession near the midfield, working to make their way to the Fury’s box.
The final bit of magic happened in the 92nd minute after Vukovic won his foul and played a quick ball to youngster Dylan Mares (who came on for Paterson in the 64th minute). Mares made a quick pass to Ring who made a pass forward back to Mares. From far outside the box, Mares made a cross to the right post where Smart was, well…..smart enough to be… and knocked the ball above Fury’s GK Romuald Peiser for the win.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>INCREDIBLE! Don Smart puts <a href=”https://twitter.com/IndyEleven”>@IndyEleven</a> on the board in extra time for the win! <a href=”https://twitter.com/naslofficial”>@naslofficial</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/LadyVictory11″>@LadyVictory11</a> <a href=”https://t.co/jno2Mx4FkE”>pic.twitter.com/jno2Mx4FkE</a></p>— James Higdon (@TreyHigdon) <a href=”https://twitter.com/TreyHigdon/status/762101369809408003″>August 7, 2016</a></blockquote>
This win continues our undefeated streak at home, pushing the number to 12 wins this season. Indy plays once more at home this Saturday, August 13th, against the troubled Rayo OKC before moving on to three consecutive weeks on the road. Can the Eleven continue its undefeated streak in front of the best fans in the NASL?
Some takeaways from Saturday’s win:
-Indy Eleven refuses to call it quits
-The quality of crosses has significantly improved from previous seasons
-Hard pressing and our continued aggression will continue to win
-We are currently top of the table, we are only leading with a goal differential of two and FC Edmonton has only played seven games compared to our eight
-We have the tendency to concede goals; sloppy tendencies will lead to poor results