Preview of Indy Eleven v. Carolina Railhawks
All-time series record: Indy leads 3-2-1
4/12/14 Indy and Carolina draw 1-1 at Carroll Stadium. Mike Ambersley scores the first goal in Indy Eleven history.*
7/12/14 Indy defeats Carolina 2-1 at Wakemed. Ben Spencer and Don Smart score for Indy.**
4/25/15 Indy and Carolina tie 1-1 at Carroll Stadium. Own goal by Carolina.
7/11/15 Indy defeats Carolina 2-1 at Carroll Stadium. Wojciech Wojcik and Erick Norales scored for the Eleven.
10/30/15 Carolina beat Indy 3-1 at Wakemed. Marvin Ceballos scored for the Eleven.
6/11/16 Indy win 5-1 over Carolina at Carroll Stadium. Éamon Zayed hat trick, Justin Braun, and score for the Eleven.***
*First game in Indy Eleven history.
** First win in Indy Eleven history.
***Eleven clinch 2016 NASL Spring Championship.
As the Powerade commercial states, “A diamond shines if it’s only willing to get cut.” The same can be said about Indy Eleven. After playing what some described as a boring falling asleep style of soccer, the Eleven have been glistening like diamond the past few weeks at home against Jacksonville, Ottawa, and Rayo OKC. Now the Eleven have to go on the road and stare down the monster that has eluded them of three points since April 30th. The Eleven have dominated their last two road matches, but found themselves chasing their opponent out of the blocks when they went down early against Minnesota United and The Miami FC.
The work rate and play of Omar Gordon and Dylan Mares will be vital if the Eleven want to grasp that elusive road victory. Gordon has redefined his role within the squad while Mares has enhanced his presence in the team. Utilized as an outside midfielder, Gordon has been brought on as a sub at the forward position while Justin Braun recovers from an injury. Now that he is finally being used in the position indicated on the roster, Gordon brings a different dynamic that has been missing on the front line. While Éamon Zayed is the all-time leading goal scorer for the Eleven and sits in second place in the league at 11 goals, his style of play is one of a poacher. Zayed places himself in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the back of the net. Zayed’s battery mates Justin Braun and Souleymane Youla like to stretch the back line with their speed and use their size to win the ball in the final third. The missing component- taking players on in 1v1 situations. This is where Gordon steps in and brings a completely different dynamic to the mix that allows the Eleven to add another layer to their attacking options late in the match.
Last year Mares lead the Eleven with 5 goals and 5 assists as an attacking midfielder. This year Mares has been utilized as an outside midfielder ever since the Eleven captured their first win of the season against the New York Cosmos, with the ability to roam into the central area of the field if he so chooses. Since Indy’s July 9th match against Minnesota United, Mares has recorded 2 goals and 3 assists. With all of the rising stars in the NASL, Mares has quietly gone unnoticed outside of Indianapolis as he is on his way to building another solid season, giving the Eleven a silent but deadly threat to utilize during matches.
As for the Carolina Railhawks, they have struggled immensely since being the darling of the NASL after four games into the spring season. Since Carolina defeated the Strikers in Fort Lauderdale 1-0 on July 16th the Railhawks have gone 0-3-2. During their 5 game winless streak Carolina has scored 7 but has given up 10 goals, leading the NASL in goals against with 29. A remarkable stat considering the Railhawks made several moves to strengthen their backline heading into this season.
KEYS FOR THE ELEVEN: Get the monkeys off your back.
Quick out of the blocks (monkey one): The Eleven have scored 6 game tying or winning goals in the last 10 minutes of a match this season with 5 coming at Carroll Stadium. Although scoring late heightens the drama and pushes the climax to the end, it opens the door for opposing teams to believe they have a chance of taking 3 points away from the spring champs. Indy cannot afford to seal the game late and must be quick out of the blocks in Carolina especially with games in Ottawa and New York on the horizon. In addition, scoring early will be a confidence booster since the Eleven have not won on the road in four months. In their two losses this year, the Eleven allowed 3 goals in the first six minutes of play. If the Eleven want to get the monkey off their back and be the first NASL team to sweep the spring and fall titles they have to start by winning on the road against the struggling Railhawks.
Clean sheet (monkey two): Jon Bush is currently in second place in the league with Jimmy Mauer in clean sheets with 7. Out of the 7 goose eggs, 4 have come this fall at home, while the other three came on the road during the spring. As the defense continues to get stronger and extend their lead in the goals against column at 16, the Eleven need to get the second monkey off their back and record a clean sheet on the road for the first time since June 4th in Miami.
Head Coach: Colin Clarke
Captain: Nazmi Albadawi
NASL overall record: 6-5-7
Combined table: 7th on 23 points.
Fall table: 8th on 9 points.
Previous match: D, 2-2 v. Puerto Rico FC.
Formation: (4-4-2) GK, Brian Sylvestre; CB, Michael Daly; CB, Drew Beckie; RB, Steven Miller; LB, Paul Black; CM, Nazmi Albadawai; CM, Matt Watson; RM, Tiyi Shipalane; LM, Brian Shriver; F, Omar Bravo; F, Matt Fondy.
Head Coach: Tim Hankinson
Captain: Colin Falvey
NASL overall record: 10-7-2
Combined table: 1st on 37 points.
Fall table: 1st on 19 points.
Previous match: W, 2-1 v. Rayo OKC.
Formation: (4-4-2) GK, Busch; CB, Colin Falvey; CB, Greg Janicki; RB, Lovell Palmer; LB, Nemanja Vukovic; CM, Brad Ring; CM, Gerardo Torrado; RM, Dylan Mares; LM, Don Smart; F, Éamon Zayed; F, Youla.
Eleven: Justin Braun (MCL sprain right knee) out. Marco Franco (bone bruise right knee) out.
Railhawks: James Marcelin questionable.
PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP
The center ref for Indy Eleven v. Carolina Railhawks has awarded 70 fouls, 9 yellow cards, and 2 red cards in 3 NASL matches.
QUESTIONS HEADING INTO SATURDAY’S MATCH
The obvious question: Can Indy Eleven win on the road?
Will the Eleven record their 8th clean sheet of the season?
Could we see Omar Gordon continually to be utilized as a forward? Will Dylan Mares continue his hot streak?
Wakemed Stadium, home of the Carolina Railhawks, has hosted several US Men’s and Women’s national team matches, NCAA College Cups, and the Railhawks just hosted West Ham United of the English Premier League in July.
Featured photo by Dylan Mares