The battle to the top of the Fall table continues this Sunday as Indy Eleven takes on FC Edmonton away from home. Indy fell to third place after a win from Miami FC on Wednesday, leaving us with a lead over our upcoming opponent of only a three point goal differential (27 points on the table). Any given outcome could prove to be a turning point for any of the top four contenders.
FC Edmonton have slipped in recent weeks. Once neck-and-neck with the New York Cosmos, they’ve slipped from the top spot to picking up the pieces and trying to regain ground. Edmonton has only earned a total of four points in the month of September and hasn’t seen a win since August 20th against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on the road. At home, Edmonton’s record for the last five games stands at 2W-2D-1L. While not the best or worst record to have, it towers over the Eleven’s troubling away record which is 0W-1D-4L in the last five traveling competitions.
Indy’s never been strong on the road, especially in comparison to its undefeated streak (16), but can our “Boys in Blue” turn their luck this weekend and push their way to second place?
Out of the two competitions in 2016 with FC Edmonton, Indy has walked away with four points and has only conceded one point to the Canadian contenders. Only scoring a total of two goals against Edmonton and conceding one, all of which were at home, the Eleven need to work to quickly push for the lead, which may prove difficult against Matt VanOekel—arguably the best keeper in the NASL (next to Indy Eleven’s John Busch, of course)—between Edmonton’s posts. If Indy can emulate the same confident style of play they presented to the Cosmos last week, FC Edmonton doesn’t stand a chance. One of the main focuses should be the outlying midfield’s ability to successfully feed our attackers—presumably Eamon Zayed and Justin Braun—slightly off-center opportunities outside of the box, with the intent to finesse toward the opposite corners of the goal. VanOekel does well with blocking direct shots, but long dives seem difficult for the former Minnesota United star.
With just six matches left in the season it’s still anyone’s game. Out of our final six matches, only two are on home turf, which may prove worrisome to the Eleven faithful. A win Sunday could help set the pace for more away victories for the remainder of the season, which we desperately need if we want to claim the “Top of Table” honor for the second portion of 2016.
We haven’t exited an away match with three points since April 30th, when we took down Rayo OKC 2-1, but let’s prove to the entire NASL that we don’t fear the road. We can, and we will, pave the way to the top, once more.