Indy Eleven would see its 2020 USL Championship Season end two points shy of playoff positioning after suffering a 2-1 defeat to a Saint Louis FC squad that leapt Indiana’s Team to capture Group E’s second and final postseason berth.
The result was a tough one to swallow for an Indy Eleven side that began the season as one of the USL Championship’s standout performers through the first month of the historic restarted regular season. While forward Tyler Pasher would bag his 10th goal of the season late to bring Indy to within a goal of a season-saving equalizer, goals by Tyler Blackwood (35’) and Wal Fall (47’) were too much to overcome for a Saint Louis FC organization playing to literally extend its USL Championship existence for at least one more game.
“I think we fought back really well and really pushed and pushed in the second half. Got a goal out of it and created a lot of chances – and I felt like we could have had another penalty. But it wasn’t enough, and we shouldn’t have put ourselves in the position that we were in tonight. We had plenty of chances to secure the position before tonight,” explained Head Coach Martin Rennie. “There was a little bit of a story of the last number of games of the season where we were on top and we were creating chances but we weren’t taking those chances, and we made mistakes that cost us a goal. That cost us again tonight and ultimately cost us the chance to go into the postseason.”
In a match where a draw would do the trick of qualifying for the postseason, it was no surprise to see Rennie’s squad often putting nine men behind the ball in an opening to the match the visitors managed very well. After their meeting ten days earlier at Lucas Oil Stadium produced 12 cards in total, it was also no surprise to see an early booking, with center referee Tori Penso giving STLFC’s Tyler Blackwood a deserved yellow for his seventh minute high boot on Carl Haworth. Russell Cicerone saw yellow in the 17th minute for putting an unnecessary forearm into the back of Karl Ouimette as the Indy center back ushered a ball over the endline, and Eleven defender Conner Antley got into the book with a caution for time-wasting three minutes later.
Those were the most notable moments in a first half hour that saw half-chances from distance rule the day for both sides through the hydration break. However, in the 35th minute, Saint Louis got the goal it needed through Blackwood. Kyle Grieg’s hustle to deflect an Indy pass at midfield resulted in a ball that put Blackwood in alone on Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton, who he beat low and left to put Saint Louis in playoff position a third of the way through the match. Newton would step up to keep the score at 1-0 in the 43rd minute, his save of Fall’s 25-yard blast proving big in getting Indy Eleven to the locker room within short grasp of a pivotal equalizer.
It would not take long for Saint Louis to double its lead out of the interval, and it was Grieg again creating the action. After drawing a foul 40 yards from goal just 15 seconds into the half, Grieg got on the end of Todd Wharton’s ensuing free kick at the corner of the six, his header deflecting off the unintentionally-extended arm of Ouimette and resulting in a Penso point to the spot. Fall took the ensuing penalty kick hard and left, and while Newton looked to get a piece of it, the ball struck the back of the net to put Indy’s backs firmly against the wall.
With the full of the half in front of it still, the Indy attack went to work immediately with chances from distance. Substitute midfielder Andrew Carleton made his presence felt quickly with a blast just wide of frame in the 54th minute and a shot into the chest of Morton three minutes later. Captain Paddy Barrett charged forward for one of his patented dipping efforts that Morton spilled in front of him but eventually gathered in the 59th minute. In the 68th minute, Nick Moon lunged to get a touch on Haworth’s back-post set piece service, but it was just too deep to steer on frame at the endline.
Carleton was hard done not to earn a PK in the 77th minute, when Guy Abend’s contact a step inside the area helped the Indy midfielder to the ground, but play would go on with Saint Louis clearing the danger. However, just four minutes later, Moon would indeed earn an Indy penalty after going down under Tobi Adewole’s challenge on the left edge of the area. Pasher would step up to bury the spot kick past Morton’s dive to his left, completing half of a hopeful season-saving comeback.
While Indy Eleven earned a steady barrage of chances from set pieces and crosses pumped in from the flanks, nothing through the end of regulation and four minutes of stoppage time would hit paydirt.
The loss gave Indy Eleven a 7W-7L-2D record from a 2020 season quite unlike any other of the six that preceded it.
USL Championship Regular Season – #STLvIND
Saint Louis FC 2 : 1 Indy Eleven
Saturday, October 3, 2020 – 7:30 p.m. ET
West Community Stadium – Fenton, Mo.
2020 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (7W-7L-2D, 23 pts., 3rd in Group E)
Saint Louis FC (7W-5L-4D, 25 pts., 2nd in Group E)
STL – Tyler Blackwood (Kyle Grieg) 35’
STL – Wal Fall (penalty kick) 47’
IND – Tyler Pasher (penalty kick) 82’
STL – Tyler Blackwood (yellow card) 8’
STL – Russell Cicerone (yellow card) 18’
IND – Conner Antley (yellow card) 21’
IND – Tyler Gibson (yellow card) 45+2’
IND – Paddy Barrett (yellow card) 61’
IND – Drew Conner (yellow card) 63’
STL – Tobi Adewole (yellow card) 69’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-5-2, L-->R): Evan Newton; Neveal Hackshaw, Paddy Barrett (captain), Karl Ouimette; Conner Antley (Ilija Ilic 61’), Drew Connor, Tyler Gibson, Cam Lindley (Andrew Carleton 45’), Carl Haworth; Tyler Pasher, Nick Moon
IND substitutes: Jordan Farr (GK), Mitch Osmond, Matt Watson, Ayoze, Jeremy Rafanello
Saint Louis FC (3-4-3, L-->R): Kyle Morton; Phanuel Kavita (captain), Sam Fink, Tobi Adewole; Todd Wharton (Joaquin Rivas 90+2’), Guy Abend, Wal Fall, Paris Gee; Kyle Grieg, Tyler Blackwood (Mour Samb 60’), Russell Cicerone
STL substitutes: John Berner (GK), Nikiphoros Vlastos, Richard Bryan, Kadeem Dacres, Daniel Fischer