Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven at North Carolina FC - #NCvIND
Saturday, April 7, 2018 – 7:00 P.M. EST
WakeMed Soccer Park - Cary, NC
Indy Eleven find themselves on a road trip back to the East coast for the second time in as many weeks after a 0-1 defeat at the hands of rivals FC Cincinnati in the home opener. The “Boys in Blue” will be attempting to upset Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie’s former club, North Carolina FC.
Despite the record setting crowd and the dominance Indy Eleven showed on the pitch in Week Three, it was one of those games that just wasn’t meant to be. Forward Jack MnInerney struck the woodwork in the 17th minute with a header when he connected with defender Tyler Pasher’s cross. A quick counter by FC Cincinnati in the 26th minute resulted in a header that snuck past Eleven keeper Owain Fon William’s sinking Indy Eleven’s hopes of a victory in their first game at Lucas Oil Stadium. McInerney also earned a penalty in the 38th minute and stepped up to the spot to try and tuck it away. FC Cincinnati keeper Evan Newton guessed the right way and denied McInerney’s equalizer moments later.
North Carolina FC is also coming off a loss in Week Three play after falling 2-1 against Richmond Kickers, who Indy Eleven defeated 1-0 in Week Two action. North Carolina FC forward Daniel Rios opened the scoring in the 43rd minute providing a 1-0 cushion. North Carolina did everything possible to hold the lead, even making a goal-line clearance in the 64th minute, but a penalty call in the 77th minute was finished by Richmond’s Yudai Imura that leveled the game at one. Then in the 83rd minute, Kickers substitute Raul Gonzalez finished from six yards out which sealed the game at 2-1.
Indy Eleven will have to find a way to break North Carolina’s backline, which boasted an 83 percent tackle success rate and combined for 22 clearances. North Carolina also dominated the 50-50 duels winning 60 percent on the ground and 58 percent in the air.
“I feel like most time teams when you’re building – this is only our eighth week together – you have to make sure the structure of the team is solid and the possession is good, and I think we’ve already done that.” Rennie said. “But then you have to be a lot more dangerous in front of goal; you have to create more chances. I think you have to remember that they [FC Cincinnati] had two chances the entire game, and last game we hit the post, had a penalty and had chances around the box. We need to create better chances and I think we’ll do that.”
Indy Eleven midfielder Zach Steinberger was one of several players who had a stellar game against FC Cincinnati last week. The attack-minded midfielder moved the ball around the pitch with ease. Steinberger completed 91 percent of his passes during the course of the match. Even more impressive is the fact the Butler graduate completed 90 percent of his passes in the attacking half of the field. Despite not hitting the target on any of his four shots, Steinberger was able to create two chances for his teammates.
This is Steinberger’s second stint with Indy Eleven. The first came in 2015 when he was loaned to “Indiana’s Team” from Major League Soccer side Houston Dynamo, who drafted him 8th overall in the 2015 MLS Super Draft. The Long Beach, California native went on to spend two seasons with Jacksonville Armada of the NASL in 2016 and 2017, scoring 12 goals in 52 appearances. Look for the dynamic, attacking midfielder to create chances for both teammates and himself against North Carolina FC.
Steinberger wasn’t the only midfielder who moved the ball with ease in Week Three play. Kyle Bekker of North Carolina FC moved the ball around just as impressively as Steinberger during NCFC’s outing at Richmond Kickers last Saturday. The midfield maestro finished the game with 92 percent passing accuracy on 38 passes. Bekker guided several passes to teammates in Richmond’s half of the field as well, finishing the game with 77 percent passing in the opposition half. Bekker’s ability to find an open teammate is uncanny.
His passing ability should come as no shock. Bekker was drafted third overall in the 2013 MLS Super Draft by Toronto FC after playing three years with Boston College, where he made 80 appearances and found the back of the net 17 times. Bekker went on to play in the MLS for three years totaling 58 appearances, but only scoring twice. In 2017, the Canadian International signed with San Francisco Deltas and won the 2017 NASL Soccer Bowl. On February 6, 2018, North Carolina FC signed Bekker.
The role of a box-to-box midfield is one of the most taxing positions in the game. Indy Eleven captain Matt Watson and North Carolina FC captain Austin da Luz are two talented, veteran box-to-box midfielders who will feature this Saturday in North Carolina. The two holding midfielders finished Week Three with similar stat lines.
Watson did exactly what a leader is expected do in Week Three for the “Boys in Blue”. He contributed to the offensive flow of the team completing 90 percent of the 38 passes he played, with a 93 percent completion rate in the offensive half. He also created two chances in the process. Not only did Watson contribute in the front third, he commanded the field in the middle third, and kept FC Cincinnati from countering and catching the Indy Eleven down numbers. Watson won half of his aerial 50-50 plays and accumulated two tackles, two interceptions, and two clearances in the defensive third.
Watson signed with Indy Eleven on February 8, during the offseason. The Englishman brings twelve years of professional experience to the team, including two years in the MLS with Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The veteran midfielder previously played under Coach Rennie with Carolina RailHawks, now North Carolina FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Look for Watson’s leadership to come through as he tries to lead the “Boys in Blue” to a second USL victory and another three points.
Da Luz is an integral part of North Carolina FC’s midfield. The midfielder finished the game with 83 percent passing accuracy overall and 74 percent in Richmond’s half. He was also able to test Richmond’s keeper twice, but couldn’t find the back of the net. The former Wake Forest Demon Deacon also showcased his defensive abilities winning six-of-eight 50-50 challenges along with both aerial duels he partook in. The veteran also accounted for four tackles and three clearances in the defensive third.
Da Luz also shares MLS experience with Watson in his 10 year professional career. The California native spent time with New York Red Bulls and D.C. United. This is Da Luz’s seventh season total with North Carolina FC, making 128 appearances for the club totaling over 9,000 minutes. He’s also contributed 14 goals and eight assists during his time in the Tar Heel state. He will be attempting to lead North Carolina FC to their first victory in USL this year.
Watson and da Luz should be very familiar with each other come Saturday’s Week Four fixture. The two were teammates on the Carolina RailHawks roster in 2016.
The “Boys in Blue” will take to the pitch this Saturday at NCFC’s WakeMed Park at 7:00 p.m. Click here to catch all the action in Cary, NC from home live and for free on USL’s YouTube page.