Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven at Nashville SC - #NSHvIND
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 – 8:30 P.M. EST
First Tennessee Park – Nashville, Tennessee
Indy Eleven attempt to improve their 3W-1L-2D road record against Nashville SC on June 26. The Music City side has not lost a match in USL play since their 2-1 defeat at the hands of Indy Eleven in Week Five.
The “Boys in Blue” (6W-4L-3D) rose to sixth in the Eastern Conference after defeating Toronto FC II last time out, 3-1. Indy Eleven forward Justin Braun and defender Kevin Venegas found the back of the net, both of whom are first time goal scorers this season; Braun netted a brace and Venegas scored and assisted. If Indy defeats Nashville, the win will mark the first time in USL existence Indy Eleven has won three straight games. In their previous meeting, the “Boys in Blue” beat Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens twice to secure a 2-1 win at home.
Nashville SC (6W-2L-5D) sits two places above Indy at fourth in the Eastern Conference. A two-point Nashville lead separates the two teams. In their most recent match, Nashville lost to Louisville City FC, 2-1, in 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play. In the last USL match, Nashville defeated North Carolina FC, 1-0, in the dying minutes of stoppage time at home. The Tennessee based team is yet to lose a match at home, boasting a 4W-0L-1D record.
Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad will look to repeat the excellent offensive performance he had against Nashville SC in the first meeting between the two sides. Saad’s brace powered the “Boys in Blue” to their first win at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week Five with a free kick that landed him on SportsCenters Top Ten.
Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad remains tied with defender Ayoze for most goals scored on the team. The Lebanese International scored two of his four goals this season against Nashville SC in Week Five. He didn’t score in his last outing against Toronto FC II, but Saad moved the ball incredibly well. He averaged just below 90 percent passing accuracy in both halves of the field and created one chance for the “Boys in Blue” against the Canadian side.
Saad has been a mainstay in Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie’s lineup. He has started all but one game. Saad’s clinical finishing and abilities from set pieces have made the forward dangerous throughout the 2018 campaign. He’s scored two world class free kicks and found the corners of the net twice from the run of play. Saad will look to have Nashville SC goalkeeper Matt Pickens number again in Week 16.
A goal poacher thus far in his young career, Nashville SC forward Ropapa Mensah has scored all four of his goals from inside the opposition’s 18-yard box. Mensah scored the only goal in the previous match against North Carolina FC just as a goal poacher would. Mensah tapped in the goal from within the 6-yard box after a free kick was headednear goal in the 94th minute.
Mensah scored a similar goal against “Indiana’s Team” in the previous meeting. A square pass from inside the Indy 18-yard box found Mensah sitting just outside the 6-yard box, who tapped in the goal past Indy Eleven keeper Owain Fon Williams. The 20-year old Ghanaian is tied for most goals on the team with fellow forwards Lebo Moloto and Brandon Allen.
The hardest part of the beautiful game is finding the back of the net consistently. Through Indy Eleven’s first 10 matches, the “Boys in Blue” found the back of the net 9 times. One may argue a new staff, a new team, a new stadium, injuries, rotating lineups or all the above attributed the lack of creativity in the front third. Despite the early season struggles, “Indiana’s Team” is starting to hit its offensive stride.
Indy Eleven have registered eight goals in the last three matches. The squad tucked away three against Charleston Battery, two against Atlanta United 2, and three against Toronto FC II. The goals helped the team secure 7 out of 9 points in the three matches, a run that has the “Boys in Blue” back in playoff position. In addition to multi-goal games, it has been multiple “Boys in Blue” finding the back of the net in a multitude of ways. Ayoze, Soony Saad, Justin Braun, Kevin Venegas, Matt Watson, and Carlyle Mitchell have all scored in the last three matches. A diverse attack saw Indy score once from a penalty, once from a corner, twice from free kicks, and four times from the run of play during the span.
In order to take 10 of 12 points in four matches, “Indiana’s Team” will need to beat one of the toughest defenses in the USL. Nashville has conceded 8 goals during the 2018 season, a quarter of which have come against Indy Eleven. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC is the only team to concede less than Nashville with 7 goals allowed. In addition to a trifling back line, Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens has been excellent. The 36-year old veteran is tied for second most clean sheets in the USL with seven.
Nashville has given up four goals in their last five matches, two of which came against Louisville City in the Open Cup last week. Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie will need his team to continue the high press, counter attacking style of play in order to produce a similar result to the 2-1, Week Five victory.
Fans can catch the Tuesday night clash exclusively on ESPNNews and ESPN3 starting at 8:30 PM ET. The "Boys in Blue" will return home four days later on Saturday, June 30th at 7:00 p.m., to take on Penn FC. Don't wait - Get your tickets to the Pride Night celebration at IndyEleven.com/Tickets.