Editor's note: Indy Eleven sent the following match recap of Saturday's away game against Minnesota United F.C.:
Three First Half Goals by United FC too Much to Overcome as Comeback Effort Falls Short Once Again on the Road
BLAINE, MN (Saturday, May 3, 2014) - Indy Eleven's second away match tonight at Minnesota United FC played out much like its first last weekend, as the Eleven saw a late comeback effort fall just short in a 2-3 defeat in front of 4,913 fans at the National Sports Center Stadium. The result leaves Indy Eleven at 0-2-2 (2 pts.) and still in search of its first victory in North American Soccer League play, while United FC stayed perfect during the abbreviated Spring Season, moving its record to a spotless 4-0-0 (12 pts.).
The game began fairly evenly, with Indy winning two early corners but failing to put anything on goal. Minnesota responded well against the pressure, but seemed content to sit back and play a counter attacking style when going against the stiff wind. That strategy yielded few results for the first twenty minutes, and both sides resorted to lobbing deep balls at Minnesota's Christian Ramirez and Indy's Ben Spencer.
The complexion of the game changed drastically in the 23rd minute when Simone Bracalello - the hero of last week for the Loons - made an incisive run down the left flank to the endline and put a soft ball on the ground across the box. Daniel Mendes was in perfect position, but seemed off balance and side-footed a shot heading wide. Luckily for him, Christian Ramirez was perfectly positioned to turn his mistake back on goal, putting the Loons up 1-0.
The excitement had yet to subside before United struck again just two minutes later. After an Indy Eleven set piece, Bracalello broke early into space and drew in the entire Indy defense and goalkeeper Kristian Nicht. He calmly passed the ball to Mendes, flying in on the counter from the right, who could not help but score on the empty net to double the advantage for the home side.
The balance of the game was restored after United's two lightning strikes, with Minnesota again content to counter. Indy earned their best chance in the 28th minute on Pedro Mendes' low free kick effort from 20 yards, which forced United keeper Matt VanOekel to make a smart diving save.
It seemed as though Minnesota would hold their advantage going into the halftime whistle, but it turned out there was a lot more in the game. Indy's pressure eventually paid off in the 42nd minute, although in an unexpected way. Pedro Mendes put a dangerous driven cross across goal and Bracalello was unable to check his run and accidentally blasted the ball into his own net.
The unexpected own goal galvanized United to make up for the mistake. A minute into stoppage time, Miguel Ibarra made a superb run down the left, then cut back and dribbled to the corner of the box. Waiting at the top of the box was Aaron Pitchkolan who slammed a 20-yard blast past Nicht into the top corner of the net to return the two-goal cushion to the Loons heading into halftime.
Indy Eleven made one immediate change at the start of the second half to attempt to right the ship, with head coach Juergen Sommer bringing on Brazilian playmaker Kléberson for an added spark. But Minnesota effectively put numbers behind the ball and forced consistent pressure on counter attacks, forcing the game to settle into a state of equilibrium for much of the second stanza.
Indy would see its considerable advantage in possession pay off in second half stoppage time for a second straight week. A lobbed ball from the left flank by Kyle Hyland was accidentally handled by Justin Davis on the way down, earning a penalty kick. Kléberson stepped up and drilled the ball into the left corner, only to see the goal called back for an infraction. Forced to retake, the World Cup veteran went the other way instead and past Van Oekel to bring the score to 3-2. However, Indy could not get a chance to silence the home crowd in the minute that followed, and the lead held for the Loons.
After two straight 3-2 road setbacks, Indy Eleven will return to the confines of Michael A. Carroll Stadium next Saturday, May 10, when the Hoosier State side will entertain Edmonton FC (0-3-1, 1 pt.) for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Tickets remain available and can be purchased online at www.IndyEleven.com.
INDY ELEVEN HEAD COACH JUERGEN SOMMER
On falling behind in the first half:
"Giving away the two early goals back to back really took some wind out of our sails. We made a couple of naïve mistakes to take us out of the game a little bit. At least we went into the half with something, but it wasn't enough."
On the Aaron Pitchkolan goal at the end of the first half:
"We just got caught on another quick counter. The guys were pushing forward on the restart and trying to get numbers into the box to make something happen. I can't fault them for trying to get back to level before we went into the locker room."
On positives to take from the match:
"We've got to keep picking ourselves up, keep learning how to play together as a group and keep driving on. The heart and commitment is there, which you can see by the way we came back and continued to push and drive. We just have to become better pros and not go down a goal or two early, which is always difficult to come back from. There's something to be said for getting another two goals on the road, we just have to get better defensively."
NASL Spring Season Week 4
Minnesota United FC 3 : 2 Indy Eleven
National Sports Center Stadium - Blaine, Minn.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Weather: 55 degrees, windy
MNU - Christian Ramirez (Daniel Mendes) 23'
MNU - Daniel Mendes (Simone Bracalello) 25'
IND - own goal (Simone Bracalello) 42'
MNU - Aaron Pitchkolan (Miguel Ibarra) 45'+2
IND - Kleberson (penalty kick) 90'+3
IND - Walter Ramirez (caution) 31'
MNU - Daniel Mendes (caution) 37'
MNU - Cristiano Dias (caution) 44'
IND - Jaime Frias (caution) 48'
IND - Pedro Mendes (caution) 85'
Indy Eleven (4-2-3-1) - Kristian Nicht (c); Fejiro Okiomah (Kleberson - 45'); Erick Norales, Jaime Frias, 18-Kyle Hyland; Brad Ring, Dylan Mares (Corby Moore - 73'); Pedro Mendes, Mike Ambersley, Walter Ramirez (Don Smart - 73'); Ben Spencer
Unused substitutes: 35-Jon Dawson, 2-Andrew Stone, 6-Chris Estridge, 12-A.J. Corrado
Head Coach: Juergen Sommer
Minnesota United FC (4-5-1) - Matt VanOekel; Kevin Venegas, Tiago Calvano, Cristiano Dias, Justin Davis; Aaron Pitchkolan (c), Juliano Vicentini, Daniel Mendes, Miguel Ibarra, Simone Bracalello; Christian Ramirez
Unused substitutes: Mitchell Hildebrandt, Floyd Franks, Brian Kallman, Tyler Polak, Omar Daley
Head Coach: Manny Lagos
Officials: Referee - Daniel Radford; Assistant Referees - Kip Jackson, Ismir Pekmic; Fourth Official - Bryce Bockin