Preview | Indy Eleven Heads to the Tar Heel State for Rematch vs. North Carolina FC
First 2019 Meeting:
Indy Eleven 0 : 0 North Carolina FC | Saturday, May 4
The Boys in Blue gained a point from a second consecutive nil-nil draw at Lucas Oil Stadium in four days' time. The scoreless duel featured three big saves from Indy goalkeeper Evan Newton, whose third clean sheet of the season extended the Eleven's undefeated streak at home to three games at the time. Indiana's Team more than doubled North Carolina's shot output on the evening, 19-9, but Newton's opposite number, Alex Tambakis, made five stops of his own to help share the spoils.
Last Time Out:
Nashville SC 2 : 0 Indy Eleven | Saturday, July 27
First half goals by Daniel Rios (24') and Alan Winn (42') did all the damage in Indy Eleven's second straight away defeat. Indiana's Team was shutout for the first time since previously playing the Music City side at home on May 25, that stretch featuring eight games in a row where the Boys in Blue put at least one on the scoreboard (16-7 scoring advantage). The two goals conceded to Nashville marked the fifth game of 2019 in which Indy gave up multiple goals, with all five instances coming on the road.
North Carolina FC 4 : 2 Atlanta United 2 | Saturday, July 27
A pair of braces from midfielder Steven Miller and forward Ulrich Ewolo boosted North Carolina FC to a victory that helped the Tarheel State side remain undefeated at Sahlen's Stadium (6W-0L-4D). In a game that saw all six tallies scored in the first half and NCFC go up 3-0 within 19 minutes, Miller's brace accounted for his sixth and seventh goals of the season, making him the club's leading goal scorer, while Ewolo bagged his third and fourth of 2019.
Last Saturday's results brought the Cary-based club level on points with Indiana's Team at 37, with Indy leading the tie-breaking charge via total league wins (11 vs. 10). As a result, this Saturday's battle will see the winner take sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference - unless the fixture ends in a second draw between the two sides. On the flip side, an Indy loss and Nashville win at Swope Park Rangers could see the Boys in Blue drop to fifth on the Eastern table - although they would still hold at least one game in hand on the competition above them.
Indy Eleven's all-time record against North Carolina FC, formerly the Carolina RailHawks of the NASL, stands at 9W-3L-4D and dates back to the team's inaugural season in 2014.
Speaking of that inaugural season in 2014, Indy Eleven recorded their first ever point against the then Carolina Railhawks in a 1-1 draw in Indiana's Team's inaugural home match on April 12, 2014, and later claimed their first ever win against the side on July 12, 2014 in a 2-1 win at Sahlen's Stadium.
Indy Eleven notched a pair of wins against NCFC after being reintroduced in USL Championship play last season (1-0 in Cary on April 7; 3-2 in Indy on August 15).
North Carolina will be facing a sturdy defense Saturday night. Indy Eleven leads USL Championship when it comes to the fewest goals conceded (14). The Boys in Blue have also recorded the most clean sheets in the Eastern Conference (10) and trail only Western Conference leader Phoenix Rising (11) leaguewide.
Indy has only allowed multiple goals in five games throughout the 19 played in 2019, with no side able to put more than two goals past the Boys in Blue.
Head Coach Martin Rennie coached the former RailHawks from 2009-11, earning a second-place finish his first year with the club, and two first-place finishes in 2010-11 before moving to Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Indy Eleven will face off against a familiar foe Saturday in Ben Speas. The 28-year-old attacker, who joined NCFC on a season-long loan in January, notched seven goals and seven assists in 50 appearances for the Boys in Blue between the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
The NCFC roster also includes a pair of ex-Indiana University standouts in defender Timmy Mehl and midfielder Austin Panchot. Both rookies, who finished off their collegiate careers last fall helping the Hoosiers reach back-to-back College Cups, have made their professional debuts, with Mehl earning a single appearance and Panchot four.
Indy Eleven Player to Watch | DF Ayoze
Scoring is the hardest part of the beautiful game. Finding the back of the net takes creativity and a player who can provide the spark that creates goals, and there are few better in the league at doing so than Ayoze. The defender has created the second most chances for his teammates (36) through his first fifteen appearances this season.
The former La Liga player naturally plays as an outside wing back, allowing him to whip in crosses and diagonally lofted passes over the opposing back line to free Indy's attacking pieces, which have led to three assists so far on the season. Ayoze displayed his creative ability the last time Indy took on North Carolina, when he created a team-high five chances for his fellow Boys in Blue. Indy will need a repeat performance from the defender, as the side looks to defend its third-place spot in the East.
North Carolina FC Player to Watch | MF Steven Miller
Indy's Ayoze isn't the only player who plays effectively along the flanks. North Carolina FC midfielder Steven Miller, now in his fifth season with the club, can almost always be found covering ground along the right side of the pitch. Miller leads NCFC in both goals (7) and assists (5) through his 21 appearances for the side.
In addition to leading the attacking charge for his side, he also leads his team on the pitch. The 29-year-old has started 18 matches for Carolina and donned the captain armband during those starts. Indy will look to keep Miller at bay again, after being held goalless in his 81 minutes against the Boys in Blue in Week 9.
Match-up to Mark | Indy's Defense vs. North Carolina's Speas
While Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie has featured a three-back system throughout the 2019 USL Championship season, that doesn't mean those three are the only ones tasked with the heavy-lifting in defense - in fact, that's far from the case. The two holding midfielders Rennie has deployed - always Tyler Gibson and usually Kenney Walker beside him - do their fair share of the dirty work in the middle of the park, and they'll likely have plenty more to do this Saturday thanks to North Carolina FC's wide array of attacking talent. Because of NCFC's range of options and numbers they commit to the attack, the communication of Indy's "back five" will be vital to shutting down a squad that has bagged seven goals in its last two home outings.
The man who will draw the most attention from Indy is one they are most familiar with - Ben Speas, the 28-year-old midfielder who signed with Indiana's Team in 2017 and is on loan with North Carolina for this season. Speas has been the architect of many a North Carolina attacking move and ranks among the Eastern Conference's top 10 in with 50 chances created (4th), 94 crosses (6th), and four assists (T-10th ). Not only is he producing, but he's also been the side's workhorse, starting in every one of NCFC's matches and playing all but 88 minutes this season, contributing two goals along the way. Speas played a full 90 in the two teams' first meeting on May 4, with the stifling Indy home defense essentially nullifying the midfielder's presence. The Ohio native's pass completion rating was well below his season average of 76%, and he struggled to create just one chance on the evening.
Indy Eleven at North Carolina FC
Saturday, August 3, 2019 - 7:00 P.M. ET
WakeMed Soccer Park | Cary, NC
Local/National TV: N/A
Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click for a free 7-day trial)
Radio (Spanish): N/A
In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Honda
Setting the Table:
Indy Eleven: 11W-4L-4D, 37 pts., T-3rd in Eastern Conference
North Carolina FC: 10W-4L-7D, 37 pts., T-3rd in Eastern Conference
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