NASL Saturday Recap: Indy Eleven plays to 1-1 draw in club debut

Playing in front of a packed house at IUPUI's Michael A. Carrol Stadium, the Indiana club played to a 1-1 draw with the Carolina Railhawks.
Indy Eleven’s inaugural game in the North American Soccer League did not disappoint the sellout crowd of 11,048 IUPUI's Michael A. Carrol Stadium, but the squad was forced to settle for a share of the spoils via a 1-1 draw with the Carolina RailHawks in both team's NASL Spring Season debut.

“You always want to win your home opener, obviously,"  said Indy Eleven head coach Juergen Sommer. "Again, we’re building a brand new franchise and I think we’re going to need four or five games to get a real sense of match fitness going.”

After a slow start, Mike Ambersley tallied the first official goal in club history in the 43rd minute. After a penetrating run by Eleven midfielder Corby Moore was snuffed out, midfielder A.J. Corrado played the loose ball into the 18-yard box where a waiting Ambersley took a touch by the RailHawk defender and slotted a low shot into the far post.

Carolina RailHawks assistant coach Greg Shields was dismissed from the game at the halftime intermission with his team trailing 1-0.

Carolina came out of the locker room looking to quickly jump on the home team, and it didn't take long for the RailHawks to find the equalizer. Just five minutes into the second half a good spell of possession by the RailHawks led to a Tiyiselani Shipalane cross that Zack Schilawski headed home powerfully from eight yards out to put Carolina equal.

Despite dominating the last 10 minutes, the home side was forced to split the points before celebrating the effort of the sold out crowd.

“The Brickyard Battalion was phenomenal tonight," Sommer said. "The atmosphere was electric and every fan was like a 12th man for us tonight.”

Minnesota tops San Antonio Scorpions

Minnesota United has set the early pace on top of the standings with a 2-0 win away to the San Antonio Scorpions.

“I’m really proud of the guys,” said Minnesota coach Manny Lagos.  “I thought they worked really hard.  The three points are very big for us tonight, but we’ve got to get better. I thought it was a great physical game and we didn’t back down and we saw the game out.”

The teams traded possession in the midfield for most of the first 15 minutes of the match, but Minnesota United got on the board first in the 17th minute. Captain Aaron Pitchkolan chipped in a ball to United striker Christian Ramirez and the big forward controlled it with his back to goal and then on a half-turn, he volleyed a hard shot over his shoulder into Scorpions keeper David Bingham’s left upper 90

After that, the game began living up to it’s rivalry status as five cards were issued in a span of 20 minutes, including a straight red shown to Scorpions defender Julius James. Replays showed James was almost kicked in the head by Minnesota’s Tiago Calvano on a dangerous high kick, but when James retaliated and shoved the defender to the ground, referee Matthew Foerster immediately went to his shirt pocket for the red card and automatic ejection. 

The Scorpions pushed the action for the rest of the first half and much of the second in spite of being down a man, but the disadvantage finally caught up to the Scorpions in the 73rd minute. A foul was called on Scorpions captain Adrian Cann 20 yards from the San Antonio goal. Kevin Venegas stepped up to take the ensuing free kick and drilled a perfect shot over the wall and into the goal to ‘keeper David Bingham’s right.

The Scorpions are now winless all-time in home openers.

Strikers race to 2-0 victory over Ottawa FC

Goals by defender Rafael Alves and forward Darnell King gave the host Fort Lauderdale Strikers a 2-0 victory over the newest club Ottawa Fury FC in the opening match of the 2014 NASL season in front of 3,105 fans at Lockhart Stadium.

The game started at a fast pace in the first-ever meeting between the two sides. Neither side was too familiar with their opponent but both teams looked to attack the opposition and get on the board first.

It took Alves just 13 minutes to score the first goal of the 2014 NASL season. The big Brazilian found himself unmarked at the back post on midfielder Mark Anderson’s driven low free kick. He slid home for his first goal for the Strikers in 15 appearances.

Strikers goalkeeper Oka Nikolov was very active in his Strikers debut. The German-born goalkeeper was one of the main acquisitions by the Strikers in the 2014 offseason and finished his first match with the Strikers with four key saves.

Chris Nurse went close to doubling the Strikers’ lead with a header at the end of the first half. His effort went just wide of the post. Richie Ryan had a chance to level the score  on the stroke of halftime but was denied by Nikolov.

Alves was forced off with an injury at the halftime interval. Justin Chavez moved back into defense and substitute Manny Gonzalez stepped into midfield. The Strikers came out of the dressing rooms the stronger side and pressed for a second goal.

The insurance goal finally came in the 80th minute on a Strikers counterattack through King. Ottawa was exposed at the back after throwing numbers forward and a smart through ball from Marius Ebbers found King surging down the right.

The right back attempted to unselfishly play a square ball to Anderson inside the box, but the low cross was cut out by Fury FC goalkeeper Devala Gorrick. King pounced on the loose ball and sent a vicious effort into the back of the net.

“First of all, it's great when you win that is most important as it is never easy as we didn’t really know where we were after the preseason so we are very happy with this ‘W,’” said Striikers assistant coach Raoul Voss.  “The way we played there is some room for improvement that is for sure, especially in the midfield we need to connect a little better. The first game is never easy so we are happy with the win now and we can build up from there.”

Tampa Bay and FC Edmonton tie

The Tampa Bay Rowdies and the visiting FC Edmonton shared the points after a 1-1 draw on a dramatic opening night of the 2014 NASL Spring Season at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday.

The crowd of 7,003 saw the Rowdies pull ahead in the 32nd minute on an own goal by Edmonton defender Kareem Moses. Tampa Bay midfielder Darel Russell floated a dangerous ball into the Edmonton box and Moses, under pressure, deflected the ball into his own net.

FC Edmonton looked beaten until a late equalizer created by Daryl Fordyce. Fordyce raced down the right wing and looped in a perfect cross to second-half substitute Tomi Ameobi, who headed home to level the match in the 88th minute.

“The players were magnificent in the second half and minimum for us we deserve in this game was a draw,” said Edmonton coach Colin Miller. “I thought we were the better team tonight and it was a great atmosphere here for this home opener and I am so proud of my players tonight.”

It was a choppy start to the match, with neither team really settling in to the first match of the 2014 season. FC Edmonton had the better of the early chances, with the first shot of the match coming in the 8th minute. New Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens was there for an easy catch and the danger was averted.

Edmonton had another strong scoring chance with a two-on-one in the 28th minute, but Horace James’ pass across the face of goal was behind its target and cleared by the defense.

With the Rowdies up 1-0 at halftime, FC Edmonton came out the stronger side after the break. The match nearly turned when Pickens was adjudged to have committed a foul on Eddies forward Frank Jonke in the 54th minute and Edmonton was awarded a penalty kick.

Pickens stood strong on the kick, diving right to save Neil Hlavaty’s effort and preserving the Rowdies’ lead.

The final five minutes were played end-to-end with the Rowdies piling on pressure in their search of a match-winner and Edmonton replying on fast breaks. Neither team could find the goal and nab all three points before the full-time whistle.

“I felt that we worked hard and dug in,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “The second half opened a little bit more and I felt that half was a lot better. We managed to string a few passes together and make a few moves. We still have to be  a little bit braver collectively in terms of keeping possession of the ball.”