MATTHEWS, N.C. – Indy Eleven earned its first victory of the season by seeing off a strong second-half fightback from the Charlotte Independence at Sportsplex at Matthews on Friday. Here are three takeaways:
1. A WIN IS A WIN: After failing to pick up a point from a winning position last weekend at Saint Louis FC, Indy Eleven held on for a much-needed three points against the Independence on Friday night in Charlotte. Head Coach Martin Rennie’s side, which bolstered its attack in a big way this offseason, finally started to show signs of that firepower as it jumped out to a two-goal lead in the opening quarter of an hour before Thomas Enevoldsen added a third in the 69th minute. That three-goal cushion proved to be just enough as the Eleven once again made things interesting by conceding twice late on, but Indy won’t care as it escaped with a vital road victory. That should help the club’s confidence as it continues an early road spell that sees the side play five of its opening six games away from Lucas Oil Stadium.
2. UNUSUAL SUSPECTS: While the Eleven finally found its footing in front of goal on Friday night, the club still hasn’t gotten the best out of its shiny offseason signings. Instead, Indy got goals from unlikely sources in the form of right midfielder Macauley King, who marked his professional debut with an impressive near-post strike, and defensive midfielder Tyler Gibson. Thomas Enevoldsen, who scored 20 goals last season for Orange County SC, did open his account for the club with a side-footed volley, but fellow forwards Eugene Starikov, Ilija Ilic and the Championship’s all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly are still looking to get off the mark this season. Kelly, who had a penalty saved in Indy’s 2-1 loss to STLFC last Saturday, did strike the crossbar in the second half so there’s hope that he’ll find his best form sooner rather than later.
3. SPIRIT ON SHOW: Independence Head Coach Jim McGuinness couldn’t have been happy to see his side concede twice in the early stages of his first game in charge, but he had to be pleased with the fightback his side showed despite falling in defeat. Charlotte made it a game late on as Dominic Oduro came off the bench to head home Enzo Martinez’s cross from close range in the 73rd minute and Celtic FC loanee Andrew Gutman scored his first professional goal with a header of his own ten minutes later. The Independence had all the momentum, but couldn’t quite muster one last quality chance to grab an equalizer. However, the team spirit showed in Friday's second-half display should give McGuinness and his side some confidence ahead of hosting ATL UTD 2 next weekend.