Indy Eleven made a move back toward the top four in the Eastern Conference with victory against the Charlotte Independence, while Birmingham Legion FC ran its undefeated streak to seven games as it downed Bethlehem Steel FC in a topsy-turvy clash on Sunday evening in the USL Championship.
INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven got a pair of goals from Drew Conner in his first start for the club to rally after the Independence had taken the lead in front of 10,089 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Independence had the first serious chance in the 11th minute when Stephane Thicot flicked a header on goal but straight at Indy goalkeeper Evan Newton from Enzo Martinez’s free kick, but four minutes later a big deflection off Niki Jackson at the top of the penalty area on a free kick by Isaac Angking left Newton wrong-footed as the visitors took the lead. Indy almost replied in the 20th minute when Tyler Pasher cut in from the right to the top of the penalty area, but his finish to the top-right corner was well turned away by Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller. Conner also tested Miller with a low shot three minutes later, but the hosts tied the game four minutes before halftime as a free kick by Ayoze from the right was kept alive at the back post by Neveal Hackshaw, allowing fellow center back Karl Ouimette to head in from close range for his first goal of the season. The Eleven then took the lead seven minutes into the second half as a deep cross by Ayoze was headed to Paddy Barrett, whose spectacular scissor kick was parried by Miller to the feet of Conner, who had a simple tap-in to the open net. Indy’s Dane Kelly went close to adding a third in the 58th minute with a shot that curled just over the top-right corner of the net, while Charlotte’s Aaron Maund had a curling shot saved by Newton with 14 minutes to go. The Eleven put the victory away in the 83rd minute, however, as Conner notched his second of the night as he headed back an attempted clearance by Miller into an open net as Indy dealt Charlotte’s playoff chances another serious blow.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Drew Conner, Indy Eleven – Conner notched a pair of opportunistic goals but also completed 42 of 43 passes and recorded two key passes to help key the Eleven’s victory on home turf.
CHESTER, Pa. – Legion FC surrendered a two-goal lead before finding a winner from Mikey Lopez to defeat Steel FC at Talen Energy FC as the visitors continued their push up the Eastern Conference standings. Birmingham took the lead in the 20th minute when Akeem Ward found space on the left and sent a low cross that Brian Wright let run for Prosper Kasim, whose first-time shot from 16 yards found the right corner of the net. Steel FC’s first good look on goal came 14 minutes later when Sergio Santos’ header from 10 yards was saved by Birmingham’s Matt Van Oekel, but both sides were reduced to 10 men shortly before halftime when Legion FC’s Zach Herivauz and Steel FC’s Santos were sent off after an altercation that followed Herivaux being on the end of a hard foul by Bethlehem’s Zach Zandi that also saw Zandi see a yellow card. Birmingham had a late chance to add to its lead in first-half stoppage time as JJ Williams’ header off a free kick by Eric Avila was saved by Steel FC goalkeeper Todd Morton, and Williams also flashed a shot just high six minutes into the second half from 20 yards. Williams then had a big chance for the visitors in the 55th minute when he sent a free header over the crossbar after a good cross by Kasim from the left, but he found the net in the 67th minute with an angled header off a cross by Avila from the left that found the right corner. Steel FC hit back two minutes later as Michee Ngalina put home a finish to the top-left corner of the net to break Legion FC’s shutout streak at 624 minutes, and in the 74th minute the hosts drew level from the penalty spot after Faris was brought down in the penalty area and Olivier Mbaizo converted to the bottom-left corner. The game swung back the way of Legion FC in the 76th minute, however, as Lopez scored after a scuffed shot by Kasim at the top of the penalty area following a free kick deflected kindly off a defender to allow a first-time finish. Steel FC was reduced to nine men in the aftermath of the goal as Faris was sent off for protesting to the referee, but Birmingham was then also reduced to nine as Razek Cromwell received his second yellow card of the game in the 83rd minute. Steel FC had one final chance deep in stoppage time to find a late equalizer, but Steve Kingue’s effort missed the target as Birmingham held on for victory.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Prosper Kasim, Birmingham Legion FC – Kasim scored the opening goal, had five key passes and completed 43 of 50 passes overall to help the visitors continue their undefeated run.