INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven remained one point ahead of Saint Louis FC in the race for second place in Group E for the USL Championship Playoffs, but the hosts were unable to take advantage of a two-man advantage over the final 15 minutes and stoppage time as the sides ended deadlocked 1-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Saint Louis will now visit Louisville City FC on Saturday night in its penultimate game of the season, while Indy will host Sporting Kansas City II next Wednesday night before the two teams meet on October 3 at West Community Stadium with the possibility a playoff place could still be on the line between the clubs.
Looking to build its edge in the race for the postseason, Indy threatened first in the sixth minute as Carl Haworth sent a free kick from range on target only for Saint Louis goalkeeper Kyle Morton to make a low save. Morton was called on again less than a minute later as Ayoze fired a crisp shot from 25 yards that the STLFC goalkeeper got across to keep out of the left corner.
STLFC’s first real look of the game came to Russell Cicerone in the 11th minute as he picked up possession in midfield and drove into space before sending a shot just wide of the right post from the top of the penalty area.
Indy had more of the play and the better chances, though, and almost took the lead seven minutes later when Nick Moon sent his finish over the crossbar from near the six-yard area after a good low cross from the left by Tyler Pasher. Then four minutes before halftime, Cameron Lindley was able to win possession on a ball into the left side of the penalty area and created space for a low shot to the near post that Morton got down to save.
The hosts threatened again less that a minute into the second half as Lindley’s low ball to the top of the six-yard area was sent wide of the right post. In the 50th minute, however, STLFC grabbed the lead as a counterattack saw Wal Fall send a pass into the right channel for Tyler Blackwood, who held up near the top-right edge of the penalty area before rolling a pass centrally for an onrushing Cicerone, who controlled and finish to the left corner.
Saint Louis almost added a second seven minutes later as a chipped ball forward by Cicerone was met on the volley by Blackwood as his finish flashed wide of the right post. But the visitors were then reduced to 10 men as Sam Fink was sent off for his second yellow card of the game with just under half-an-hour to play.
Indy worked to try and unlock the shorthanded defense, but the equalizer came from a set piece. Off a corner from the left, Haworth sent a short pass to Ayoze near the top-left corner of the penalty area and his floated cross into the back post was headed home by Trindidad & Tobago international Neveal Hackshaw into the right corner of the net.
STLFC’s challenge to hold on became even harder with 15 minutes to go as Todd Wharton received his yellow card of the game, reducing the visitors to nine men. But Saint Louis bunkered into its work to salvage a point well, and while Indy almost struck with five minutes to go, Pasher was unable to control his finish after a chipped pass over the top into the left side of the STLFC penalty area. The visitors, in fact, almost grabbed a late goal themselves as Kadeem Dacres’ speed carried him through on a counterattack, only for his finish to slice well wide of the target. After a late volleyed finish for Indy by Jeremy Rafanello found the outside of the side-netting deep in stoppage time, however, Saint Louis held on to fight another day still one point back of their rivals for the postseason.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Kyle Morton, Saint Louis FC – Morton recorded seven saves to help keep the hosts on level terms during the first half and marshalled his back line well as they held on late to earn a draw.