FENTON, Mo. – Saint Louis FC claimed the second berth from Group E for the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs in dramatic style on Saturday night, defeating Indy Eleven 2-1 to move past its rival in the final game of the regular season to join Louisville City FC in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal next weekend. Tyler Blackwood and Wal Fall scored for the hosts, who had to hold off a late rally by Indy to secure their second postseason trip.
Needing only a draw to reach the playoffs, Indy had the first look at goal in the 13th minute as Cameron Lindley fired a shot from 25 yards just wide of the left post, but in a physical opening to the game the hosts began to get on top. Their willingness to pressure high up the field provided the opportunity to take the lead 10 minutes before halftime as Kyle Greig deflected a pass intended to go across field and it fell perfectly for Blackwood, who ran onto the ball and delivered a low shot to the left corner of the net from the top of the penalty area to put STLFC ahead.
Fall also went close for the hosts two minutes before halftime with a shot from distance that was tipped just wide of the left post by Indy goalkeeper Evan Newton. Paris Gee also had a good effort in the final minute before the break, only for his shot from 25 yards to go just over the crossbar.
Saint Louis doubled its advantage early in the second half, however, as Indy defender Karl Ouimette was ruled to have handled a header by Greig off a free kick in the penalty area. Fall stepped up to the spot, and while Newton made a good effort to save, the German’s penalty kick was well-placed to the left side above the goalkeeper’s hand as he tried to save.
Indy quickly looked for a way back into the game and Nick Moon forced a low save from STLFC goalkeeper Kyle Morton soon after. Andrew Carleton also sent a curling shot on goal in the 57th minute, while Moon wasn’t quite able to get his finish on target off an angled free kick by Carl Haworth 12 minutes later that found him near the left upright.
The visitor’s pressure was withstood well by Saint Louis, but with nine minutes to go Indy was handed a potential lifeline as STLFC defender Tobi Adewole brought down Moon just inside the penalty area. Tyler Pasher stepped up to the spot and shot hard into the left corner just out of the reach of Morton, who got a hand to the shot but couldn’t keep it out.
As Indy tried to press for the game-tying goal that would send it to the playoffs, though, Saint Louis controlled its own penalty area well. Pasher had a shot blocked behind for a corner by STLFC defender Sam Fink in the final minute, but throughout the ensuing corner and stoppage time Saint Louis held firm to see out the victory and book its place in the postseason.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Wal Fall, Saint Louis FC – Fall scored what proved to be the decisive goal from the penalty spot and put in a strong shift in midfield, winning 7 of 9 duels and 3 of 3 tackles while making eight recoveries and three interceptions.