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How Indy Eleven earned a historic first win against an opponent from Major League Soccer

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 07/10/24, 9:00AM EDT


Early aggression, defensive sacrifice and tremendous timing in attack added up to a berth in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinals on Tuesday night

Indy Eleven players and supporters celebrate following the club's victory against Atlanta United FC in the Quarterfinals of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. | Photo courtesy Indy Eleven

The deepest run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in Indy Eleven’s history continued on Tuesday night as the side claimed a 2-1 win against Atlanta United FC at Fifth Third Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga.

The victory marked the first time in the Boys in Blue had defeated a side from Major League Soccer in the tournament. The result earned a place in the Semifinals against either Sporting Kansas City or FC Dallas on August 27-28, and a chance to become the second USL Championship club in three years to reach the Open Cup Final.  

Here are three keys as to how the Boys in Blue made history.


From the off, Indy did well in not only taking the game to Atlanta, but being aggressive in how many players it was prepared to push into attacking spaces. This has been notable in the success they’ve earned in the Championship, and it carried over here and was maybe best seen in the positions Josh O’Brien and Ben Ofeimu took up when Indy got the ball into the attacking third.

Ostensibly the left and right center back, O’Brien pushed up when he could to support Aedan Stanley on the left, and Ofeimu did the same with Ben Mines on the right to create combinations and potential crossing scenarios. When that happened, Cam Lindley typically rotated back to cover their position when Atlanta gained possession, but that aggressiveness allowed the visitors to lay out where they wanted the game to be played in the first half.

“We needed to come out and show a bit of confidence,” said Indy Head Coach Sean McAuley. “If you come out with a little bit of a negative mindset, you can get drawn into just protecting and we wanted to come out with a really strong attitude towards getting toward their goal. Down the side Josh O’Brien and Aedan did really well and created a couple of good crossing chances.”


Both Douglas Martinez Jr. and Augustine Williams deserve tremendous praise for the performances they produced. Williams worked diligently as a hold-up man centrally, battling for possession when at times he was isolated, while Martinez gave as much as he could tracking down passes on either flank when Indy looked to break before departing in the 68th minute.

To top that all off, the combination the two put together to deliver Indy’s opening goal was top quality teamwork and timing. Martinez took advantage of a sloppy turnover by Atlanta in midfield, but instead of immediately trying to turn into attack, he laid possession off to Mines and immediately peeled out to the right flank. Mines found Ofeimu as he stepped forward in support, and the center back’s pass down the right side was timed perfectly to allow Martinez to beat the high Atlanta line. Seeing what was developing from his position in the left channel, Williams was there in tandem with Martinez, and two touches later the ball was in the back of the net.

“[Augustine] made a little good run on the halfway line to just unbalance the defender,” said McAuley. “Then obviously Dougie with his pace he gets down that side quite regular for us in the season. Once he got down and broke away, we knew if we put a ball across, Augie’s got that quality where he can finish.”


The workrates of Indy Eleven's front and back lines was outstanding, with the defense combining to block more than half the shots Atlanta United FC attempted. | Photo courtesy Atlanta United FC

McAuley told the broadcast team that part of what allows lower-division teams to cause upsets is their ability to suffer and play without the ball. That was especially true for Indy in the second half as on one hand Atlanta’s intensity ramped up in search of an equalizer and on the other Indy became more inconsistent in finding teammates with outlet passes to try and hold possession.

What was key throughout the contest, though, was the way Indy was prepared to battle and sacrifice their bodies when Atlanta got a sniff of goal. Midfielder Laurence Wooton was exemplary in the first part, tracking down and shepherding opponents into favorable situations for his side while winning 6 of 8 duels individually. Then there was the back line, which blocked nine of the 17 shots Atlanta took overall. Callum Chapman-Page led the way with three, while O’Brien and Ofeimu each registered two. While Atlanta became the first side to score against Indy in this Open Cup, it came too late to resuscitate their chances.

“I’ll have to rewatch, [but] I just remember a lot of our players throwing their bodies in front of the ball, you know, [Indy goalkeeper Hunter Sulte] coming and taking crosses, really critical moments which calms things down,” said McAuley. “I remember a lot of the players running so hard to keep what we had and try and get us into the semifinals.”

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