Indy Eleven Draw In Season Opener


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Indy Eleven opened up their 2016 North American Soccer League campaign with a nil-nil draw on the road Saturday evening against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium.

New manager Tim Hankison’s squad turned in a sloppy, uneven performance in the middle third and attacking third, but ultimately did enough in the defensive third of the pitch to escape with a road point. Jon Busch, who led Major League Soccer in saves just two short years ago, debuted in net for the Eleven and — along with the help of a revamped back line — showed why the club made a wise choice to acquire his services ahead of the 2016 season.

The “Boys in Blue” came out in Hankinson’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation but struggled to find their groove early, getting out-possessed by the Rowdies 40 percent to 60 percent and putting zero shots on frame in the first half. The Eleven also failed to attempt a shot from inside the box in the first 45 minutes, with their only two attempts coming from distance. Indy’s best chance before the break came on Scottish holding midfielder Nicki Paterson’s near-magical tally from thirty yards out at the 45+1′ mark, but it sailed just over the crossbar.

Things didn’t improve much in the second half for the Eleven, but they did muster up a decent scoring chance in the 78th minute. Forward Eamon Zayed uncorked a shot on frame but it was right at Tampa Bay ‘keeper Matt Pickens. The best opportunity of the match for either team occurred in the 52nd minute when Rowdies forward Tom Heinemann found himself wide open just to the left of the penalty spot and blasted a rocket toward the far side netting, but Busch dove to his left and made a stellar save.