Eleven fight for 1:1 draw in front of sellout crowd

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It was a night of repeats for Indy Eleven as the North American Soccer League expansion side attracted its second consecutive sellout crowd at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium in addition to its second 1-1 draw, this time against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Tampa Bay’s Brian Shriver, the reigning NASL Golden Boot winner, and Indy Eleven’s Erick Norales both recorded their first goals of the 2014 season for their respective teams.

The first 45 minutes of play set the stage for a competitive and physical match that would be sure to keep the 10,421 fans in attendance entertained. After a brief settling-in period, both the home and away team were quick to push the ball forward and create dangerous opportunities.

Indy Eleven midfielder Kleberson continued his recent run of good form and looked to be the most dangerous scoring option on the field in the first half. In the 16th minute Kleberson put himself in threatening position to receive a Walter Ramirez cross, which the Brazilian put just wide. Two minutes later it was again Kleberson who took a stinging shot from 30 yards out that beat Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens, only to be denied by the top of the crossbar.

After withstanding an onslaught of Indy Eleven attacks, Tampa Bay found more possession and countered with 10 minutes of sustained attacks. Eleven goalkeeper Kristian Nicht was up to the challenge, first tipping a Darel Russell shot from distance over the crossbar and following it up with a breakaway save against Georgi Hristov. Later in the half Nicht would again step up to preserve the shutout, tipping Shane Hill’s shot wide in the 40th minute.

After the halftime break it was déjà vu all over again for Indy Eleven when they conceded a goal straight out of the locker room in the 48th minute. After bagging 15 goals for Carolina last season, Shriver opened his Rowdies account by receiving a well-played through ball from Blake Wagner before going five-hole on Nicht to put the Floridians up 1-0.

Kleberson would continue to punish the woodwork in the 73rd minute with a 30-yard free kick that hit the top of the left post and bounced forcefully back into play before being cleared from danger. It would be the 82nd minute when Indy’s equalizer would come through an unlikely source in Norales. The Honduran defender was up-field for a dead ball opportunity and lingered long enough in the area to be found by midfielder Dylan Mares’ low cross. Norales cut inside his mark to deflect the ball past Pickens from close range to even things up at 1-1.

Next weekend Indy Eleven (0-0-2, 2 pts.) will get its first taste of the road in NASL play when it heads to South Florida to take on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1-1-0, 3 pts), which fell 1-4 at the Carolina RailHawks tonight. Kickoff from Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale next Saturday is set for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff for a match that can be viewed online via the NASLLive.com subscription package. Fans in Central Indiana should stay tuned to IndyEleven.com and the team’s social media channels for information on watch parties to be held in conjunction with the team’s Brickyard Battalion independent supporters group.