The Pitch Bitch, episode four

Indy Eleven rewards faithful fans with victory

Tribute to a fallen Brickyard Battalion member

Sept 14 pre-game

The pre-game activities included a remembrance of Brickyard Battalion member Drew Schwier, 26, who died unexpectedly Sept. 7.

The program to Indy Eleven’s Sept. 13 home game against North Carolina FC featured a note written by striker Eamon Zayed.

He communicated his deep appreciation for Indy Eleven supporters, about how he saw and respected fans’ capacity to uphold the tenets of passion, commitment, loyalty, love, belief and hope.*

And on an evening when Indy’s Brickyard Battalion mourned the loss and celebrated the life of super fan Drew Schwier, Zayed — with the help of a well-place Marco Franco feed to his head — saved Indy from what promised to be a 0-0 draw by (in the final minute of regulation time) driving the ball into the wide right netting of the Carolina goal.

So, in memory of Drew and in honor of the fans who stay to the end, the Boys in Blue claimed victory in Downtown Indianapolis.

When the season begins to slip away and a team is sitting at the bottom of the table in a league struggling to survive, what motivates the players to dig deep, to show up ready to play? Those very characteristics Zayed identified in the fans: passion, commitment, loyalty, love, belief and hope.

Players can do something with those ingredients. Indy’s players are trying to get their game cooking. There are still areas in need of improvement, but one can find plenty of positive fodder.

What can be said about the details of tonight’s match? In general, Indy held the upper hand in terms of dictating the pace of the game — but the pace was generally pretty slow. Though Don Smart returned to active duty late into the match, which helped to accelerate Indy’s attack.

Indy’s propensity to keep pushing forward with its outside fullbacks continues to pay dividends — and offset the associated risks of potentially exposed flanks. Left back Nemanja Vukovic stepped up enough to force Carolina keeper Brian Sylvestre into action on more than one occasion. His counterpart to the wide right, Marco Franco, plowed into the attack on several occasions as well — and launched the pass that enabled the evening’s only goal.

With solid experience, positioning and communication, Jon Busch, Colin Falvey, Cory Miller, Brad Ring and Gerardo Torrado were mostly able to make the adjustments necessary to enable Vukovic and Franco’s flight patterns. The pressure on the defense, it must be noted, was not as stiff one might expected from Carolina, given the team is ranked No. 2 among North American Soccer League teams. N.C. FC’s James Marcelin received a red card just before the half, leaving his teammates to play down a man for the rest of the match. Even with a man-up advantage, Indy was barely able to capitalize on the opportunity. The most important point, however, is that they did capitalize.

They did not give up.

The Sept. 13 game also marked the debut of midfielder Paulo Jr., a product of Brazil who has been playing professionally for a decade. He started the match in an attacking position and demonstrated commendable ball control and aggressive pressure.  There’s room for him to make a mark as his team prepares to make the most with what is left of this season.

If the boys stay on track — if true passion drives them — some great games remain in their future, even this season. Does a city need a championship to find worth in its team? No. Sometimes a simple victory like today’s serves to remind us of one of life’s most salient lessons: Make the most of this very moment. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift: the present.

Today Indy Eleven did not give up. They kept hammering and earned their just desserts.

Now, as Jay Z says, “On to the next one!”

The team travels to Canada this weekend to take on FC Edmonton on Sept. 17. Kickoff is 4 p.m. EDT. Indy Eleven’s next home match is set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 against Puerto Rico FC.

* Zayed’s piece also urged people to read this article by Nuri Sahin, a Turkish international player who was with his team Borussia Dortmund when a bomb exploded outside its bus on the way to a European Champions League game.

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