A soccer match, last time I checked, takes at least ninety minutes to play. Yet somehow, time and time again, the final result comes down to just one or two moments during the full ninety minutes. Or at least, that’s just how it feels sometimes. That was certainly the takeaway from Saturday night’s match between Penn FC and Indy Eleven that saw both teams struggling to create dangerous scoring opportunities on the way to a 1-1 final score.
Penn FC went with almost the same lineup that got them the 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies last week. The only changes were Aaron Dennis starting for Saalih Muhammed and Paulo Jr. making his debut in the place of Isaac Osae. Both of the players who missed starting made appearances as substitutes along with Prince Baffoe, who didn’t make an appearance in Tampa Bay but who scored the equalizer against Louisville City FC.
Just like in their last two matches, Penn FC didn’t have many scoring opportunities in the first half. They only managed three shots and only one of those was on goal. But the game remained scoreless at the half because Indy struggled with tired legs after their Tuesday clash with Nashville SC. They only managed one shot in the half and their best opportunities came off of a few corner kicks that the Penn FC defense managed to turn away.
After a break from the Indiana heat, Penn FC returned to the pitch to try and work some second half magic once again. They didn’t have to wait long as Freddie Opoku, Aaron Dennis, and Lucky Mkosana teamed up to break down the Indy Eleven defense in the 50th minute. Opoku flicked a ball on for Dennis who used his first touch to stop the ball for Mkosana. Mkosana then lobbed a ball into space that Dennis was about to run down for a one on one shot at goal. But before he had a chance to shoot, Karl Ouimette of the Indy Eleven knocked him down inside the box, resulting in a yellow for him and a penalty for Penn FC.
Both sides were displeased with the call as it unfolded. The Penn FC fans thought that the referee should have played the advantage instead of whistling the play dead as Mkosana had scored after Dennis was fouled. The Indy Eleven fans were upset as it appeared that the foul had actually occurred about a foot outside of the box. But there’s no VAR in USL, and Mkosana buried the penalty to put Penn FC up 1-0.
Indy Eleven jumped on the gas to try and find an equalizer, but they quickly ran afoul of a new enemy, the offside flag. Several times after the Penn FC goal it had appeared that Indy had sprung an attacker for a chance on goal only to see the flag go up each time. Kevin Venegas, Justin Braun, and Jack McInerney all got caught at least once on the way to six total offside calls for Indy during the match.
Indy’s task got a bit tougher in the 76th minute as Ouimette earned a second yellow for a foul on Osae. Osea had Ouimette beat after a pass from Mkosana, so Ouimette decided to bring him down rather than allow him to get one on one with the keeper. The referee didn’t hesitate to produce the second yellow, and Indy was looking to find an equalizer with only ten men.
It looked like Indy’s best chance to score was second half sub Eugene Starikov, who used his fresh legs to be a nuisance for the Penn FC defense. He had a solid chance in the 79th minute but he went down in the box after contact with Kyle Venter. The referee didn’t see a foul, but the Indy crowd was vocal about their displeasure. Indy managed to maintain possession, an they won dangerous free kick just outside the box shortly after.
Sooney Saad was responsible for some amazing free kick goals early in the season, but he wasn’t available Saturday night as he continues to deal with an oblique injury. So it was McInerney who stepped up and curled a shot just inside the near post that Penn FC goalkeeper Romu Peiser couldn’t quite reach. The ten man side had equalized with only about fifteen minutes of play remaining.
Indy didn’t hesitate to sub in a defender for a midfielder after they equalized in order to restore their back line. Penn FC tried to take advantage of the extra man in the midfield, but they weren’t able to break through the Indy defense to regain the lead. In fact, it was Benjamin Speas for Indy who nearly found a winner in stoppage time, but knocked his shot high and wide. The 1-1 scoreline held as the final whistle blew.
- Lucky Mkosana’s goal is his fifth of the season, all in the last three matches. He has jumped into the Penn FC scoring lead and his five goals are also good enough for 12th best in the USL Eastern Conference.
- Penn FC has come out of one of their toughest away stretches of the season with a respectable five points. If they can get some results when they return home this week, they will find themselves in a playoff position at the halfway point of the season.