In my preview for Wednesday’s match, I suggested that Indy would struggle as they came out of the dome and played on a soggy FNB Field. Little did I know just how right that would end up being. The talented Indy Eleven players were completely wiped out by the wet conditions and they never posed much of a threat. Penn FC was able to dominate possession and it was Paulo Jr’s goal in the 57th minute that sealed the deal for the home team.
Penn FC’s lineup was boosted by the return of three of their players from international duty. Aaron Dennis came right back into the starting lineup, but Lucky Mkosana and Jorge Rivera were left on the bench. The team was without Jake Bond and Ken Tribbett due to yellow card accumulation, so Harri Hawkins and Tiago Calvano were called into action in their place.
When the ref blew his whistle to start the match, it was immediately apparent that the speed of play was going to be affected by the soggy conditions on the pitch. It had rained in Harrisburg for three days before the match and the Susquehanna River was cresting just below its minor flood stage, so the field was not able to get much drainage. This made the field decidedly muddy and slippery, a big difference from what Indy is used to at Lucas Oil Stadium. On the plus side, there was no rain during the match itself.
Penn FC seemed to realize that Indy wasn’t adjusting well, so they attacked the goal early. Both Richard Menjivar and Aaron Dennis had good chances inside the first ten minutes that went just wide. Indy attempted to spring a few counters, but Penn FC was able to break them up. As a consequence, Calvano picked up an early yellow card. He would have to be careful the rest of the match and he will miss the match against NC FC due to yellow card accumulation.
Indy’s best chance in the match came in the 29th minute when Eugene Sterikov chested down a goal kick from Owain Fon Williams and found himself alone on the right side of the box. It looked like Harri Hawkins let him past thinking that he was caught offside, but another defender had kept him on. But Sterikov tried to chip it for the far post instead of going for power and his shot went wide.
Both sides seemed to slow down as they got a little waterlogged late into the first half. But they seemed to be adapting to the slow conditions on the field, and each team seemed like they were planning to make their moves in the second half.
Indy punched up their attack for the second half and Jack McInerney nearly slipped a low shot past Romu Peiser within the first few minutes. After that, Penn FC controlled possession again as they tried to put more shots on goal. Aaron Dennis was the main target, but he was caught offside a few times to ruin some good chances.
But Penn FC’s persistence paid up in the 57th minute as Harri Hawkins tracked down a half clearance before crossing it to Paulo Jr. Paulo didn’t stop the ball with his first touch, but that allowed it to slip into an area with no defenders. So he was able to chase down the ball and one touch it just inside the far post.
Going down 1-0 in a game that they expected to win seemed to rouse Indy Eleven from their slumber. They actually put some effort into their attack for the next ten minutes as they looked for an equalizer. With no luck from that approach, they subbed in two players at once in the 67th minute to try and provide some fresh legs. But despite this effort, Penn FC continued to hold most of the possession and it felt more likely that they would find a second goal than Indy would equalize.
Penn FC should have had that second in the 90th minute, but Indy had a bit of good luck. Williams blocked away a shot from Mkosana but he didn’t clear it out of the box and he fell to the ground out of position. Penn FC’s Dan Metzger was ready to send a volley into the open net, but Mkosana accidentally blocked his shot while tracking the ball. Just a bit of bad luck for Penn FC’s end of the season goal differential.
Indy wasn’t able to create many chances in the final minutes and nothing that really troubled the Penn FC defense. The players were just too worn down by the slow, wet conditions and Penn FC was able to burn up a lot of the clock on their way to over 65% possession for the night. The single goal ended up being enough for Penn FC as they downed Indy Eleven for the first time ever.
- The win against Indy means that Saturday’s loss against ATL UTD 2 doesn’t hurt quite so bad. Still, it makes you wonder where Penn FC would be on the table if they took more points against some of the teams that are lower on the table.
- After a slow start to his career with Penn FC, Paulo Jr. has now scored three times for his new team after joining in the middle of the season. with seven matches still to play, it’ll be interesting to see how many he finishes the season with.