INDIANPOLIS – Indy Eleven saw a late comeback bid fall short Saturday night, as forward Justin Braun’s 88th minute tally could only bring things close in an eventual 1-2 defeat at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Central Broward Stadium. Fort Lauderdale used goals from Brazilian forwards Paulo Junior and Maicon Santos on either side of halftime to build a lead that proved insurmountable, keeping Indy Eleven winless on the road in seven Fall Season attempts.
Paulo Jr. would see the game’s first quality look just four minutes in when a ball found him with ample space in the right side of the area, but his rushed shot would miss just high and wide of goal. He would make up for that miss in the 19th minute, when he finished a lengthy run down the right flank with a shot that beat Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch low and inside the far left post to give the home side the early 1-0 advantage.
Despite several dangerous crosses and set pieces earned throughout the first half, Indy Eleven couldn’t scratch across a goal. Midfielder Gerardo Torrado’s volleyed attempt in the 14th minute marked the visitors’ best chance until the 37th minute, when midfielder Don Smart’s crafty chip was batted away by Strikers netminder Bruno at the near left post.
Paulo Jr. nearly had his second of the night in the 42nd minute when he danced past a defender and into the area to snap off a shot from 10 yards, but Busch did well to knock away the chance with two hands. A minute later Maicon Santos saw a header ring off the crossbar and bounce off the goalline, but the shot was nullified anyway when the offside flag went up on the dead ball opportunity. Indy Eleven looked to have scored a last gasp goal in first half stoppage time when Lovel Palmer got a head on Nemanja Vukovic’s set piece delivery, but it too was whistled dead for offside.
The second half would take some time to heat up, but quality chances would come from both sides around the hour mark, first from the Strikers when a cross found Ramon Nunez unmarked at the far post, but the Honduran would push his header from five yards out wide. A minute later Indy’s best chance from the run of play on the evening would end with substitute Duke Lacroix running onto Eamon Zayed’s low ball played across the area, only to sky the chance from the edge of the six.
That would leave the door open for the home side to double the advantage, and it would do just that through Maicon Santos in the 67th minute. With the Indy backline stretched, Santos was able to carry 20 yards into the left side of the Eleven area before cutting inside and firing a low shot inside the far right post, giving Busch no chance and extending the Fort Lauderdale lead to 2-0.
Braun had a great chance to cut the lead in half in the 72nd minute after running onto Lacroix’s cross five yards out, but the ball short-hopped the forward, forcing him to pop up the golden opportunity. However, Braun would indeed make things interesting in the late going thanks to his fifth goal of the season, ending well an industrious shift in what was his first start in more than a month since suffering a right MCL strain. Braun’s return to the scoresheet came in the 88th minute, when he nodded home Lovel Palmer’s cross from 10 yards out, cutting the Fort Lauderdale lead in half and setting up a contested finish. However, repeated forays into the final third would be repelled through four minutes of stoppage time, resulting in Indy Eleven’s recent winless streak moving to five games (0W-2D-3L).
Indy Eleven returns to IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 17, and will look to extend its 14-game home undefeated streak when it welcomes The Miami FC to “The Mike” for the first time. Kickoff that evening is set for 7:30 p.m.