- Ian Robertson
- The Eleven circle up before the semifinal match against FC Edmonton
It’s been a superb season for Indiana’s Team, but there’s one more item on the to-do list: NASL Champions. The “Boys in Blue” travel to New York City Sunday to face the defending champion New York Cosmos in the NASL Championship Final.
The two teams battled three times during the regular season with the Eleven winning both times at The Mike and New York taking care of business on their home field, too. Unlike what the Eleven faced against FC Edmonton in their semifinal, New York features a wide-open, possession-based attacking style of play.
“The Cosmos have some big time players at a number of positions. You’ve got to stay disciplined, organized, balanced in defending and you have to make plays,” Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson said.
The Cosmos led the NASL in scoring with 59 goals and had a league best goal differential of 30.
“The guys have got to step up and make tackles and block shots and really just challenge every single moment of the game, said Hankinson. “Then you’ve got a chance to win the day.”
Winning the day won’t be easy. While the Eleven have been dominant at home this season, they’ve struggled away from the Mike. Yes, Sunday’s match is in New York, but it’s being played at Belson Stadium, which is technically a neutral venue.
Hankinson said the venue will have no impact on his team.
“It’s just a 90 minute battle. That’s all it is.”
The battle is set to feature a lot of fireworks. The Cosmos’ Juan Arango — 16 goals — and Eleven’s Eamon Zayed — 15 goals — rank second and third in scoring in 2016. If you’re looking for players to watch, these are your guys.
No matter the outcome Sunday, 2016 has been a massive step forward for the Eleven. But a victory would give Indianapolis its first championship trophy since 2012 when the Indiana Fever were crowned WNBA champions. It would give the Indy Eleven its first title in just its third year a club. It would put Indianapolis on the map as a soccer city.