Expansion club Indy Eleven made its North American Soccer League debut in front of a sellout crowd of 11,048 at Michael A. Carroll Stadium in a 1-1 draw against the Carolina RailHawks.
Mike Ambersley scored the historic first goal in Indy Eleven history, applying a quick finish to a perfect through ball just before halftime of the ESPN3 NASL Match of the Week. Carolina adjusted immediately and only five minutes after the break, Zach Schilawski earned the visitors a share of the points with an equalizer.
Minnesota United have set the early pace on top of the standings with a 2-0 win away to the San Antonio Scorpions.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said Minnesota coach Manny Lagos. “I thought they worked really hard. The three points are very big for us tonight, but we’ve got to get better. I thought it was a great physical game and we didn’t back down and we saw the game out.”
Striker Christian Ramirez controlled the ball with his back to goal and then on a half-turn, volleyed the ball into the top corner after 17 minutes and the hosts were soon reduced to ten men when Julius James was sent off. Kevin Venegas drilled a perfect free kick over the wall and past keeper David Bingham to make it 2-0.
Joining Minnesota at the top are the Fort Lauderdale Strikers also won 2-0, spoiling the NASL debut of Ottawa Fury FC at Lockhart Stadium. Rafael Alves scored the first goal of the new NASL season after 13 minutes as he put the Strikers ahead, then a Darnell King goal late in the game made the points safe for the Strikers.
A crowd of 7,003 saw the Tampa Bay Rowdies lead through a 32nd minute own goal by Kareem Moses and they looked to be destined to collect the win when keeper Matt Pickens saved a second half Neil Hlavaty penalty. But two minutes from time, new signing Tomi Ameobi salvaged a draw for FC Edmonton.
“The players were magnificent in the second half and minimum for us we deserve in this game was a draw,” said FC Edmonton coach, Colin Miller. “I thought we were the better team tonight and it was a great atmosphere here for this home opener and I am so proud of my players tonight.”
Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said: “I felt that we worked hard and dug in. The second half opened a little bit more and I felt that half was a lot better. We managed to string a few passes together and make a few moves. We still have to be a little bit braver collectively in terms of keeping possession of the ball.”
The defending NASL champion New York Cosmos face the Atlanta Silverbacks at Hofstra University on Sunday, April 13 at 5pm.
North American Soccer League 2014 Spring Season Week 1 Results
Indy Eleven 1 Carolina RailHawks 1
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2 Ottawa Fury 0
Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 FC Edmonton 1
San Antonio Scorpions Minnesota United FC
Sunday, April 13
New York Cosmos vs. Atlanta Silverbacks
James M. Shuart Stadium; Hempstead, N.Y. 5 pm