Indy Eleven Captures NASL Spring Season Championship

Boys in Blue officially clinch title after Strikers' result on Sunday
NASL Staff | Jun 12, 2016

Entering the final week of the NASL Spring Season as one of three clubs chasing the New York Cosmos, Indy Eleven needed to pull off a minor miracle to lift their first piece of league silverware. The Boys in Blue did just that, topping the visiting Carolina RailHawks, 4-1, on Saturday night to move past the Cosmos in the standings on the third tiebreaker – head-to-head record.

Indy Eleven’s Spring Season Championship wasn’t completely confirmed until Sunday afternoon, when the Fort Lauderdale Strikers were unable to get the landslide victory they needed over FC Edmonton at Clarke Field. In fact, the Strikers, who needed to win by six goals or more, didn’t even come out on top on Sunday, falling 2-1 to the Eddies in the Spring Season finale.

With the Spring Season trophy in hand, Indy has guaranteed itself one of the four spots in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament. The Eleven will host one of the two semifinal games in The Championship as the #1 or #2 seed, with the final seeding determined by the overall records of the Spring Season and Fall Season Champions.

Going back to Saturday night, Indy entered its clash with Carolina needing to score four goals and win by at least three. The 4-1 result, which was achieved in the 85th minute thanks to a goal from forward Eamon Zayed, was exactly what Tim Hankinson’s side needed. Zayed was the hero in the game, scoring a hat trick to become the league's leading goalscorer in 2016. The final goal put them even on goal differential (first tiebreaker) with the then-first place Cosmos and even on goals scored (second tiebreaker) with New York as well, leaving it to the third tiebreaker of head-to-head record.

Because Indy pulled off a dramatic stoppage-time win against New York earlier this season, it was the Boys in Blue who moved to the top of the standings. Still, the third-year NASL side needed the Strikers and the Tampa Bay Rowdies to fade out of contention in Week 11, and they both did so without any real incident. The Rowdies played to a 1-1 draw in Jacksonville on Saturday, while the Strikers were dropped by the Eddies, 2-1, on Sunday.

So amidst all of the drama on the final weekend of the Spring Season, Indy came out on top, assuring its loyal fans at least one postseason game at Carroll Stadium in November. Saturday’s win also clinched an unbeaten Spring Season record (4W-6D-0L) for the Eleven, who become the second NASL team (Cosmos in 2015) to finish the Spring Season without a loss.

In his first season in charge, Indy head coach Tim Hankinson has led the team to a remarkable turnaround. The Boys in Blue struggled in their first two NASL seasons, posting an overall record of 14W-18D-25L in league play. But 2016 has been different under the guidance of Hankinson, who has instilled a system that has stabilized the team on both ends.

The energized Eleven won’t have much time to celebrate their Spring Season Championship, as they have a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game to prepare for. Hankinson’s side will travel to Toyota Park on Wednesday to take on the Chicago Fire in the tournament’s fourth round.  

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