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St. Louis FC hands Indy Eleven its first loss of season

St. Louis FC hands Indy Eleven its first loss of season

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Saint Louis FC vs Indy Eleven

Fans cheer as a smoke bomb is deployed at the end of the STLFC-Indy Eleven soccer game on Sunday, July 26, 2020 at West Community Stadium in Fenton. STLFC won 1-0 in its first home match since March 7, after which the season was halted because of coronavirus concerns. (Chris Kohley, ckohley@post-dispatch.com)

St. Louis FC striker Tyler Blackwood had a feeling about Sunday afternoon’s game at West Community Stadium in Fenton.

“Before we started, I told the guys that I expected a goal,” Blackwood said. “I feel like I’m going to score in every game; I’m playing with that kind of confidence right now. I’m thankful that I got the chance and even more thankful that it ended up to be the game winner.”

With his third goal in four matches — and his second straight winner —Blackwood scored in the 24th minute as STLFC defeated Indy Eleven 1-0 in United Soccer League Championship action before a coronavirus-limited crowd on Sunday afternoon.

STLFC improved to 3-1 while Indy Eleven slipped to 4-1.

“Great win and a real credit to the guys,” STLFC coach Steve Trittschuh said. “The plan at the start was to get at them and I thought we did a good job of that early. But on a day like today, with the heat, we knew it wasn’t going to be a fast-paced game. But we did what we needed to do, got a great goal from Tyler and got the result we were looking for.”

A former North American Soccer League squad, Indy Eleven split a pair of games with STLFC last year, its first in the USL Championship. The visitors’ Andrew Carleton created a couple of early chances. In the 12th minute, his shot from inside the penalty area was handled by STLFC goalkeeper Kyle Morton.

Six or so minutes later, after a nice buildup, Carleton’s shot sailed over top of the goal.

The home team grabbed the lead in the 24th minute when midfielder Wal Fall played a through pass to Blackwood making a run along the edge of the penalty area. Blackwood moved in alone from the left side of the box and scored with a low shot into the far corner of the goal.

“I’d been visualizing that goal all day,” Blackwood said. “It’s a special goal for me because I played with (Indy Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton) with Sacramento Republic. He’s a good friend and we’ve always had good personal battles. Most of the time, he gets the better of me, so I was glad to get a goal on him today.”

A key to STLFC victory was its solid play along the backline. Playing with Phanuel Kavita, Sam Fink and Tobi Adewole at centerback and Paris Gee and Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare at wingback, the home team limited the Indy Eleven attack in front of Morton, who posted his second consecutive shutout.

“The first few minutes, in the heat, you knew you were in for a tough day,” said Kavita, who was forced to sit out the 2-0 loss in Indianapolis on July 11 because of a high temperature. “But we grinded it out and got the result we needed. Defensively, we worked well together and we did what we needed to do.

“We got our revenge.”

Trittschuh added: “Everybody worked together. It’s not easy playing on a day like today, but we worked hard and we got it done.”

Kavita came up with a pair of key slide tackles while Fink added another to help shut down the Indy Eleven attack.

While the pace of the match slowed in the 90-plus degree heat, Indy Eleven kept pushing in an effort to get the equalizer. On a scramble late in the second half, the ball popped out to the visitors’ Paddy Barrett and his volley attempt just sailed wide past the far post.

STLFC also had quality scoring chance in the dying minutes of the game, but Guy Abend’s pass across the goal just missed making connections with lunging teammate Blackwood.

“We’ve been training hard all week, going nine (versus) nine 9 and 11 (versus) 11,” Blackwood said. “At the time, I wasn’t sure why. But I won’t question the coaches anymore; all that hard work during the week, it helped prepare us for today. We were ready and it showed.”

STLFC returns to action on Saturday with a road game against Memphis 901 FC (0-2-2). The local squad is set to play at home on Aug. 5 (vs. Sporting KC II), Aug. 8 (vs. FC Tulsa) and Aug. 15 (vs. Sporting KC II).

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