WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Indy Eleven) – A lone second half goal from Indy Eleven midfielder Kleberson in his unofficial debut was not enough to overcome the Chicago Fire’s strong first half form, as the NASL expansion side fell 1-3 to the MLS squad in a preseason matchup at the Boilermaker Soccer Complex. Kleberson’s tally came during a better second half of play for the home side, but could not erase a three-goal deficit built by Chicago in the first half.
“Chicago was a great opponent, and we want to play quality competition like that because it shows us where our strengths and weaknesses are tactically and what we need to continue to work on as the season approaches,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Juergen Sommer. “That’s why we played this game, to continue to do what we need to get sharp and prepare for Friday and then, more importantly the opener the following week.”
Chicago came out of the gates firing on all cylinders and showed no sign of slowing down in the first 45 minutes of play. The Fire enjoyed the bulk of possession and the majority of attacking opportunities in the opening stanza and opened the scoring just six minutes in when defender Lovel Palmer nodded home a corner kick from 10 yards out. In the 24th minute it was forward Luis Anongano’s turn to head in a cross from the right flank, doubling the Chicago advantage.
Although Indy Eleven’s front line was able to get into a few dangerous attacking positions, Fire goalkeeper Kyle Reynish went largely untested in the first half. Indy Eleven almost got into the locker room down just two goals, but Fire forward Chris Rolfe’s far right post finish past Eleven netminder Kristian Nicht in the 45th minute brought the Fire lead to 3-0 heading into the break.
The second half saw the introduction of Indy Eleven’s newest signing, as the World Cup champion Kleberson replaced Pedro Mendes at the interval. The midfield combination of Corby Moore, Kleberson, Brad Ring and A.J. Corrado saw Indy Eleven start to control more possession in the center of the park. One of Indy’s better scoring opportunities on the night came in the 69th minute when Don Smart broke free and looked to get in on goal but was clipped from behind about 30 yards from goal. On the ensuing free kick Kleberson put the ball into the mixer but was unable to find the head of an Eleven teammate.
Indy Eleven was finally rewarded for their improved second half form when Fire defender Chris Ritter armed down the ball in the box while attempting to make a clearance. The referee awarded the penalty, which Kleberson stepped up to take without hesitation before slotting low past the correct-guessing Alec Mann in goal to give the Brazilian his first unofficial tally in Indy Eleven checkers and bring the match to its eventual 1-3 scoreline.
“It was great to see Kleberson get out there. You can see the qualities he brings to the game,” said Sommer. “For us it was important to give him a good 45 minutes to get his fitness up and watch the first 45 minutes to get a gauge of what his teammates’ tendencies are and learn about the group a little more.”
Indy Eleven won’t have much time to dwell on the loss, as the squad will close out its spring exhibition schedule this Friday, April 4, when it welcomes the Indiana University Hoosiers to its home of Michael A. Carroll Stadium at IUPUI for a 7:30 p.m. ET. Fans should note that Friday night’s match will be limited to Indy Eleven season ticket holders in order to give Carroll Stadium a “test drive” before the team’s Inaugural Game against the Carolina RailHawks in just 11 days on Saturday, April 12.