Indy Eleven win U.S. Open Cup match
Three goals, two back flips, one victory. It added up to an historic night.
The Eleven won't retain midfielder Blake Smith forever, but they forever will have him to thank for the club's first-ever win.
Smith scored three goals and assisted on two others, leading the Eleven over the Dayton Dutch Lions 5-2 Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup before an announced crowd of 9,181 at IUPUI's Carroll Stadium.
The Eleven advance to the round of 32 against MLS' Columbus Crew on June 17 at Akron, Ohio. In the next round, all 16 American-based MLS teams participate.
Smith, 23, is on loan from MLS' Montreal Impact. He played college soccer at New Mexico and was the No. 8 pick of last year's MLS draft. He celebrated his third goal, in the 88th minute, with two back flips.
"I think tonight was just proof that we do have a solid team," Smith said. "We finally kind of put it together, offensively especially."
To be sent from MLS to NASL is analogous to a baseball player leaving the majors for Triple-A in search of more at-bats or innings pitched. It was an opportunity, Smith said. Goalkeeper Kristian Nicht said the Eleven need players with such ambition.
"Those guys won't play forever in that league (NASL)," Nicht said. "But it's fantastic to have those guys at the moment. Because he really gives us a lift."
After several near-scores by the Eleven, Smith broke through in the 26th minute by curling a left-footed shot from the top of the box into the net. Four minutes later, tall striker Ben Spencer assisted Smith's second goal.
In the 42nd minute, Smith assisted on the Eleven's third score with a cross that was directed into the net by Mike Ambersley. Zionsville's Dylan Mares pushed the lead to 4-0 on a left-footed shot into the right corner, again assisted by Smith, in the opening minute of the second half.
(Photo Credit Joe Vitti/The Star)