INDIANAPOLIS - The Indy Eleven did it again Wednesday night, topping Ottawa Fury FC 2-0 and extending their home unbeaten streak to 22 matches. It begs the question: Why are games at Lucas Oil Stadium so difficult for Indy's opponents?
Is it the surface, visible football lines and raucous environment, or Indy's talent level and style of play? Maybe it's a bit of everything. Not wanting to tip his hand, Eleven coach Martin Rennie was tight-lipped.
"I'm certainly not going to answer that," he joked. "I mean, I'm not going to try to tell the other coaches how to coach. I think that there's pros and cons for us at Lucas Oil. Certainly, our form is very good.
"Other coaches, you know, have to come up with a game plan just like we do when we go away from home."
Against Ottawa, it didn't take long for the stadium's quirks to affect the match. Less than 10 minutes in, Fury goalkeeper Callum Irving came flying out of the 18-yard box - marked by yellow lines - and grabbed the ball. Irving's peripheral vision must've caught the nearby white 10-yard line that's just outside the box.
Indy received a dangerous free kick for the infraction, but couldn't quite score on a cheeky play drawn up at the training grounds. Ilija Ilic dummied a short pass from Ayoze that sprung Tyler Pasher for a look at goal on his preferred left foot.
"It was one that we looked at a long time ago," Rennie said of the restart. "But ultimately, the guys pulled - I think - the right one out of the tool kit."
Ayoze had put Indy on top moments before with a sixth-minute strike from distance that caromed off a defender and past Irving, assisted by Ilic. Ayoze added another on a half-volley belter into the top corner in the second half, this time with Drew Conner providing the final pass.
The final stats revealed a deceitful 12 shots by the Fury with four on target, but Indy goalkeeper Evan Newton hardly broke a sweat in preserving yet another clean sheet.
"The guys in front of me were great tonight," Newton said. "Didn't have much to do."
Beyond the confusing football lines, some opponents find the surface itself problematic. The new turf installed at Lucas Oil in 2018 was touted as a significant upgrade at the time. Rennie spoke fondly of it after Indy saw an uptick in scoring last season following the change. But natural grass reigns supreme in soccer, and finding a player or coach who loves artificial turf is like spotting a yeti.
"On the road, I think we may be (better)," midfielder Matt Watson said earlier this season after a string of road results. "I don't want to complain, but better surfaces. Just being on grass really suits the way we want to play. Nothing against Lucas Oil, but that surface is not the best for us. I feel like, 'Put us on the grass and we'll be OK.'"
Amid a 22-game home unbeaten streak and counting, things have been pretty OK for the Eleven on the Lucas Oil turf, too.