Juan Guerra scored the game-winner in the 90th minute. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
INDIANAPOLIS — A pair of former Cosmos had the first and last words of Indy Eleven’s 3-2 United Soccer League win over North Carolina FC at Lucas Oil Stadium Wednesday night.
Forward Eugene Starikov scored in the seventh minute and midfielder Juan Guerra tallied in the 90th minute to lift Indy (10-7-5, 35 points), which climbed into fifth place in the Eastern Conference. North Carolina (8-9-6, 30) is in 10th place.
A well-placed cross from Eleven forward Jack McInerney from the right edge of the pitch found Starikov at the top of Carolina’s six-yard box in the seventh minute. The Ukrainian forward scored his third goal of the season after his sliding shot edged around defender DJ Taylor.
“He [Starikov] was out for two and a half months. You didn’t get to see him and we didn’t really get to use him.” Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie said. “Now we’re seeing the benefit of having him on the field and he’s scoring.”
Ben Speas doubled the lead in the 31st minute before North Carolina counter with a Kyle Bekker score a minute into first-half stoppage time and Mario Lomis’ equalizer in the 77th minute.
That set up Guerra’s dramatic game-winner in the final minute of regulation. He made the most of a deflected shot inside NCFC’s 18-yard box. The goal was Guerra’s first since joining the team this season.
Rennie partially credited the new turf in the stadium to the victory.
“It was a much better game tonight and there was much more passing and interchanging,” he said. “The surface does play a lot better so that’s one big plus. The players made the most of it and I thought they did a good job.”