Monday, March 19, 2018

Preview: Richmond Kickers V Indy Eleven - Can Indy Start With A Bang? (3/24/2018)

Matt Watson and Indy Eleven get their first taste of competitive play in 2018 this Saturday.

By: James Cormack

Forget the unseasonably cold weather, forget the myriad of life-endangering potholes spread across the city like a plague of meteor craters, and forget the uncertainty of whether our team would play this year. Indy Eleven's season starts this weekend. It's finally happening and nothing else matters.

After an off-season of uncertainty, the Boys in Blue head off to Richmond for their first taste of USL. Other teams including our opponents for this week have already begun their season in round one while Indy took advantage of an extra week of preparation.

In the USL Eastern Conference, Richmond Kickers fell 4-1 at Bethlehem Steel in their opening match. Former NASL foes North Carolina and Tampa faced off in a highly entertaining match in Cary where the visiting Rowdies won by three goals to one. Another familiar foe Ottawa Fury suffered a 4-1 thrashing from Charlotte Independence.

Last years Champions Louisville secured a 2-0 victory over franchise boys Nashville SC. FC Cincinnati started with a 1-0 away win at Charleston. In the first of six opening games in the Eastern Conference last weekend two MLS reserve sides called II came head to head and one of the II won 2-1.

Are We Ready To Rumble?

Yes, I feel we are. As ready as you can be given the shortness of the pre-season. As mentioned in our earlier preliminary fluff piece, Martin Rennie has gone a long way to counter our lack of prep time by assembling a roster of highly experienced players. This doesn't mean anything of course unless they can bond quickly (and I think they have), but it does help a lot.

The USL and its schedule are a lot different to what you may have been used to with NASL. There are multiple games at times packed into a short period. Remaining injury free, fit, and having an ability to rotate strong players can give you a good advantage in this league.

From the evidence of the games we have played and the roster we have, Rennie has worked himself into a position where he could field two completely different teams in back to back competitive matches and each would be strong and competitive at this level.

Nico Matern the latest roster addition is a good example of our roster depth.

On two occasions this year we have seen Indy Eleven play back to back matches in one day, allowing the coach to field different teams and get all players an adequate amount of playing time. In the final day of pre-season play on Saturday, Indy Eleven played out a 0-0 draw with Jacksonville Armada and a 7-0 win over Indiana Wesleyan with a good mix of what could be considered starting players in each team.

In all Indy have played seven pre-season matches against varying levels of opposition and lost only once in the opening match against FC Cincinnati at Grand Park and have conceded only three goals and scored fifteen.

Our depth is very good compared to other years, especially in defense where even in 2016 we were lacking adequate cover. This past weekend the Eleven were able to play a back line of Moses, Ferreira, Mitchell, and Ouimette in one match, Venegas, Rusin, Pasher, and Ayoze in another. Neither back line conceded a goal, and each I think could hold their own in a USL league match.

The roster currently stands at 23 players and the latest to be added Nico Matern who came from Wesleyan with a German academy background has been turning heads in pre-season and could be one of the shrewdest signings in the league this year. Competition for starting spots is strong, and that is a very good thing.

When you can literally split your roster down the middle and field two very strong teams then you are in a good position going into the season.

Is Richmond Ready For Indy Eleven?

It would be wrong of me to make too many assumptions based on Richmond's 4-1 thrashing at Bethlehem in their opening match, but it was not pretty at all and they could easily have conceded twice that many goals. However, it was the opening match so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe first day jitters? Maybe not?

Richmond had Trevor Spangenberg sitting on the bench and I wondered at times what he was thinking watching that match. He is one of the few players in their squad along with Brian Shriver and Neil Hlavaty that I have experience watching and he must have been peeking through his gloves as the second half wore on. Richmond's performance was littered with defensive and goalkeeping mistakes from bad timing to bad positioning, poor decision making, and poorly executed passing.

If Richmond doesn't find a way to correct these issues over the coming week Indy Eleven have many experienced players who will pounce on mistakes like these faster than flat screen TV sales on Black Friday. However it's important not to read too much into these things this early, Indy can suffer first day jitters as well, but hopefully not.

City Stadium in Richmond, Virginia (Photo: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Richmond has played five pre-season matches all against colleges. Three wins, one draw and a loss to William & Mary Tribe Soccer. 2017 was not a great year for Richmond, they finished the year 14th of 15 teams in USL East with the lowest standing of any independent team across both conferences.

So on the evidence of the first game perhaps they were underprepared for their league opener, but that doesn't mean they will be an easy team to beat at home, no team ever is. Nor does it mean they can't bounce back after suffering a heavy defeat.

I am sure the home support will be expecting the players to lift themselves after that and prove they have better to offer. With a few players missing it also gives some an opportunity to stake a claim on a starting spot, an important factor in any game. Expect the unexpected.

Team/Match News.

Richmond Kickers will continue to miss Brazilian forward Luiz Fernando through suspension. Mekeil Williams and Alex Lee who started in the back line against Bethlehem will be missing on international duty for Trinidad and Guam respectively. Bruno Mirando who appeared in the second half for Kickers will also answer the call for the Bolivian National Team.

Indy Eleven will miss Nathan Lewis who will join Williams in The Trinidad and Tobago camp for matches against Guadeloupe and Curaçao. Justin Braun is working his way back to full fitness and scored in Indy's second game on Saturday. The status of Jordan Farr return from injury is unknown and we may see Fon-Williams and Lundegaard as the traveling goalkeepers.

In the event of further updates, we will bring those to you as the week progresses.

The City Stadium in Richmond boasts a usually well-tended natural grass surface. The future forecast shows low forties at kick off time with a high chance of rain before kickoff. If you fancy the ten-hour drive you can pick up general admission tickets HERE and meet up with other Indy Eleven fans before kickoff.


Follow us on TwitterFacebook and our website The Bloody Shambles Soccer Show podcast will returning during the course of the season and is available on iTunes or directly from Soundcloud. If you are interested in being involved in supporter media with Bloody Shambles Soccer, possibly you have an idea for a supporter related article about your experiences or the team or you have an idea for a podcast please email or contact us through Twitter. Indy Eleven needs more supporter driven content and we are more than happy to give fans a platform to express their opinion on the team or just relate their experiences from match days, road trips, community events etc.

1st Bloody Shambles Match Poster of 2018

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Eleven Degrees of Separation: Carlyle Mitchell, From Joe Public to Indy Eleven's First League Goal

Joe Public FC at Mapfre in 2010. Carlyle Mitchell Back row right #19 (photo Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

By: James Cormack

I am sure you have all heard of the "Six Degrees of Separation" where the theory is any two people or things can be connected through other people or incidents. It's one of my favorite things to do especially with players in US Soccer where contracts are often short and the soccer landscape can change regularly, is to find connections between various players and Indy Eleven.

It's one of those things when you start you can for sure get lost down a rabbit hole and find literally hundreds of connections, some are uninteresting, some are funny and occasionally you get some mind blowing wow moments. With me it usually starts by looking at a players club history and finding an interesting starting point in their career or an unusual club name... and then I start clicking until my mouse batteries need replacing.

You can find these connections in football all over the world of course, a good example would be Daniel Sturridge. How many of you knew he began his playing career at Cadbury Athletic, a team Affiliated to Cadbury's Confectionary and nicknamed "The Chocolate Men"? 

So from there you look at other former players or connections from Cadbury FC and follow a paper trail that can lead you to anything from Carlyle Mitchell playing against Lionel Messi in an international friendly or even former Indy Eleven assistant coach Paul Telfer. I won't go into how I arrived at those but needless to say its a lot of fun and at times fascinating, and maybe a little bit nerdy.

So welcome to the very first Eleven Degrees Of Separation, 'Eleven' of course in reference to our team name, the number of degrees may vary from less than six to way too many. As always I try to be as accurate as possible in sourcing information but it is a Bloody Shambles after all.

Carlyle Mitchell And Indy Eleven's First League Goal...

Joe Public Crests.
I know what you are already thinking, the obvious connection between Carlyle Mitchell and Indy Eleven is Martin Rennie and the fact he is now part of our roster. Where is the fun in that? 

A quick glance at the playing history of Carlyle brings you to his first professional club Joe Public FC. Now a team name like that is going to attract my attention right away, its fantastic, almost as amazing as their club logo at the time when Mitchell played for the team in Trinidad.

In 2010 Joe Public FC played in the CONCACAF Champions League and were drawn into Group B with Municipal of Guatemala, Santos Laguna of Mexico and Columbus Crew from MLS. A tough group for any team, Joe Public finished the group with one draw against Municipal and five defeats.

Carlyle received a red card in the 5-1 defeat against Santos who finished top of the group and missed the final game against the Crew. Santos moved on to play Cruz Azul in the first playoff round and suffered a 5-1 defeat over two legs. Cruz Azul captain and former Indy Eleven midfielder Gerardo Torrado featured in both matches. 

Cruz Azul in turn were dismissed from the competition by Monterrey who went on to defeat Real Salt Lake in the final round. In the second leg of the final, five minutes before the final whistle another former Indy Eleven player, Paulo Junior came off the bench for RSL.

Kareem Moses was also included in the Joe Public roster who you may be familiar with from his time at FC Edmonton and North Carolina FC, Moses started in place of Mitchell in the final 4-1 defeat against Columbus Crew. Almost the entire Joe Public FC roster for this tournament were from Trinidad and Tobago, except for two players, Yu Hoshide of Japan and Gayson Gregory of Antigua and Barbuda.

Information on Joe Public FC is a little sketchy after this, it appears this was their final year as a club. Carlyle Mitchell moved on to Vancouver Whitecaps where he began his relationship with coach Martin Rennie. Gayson Gregory returned home to play for Antigua Barracuda in the newly announced USL Pro division.

Okay I know I am stretching things a bit here but if the name Antigua Barracuda sounds familiar to you Indy Eleven nerds, it was the club where former Eleven goalkeeper Nathan Sprenkel played before signing with us in 2014. From the limited records I can find Sprenkalenk started one match for Barracuda against Orange County Blues FC (now Orange County SC) in 2012.

Nathan Sprenkel (photo Reid Sprenkel)
That match ended 1-0 to Orange County and also saw an appearance from Indy Eleven defender and former OCB player Cory Miller. Matt Fondy who people may remember from Louisville City, Jacksonville Armada and North Carolina was an unused sub for Orange County. The only goal in that match that got past Nathan Sprenkel was scored by Orange County forward Maxwell Griffin.

Sprenkel as we know moved on to Indy Eleven (eventually) and in 2013 Maxwell Griffin was signed by former NASL side Minnesota United. Griffin made 14 total appearances for the Loons that year including 8 starts and scored one goal for the club, against Fort Lauderdale Strikers on August 11th at Lockhart Stadium.

Minnesota won the game by three goals to one, Griffin scored the opening goal after the game had been tied at 0-0 for almost 75 minutes, it finished in a goal flurry. Alongside Griffin in the starting lineup in Florida were Indy Eleven new guy Kevin Venegas and Indy Eleven old boy Siniša Ubiparipović. Ubi however was subbed out in the 82nd minute and replaced by.... wait for it.... MIKE AMBERSLEY!

After the 2013 NASL season Ambersley moved on to sign up for Indy Eleven's inaugural season in 2014 and scored their very first league goal in the home opener against the Carolina Railhawks (North Carolina FC). The match ended 1-1 and the rest, as they say, is history. Carlyle Mitchell is now an Indy Eleven player and brings with him a wealth of experience playing at the very highest levels and hopefully he will help bring success to Indianapolis.

Akira Fitzgerald looks on as Mike Ambersley celebrates (photo Indy Eleven)


Follow us on TwitterFacebook and our website The Bloody Shambles Soccer Show podcast will returning during the course of the season and is available on iTunes or directly from Soundcloud. If you are interested in being involved in supporter media with Bloody Shambles Soccer, possibly you have an idea for a supporter related article about your experiences or the team or you have an idea for a podcast please email or contact us through Twitter. Indy Eleven needs more supporter driven content and we are more than happy to give fans a platform to express their opinion on the team or just relate their experiences from match days, road trips, community events etc.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Indy Eleven 2018: When Time Is Short Experience Is Critical

Justin Braun and Ben Speas (pictured) return with Brad Ring for Indy Eleven in 2018

By: James Cormack

A lot of things have happened and many things have changed since the end of Indy Eleven's 2017 season. Most of the news surrounding the team will not be new to you so rather than give a long-winded explanation of all recent events I will summarize as briefly as possible before looking at what we should expect during the course of 2018.

- Indy Eleven have departed from the NASL (North American Soccer League) after four seasons and one Spring Championship win in 2016. The team will now compete in the United Soccer League (USL) in 2018. Indy will play in the Eastern Conference of the USL and will face 15 other opponents home and away as they attempt to reach post-season playoffs and a possible USL championship game.

- Tim Hankinson has departed as head coach and been replaced by Scottish coach Martin Rennie. Martin Rennie has many years of experience in US Soccer including a period in the MLS where he was appointed manager of Vancouver Whitecaps in 2011. Rennie was also the head coach of Carolina Railhawks (now North Carolina FC) both in USL1 and NASL.

- Phillip Dos Santos, brother of Marc Dos Santos was announced as the assistant coach to Martin Rennie. Phillip has worked with his brother Marc for numerous years, most recently at 2017 NASL Champions the San Francisco Deltas. Phillip brings a wealth of coaching experience and player contacts to Indianapolis.

- Indy Eleven announced they will play their home games at Lucas Oil Stadium (LOS) in 2018 marking the end of four years at Michael A. Carroll Stadium. LOS provides a venue with modern facilities and an all-weather playing arena. The team hopes to attract 16,000 supporters to home games. Seating will be arranged on three sides of the playing area with the Brickyard Battalion supporters group being situated in the north end zone.

- Indy Eleven will play their first game in USL away to Richmond Kickers on March 24th followed by our home opener on March 31st against FC Cincinnati. For a full 2018 schedule click here and for details on Indy Eleven season tickets and single-game tickets click here. The first pre-season match will be against FC Cincinnati at Grand Park on February 22nd with kick off set for 2.00pm. This is a non ticketed match and Grand Park is a public venue for those who would like to attend.

Why Experience Is Critical for Indy Eleven in 2018

Forward Jack McInerney joins Indy Eleven after 7 years in MLS (photo: The Oregonian

For reasons mostly outwith their own control, Indy Eleven's switch from NASL to USL and the need to secure a home venue for 2018 matches has left them very little time to recruit coaches and players and arrange suitable playing challenges before the first regular season game.

The decision to play in the USL was announced on January 10th and Martin Rennie was appointed as the new head coach on the 16th along with Phillip Dos Santos as his assistant on the 22nd of the same month. From the announcement of Rennie as head coach, Indy Eleven found themselves with a mere 67 days to prepare for their first competitive match of 2018. Two months and some loose change!

Despite being so close to the beginning of the season and most players already entered into contracts, Rennie has so far put together a very solid roster so far, the bulk of which are highly experienced not only at NASL or USL level but also MLS. With this weeks announcement of Jack McInerney from LA Galaxy and Soony Saad from Sporting KC the addition of quality players does not appear to be slowing down.

This will be important for the team as the level of quality being added can help counter the lack of time available to develop chemistry not only between players but between the playing staff and the coaches. As we saw in 2016 the arrival of Tim Hankinson triggered a squad overhaul and a rather short, timid pre-season schedule. Hankinson also added quality and experience which made Indy a hard team to beat and as it turned out they remained undefeated throughout the Spring Championship and lifted the trophy.

I think in 2018 we will see something quite similar. The squad will learn more about each other through competitive matches once the season begins, for now, it's all about gaining fitness and time on the field. Pre-season matches are never a good indicator of a team's potential and the results are not important, but the playing time itself is valuable for the squad to build on-field relationships between each other.

It's easy to pass judgment based off "things on paper" but I will say looking at this roster that I doubt any team in the Eastern Conference are going to find Indy Eleven an easy team to play against. We may have to endure some draws and possibly a narrow defeat or two before this new team finds itself, or maybe not? All the right ingredients are there, it's up to the coach and players to produce the magic.

We Are Excited And You Should Be Too...

If you are not already hyped to a frenzy for Indy Eleven in 2018 please fix that and catch up.

Indy Eleven's roster to date is starting to resemble something like an NASL All-Star team combined with new and exciting players and some MLS ringers. It's pretty stacked at the moment, let's be honest.

Justin Braun, Brad Ring, and Ben Speas return from Indy Eleven's 2017 NASL side along with a return of Zach Steinberger from Jacksonville Armada. Add to that Ayoze, Juan Guerra, and Starikov from NASL's three-time champions the New York Cosmos. Karl Ouimette and Reiner Ferreira two regular defensive players from last year's NASL champions the San Francisco Deltas and Brad Rusin from Miami FC join them.

Kevin Venegas played with Minnesota in NASL and MLS, Matt Watson with North Carolina FC, Vancouver, and Chicago Fire, Seth Moses arrives from Puerto Rico FC. Thirteen players who could easily grace an NASL team of the week sheet.

Indy Eleven have also dipped into young MLS talent bringing Jack McInerney from LA Galaxy, Hassan "Soony" Saad Ali from Sporting Kansas, and Tyler Pasher also from Swope Park and SKC.

Rennie has added two Trinidad Internationals. Defender Carlyle Mitchell played under our new coach at Vancouver and Seoul with a spell in NASL at Edmonton in between. Midfielder Nathan Lewis was part of the Trinidad national team that played against the USA in World Cup qualification. Welsh goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams arrives from Inverness where he was playing in the Scottish Championship.

Surprisingly not many young players have been added but we may see more before the season begins. 22 year old Ghanaian midfielder Amass Amankona arrives with previous experience at Real Monarchs, and goalkeeper Jordan Farr with 44 shutouts in NAIA gets his first taste of professional soccer.

This is not even a complete roster, when I read through that again I have to pinch myself and read it again. This is, as it stands, a very strong squad. Up until a short time ago survival of the club was my only concern, and I feared with all the changes we may go conservative on signings so this is an unexpected surprise.

Indy will face Louisville City FC as league opposition for the first time in 2018

For four years in the NASL our closest opponent may have been Atlanta or North Carolina and for the more adventurous perhaps a trip to Minnesota. Not only will we now play 15 other teams in one conference but 11 of those teams can be driven in around 10 hours or under.

We also have two very close rival teams in Louisville City FC and Cincinnati FC which gives supporters even more opportunity to see their team play. Nashville also joins the league this year and is around a 4 hour drive from Indy. Even Pittsburgh Riverhounds at around 6 hours driving could be considered a day trip.

Indy Eleven will renew its rivalry with Tampa Bay Rowdies our furthest away opponent and also Ottawa Fury FC. North Carolina FC have made the switch to USL putting four former NASL teams in the USL Eastern Conference.

Click here for approximate drive times to each of our Eastern Conference opponents.

Home games will now be played at Lucas Oil Stadium allowing Indy Eleven to up its possible attendance which is believed to be around 16,000. The Brickyard Battalion supporters section capacity has been expanded from around 1500 to 3000 giving us the opportunity to be twice as loud as we were before.

Lucas Oil Stadium also offers protection from the elements meaning the prospect of a delayed or postponed game highly unlikely. I know this will disappoint some who like to get drunk in parking garages and listen to the Red Card Regiment but it also means we may not lose 80% of the attendance when a weather delayed game begins.

If ALL of this has not made you more excited than ever before as an Indy Eleven supporter then you must be a very hard person to please. Tell your friends, bring new supporters to games, buy extra tickets and show Indianapolis that professional soccer is here to stay. The future of our club and the possibilities of eventually securing our own stadium rely on continued interest and a growing support. We have sold out many games before at Carroll Stadium, we can do it again at Lucas Oil. Help us make March 31st 2018 a landmark day in Indy Eleven's history.


Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and our website The Bloody Shambles Soccer Show podcast will returning during the course of the season and is available on iTunes or directly from Soundcloud. If you are interested in being involved in supporter media with Bloody Shambles Soccer, possibly you have an idea for a supporter related article about your experiences or the team or you have an idea for a podcast please email or contact us through Twitter. Indy Eleven needs more supporter driven content and we are more than happy to give fans a platform to express their opinion on the team or just relate their experiences from match days, road trips, community events etc.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Indy Eleven are beginning to Spring into the Fall Season

Indy Eleven are prepared to take the Fall Season.

By Brian Cook

It seemed like the beginning of the season for Indy Eleven was a bad day wrapped up in a reboot of Groundhog's Day. No matter hard they tried they kept reliving the same play over and over again it just seemed to never change week to week. Part of that stemmed from how bad injuries were for Indy Eleven but no matter the case it seemed like Indy Eleven were in for a rough season.

And then, suddenly, everything clicked. The last five games of the Spring Season were the personification of Bill Murray's quote in Groundhog's day. Today is tomorrow, and Indy Eleven got healthy, got hungry, and determined to make good on the expectations put on them since the start of the season. Here are a few things that have changed over time during the Spring.

Team Chemistry:

The concept of team chemistry having a tangible difference on and off the field is a subject debated on blogs, groups, and generally throughout sports. No matter the sport the question "does it really matter?" revolves around the idea that the longer the same set of players play together the better they will play. For Indy Eleven early on in the Spring it clearly was a sticking point. A point where the injury bug that had it's teeth deep into the muscle of the team came to affect how players would play. 

A back three while risky has proven to be effective for Indy Eleven

You can have the best players on the field night in and night but the overwhelming need for cohesiveness and fluidity offensively is a concept that can often make or break victories in sports. Indy Eleven was no exception as they wrapped up the Spring Season winning four of their last five games with a starting eleven that was widely seen as their strongest eleven. 

While not a huge play the small detail of not taking the free kick ahead of the cross in the box by Vuko was clearly something that was worked on and planned and the boys eventually would earn a penalty kick which was eventually scored by Don Smart.

Knowing where players are has helped Indy Eleven build on a slow start to 2017

While Hankinson put his best foot forward and pushed Indy Eleven into the best position he could at the start of the season it was pretty clear that injuries were hurting the quality of player to see the field and damaging team chemistry as players were occasionally in positions and roles that weren't natural to them. 

Moves like Daniel Keller dancing around the backline or Lovel Palmer playing central midfield worked but it was easy to see this wasn't natural nor was it something that should occur past players who were out returning from injury.

Defensive upswing:

A glaring issue that faced Indy Eleven this season was where the defense would sit. While returning was club captain Colin Falvey, Nemanja Vukovich and Marco Franco there was still unanswered questions as to who would replace the roles left by the retiring Greg Janicki as well as the strength of the reliable Cory Miller. 

Both were key in different areas in 2016 and it seemed early on in 2017 with the tactical adjustments that Tim Hankinson instituted inside of the 4-4-2 he molded in 2016 it looked as if the club would struggle defensively and rely on the boots of Braun and Zayed for support.

And Indy Eleven didn't really give fans much in the way of disagreement early on. Players like Kwame Watson-Siriboe were just as close to mark someone as he was to be a bull on roller skates in a china shop. The defense lacked cohesiveness and the same awareness it garnered from the success earned a year ago. 

Marking seems to be a skill waiting to emerge

Indy Eleven were challenged. It was clear that 2016 did them no favors and that the North American Soccer League was prepared to be even more challenging in 2017. But as time has gone on and season has progressed we have seen that Indy Eleven are truly learning from theirs mistakes. 

This is mainly due to finally having the healthiest and strongest eleven this team can put on the field actually on the field. It almost feels like the last five games of the season were, in reality, the start of the season instead of the end of the Spring season.

Jon Busch: A Fine Wine:

Soccer/Football is one of the few professional sports where age can really be only a number. To a certain degree of course, but players like Alessandro Totti from Roma who just ended a career with the same club and retired at the age of 40. 

Enter Jon Busch. Both as a leader and a player Jon Busch has helped carry Indy Eleven since joining the club in 2016 and for all intense and purpose is the reason that the club hasn't dwindled down the table any farther. 

Busch, 40, is more than likely retiring baring some sort of change, his role with Indy Eleven has been with the club helping train goalkeepers and could send up sticking around after his playing career is over to help grow the likes of Keith Cardona and Christian Lomeli. Regardless of what next season holds it's clear that the success for Indy Eleven rests on the shoulders and gloves of Jon Busch.

Jon Busch's performances during the 2017 Spring Season has helped hold the club together

Busch's consistency, leadership, and awareness with stop the ball has led Indy Eleven to be in a position that early on seemed unreachable.

Where will they Fall?:

It shouldn't come as a shock but the NASL season break couldn't have come at a better time for Indy Eleven. While going on a break isn't helpful for consistency the injuries and subsequently draining aspect of the season has taken it's toll team. It took a majority of the Spring for the Boys in Blue to find their form and now that they have found it they can use this break to get healthy, get smarter, and get consistent with that form. 

Where will Indy Eleven finish the season at? It's hard to say. With the NASL it's sometimes a turn of the key on whether or not you have good or bad form. Indy has all the tools as well as the understanding of how to achieve success this season. It's really up to them what they want to do with it. For now, let's enjoy the season break and hope we get to see the quality of play the last five games gave us as we venture into the Fall season

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold: Indy Eleven V NY Cosmos REVIEW (07/08/2017)

Don Smart waits and prepares to open the scoring for Indy Eleven from the penalty spot

By: James Cormack

Indy Eleven felt they had a point to prove after Tuesdays 1-1 draw with the Cosmos in New York. As intimated by Coach Hankinson and Colin Falvey in the post match interviews (see foot of page for audio) he and the players felt they were robbed of a third consecutive win after Emmanuel Ledesma blatantly simulated a foul for a penalty late in that match and denying Indy a 1-0 victory on Independence Day.

The Boys in Blue fielded the same starting lineup for the fourth consecutive match, and in this return game in the series with New York it was Indy who were given favor at the penalty spot early in the game. In the 15th minute the Cosmos were penalized for holding on Justin Braun? Who cares, at least we don't dive. Don Smart was given the opportunity to convert from the spot and he did so successfully giving Indy Eleven a 1-0 lead.

The Cosmos replied to the opener some ten minutes later through the aforementioned Ledesma. A little bit of a nosebleed at the back for Indy Eleven failing to get bodies in front of a rifling shot from the top of the 18 yard box that was unreachable by Jon Busch. The game was tied up at 1-1 before the half hour mark.

Jimmy Maurer and his defense left helpless after Justin Braun's game winning goal.

Justin Braun continues to thrive and improve as a player every time he steps onto the field, even during a little position jostling last night he worked tirelessly and aggressively throughout the match and was not about to let the Cosmos spoil the teams evening in front of their own fans.

From the corner spot in the 75th minute Nemanja Vukovic sent over a great ball towards the far post and Braun managed to throw off his defender and find position to head the ball past Jimmy Maurer and restore a lead for Indy Eleven that they would carry successfully to the final whistle. Justin leads the scoring for the Boys in Blue with seven goals and also leads on assists.

With a stable consistent starting lineup for Indy Eleven they have now taken 10pts from a possible 12 in their last four games with back to back wins over North Carolina and a win and a draw over New York. Injury woes are mostly behind us and the combination of starting players returning and a humiliating loss to Jacksonville on June 10th appear to be the catalyst that the team needed to get back in the saddle. Momentum and confidence is building and with it comes results.

The Spring season is over, while Indy Eleven nicked another three points at home Miami FC gave San Francisco a solid 7-0 thrashing in Florida to win their first NASL silverware in their second year. Indy finished spring 16pts behind the leaders and from here on in it is all about the fall season and combined standings as we push for a playoff spot, that is our focus now and despite our poorest start to a year since 2014 we look like a team that can cause problems for any team in this league.

Indy Eleven's leading goalscorer giving challenge to NYC's Ryan Richter

Next up for Indy Eleven is another home game and a chance to make up valuable ground in the playoff race against Jacksonville Armada. As mentioned previously the last time these two teams met the 4-1 defeat at home for the Eleven was humiliating and soul destroying, it was our all time low in 2017. This sets another target for our rejuvenated squad and another chance to restore pride against a team we know we are better than and a team that are still above us in the standings.

The race for the playoffs now will be all about keeping the teams below us where they are and pulling ourselves above the teams that lay ahead of us in the standings. There is no guarantee that we will remain injury free for the rest of the year, but the silver lining from a poor start to the season has been the game time and experience our squad players have achieved. This could prove invaluable as the season progresses.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

No Smoke Without Fire: Indy Eleven V North Carolina FC REVIEW (6/17/2017)

Goals, three points and a clean sheet - Indy Eleven secure first victory of 2017.
By: James Cormack

For the first time in 2017 Indy Eleven were able to field what could be claimed as their strongest starting eleven. The return of Justin Braun to the starting eleven was a welcome sight as well as Craig Henderson returning to give extra depth to the Indy bench.

Although it may not have been planned as such, after 12 games this year it looks as though Colin Falvey and Daniel Keller may be our most reliable and secure center back pairing. Keller always somehow seems out of place in midfield through no fault of his own, center back has been where we have seen his best and it was no different last night.

The Boys in Blue were aggressive yet patient and hard working. Defensively there was no fault and at times it seemed like Brad Ring was putting in two shifts in midfield and at the top of the 18 yard box with our back line. Indy were composed, alert and determined when not in possession and it paid off as they left North Carolina with very few clear chances in the game. 

New gloves worked a treat for Jon Busch, first clean sheet since 6th May.
After a goalless first half, a measured and clinical approach to the match saw them rewarded with their first goal in the game in the 60th minute. A low ball from Ben Speas into the front of goal from the left caught the Carolina defense and keeper napping and confusion between Silvestre and Connor Tobin saw the ball pop up and spin towards goal. 

An attempted goal line clearance from Carolina found the body of Justin Braun and the ball found the back of the net. It may not have been the prettiest goal Justin has ever scored, but you have to be in the right place at the right time.

Ben Speas was again involved as Indy Eleven doubled their lead in the 84th minute, this time with the finish from a David Goldsmith assist. Don Smart found Goldsmith advancing in a wide position on the right and the Indy forward played a perfect pass in behind the defense to the far post and Ben Speas was there to slam it home for Indy's second. Justin Braun was also available but would have been called offside had he made an attempt to connect with the ball.

It was a nervous last ten minutes for the faithful supporters as we have recently seen a two goal lead evaporate in San Francisco, but not this time. Indy Eleven tightened up and kept Carolina out, Jon Busch was the difference in stopping the opposing team pulling a goal straight back stopping a close range driving effort by Saeed Robinson.

Ben Speas was key in producing the goals required for Indy's first win in 2017
The Carolina effect.......

It's worth mentioning that again North Carolina FC formerly known as the Carolina Railhawks seem fated to be involved in multiple key moments in the history of Indy Eleven. Not only were they the first team we played in the NASL they were also the team we beat to achieve the first win in the clubs history at Wakemed Park in 2014.

The Spring Championship trophy of 2016 provided Indy with their first ever silverware in the club's short existence thanks to a required 4-1 win over the Railhawks in the final game thriller dubbed "Miracle At The Mike". Now North Carolina have aided and abeted in the Eleven's first win of 2017.

It's a strange quirk of fate, but I am not going to complain, we probably should be thankful for all the help they have given us over the years.

Defense, defense, defense.......

It goes without saying that Colin Falvey when fit and able is always going to be the first name on the team sheet, likewise Marco Franco and Nemanja Vukovic are equally as critical. It would however be amiss to not mention the efforts of Daniel Keller and Brad Ring when discussing our outfield defensive presence.

Brad Ring played deep a lot in last night's game and at times it looked like we had a five man defense. 100% of tackles were won, six clearances and three interceptions at the back added to 29 of 32 passes made were completed. Daniel Keller had nine defensive clearances and four interceptions. 

But the heat map for all four of the Indy Eleven back line and Brad Ring combined shows just how effective we were in nullifying any threat from North Carolina FC. In the 4-1 defeat against Jacksonville our overall defensive activity was more spread out and we were up field too much whereas in this match the back line and defensive midfield was more concentrated and covered every area of the final third for Carolina.

Full match activity of Franco, Falvey, Keller, Vukovic, and Ring.
With Brad Ring putting extra work in at the back with Keller covering the edge of the 18 yard area and the deep side of midfield it allowed Falvey to concentrate solely on the area in front of goal for most of the game and because of improved cohesion and communication between all five players it required less expenditure of energy. North Carolina played a pretty flat 4-4-2 and struggled to find gaps, and when they did Jon Busch was flawless.

When you have one of those days where everything required to shut a team out goes according to plan all that is left to do is make sure one of your attempts at goal hits the back of the net and you have three points, Indy Eleven did that twice from six shots on target. North Carolina had a total of 14 shots, the fact that 8 of those came from outside the box provides further evidence of how difficult Indy Eleven were to break down.

Brad Ring once again was literally everywhere.

What happens now.....?

We won, it's a great feeling. We moved from rock bottom and put teams below us but we still have a long way to go. When you realize that our current standings for 2017 are poorer than the team of 2014 for their first 12 league games, albeit only through goal differential, you know there is a lot to be done.

Indy Eleven need to show they are not a 'one hit wonder' and move forward with the belief they can achieve the same results against any other team regardless of where they play them. We now play the same team again in Carolina next week with a good understanding of how to defeat them.

We have had bad luck with injuries, bad luck in games but we have also had poor performances as well and at times we have beaten ourselves. One win can change a lot, it was no different in 2014 after our first win against Carolina it gave us a boost and within a short time we had also defeated FC Edmonton on the road as well. We need to make sure the confidence and relief we take from this win carries forward into each game.

Being able to field a strong lineup like this week after week will certainly help, but that is not something we can really control, just keep your fingers crossed that we can remain injury free. We have time on our side and twenty games left to prove why we should be worthy of a playoff position in 2017.