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- Tim Hankinson has departed as head coach and been replaced by Scottish coach Martin Rennie.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.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Indy Eleven continues to struggle both on and off the field

Following a captivating 2016, Tim Hankinson has struggled to get his team going in 2017

By Brian Cook

In sports, it's often difficult to find a sole person or persons responsible when something goes wrong. In business, if someone thing goes wrong, it's easy to find the culprit. If a report isn't ran it's one person who forgot it. If you hold an event and something wasn't ordered it's that department's fault. Sales numbers down? Someone call a meeting with the sales department. 

Sports, however, has the complication of not having a clear idea of who the blame sits on. Often, when results on the field are down, it's the players who are to blame. They aren't trying hard enough, they aren't doing enough, and generally failing both the coaches and fans. More often in sports coaches get the boot due to poor performance. While players actually execute the play the coaches have to get the players prepared. 

All of this considered, a group in the hierarchy of sports that goes relatively untouched is the president/owner of the team and for Indy Eleven that rests on the shoulders of Jeff Belskus and Ersal Ozdemir. 

It would be easy to place the blame on the player's shoulders for the results so far. The players are on the field. Justin Braun and Eamon Zayed score the goals. Colin Falvey and Jon Busch stop other teams from scoring. Gerardo Torrado and Brad Ring maintain the midfield. Those are what fans, coaches, and the front office expect with players that get signed. All of the players have failed to live up to those expectations so far in 2017

Circumstances haven't afforded Hankinson the same resources he had leading up to the runner up season in 2016. His assistant coach and former interim head coach Tim Regan has left the team (replaced with former Scouting Director for Chicago Fire, Trevor James). The budget for salaries has been reduced. All of this seems centered around the largest question mark so far this season and that's the future of the club under Ersal Ozdemir and Eleven club president Jeff Belskus. 

Indy Eleven and Major League Soccer:

The bid for an MLS team came as a shock to many
Photo Source
The decision for the club to apply to join Major League Soccer very much came out of nowhere. The ironic eleventh hour bid was both exciting and interesting to see as the club had been pretty quiet on any expansion plans as well as stadium talks publicly. 

The news brought excitement and a lot of chatter from both local media, national media and the fans that were thrilled to see the club strive for more. 

The bid included a shift from the model the club holds internally at the moment with MLS Indy Eleven being held together by an ownership group including members like Andy Mohr, a successful local car dealer in the Indy area. 

The ownership group would put forward the MLS expansion fee as well as other fees the league requires but largely leave the stadium's building budget to the city/state through a "public-private" partnership that confusingly as well as remarkably left a lot of people quiet and the chatter of a soccer stadium empty on the statehouse floor.

The decision for the ownership group interested many people because up to this point Ersal largely kept finances for the club to himself. Coupling the MLS bid and the finances of this season begins to, in my eyes, put a puzzle together on what could be the issue for Indy Eleven's future but no decision on any ownership group being formed for NASL's Indy Eleven seems to be included with that. 

Addressing the Hankinson Out conversation: 

Tim Hankinson has done nothing but make seers believers for a fan base that limped through the early years. While the obvious early beginning struggles didn't hurt the core fanbase for the club Hankinson's success in 2016 brought in new popularity, positivity, excitement as well as higher expectations for league play. 

Hankinson largely took a team put together in an off season and brought Indy Eleven to a place it hadn't been before. When you look at what changes have occurred between then and now you begin to see that the focus has shifted from the current team to saving money for a potential Indy Eleven MLS club. 

The Stadium continues to be the largest hangup for #IndyMLS
Photo Source
One aspect that many haven't caught is the amount of soccer minds this team has lost. With the departure of Peter Wilt and Jeff Belskus arriving we saw Indy Eleven focus in on the business side while never replacing a person who understood both the business side of the game on and off the field. It's no fault of Jeff Belskus, who had success as the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it's been very clear from soccer-related decisions that either Belskus isn't making them or that he is and he might be over his head with understanding.

Perhaps it's optimism or naivety but it feels like Ersal has chosen to save money on the front end (current season) to put money on the back end (MLS/Stadium). It could also be a measure to salvage the existence of the team but 2017 but that's purely speculative at this point. Nevertheless the bottom line is that choices made so far for this club financially has almost put Indy Eleven at a competitive disadvantage by not allowing Tim Hankinson to have a little more liberty with his roster building and weaknesses in depth while age related may also be due to the lack of depth in the wage budget. 

Since the beginning and as it is in most sports teams, the money put in in at the start often goes unpaid for years. Owners across all major sports in the United States of America, minus elite level teams in leagues like the NFL often lose a lot before they gain a little. Owning a non-MLS professional soccer team in the United States is arguably one of the least profitable prospects for potential owners. 

Financial stability:

Neil Morris, well known for his work covering NASL, had a great piece for WRAL on the financial missteps the NASL clubs have made:
Meanwhile, the rest of the NASL now realizes business (and budgets) as usual may not be enough to win titles. It will be interesting to see how the next few years play out, whether other teams will cede championships to the well-heeled New Yorkers or (over)spend in an effort to keep up with the Cosmos … Soccer Bowl 2013 weekend was a success for the NASL. What remains to be seen is whether on-the-field success for its members now comes with a price tag many cannot afford. - Source
This isn't something new for Indy Eleven who have pumped money both into the league, the team, the stadium they currently rent on the campus of IUPUI, as well as their fans. A struggle, which has been told to be addressed in 2017 is financial stability of the league as well as financial transparency. 

No one section of Indy Eleven's team has shined so far in 2017

If the club is attempting to save money on the front end to explode onto the scene in MLS what it translates to is Hankinson's hands being tied behind his back. Hankinson, while philosophically might clash with many players was clear about his intentions and his goals for Indy Eleven taking the job. The club was clear about their intentions and goals for the club. They want a championship. It just seems like they are expecting one to to fall out of the sky rather than earn it on the field. 

In an article by Richard Farley of Four Four Two, Rishi Sehgal talks about what struggles NASL teams have gone through:

“Our owners have recognized, we need to take some measures to not be so free market,” Sehgal says. “We needs some controls. We need to have a sustainable model. Being free market can work if the market forces are perfect in a developed market situation. But in the early stages, you need some controls to adjust for market forces that can skew too heavily in one way or the other.” - Source

Let's not call for Miami FC level spending. Indy Eleven doesn't need to overspend to compete but why ask the chef to make something with ingredients you haven't given him? 

Indy Eleven is going through what can only and perhaps best be described as growing pains. It's struggled to grow and maintain the level the first season in Indianapolis brought with a sold out home attendance. 

Largely the struggle was based around where the team would play and while Michael Carroll Stadium was a great launching point the longevity of Indy Eleven in any league playing at The Mike just doesn't make sense. 

One of the core issues with the finances of the club is the lack (publically) of another partner for Ersal's ownership of the team. A new partner would give increased money, possibly more visibility (depending on who it is) and for Ozedmir, a partner to share the burden and losses of the club. Ersal's sole weight of the finances seems both irresponsible and just really short sighted. It's unclear whether the lack of a visible partner in the club's finances is by choice or not whatever the case may be it remains to be seen what the future holds for Indy Eleven as a professional team.

The stadium deal clearly wasn't what the public nor politicians were after but something needs to come from it and fast in order for Indy Eleven to recapture the magic they once held. It just seems like the rust is starting to show on the new car and the cost of wax is to expensive because all of the money was spent on the car.

For fans though, who are struggling on where to place their disappointment don't look just at the box scores. This team from any year continues to fight despite the issues behind the scene. If you are angry don't focus on just one target because while results on the field rest on the shoulders of coaches and players the results off the field rest on the president and owner and shouldn't be overlooked. Hopefully we will see a day soon where we get back to what made the club great and aren't forced to watch the creeping falling of Indiana's team.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Indy Fail to Restore Pride in Eleventh Match - Indy Eleven V Jacksonville (6/10/2017)

Eamon Zayed heads home Indy's only goal in a 4-1 defeat at home.

By: James Cormack

Expectancy was high as Indy Eleven headed into their eleventh game of the season. Still without victory, Indy were coming off the back of a 2-2 draw in San Francisco and there were hopes that this home game could produce Indy Eleven's first win of the 2017 season.

Indy Eleven's injury woes continued to some extent with Justin Braun, Gerardo Torrado, Craig Henderson, Brandon Poltranieri and Kwame Watson-Siriboe unavailable for this game. Don Smart was a welcome sight returning to the starting lineup and Eamon Zayed made his second consecutive start.

Indy Eleven fielded a lineup that should be capable to win this game with but again there was some juggling, Ben Speas supported Eamon Zayed up front, Speas has been a critical player at left midfield but was not played there, instead Daniel Keller came in. Tanner Thompson played in front of Brad Ring behind the forwards.

With Kwame out the back four comprised of Marco Franco, Colin Falvey, Lovel Palmer and Nemanja Vukovic in front of Jon Busch. There was  enough experience and enough of an element from the 2016 side to put up a strong showing. On paper at least anyway, and in the hopes of the Indy Eleven supporters.

Where are NASL getting these referees from?

This is Younes Marrakchi, don't be like Younes, he is no fun at all.

This has to be mentioned, and it is by no means an excuse for losing this game, but how many times have we seen this year not only in Indy Eleven games but in other matches referees who just want to make the game all about themselves.

It's common knowledge amongst pundits in this beautiful game that any good referee, unless there is no shadow of a doubt and it's unavoidable, is not going to give a penalty in the early minutes of a match, if there is any doubt at all you don't give it. It can ruin a whole game right from the start. This referee was obviously one of those who wanted all eyes to be on him, he wanted the game to be about him,  and it continued that way throughout the game.

Maybe a league that almost ceased to exist can't afford to be picky on who they choose to officiate NASL games anymore, this would not surprise me, it seems we are getting bargain basement refs from Dollar Tree that can neither run fast enough to keep up with the game nor make sensible decisions to control the play in such a way to make the game entertaining and fair. I wouldn't even let this guy ref a youth game for fear some of those kids may decide it's not worth playing this game.

Are we in fact cursed, or have we just given up...

Lets look at the penalty first of all. As I mentioned previously no referee worth his salt is going to give a penalty decision very early in a game unless there it is unavoidable. Was there even a foul, or did Derek Gebhard deliberately use minimal contact to draw the foul and go to ground. The ball was not even near Gebhard and Falvey, both were moving towards the play, yes there is upper body to upper body contact and Gebhard used that as an excuse to go down. This is sometimes commonly known as cheating, but in today's game it can be viewed by some as a valuable tool in the skillset of a modern forward.

Regardless of that, it was a situation early in the game where the referee should have waved everybody up and told them to shake it off and get on with it. Instead Younes Marrakchi wanted his spotlight moment on TV as early as he could possibly get it and he got it in the 3rd minute. Quite ridiculous and it set a bad tone for the game. Jon Busch managed to pull of a great save from Jack Blake's initial strike but could not stop the return fire.

Indy Eleven came back well and put things on level terms thanks to a downward header from Éamon Zayed off of a Vukovic corner that bounced up and beyond Patterson-Sewell and after 10 minutes played the score was tied and we could begin again.

For the majority of the first half despite not being able to field the team we wanted to yet again, Indy Eleven produced several great chances to score, Eamon Zayed could have had a hat trick had the goalposts been slightly further apart. However it was Jacksonville who would take the lead again.

Another example of poor officiating, indicators showing line official and ball, apparently this is what offside looks like now?

A long ball from Jacksonville in the 41st minute found Gebhard in the Indy Eleven box, unable to full control the ball gave Colin Falvey a window to put in a great sliding tackle, but you just never know where the ball is going to pop out and JC Banks was on hand to push the ball away to Busch's right and low into the corner of the net. 

Still not something we couldn't recover from at this point. Until....

FLASH POINT.... Red Card. Controversial? No not really.

We know from past experiences from our own players we will always welcome a fight back, going into the half time break a goal down is never easy but it is not insurmountable. Going into the break a goal down and knowing you have to play the second 45 minutes with ten men is a slightly more complicated task.

There is no argument or defense for what took place in the first half stoppage time. Both players were committing to go for the ball, both players were going in feet high. Blake raised his foot to go for the ball then pulled out, Palmer foot was above Blake's waist in an attempt to clear the ball. It's one of those situations you just dust off get up and get on with it. It was a little reckless probably from both players, but not intentional or malicious.

Lovel Palmer got up and cold cocked him, it was a sucker punch and totally unnecessary in any field of play even amateur Sunday football. It's a straight red from any referee, and in the rules of the game for violent misconduct it is most likely a two match suspension. Just completely embarrassing and avoidable. Blake even extended a hand to help Lovel up and was greeted with a smack to the face.

This was where the game was lost when all is said and done, in one sweeping selfish act from an individual player.

Pushing on with Ten...

To give credit where it's due Tim Hankinson pushed forward with a view to attacking, there is no point trying to defend a one goal deficit obviously and changes were made throughout the second half to provide more attack. At the beginning of the second half Siniša Ubiparipović would replace Tanner Thompson at the beginning of the half with plumhoff replacing Smart and Goldsmith coming on for Zayed later in the game.

Had we cleared our line, JC Banks was undoubtedly offside, two players behind the last man.

With little over five minutes of the second half played however Indy Eleven found themselves two goals behind because of another goal that could easily have been avoided. It's hard to fault Don Smart having just returned to the side, but even a midfielder should know when you are taking a post at a corner or free kick and the ball breaks out away from goal you have to get off the line, off the post and push up with the play.

After the third goal there was no way to even pull back to a draw, it was a killer blow and evn if there was a glimmer of a hope within ten minutes the deficit would be three and the fourth goal was a perfect example of a team even with ten men that had given up.

I might be wrong but I think it was Kalen Ryden who took the ball from his own defense and was allowed to stroll through the middle of the park without challenge, he could have been riding a unicycle and eating an ice cream cone and still would not have been pressured. His pass to JC Banks was attempted to be blocked by Keller but fumbled. Jemal Johnson had what seemed like an entire parking lot of space to work in on the left side and received the ball and passed behind the defense for Gebhard to slot home. It was all too easy.

There were calls for offsides and it clearly was not, if you watch the highlight reel someone is screaming blue murder for an offside call. When the ball is played Franco is inside the six yard box trying to block and Gebhard is outside the box. It is neither here nor there now and not an argument. Indy Eleven were destroyed, the game was lost before half time and the rest was cruel and unusual punishment for those that remained to witness it.

Not even a sending off for Jacksonville when Patterson-Sewell clearly handled outside of the 18 yard box, much to his own disbelief, could give Indy Eleven any way back in the game. Little tip of the hat to JAX reserve keeper though, having to come in cold Kyle Nasta made a fine save from a Vukovic free kick late in the game.

The time for denial is over...

We are the worst team in the league, we have to accept that now. How long we will be the worst team in 2017 is up to the coaches and players. I will admit it does seem like we are cursed, if something can possibly go wrong when it comes to Indy Eleven right now, bad things are just going to happen to us.

Many people like myself are left scratching our heads, we can't put a finger on it. Players are obviously frustrated, you can see it in their faces during games, something is not right and even with our injury woes and bargain basement refereeing we should be playing better than this. A red card for Palmer and also the yellow card for Franco we born of frustration and it showed, despite poor officiating these cards were warranted.

One year ago from today, the 11th of June 2016 we witnessed the "Miracle At The Mike" and a familiar scoreline ,defeating our next opponent North Carolina 4-1 to lift the Spring Championship when even then the odds were stacked against us. A year down the road and we have not won a single game, we have seven draws and five defeats and have been dumped out of the US Open Cup by a PDL team.

In our last 6 competitive matches we have been defeated five times and achieved one single draw. The valid excuses we have cannot cover all that, not even close. Even the draw we had against San Francisco was the result of us giving up a two goal lead.

The Indy Eleven of 2016 was billed by Tim Hankinson as a team of Warriors and he also stated that it is not up to us to worry about the rest of the teams in the league, it is up to them to figure us out, we're just going to play our game. Well in 2017 there is no warrior spirit, there appears to be no backbone to this team and no confidence and as for teams having to figure us out that part is easy, they just need to watch any of our games, we are an open book right now.

At least from rock bottom we can accept the fact we are the worst and move on from there, any great result from here on in will be a welcome surprise. However something is wrong within this club and it is clearly visible to anyone watching. I can't figure it but someone needs to, and soon.