Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Could Indy Eleven Attract Another Vancouver Connection?

Kenny Miller captained Vancouver under head coach Martin Rennie. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

By: James Cormack

Firstly, I will begin by saying everything written here is 'mostly' speculative. One or two things that I have observed in recent months across the world of Internet have caused me to connect a few dots, but this article at the end of the day is based on a "what if" scenario and those dots may have appeared before my eyes as a result of standing up too quickly.


When I first heard that Martin Rennie was going to be the new head coach of Indy Eleven the very first name that popped into my head was Kenny Miller and whether he could be a potential signing for Indy Eleven after his contract runs out at the end of the 2017/2018 Scottish Football season.

Kenny Miller is now 38 years old and at the center of a row at Rangers FC. Following a 4-0 defeat by rivals Celtic last weekend in the Scottish FA Cup semi-final. Miller who was an unused sub in the game along with injured defender Lee Wallace were involved in an off the field altercation within the stadium which ended with both players being suspended. It is unlikely now that Kenny will ever play for Rangers again competitively, and even if his contract is not terminated he will be available for free in the summer transfer window. 






(Kenny Miller scoring for Vancouver against former Eleven keeper Jon Busch)


In a recent Inverted Triangle Podcast with Neil Morris and Martin Rennie, the Indy Eleven coach had said that between jobs in South Korea and Indy he had spent time in Scotland and England visiting various clubs. Indy Eleven has a reasonably small roster compared to some clubs in the USL and has international spots open, there is still a possibility our roster could be expanded during the course of the season.

I have never hidden my allegiance to a particular club in Scotland but it would have no bearing on signing such a player. Kenny Miller is a true professional and is a player I respect. He is one of only five players in Scottish football history to have played for both Celtic FC and Rangers FC, a small list which also includes former New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC manager Mo Johnston. Miller and Johnston probably the two most publicized, for those interested the other three are Alfie Conn, Steven Pressley, and Mark Brown.

He is in a position as a player now where he has to consider his future options. A spell in the USA or any other country away from the sometimes rancid and highly intrusive Scottish Press may be a beneficial move for Miller. There is potential that Kenny Miller could come to the US for a reasonably low wage to continue being involved in the game around people he knows.

Indy Eleven has looked at other Scottish International players before and showed interest in signing James McFadden back in 2015 before he returned for a third and final spell at Motherwell. With McFadden I was not so sure, it was a big risk that would have paid off well but the potential for injury was high. McFadden is now 35 and playing with Queen Of The South but has only played 20 games in three years.



Scotland legend James McFadden was once on Indy Eleven's radar (Photo: Record Sport)

Considering that this is something that may never even happen, if signing Kenny Miller was an option available to Martin Rennie and Indy Eleven, what would the pros and cons of signing a veteran international striker be?

Pros...

The USL season is long and drawn out, it may not have as many games as some leagues in Europe, but considering lower division clubs in the USA generally have smaller rosters, it can be quite taxing on a squad if a few key long-term injuries pop up. Kenny Miller can play as the lone forward or behind a striker playing out of attacking midfield. To have such a player at your disposal is a luxury because even at his age when Kenny takes to the field, Kenny produces.

With a wealth of international and club experience, Miller would bring an added level of knowledge and professionalism to the training ground as well as to the field on match days. If he were to decide to hang up his boots right now he could pretty much walk into a junior coaching role anywhere. Kenny has a combined 77 caps for Scotland, 69 of which are at full senior international level. 



Miller celebrates scoring against England at Wembley in 2013 (Photo: Getty Images)

On the domestic front, Miller has made over 600 professional appearances the bulk of which were at Rangers FC and Wolverhampton but also Hibernian, Celtic, Derby County, Bursaspor, Cardiff City and Vancouver Whitecaps.

Martin Rennie knows Miller and he knows what he will get from him, just as he knows what he will get from Matt Watson. Rennie knows he does not have to train or develop Miller in any way, he knows where he can put him and reap the benefits. If the coach believes he really needs a Kenny Miller and can convince an already out of pocket owner he could increase his chances of winning a USL championship by adding this player it might happen.

I will touch on age in both sections. In Scotland people might say "he's no Spring Chicken!" well he is not, but he is a very fit player, some players play long some don't but Kenny Miller is someone who looks after himself very well. He could easily play out the rest of 2018 at a higher level than USL and possibly another season. From my experience of Kenny Miller and from having seen him play this year and last, age is far from being a concern.

Cons...

Do we need another striker? Kenny Miller is pretty much an out and out striker, but like other aging strikers in Scotland like Scott McDonald, he can slip back into a number 10 role and play behind the forwards as an attacking midfielder. Kenny's vision and distribution I would never question, he is a very technical player and combined with time served in the professional game most of his touches on the field are instinctive

Indy Eleven has numerous striking options including Jack McInerney, Justin Braun, Soony Saad, Eugene Starikov and Ben Speas. Adding another striker into the mix could be seen both as a luxury and a disruption. Indy Eleven is on three wins from four matches and three of our four goals have come from strikers so why bother?



Kléberson preseason 2015. Indy has had mixed success with marquee players. There is always a risk.

Then there is the financial side versus the risk. We all know Kleberson was a big risk, he likely sucked up a large portion of an inaugural team player budget and spent a lot of time injured. Since then Indy has signed Gerardo Torrado at age 36 and Jon Busch at age 39 who were both an important part of reaching a championship final in 2016. While Torrado and Busch paid off there is still the chance that could all have gone wrong as well.

Indy Eleven leaks money as most lower division US teams do, playing catch up in a new league and in a new stadium is probably not helping, it's not really a time for taking risks and if Kenny Miller expects to be paid well then its a no go area for me.


Kenny Miller is 38 years old and is still incredibly fit but it would only take one bad turn on field turf or one crunching lower division tackle to potentially turn him into a money pit for the rest of the year. I don't think that would happen but it always has to be considered as a possibility.

Is Kenny Miller a household name? Not in this country, probably not. He is not a Didier Drogba, nor is he as well known to the average Joe in the USA as Kleberson, Torrado, Busch or Joe Cole may be. Paying a large amount for him to come here is probably not going to see a huge rise in ticket sales. Followers of MLS will have heard of him, he played 43 games for Vancouver Whitecaps from 2012-2014 scoring 13 goals.

Note. Now that I have mentioned the Drogba, he is 40 years old and scored for Phoenix Rising last week in a 1-0 victory over LA Galaxy II... age shmage.


Would I sign Kenny Miller if I was given the green light?

Short answer, yes. It's a difficult one though, if it was financially viable then I definitely would, I don't see it as a huge risk as he is still playing at the top level in his country and still producing, he is physically fit and probably more fit than most players at his age. Miller is a well-disciplined professional, he looks after himself well and when you see him play now that is highly visible. The big question, as mentioned earlier, do we need such a player?


I am highly impressed with the squad of players we already have and there is ample competition for starting positions up front. I think I would not be against it provided it does not cause a disruption amongst the team, I don't think it would and honestly I don't think Kenny Miller would come here expecting to go straight on to the field, he would come here to help in whatever capacity he can for a former coach. Kenny Miller is very much from the old school of thought where you don't just get something for turning up, it has to be earned.



(Kenny Miller scoring on April 7th, 2018 against Dundee in the SPL)

Even though Indy Eleven may not need another striker right now, I do think it would benefit to add one or two players to this roster given the injury problems we have already seen and the amount of games left to play including potential postseason matches.

That will probably be the hardest part, convincing an owner and the general supporter that we need to bring in a player who is, without doubt, a huge player, but is not a name that is going to make everyone go "Woah, really?".

Also consider, given that I am a die hard Celtic fan and have taken the time to even write about a current Rangers player and even post a video of them playing fitba (yuck) speaks volumes about the respect Kenny Miller commands as a professional and a Scottish International. He is definitely not the type of player who sets out to be hated, and I certainly would not complain if he lands in Indianapolis.



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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Great Day For Indy, Saad Day For Nashville - Indy Eleven V Nashville SC REVIEW (4/14/2018)

Two-goal hero Soony Saad was the difference maker against Nashville SC

By: James Cormack

After all the pre-match worries of injuries and selection issues, they became null and void on Saturday as Indy Eleven defeated Nashville SC and claimed their first home win of the 2018 USL season.

Carlyle Mitchell returned to the starting lineup alongside Brad Rusin and over the whole Indy's backline played comfortably and confidently conceding only one goal in the first half. We've talked about the strength in depth of our roster many times and Brad Rusin is a great example of that.

The result of the game itself was crafted in the first half and credit should be given to the entire team for a second-half defensive performance that kept Nashville from finding a way to a second goal. In the few short weeks of the season, we've had many great plays to talk about and there were several in this match including Zach Steinberger's 89th-minute clearance of a ball that was going to find back of the net.



With the ball heading into the goal, Zach Steinberger races in to clear late in the second half.

Indy Eleven may be accustomed now to shuffling their lineup and the first eleven was eagerly anticipated heading into this game. Carlyle Mitchell proved too strong to keep down and we started with three of the back line that began the match against North Carolina, Mitchell, Ring, and Ayoze. Brad Rusin replacing Karl Ouimette this time.

Probably the biggest surprise was Matt Watson starting the game on the bench, not a bad trick to be able to bring in a captain late in the game to help clinch the three points. 4-2-3-1 has been the most frequent formation we have seen for Indy thus far, Zach Steinberger started in place of Watson alongside Nico Matern in front of the back line and Soony Saad took the middle of the three between Pasher and Lewis. Jack McInerney returned to the starting XI as the lone striker.

Considering the potential for a makeshift backline I had expected Nashville to come out strong and press for an early goal but it was Indy Eleven who controlled possession in the early stages and throughout most of the first half. Thanks to a pass of un-earthlike quality from Ayoze Garcia deep in his own half to connect with Soony Saad in the 15th minute, Saad found himself one on one with Matt Pickens and buried the ball left past the Nashville keep to open the scoring.



With the defense in his wake, Soony Saad shoots past Pickens to score Indy's first home goal.

Saad wasn't finished finding the back of the net and some fifteen minutes later scored a second goal that will have every other team in the league playing catchup for the goal of the week. After a foul on Jack McInerney by Liam Doyle 35yrds out from goal, McInerney slid the free kick sideways to Soony Saad who rifled a shot with the outside of his right foot that swerved around the outside of one defender before swinging back to wrong-foot Matt Pickens and put Indy Eleven two goals up.

Roberto Carlos would have been proud of that strike!



If this isn't the goal of the week there better be some pretty special contenders.

A tough blow for Nashville but to their credit, they picked themselves up and finished the half strongly. Michael Reed came close to pulling one back a few minutes before halftime with a neat turn just inside the 18, his shot had the beating of Owain Fôn Williams but not the crossbar.

Nashville was not done yet and right at the end of the regular 45 minutes a lay off pass to Lebo Moloto was taken to the end line and slipped back to find Ropapa Mensah advancing on the edge of the 6 who he poked home a poachers goal past Williams to give the visitors a fighting chance going into the break.

That was the scoreline that took the three points for Indy Eleven. The second half was goalless. Nashville stepped up their game and probably took the lion's share of possession in the second 45 but couldn't find a way to goal. Alan Winn had a good opportunity in the 63rd minute but was foiled by Fôn Williams. Not to be outdone in the shot-stopping tally Matt Pickens pulled out big saves to deny Tyler Pasher twice.



Matt Pickens leaked two in the first half but denied Pasher twice in the second.

With the final minutes winding down Nashville almost found the back of the net from a set piece on Indy's left. The free kick was floated into the back post and found the head of Bradly Bourgeois. From my position behind the goal, this ball was almost certainly going to find its own way in, if not Robin Shroot would have helped it in but Zach Steinberger stepped up with with a huge clearance to prevent Nashville from tying up the game.

I mentioned Matt Watson earlier. When your team is trying to nail down the three points and the opposition comes out in the second half determined to turn things around its more than just a luxury to be able to bring in three players with huge experience as we did with Watson, Justin Braun, and Juan Guerra, this is something that could prove critical for Indy Eleven over the course of a full season.

It's important to stay grounded and not get over excited, but as a supporter, it's very difficult. I re-watched the entire match again and pretty much everything Greg Rakestraw and Brad Hauter says about this team is on the money. Considering we are at the beginning of a season when you can expect a stuttery start, even with injuries and constant changes this team has never looked to be lacking in confidence on the field or uncomfortable. After the win in North Carolina, this was already our best start to a season in the history of the club.



Ayoze Garcia. If Tiger Woods played soccer, this would be his approach chip to the green.

If I were to criticize the team in any way at all it would be for us to use a little more creativity in set pieces and provide better delivery. This is something that will improve with time but when we get opportunities with free kicks in the width and corners we need to start making those count.

We seem to be okay from central positions, Soony's strike from the free kick pass this weekend and also his direct free kick against Cincinnati show we can take chances from there, but with big players coming up from the back which always risks a counter attack, we need to be more creative and more accurate on our delivery in these situations.

That is based on observations from four league games and one preseason match and it is still very early. Maybe I am also being a little selfish but I'd like to see some cheeky plays crafted at the training ground on free kicks from the left and right and from corners. We have a confident and skillful squad of players so why not?

Indy Eleven has a couple of weeks break now, hopefully enough for us to see all of our players recovered and fit for the match against Charlotte Independence, if we can bring a good result from there we can ride confidently on the back of it into two very important back to back home games against FC Cincinnati and Louisville City. The result of those matches could be critical in the long run despite coming early in the season.



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Friday, April 13, 2018

When The Going Gets Tough - Indy Eleven V Nashville SC PREVIEW (4/14/2018)

Could Watson (left) or Matern (right) help solve Indy's defensive puzzle this week?

By: James Cormack

Indy Eleven will take to the field at noon on Saturday for their second home game of the season. With two wins on the road and a defeat in their home opener to FC Cincinnati, Indy will be looking to give the home support something to celebrate in Lucas Oil Stadium when the final whistle comes around.

There a lot of big question marks surrounding the availability of players for Indy's back line, and I am sure while Nashville and former Atlanta Silverbacks coach Gary Smith won't be taking anything for granted, the Nashville supporters may feel this is a good opportunity to take three points on their first visit to Indianapolis.


The one thing we know for certain is that Karl Ouimette will not play, after a red card last week in North Carolina, Karl was served with a three-match suspension which was subsequently reduced to one match. This adds to Martin Rennie's already depleted crop of defenders. Reiner Ferreira was injured in the match against FC Cincinnati and Carlyle Mitchell was removed from play late in the match against North Carolina FC.

If none of these center backs are available that leaves Indy Eleven with only one available, Brad Rusin. As a result of the Ferreira injury, Brad Ring has been filling in at right back so that Karl Ouimette could slide in to partner Mitchell. The question now is what options can Rennie look at to provide a starting four (or three) at the back that can be comfortable together and will we need to form up in such a way to limit the chances of the opposition running at our defense?



Karl Ouimette (far left) saw a three-match suspension reduced to one. Will miss Nashville match.

What-iffery...

Here follows a lot of what-iffery, in the event Indy Eleven does only have one center back available.

Start a back three with Rusin in the center? My only reservation about this would not be the ability of Rusin to command that position, but the lack of game time he has with the rest of the team, and that we would be trying something for the first time. Indy could play this formation with Ayoze and Ring and pack the midfield with five and limit the amount of work the defensive line has to do. This would be very high risk but could also be very productive if Braun and McInerney are paired in front of a five-man midfield.

Play the 4-2-3-1 again? Who lines up alongside Rusin if no other center backs are available? I think my first choice would be Nico Matern, at six foot tall it seems obvious and he also likes to play deep against the back line. This would then leave us with a selection problem at defensive midfield with Brad Ring already positioned at right back. 


I am only speculating here but one option would be to replace Brad and move him to a more natural position. Seth Moses is comfortable at right back and has played there before, if Matern is dropped back into central defense with Rusin and Moses started at right back this can allow Ring and Watson to make up the central midfield pairing. Zach Steinberger in front with possibly Lewis or Saad and Pasher on the outside behind Justin Braun or Jack McInerney.

Could Matt Watson play at center back and captain the team from there? This is another option similar to above, Matt is 6ft or thereabouts and if Rennie wishes to leave Brad Ring at right back he could play Matern and Steinberger together and bring in Juan Guerra into attacking midfield. There are many options that can be played in front of the back line, but the options for defense are limited.



Put me in coach! Carlyle Mitchell may well turn out to spoil Nashville's afternoon.

All pure speculation and at the end of the day, I don't think any of these scenarios are going to happen. I am also not the coach so don't listen to me anyway.

Having watched the previous game against North Carolina twice now I have a feeling that Carlyle Mitchell will line up in the back alongside Brad Rusin. Mitchell did take a reasonably severe knock to his knee in the first half last week, but he's a big lad. Considering the weather was deteriorating and the temperature dropping during the game it is highly possible he developed cramp while slightly favoring one leg for about fifty minutes.

Carlyle is in training and I think come kick-off time we will see him in the starting lineup. Even if I am wrong, and Martin Rennie has to come up with a completely new back line, I don't think any perceived weaknesses our defensive injuries or suspension may cause will be a major factor in the game.

Besides that, Nashville still has to get past Owain Fôn Williams. So there.


Where is Kevin Venegas...

A quality player we still have not seen yet, he appears to be in full training and as we saw last week with Ayoze coming straight into a starting lineup, we may also see Venegas for the first time this weekend. Considering that Ouimette is out and Ferreira is not ready to return we need defenders on the bench. The former Loon may even start and displace Brad Ring, but he at least should make the game roster.

A starting back four of Venegas, Rusin, Mitchell, and Ayoze is pretty formidable for any team, and if Ring continues at right back there'll be no complaints from me.

The Form...

Nashville is a new team to everyone and the USL is a new league for us, very difficult to try and formulate an opinion of the outcome of this game with very little knowledge of the opposition or previous matches.


Nashville has played four games this year so far. They began their season away to Louisville and lost 2-0 before drawing 0-0 in their home opener against Pittsburgh. They come into the game against Indy on the back of two wins against Bethlehem Steel (1-0 A) and Charlotte Independence (2-0 H).



Ooh Statistics! Worthless at this early stage but I needed an image in here.

Louisville is a tough place to start but Indy Eleven is probably going to be Nashville's toughest opponent since that game. With no disrespect to Charlotte, they got off to a bright start against lesser opposition and I would not be expecting them to set the league on fire this year.

Likewise Indy have lost their only game against what could be considered a playoff contender, FC Cincinnati. Away wins at Richmond and last week against North Carolina who are now 0-3 in games gives very little indication of how Indy will fare against those teams expected to be in the postseason.

Indy Eleven has been as I expected, very difficult to play against and are conceding few goals. Two clean sheets in three games and only one goal conceded in their single defeat. FC Cincinnati was a real test for Indy and they were unlucky not to leave the field with a point. Indy does not have a scoring issue, we are only three games in and we have any number of players in our bag of tricks that can and will find the back of the net.


It's probably best described as a finely balanced matchup that is hard to predict. I don't see Indy Eleven's selection worries as being a major factor in this game, I have previewed matches in the past where our opposition has been in a similar predicament or worse and we've failed to win those games.

Prediction - Probably not a good idea for me to jinx things but I actually think Indy Eleven can win at home for the first time this year, but not by any great margin, 1-0 or 2-1. 



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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Indy Takes Three Points And Lose Three Players - North Carolina FC V Indy Eleven REVIEW (4/7/2018)

Adverse weather saw Indy's coaching staff make up the bulk of the attendance for this match.

By: James Cormack

A lot to unpack from a game marred by adverse weather conditions and a few unnecessary flashpoints. In a match where we knew Indy Eleven would have to call on their roster depth, there were a lot of positives to come out of the game, but the overall play was dictated at times by things out of our control.

Rennie put forward a different formation and numerous lineup changes forced by injury and suspension. Ayoze Garcia made his first competitive appearance for Indy at left back allowing Tyler Pasher to advance to midfield. Nathan Lewis also made his first start on the right of midfield and Justin Braun started in a front two pairing with Soony Saad. Brad ring continued where he left off last week in what is now known as the Ring Back position.

As we know Lundgaard and McInerney were not available. Venegas, Starikov, and Ferreira did not travel. On the bench for the Eleven were Farr, Rusin, Moses, Steinberger, Speas, Guerra, and Amankona.



Several changes and starts for Ayoze, Lewis, Ring, and Justin Braun.

Prior to the match, Martin Rennie had called for his team to create more goalscoring chances and in the early stages, they did not disappoint. Considering the changes made Indy Eleven settled into a comfortable rhythm quite early. On the evidence of the short period of time we had to see Nathan Lewis play, he played two great through passes to Justin Braun, the first in the third minute Braun was unable to convert.

For the first fifteen minutes of the game, the broadcast commentators spoke mostly about Tyler Pasher, and for very good reason. Pasher was finding huge amount of space on the left in Carolina's final third. A giveaway ball by Futty Danso was pounced upon by Justin Braun who laid off the perfect pass to find Pasher advancing on the box, he struck a sweet left low past Tabakis to put Indy Eleven in the lead early.


Unintentional contact to the head of Nathan Lewis in the 20th minute saw an early exit for the Trinidad international, most unfortunate to see him leave the field so early but a concussion is not something to take chances with. Zach Steinberger entered the game and Rennie had to reshuffle the pack. Soony Saad moved to the right wing and the Eleven shifted to a 4-5-1 with Braun the lone forward.

The dynamic of the game changed for Indy and the injury caused six minutes to be added to the first half. This wasn't the last knock we would see in the game, poor weather can bring a lot of problems including skiddy balls, mistimed tackles, and injuries. In the 34th minute of the game Marcel Kandziora followed through hard on Carlyle Mitchell's knee which I think he felt for the rest of his time on the field.



Nathan Lewis's debut lasted only 20 minutes after being removed for suspected concussion.

North Carolina had chances to level the game during the first half, most notably from Daniel Rios who had the beating of Fôn Williams in the 29th minute from the edge of the 18 after a spin but only found the crossbar and again found the woodwork before the end of the half.

The second half was not much to write home about, Indy Eleven played a little more conservatively and North Carolina began to apply pressure throughout but could not find the elusive goal despite bringing on more attacking players and switching firstly to a 4-4-2 from their initial 4-1-4-1 and eventually to a 3-5-2 packing the midfield and getting more bodies in front of goal. All came to nothing.

After a crunching tackle on Steinberger in the 75th minute followed shortly by a card for Bekker who booted a ball at Saad while he was on the ground waiting for treatment, things just got chippier from then on in. This came to a rather bizarre boiling point in the final minute of the game.

A few minutes after Carlyle Mitchell sadly had to leave the field clutching the back of his leg, NCFC were awarded a penalty after Karl Ouimette clipped the side of Rios's leg, it was a very light call but not one I would argue, it could have been given or not given, it was not an incorrect decision.





If Tyler Pasher scored a game-winning goal then Owain Fôn Williams can certainly be credited with a match-winning save. Owain chose correctly and went right to tip Kyle Bekker's shot off the upright and out for a corner. Carolina took the corner quickly but could not find a goal. After the dust had settled North Carolina defender Aaron Guillen was found on top of Karl Ouimette, the two players locked together in a wrestling match. Both were red carded by the referee. I'll talk more about this shortly.

The whistle was blown, Indy Eleven had won their second consecutive road match giving them six points from three games. The entire team and subs rushed to congratulate Fôn Williams on his penalty-saving heroics.

What we learned from this game...

Despite numerous changes to the starting lineup and a change of formation, Indy Eleven adapted quickly and continued to play good technical football. Rennie is not afraid to tinker and has confidence in his roster. The players have stepped up and produced no matter what changes have made and shown great unity and determination and confidence in each other.

Indy Eleven had to adjust throughout the game and the question is what could have been. Had Nathan Lewis not left the field forcing a pack shuffle I had the feeling Indy would score again quite soon and possibly score more before the end of the first half and buried this game. It's encouraging and hopefully, Lewis is fine and we see more of him very soon.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate in the second half and given our forced changes I think the team, on the whole, played very well, we may have become more conservative in the second half, but we never once panicked, made very few mistakes and tried whenever possible to always keep the ball on the ground.

Ayoze is not Pasher and Pasher is not Ayoze. Having seen Pasher's performance in the first couple of games I suspected it would be very difficult to displace him from the team. Having Ayoze and Pasher on the field is a whole new trick from the bag and it's good to see that we can do that. Ayoze was solid, composed and creative but he did not need to venture very far forward, and neither did Ring. We probably will witness many more good combinations of players in the coming games, considering we have not seen Venegas at all and not much of Guerra.

Justin Braun looks to be getting back to his old self, he is a danger on his own but also a danger with his creation, with continued time on the field, and I am sure he would have liked more yesterday, we will see more goals and assists and we need those.




The negatives, the complaints, flashpoints, and the aftermath...

Over the full ninety minutes, I would say the officiating was passable, I'll give the benefit of the doubt that maybe the horrible weather wasn't only affecting the players. However, there were two or three really horrible decisions during this game.

I am not a big fan of complaining about refereeing, well not most of the time anyway, but if USL seems to like handing out retroactive decisions then I think Indy Eleven if they have the ability should contest both Carlyle Mitchell's yellow card in the first half and Karl Ouimette's red card in the second.

Carlyle Mitchell had his knee as good as wrecked in the 35th minute of the game and had to leave the field. No sooner had he re-entered the match he made a tackle on Daniel Rios and won the ball cleanly. Even the match commentator said it was a GREAT tackle. It should not even have been called as a foul but to add insult to injury (see what I did there) the referee gave him a yellow card. Very poor.

Having had time to re-watch the game again in its entirety I scrutinized the situation that led to Karl Ouimette's sending off. Karl should never have been given a red card and considering we may only have one center back left for next week this suspension should be appealed.

At the point of Bekker's penalty kick, Guillen takes up a position on the edge of the area beside Ouimette. As the ball is kicked Ouimette extends his arm to block the defender from moving past him, Guillen pulled his arm and tried to force Karl down and around to the ground.

After the quick corner is taken Guillen later finds himself in the box trying to gather the ball with Ouimette behind him, Karl is holding his arm but not pulling him, both fall over. Aaron Guillen immediately turns over and pins Ouimette to the ground and the two lock together. Ouimette is shown red for violent misconduct.

I am sorry officials but if you have not seen or called anything up to this point and you don't know how the situation has started and one player has another pinned to the ground, how can you give the player who was pinned to the ground a red card for violent misconduct. Was Karl completely innocent? No, not entirely, but he did nothing to even warrant a yellow card. Ridiculous.

The aftermath for Indy Eleven is now heading into their second home game against Nashville with the possibility of three center backs missing. Ferreira already did not travel because of injury, Mitchell had to limp off with a few minutes to go and Karl Ouimette is now suspended leaving us with only Brad Rusin remaining. This is a tight spot.

Hopefully Mitchell's injury is not too serious, he did take a knock to the knee earlier but in the end, it looked like he was clutching the back of his lower thigh, possibly hamstring but maybe just cramp, it's difficult to tell. It will be interesting to see the starting lineup this Saturday and how we adapt to this. We really could do without a mounting injury list this early in the season, if we thought our depth would be tested this week, it certainly will be in the next game.

But anyway, not much to be negative about, we won, we have six points and two wins from three matches and for now we are in a good place!


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Follow us on TwitterFacebook and our website BloodyShambles.com. 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 james@bloodyshambles.com 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, April 6, 2018

Indy Head Into Familiar Territory - North Carolina FC V Indy Eleven PREVIEW (4/7/2018)

Braun and Speas both scored against North Carolina in 2017 and both saw game time against FCC

By: James Cormack

It seems like I always look forward to writing a preview against our old foes the Railhawks, mostly because they provided us with so many key moments in our short history. North Carolina was our first ever league opponents in 2014 and also provided Indy Eleven with their first ever win in the same year in Cary. Add to that the match dubbed "Miracle At The Mike". Indy Eleven's final game of Spring 2016 required them to score 4 goals and concede no more than one to win NASL's Spring Championship Trophy and they did just that, won by four goals to one.

This will be the 15th meeting of the two teams and the first in USL. Indy Eleven currently has the upper hand in terms of wins with 7 from 14 games but they have had the home-field advantage a total of 9 times. This match will be Indy's 6th trip to Cary. Indy's record to date is 7-3-4 against North Carolina. The tally of all goals scored in matches between these two teams currently stands at 23-20 in favor of Indy Eleven. Indy has played in Cary five times with two wins and three defeats.



Indy Eleven have conceded 13 goals in 5 matches in Cary, with one 5-0 defeat on the road in 2017.

Like Indy Eleven, North Carolina have seen quite an overhaul of their squad in the offseason. Familiar names such as Bryan Sylvestre, Kareem Moses, Lance Laing, Ty Shipilane, Nazmi Albadawi, Matt Fondy, Brian Shriver have moved on mostly to other USL teams. The 2018 North Carolina roster is mostly unrecognizable to me, and they have started their season with losses to Tampa Bay and Richmond Kickers. They will be looking to find their form and a home win, which is always a danger.

For Martin Rennie, the trip south is a return to the team that served as a platform for a move to MLS and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Martin served as head coach with the Carolina Railhawks from 2009-2011. When he took the reigns the Railhawks had only ever made one USL playoff appearance in their history. Rennie kept three existing players and rebuilt the team, the attitude, and the environment. In his first season, they missed the league title by 2 pts to Portland. In the following year the NASL returned, the Railhawks joined and finished first in the regular season.



Matt Watson (left) tracks Dylan Mares at Carroll in fall of 2016.

Matt Watson, Indy Eleven's current captain spent four years at Carolina Railhawks, his final two under Rennie before moving with his coach to Vancouver. Watson would return to North Carolina FC in 2016, he made 26 appearances in all including two against Indy but did not make the roster for the infamous 4-1 spring defeat at Carroll. Matt played the 2017 season with Phoenix Rising alongside Didier Drogba before returning to his old coach in Indianapolis.

Despite a rebrand and a league move for the Carolina Railhawks not much has changed since 2011 and success has mostly alluded them despite finishing in the playoffs in 2017. Colin Clarke took over from Martin Rennie and remains the head coach in 2018 after six seasons in charge.

One thing Indy Eleven can look forward to is playing on one of the best surfaces of any North American League team. WakeMed Park is a great venue and very recently hosted the US Men's National team in international competition. I've seen it with my own eyes and if you love a good pitch the grass surface is a sight to behold, I almost wanted to sleep on it but probably would have got thrown out.



Lots to ponder heading into game three, injuries, suspensions and will I need to pack my big coat?

Indy's depth being tested early?

Two players we know for sure will not be making the trip to North Carolina are Jack McInerney and Ben Lundgaard. Jack received a one-game suspension from USL after reviewing the Cincinnati game, assuming he was given a retrospective yellow for his challenge on Walker which would add to his other yellow in the game. Lundgaard underwent thumb surgery this week and may be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. Jordan Farr will most likely make his first professional roster appearance as the reserve goalkeeper.

So far we have yet to see Kevin Venegas or Ayoze make an appearance in either of our first two games but they have been in training. Reiner Ferreira was taken off in the first half of last weeks game and his status is unknown at the time of writing. Soony Saad gained some field time after a knock in the previous week and should be available to start. Nathan Lewis returned from international duty last week and made the bench for the match against FCC.

Indy has depth and Rennie will have to dip into it a little this week. Certainly no need to hit the panic button yet. Should Ferreira not be available to start Ouimette will most likely partner Mitchell in the center. If Venegas and Ayoze are fit they may make the bench, I'd be surprised if either start right away but Rennie has other options at right back including Seth Moses or he may elect to play Brad Ring.



Would a more central position provide a goal or two from Eugene Starikov?

It looks increasingly like Justin Braun will now start a game, even without a McInerney suspension I had a feeling Braun would start our next match anyway but possibly not as the center forward. Would this position be suited to Braun? Possibly. Justin does like to cover a lot of ground but also does some of his best work from the wide areas. 


I guess we'll have to wait and see, Rennie may decide to have Braun and Saad or Speas in the width and move Starikov into the center. I am not convinced we have seen the best of Starikov in competitive play, he hasn't looked entirely comfortable where he has been placed, maybe a switch to the center could produce a goal or two from him.

Indy Eleven has set up 4-2-3-1 for the first two matches of the season, the players seem to be comfortable and working well within it we just need to finish more of our chances. Rennie may elect to try something different depending on the players he has available. Both of Indy Eleven's opponents thus far have used the same formation and North Carolina lined up similarly in the 2-1 defeat at Richmond last week.

It's early in the season and I look forward each week to see what changes take place and how Martin Rennie will utilize his roster depth. It's a game on the road and with plenty of months ahead of us maybe we'll see a little tinkering. In 2016 Tim Hankinson started with a similar approach, he made clear his plans to utilize a specific lineup and to be defensive minded but quick to counter, after a 0-0 draw at Tampa and a 1-1 draw at home to Ottawa he switched to a 4-4-2 diamond and beat the New York Cosmos for the first time in their third match of the season.

North Carolina need to give their supporters a win. Indy Eleven will be looking to show they are not just a one-hit wonder. Stay tuned.

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Follow us on TwitterFacebook and our website BloodyShambles.com. 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 james@bloodyshambles.com 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.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Indy's Home Opener A Great Success But Without Points - Indy Eleven V FC Cincinnati REVIEW (3/31/2018)

New stadium, new players, new league. Tifo game on point!
By: James Cormack

Indy Eleven kicked off their first home game of the 2018 USL season against FC Cincinnati at their new home Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It was a new beginning for everyone, from tailgating to the final whistle. Despite the scoreline, everything was a huge success for the team, the supporters, and the city.

As we mentioned in the run-up to this game it was always going to be a difficult game to call, I felt that Indy Eleven could have and probably should have come out of this game without losing, a draw would have been a fair result, we had our chances but didn't take them. FC Cincinnati did and finished the match with a 1-0 victory over the Eleven.

Indy had opportunities to be first on the board early in the game, with some silky skills from Tyler Pasher on the left Indy's number three made a great solo run all the way to the goal line and looped a cross beyond the goal and found Jack McInerney at the back post whose header came off the upright. A couple inches to the left and there was no saving that one.

Cincinnati scored the goal that would win the match in the 26th minute. A crossfield pass from left to right found Emmanuel Ledesma with time to control before sending in a cross towards the penalty spot that probably could not have been any more perfect and found Emery Welshman between Ferreira and Mitchell who nodded the ball past Fôn Williams to open the scoring. As the wonderful Greg Rakestraw was pointing out Fôn Williams to be the first Welshman to play for Indy Eleven, Emery became the first Welshman to score against us. (ah ha)


Tyler Pasher had another outstanding 90 minutes for Indy Eleven

People love to argue penalties and pour over replays, I didn't need to, the replay on the big screen once was enough for me and I have watched it again since it was a clear penalty. With the ball already out of his reach, Newton brought both hands to McInerney's feet and brought him down. Last man tackle, could have been a red card on any other day but referee Badawi decided it didn't even warrant a yellow. Fair enough?

With around five minutes to go before the half Indy had a great opportunity to tie the game up. Jack McInerney went for placement rather than power to the right side of goal but Newton guessed right and pulled off a fine save followed by a second block on a Speas shot to deny Indy an equalizer.

During the full ninety minutes, Indy Eleven had plenty of opportunities to find the net which is encouraging, but it was not going to be our day. Shots from McInerney, Watson, Starikov, Saad, and Speas were all kept out. It's early, it's our second game of the season against one of the championship favorites, if we keep creating those chances we will score them and nothing about this game really indicated that Indy Eleven was in any way the weaker of the two sides.


Not even the BYB could get that ball into the net, McInerney denied by Newton.

One concern is that Indy appears to be having injury issues early in the season. Saad was unavailable to start because of a knock, Ayoze and Kevin Venegas have still not made a bench in the first two games meaning we are thin on left and right back cover. An unfortunate ankle injury for Reiner Ferreira saw him leave the field in the first half with Brad Ring coming in to cover at right back and Ouimette moving into center.

It's not a huge concern at this moment and luckily it's coming at the beginning of the season. Defensive depth is critical to any team so hopefully, we don't have any more early casualties and Ferreira's injury is not too serious.

It does no harm to take a beating early and move on, Rennie and the coaching staff have plenty to look at and a week to repair and prepare before heading to North Carolina FC to renew a rivalry started in the NASL. Richmond Kickers who fell to Indy in our opening game achieved their first win this weekend defeating NCFC 2-1. North Carolina will be looking for their first win, maybe Indy Eleven can find their second as Rennie returns to face one of his former clubs.


Never a good sight. Reiner Ferreira departed the back line in the first half.

So what about that game day experience?

Considering the short space of time the club and the supporters have had to prepare for a new league in a new stadium I am pretty sure I was not the only person walking away from the match suitably impressed.

The Brickyard Battalion, Slaughterhouse 19 and all supporter groups deserve a round of applause for the gameday setup. The choice of Gate Ten facilities and parking for tailgate setup was top notch with outdoor and indoor space available. The main parking was also easily accessible and myself like others got in before the allotted opening time and there was no real difficulty in leaving the stadium, nothing more than you would expect from a large event. The supporter display of tifo was incredible, the best we have seen and the Brickyard Battalion were as loud and as passionate as ever AND considerably bigger.

The front office staff must be worn out, I hope they were treated to several adult beverages after the match because they thoroughly deserve it, there were a lot of unknowns and all you can do is the best you can and see how it goes. From what I saw they exceeded all expectations not only on game day but in the weeks leading up to the game. I cannot imagine how much hair was lost and how many fingernails were bitten off. Everyone did an outstanding job. Everything gets easier from here. Take a bow Indy Eleven Staff.


FC Cincinnati brought a large following to the first meeting of these teams in USL.

The attendance is very encouraging, I had thought if we made 16,000 and filled the original advertised space it would have been amazing, to exceed our previous largest attendance by 6000 was incredible. This bodes well for the team and puts weight behind the need for a soccer-specific stadium in the city. I think this support will continue to grow as the team itself evolves more on the field more people will come to games. The officially announced attendance was 17,535.

Kudos and respect to the traveling Cincinnati fans who brought around 1500 supporters to the game and put in a solid ninety minutes of support for their team who rewarded them with three points. Hopefully, we can bring the same to Cinci and take those three points back.


Thoughts from Brandon Cockrum

Indy Eleven were unfortunate to come away without a point from Saturday evening's electric match against FC Cincinnati. Indy was superior in most statistical categories, except for the one that matters most - the final score. Martin Rennie's squad clearly needs some more matches to become a truly cohesive unit and it is fun to watch the team's style of play and connections between players develop.


On Saturday the team played very compactly at times, probably by design to take command of the midfield. However, there was time and space available for players on the wings and Tyler Pasher was the only Eleven player that took advantage of it. After getting the ball taken off his foot trying to dribble out of the 18 and a wayward cross in the match's early minutes, Pasher put in a man of the match performance for Indy with numerous attacks up the left side and dangerous balls served into the box. In the first half, Jack McInerney nearly finished one of those crosses but was denied by the frame and others narrowly missed the heads of attacking teammates.

Jack Mac checks the replay after Saad's free kick is tipped over by Newton late in the game.

It's interesting that after two matches fullbacks Ayoze or Kevin Venegas haven't been on a match day roster and we've had only a 20-minute runout from Juan Guerra in the first match. All three players were among the best at their positions while in the NASL. Coach Rennie appears to be favoring a defense-first approach, which makes sense early in the season as the team learns to play together and against a tough Cincinnati side. 

It's not that the players in front of them have played poorly, however, I have to wonder if Venegas would have been able to get forward, like Pasher, and cause more problems for Cincy than Karl Ouimette or Brad Ring did. Guerra has proven that he can unlock defenses at this level; might he have delivered a moment of creative inspiration that Nico Matern was unable to provide? Coach Rennie has a lot of capable tools on his belt this season and I suspect he will soon start trying more of them out.

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Follow us on TwitterFacebook and our website BloodyShambles.com. 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 james@bloodyshambles.com 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, March 30, 2018

Indy Eleven Face Strong Test In Home Opener - Indy Eleven V FC Cincinnati PREVIEW (3/31/2018)

Enough Talking! Let the game begin! Okay we talked too much.

By: James Cormack

The moment everyone has been waiting for is finally here. Ticket sales are rocketing and Indy Eleven look set at least to break their highest ever attendance for a home match and probably even smash it. New areas have been opened up due to demand and the entire lower bowl of Lucas Oil Stadium is now available for supporters.

Earlier this week it was announced the south end had been sold out and more seats would be opened, the visitor allocation has been sold and we believe more tickets for traveling support have been made available and their section has been moved and expanded along with the opening up of the east side of the lower seating.

While for me attendance is secondary in priority to the product we put on the field, it is very exciting and important for the future of the club. Indy's highest ever attendance at Carroll Stadium was somewhere around 11,500 and this looks set to be smashed. Anything above what we have done previously is a step in the right direction and the higher we go the more Indianapolis as a city can see that Soccer is not going away and is very much a part of this city and state, and it's growing.



Come On You Seats In Blue! Lucas Oil Stadium prepares the field for Indy Eleven (Photo: Jeff Belskus)

Our team is as prepared as they can be for this game. We have one game and a win under our belt and enough evidence for Martin Rennie to pour over and see where we can improve on the field. We face a stiffer challenge this Saturday, but we will play in front of our own support, it is early in the season and while the result may not give an indication of where we are in terms of playoff quality, a positive result could certainly turn a few heads.

So what about FC Cincinnati...

It could be argued that they are one of the poster boy teams for the USL, they are breaking attendance records and turning heads by themselves since joining the USL in 2016, but are they matching this with their product on the field? By all accounts reading through some of the USL articles we seem to have been placed as underdogs for this game, we got that a lot in NASL when we played the Cosmos for example, but it didn't seem to give them an edge when playing us.

In their inaugural season of 2016, FC Cincinnati finished 3rd in the regular season and came up against Charleston Battery in the first round of playoffs losing 2-1 at home. In 2017 FC Cincinnati scraped into the playoffs finishing 6th in the regular season and losing out again in the first round by 3-0 to Tampa Bay Rowdies. What should be noted from this is a new team has made the playoffs in their first two seasons and made a great US Open Cup run, not the fact they have failed to win silverware. It's impressive. 


I was fortunate enough to attend FC Cincinnati's home opener last season against St Louis and I was very impressed firstly by the huge attendance and the atmosphere, not going to lie it's always incredible to see the continued growth in teams and support in this country. I was also impressed with the product on the field.

FC Cincinnati won that game by four goals to nil and all four were scored by Djiby Fall, I was impressed with how he and Victor Mansary were causing the St Louis defense no end of trouble on both sides of the field. Neither of those players is there anymore. Mansary is now with Charleston Battery and Djiby Fall is as far as I know without a team. Djiby collected a rather lengthy ban in 2017 and despite scoring 12 goals for the year appears to have fallen out of favor with the team.



Ledesma scores for Cosmos in a 2-1 Indy victory in 2017 (Photo: Bloody Shambles)

The 2018 Cincinnati roster is strong, is it as strong as previous years, this remains to be seen. Familiar names to Indy Eleven fans such as Blake Smith, Lance Laing, Nazmi Albadawi, Richie Ryan, Emmanuel Ledesma, Tyler Gibson, and Tomi Ameobi have been added, all previously played in NASL. Among the notable returning players for FCC is Danni König who scored 11 goals for Cinci in 2017.

Ledesma had a good year in 2017 with Cosmos scoring 10 for the season, for several years before he was getting very little game time at clubs like Middlesborough and Rotherham, Emmanuel is a great player who was never given enough opportunity. He is definitely a player who will be a danger to Indy, he scored twice against us last year for New York.

Blake Smith is well known to Indy and played for the Eleven in 2014 on loan from Montreal Impact, his most notable match was our first US Open Cup game against Dayton Dutch Lions where he scored the clubs first ever hat-trick in a competitive match, a tie that ended 5-2 in favor of Indy Eleven. Smith also scored against Columbus Crew in the following round.

Blake is a versatile player who can cause danger in any part of the field. After returning to Montreal and failing to become a part of the first team plans Smith was picked up by Miami FC in 2016 as they commenced life as a new franchise in NASL. Blake was a regular starting player at Miami and scored four goals in two seasons. He is one to watch for Indy and scored FC Cincinnati's opening league goal in a 1-0 away win at Charleston.



Lance Laing working the left for North Carolina in Indy 2017 (Photo: Bloody Shambles)

There is one former FC Edmonton player in Cinci's roster that worries me and it's not Tomi Ameobi. Lance Laing has a great scoring average and is dangerous not only in attacking build up but also from set pieces, he will no doubt be a part of any creative attack from Cinci if he plays and is another player who can change a game very quickly.

I am only touching on a few players, and mainly because they are known to me, but if I were to sit on the outside and look at Indy Eleven's roster I would be equally as worried or perhaps more. There is really nothing that stands out between these two rosters that give me a reason to label one team as a favorite in this match over the other. On paper, it looks very finely balanced.

So are Indy Eleven the underdogs in this game?

It would seem so, and although most of the spin appears to be coming from USL's own punditry and maybe a little favoritism towards a team that has made USL playoffs in two consecutive seasons, it's not really surprising.

Former NASL teams should not be underestimated, but to be fair Indy Eleven's 2017 was possibly the worst season we have ever had. It's an entirely different squad, less returning players than FC Cincinnati but it is probably the strongest team and the most depth we have had in a roster to date.

Both teams have had seven preseason games and both suffered only one loss. Cincinnati beat Indy in our first preseason game without a full squad and also lost their last preseason match against Sacramento. Those games mean nothing at the end of the day, both Indy and Cincinnati have played one league game and both won 1-0 on the road.



Formidable. Indy coaches Dave Dixon, Martin Rennie and Phillip Dos Santos (Photo: Bloody Shambles)

In all fairness I would rather be the underdog, pundits are already putting a check in the win box for Cincinnati so all the pressure appears to be on them if we are expected to be the losers, I doubt very much that Alan Koch will be taking anything for granted and pretty sure Martin Rennie is prepared for any challenge.

It is going to be a spectacle between two well-supported teams in a great venue in front of a large crowd. There are no stats or theories or any evidence out there that is going to help you call the winner in this game, we'll find that out in reality somewhere around 9pm on Saturday night, everything else is just speculation.

How different will this game be to the opener in Richmond?

It will most likely be much more intense, Indy Eleven will have to deal with a more technical and clinical attacking build up from Cincinnati. The defensive line and midfield in Richmond worked very well and certainly look like they could handle a tougher challenge, they will have to defend more and this can affect stamina over the 90.

If anything could have been better in Richmond it probably could have been our overall attack, Cincinnati will probably provide us with fewer opportunities at goal so it will be important that we not only create more but put more of those chances on target. 


The work rate and area covered by our attack were not in question but more opportunity in the final third needs to be talking point for this game. As mentioned in our review you can't just expect this to happen in the first game of the season but you can improve upon it match by match.


'SAS' Soony and Starikov were a handful in preseason, turn it up a notch and more goals will come.

Our center backs will be called on more in this game, how much work they have to do will depend on the combination of players (if those players start) that I mentioned earlier this week. Ouimette, Pasher, Matern, Watson, and Steinberger. Breaking down Cinci's attacks without losing our shape will be critical, players will need to support and cover each other much more in this game.

Defending will be critical, this doesn't mean we need to worry about a "Park The Bus" scenario, but how cleanly and clinically we defend will have a significant bearing on how quickly and effectively we overturn possession and switch to attack. Sloppiness will not cut it in a game like this at all, so better to be patient than frantically chasing everything that moves.

I won't make a match prediction although I feel Indy Eleven will not lose this game. I am envisioning an opening period of frantic jostling before settling down to what could become an intense chess match, and if it comes to that it will be all about Rennie versus Koch. So bring it on Cincinnati.



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We already know we are going to surpass attendance expectations for tomorrow's game if you are still sitting on the fence about coming along it's really a no-brainer. The Brickyard Battalion need as many wild and crazies in their section as possible so if you want a great deal, a crazy day and be right up on the action fork out $15 and buy yourself a ticket without added fees by following THIS LINK! DO IT NOW, RIGHT NOW!