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.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Indy Eleven Late-Spring Wallpaper

Jon Busch doin' work. (Desktop version)

Goalkeeper Jon Busch is our cover boy in blue for the late spring version of the Indy Eleven schedule wallpaper, courtesy of our friend @WurstEleven. While the wallpaper may not be safe for work, Busch, as the owner of the club record for shutouts, is totally safe for work.
Also, be sure to check out and consider donating to the veteran net-minder's "SAVES for SEALs" program benefitting the Navy Seal Foundation.
We have high-resolution versions of the wallpaper available for both mobile and desktop devices:

// Download the mobile version

// Download the desktop version

Also, in case you overlooked our previous warning, there are some subtle details in the wallpaper that may not be safe for work.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before: SF Deltas V Indy Eleven REVIEW (6/4/2017)

Lovel Palmer going for the ball during the Indy Eleven home game

By Brian Cook

Have you ever rewatched a movie? Maybe you like the cast, the plot, or the writing of the movie? Whatever it may be this season's Indy Eleven has increasingly become a movie we are still watching. A movie that we know the ending and we know who stars in it but we still watch it. We still watch it because it's entertaining to us even if our favorite character dies at the end. 

Indy Eleven and the San Francisco Deltas finished a lot like they did in the beginning of the season. A draw at 2-2 thanks to a last minute goal by the Deltas This was a slightly different movie though. Let's call it a sequel. Instead of the structured and rigid form that both teams had at the beginning of the season Indy Eleven's defensive weaknesses shined through and the boys in blue had to contend with the Deltas 26 total shots taken during the game (for reference, the first game of the season saw the Deltas have five total shots) 

How the team played on this June 4th game was 100% different than the team that was played during the March 25th season opener but nevertheless the Boys in Blue gave every bit of a chance for the Deltas to be up 10-2 instead of the actual score of 2-2. 

Indy Eleven's Backline:

Indy Eleven's Backline Heatmap (Via Indy Eleven Dot Com)

One of the fascinating things to watch so far in 2017 has been the work the backline of Indy Eleven has put in. A key aspect of previous levels of success for the Indy Eleven defense has been a fluid backline which is typically reflected in the post game heatmaps.  

For the most part Indy corrected it's work and kept itself intact compared to other times (Miami) where they faced the 4-3-3. The goals by Portilla and Sandoval of the Deltas had little to do about positioning on the pitch.

Both goals show where the real defensive issues lie and where most teams look to exploit. While fluid, if you break open and spread out the backline for Indy you tend to get missed marks and quick attempts. 

Black circles indicate Sandoval's heatmap impact on Indy Eleven's back line 

The goal by Portilla isn't an indication of this but what was the game tying goal shows you how much players like Greg Janicki, who Hankinson had praised for his marking ability, were valuable to the 2016 efforts.

Lovel Palmer's Goal:

What can be said about that goal?

Palmer is a right fullback turned wingback turned central defender and now is a pseudo box to box midfielder beside Brad Ring. He tends to favor a holding midfield role that has him playing more stationary and defensive than attacking but this goal was simply beautiful to see. Palmer has become a huge vocal point of the starting eleven for Indy Eleven and it shows that there is still an attack in this team.  

If Lovel Palmer's goal was great, I think Brad 'Legend' Ring's might have been a word yet to be created: 

Legendary Brad Ring living up to his legendary name 

Main takeaway from the game:

The result against Indy Eleven isn't what the team wanted. Being up 2-0 with 10 minutes left in the game is something that should be textbook to wrap up. It shouldn't be something that has the same result as the previous matchups and previous times you have watched your favorite movie. It's a different story. It's a different plot, but in the end the story stays the same and Indy Eleven finally get another point on the board. 

The thing to take away form this game is the slow build. This team is still figuring itself out and it's still learning about it's strengths and weaknesses and still learning about who they are as a club. It's a balancing act that doesn't entirely sit on the shoulders of the players on the field. Expectations have been set based off of last year's performance that Tim Hankinson and his staff (even if they have changed) should be able to stop errors and spot issues and correct them while minimally creating new ones to deal with. 

It's a fair thing for fans to request. It's not difficult. Fix the fixable errors and learn how to minimize the ones you can't fix before the week. If the club ever gets back to a healthy starting eleven we will see what exactly they can do but for now we will want and hope for this team to get back on track. 

At least we can say that Indy Eleven didn't lay down at all during the game:

"Let's call this dance move "The Delta"

Monday, May 22, 2017

Timony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Soccer Events

“I suppose I'll have to add the force of Miami to my list of enemies.” 

By Brian Cook

Speechless. I think that might be the closest way to describe how the 2017 season has gone for Indiana's team. Whether it be good or bad the results have not been what the club nor the fans had expected going into the season after a runner-up NASL title season in the year 2016.

Harder than watching the results of this season is trying to pin point where exactly the problem lie and on whose shoulders do they rest on. Clearly the on the field results rest squarely on the head coach, the leaders of the team (Falvey, Busch, etc) and on rest of the players in that order. On the field Indy Eleven are stuck in the shadow of last season's results. It seems that while Hankinson has stressed to both the players and fans that you have to earn what you get from this team that the club has failed to adapt and grow on their performance from last year.

I always recall seeing the massive change in the club when it moved from the very staggered 4-2-3-1 formation that clearly wasn't working to the 4-4-2 that this was the new Indy Eleven. A club that has been destined for greatness and more importantly has been able to see the issues and fix them 

The argument now rests on whether or not it's fair to hit the panic button on the season and the correct answer is yes and no

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a winger with them.”

It is fair to panic. Miami FC is clearly the strongest and most well built team in NASL for a number of reasons. But even against a Cosmos team that was built in a similar fashion of building a team outside the general scope of how NASL clubs are built Indy Eleven found a chance to win. The team this season remains largely intact from the 2016 campaign and fans are expecting better from a club that put up four goals on the last day of the Spring Season to win the Spring Championship.

It also isn't fair to panic. The general understanding (when looking at the table) is that with another win or two the club would literally be back into the pile at the top half of the table. With the restructuring of the schedule for the 2017 season the Spring season is far less than a sprint and much more of a jog unlike previous years. The injury bug also plays a huge part into the performance this year. Indy Eleven has been far from healthy and their strongest first eleven really hasn't gotten the chance to hit the field year.

There are also plenty of distractions and issues on and off the field outside of the general scope of how the season has gone.

On the field:

Eamon Zayed: 

One of the largest question marks since the beginning of the season has been the on again off again place of Eamon Zayed in the starting lineup of Indy Eleven. It's safe to say the biggest change seen in the team in 2017 was the first game of the season not having Eamon Zayed in the starting eleven. Nothing was ever officially confirmed about the reasoning behind this move though there was plenty of speculation. Nevertheless the holder of the team's scoring record hasn't gotten off to the best start so far and one only wonders if the beginning of the season plays into that. 

Ben Speas 

There is a moment in the movie MoneyBall (with Brad Pitt) where Billy Beane realizes you can't replace a player directly but rather replace their results they give you. What he was talking about was the struggle that the Oakland Athletics (on a much lower pay wage than most of MLB) would have in replacing the bats of Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and the arm of pitcher Jason Isringhasen. The three of them had brought tremendous amounts of success for Oakland Athletics the season before the infamous Moneyball season and were huge losses for the A's. 

“It is one of life's bitterest truths that endtime so often arrives just when things are really getting interesting.” 

Cue the analogy, Ben Speas for all intents and purpose was dog eared to be the replacement for an outgoing Dylan Mares who moved onto the sunny beaches of Miami FC. Ben Speas, who last season averaged four goals and four assists against Mares five goals and seven assists as a member of the Boys in Blue was tailor made to come and fit the role Indy would be lacking which was a wing based playmaker and for the most part he truly hasn't failed at that.

He's just struggled to keep up the pace and I think Speas' performance shows more about how you wouldn't be able to play the same system as last season and use Speas the way you used Mares. Speas skill set allows you borderline more attacking presence than Mares did but Mares skillset was much more at hand with what Indy had on the field last season. 


When it was announced that Colin Falvey would be out for a portion of the beginning of the season due to surgery I think everyone gasped. . Colin Falvey and Jon Busch's work in the backline last season was all but key in the overall success of 2017. Losing Colin Falvey not only lost a great defender but a great leader and with no Cory Miller you were left with a versatile Daniel Keller and someone new to Indy Eleven, Kwame Watson-Siriboe.

In a previous blog, the positive impact of Colin Falvey's presence was discussed so it was no secret why it was vital he get back on the field as soon as possible. Early into the season with Falvey it was clear the defense needed another leader besides Jon Busch. Keller, who has been with the club for two years, has played nearly every position in the backline has the ability but not the leadership at least not what's been seen. 

Truthfully I'm still waiting for the moment where we understand what Hankinson saw in signing Kwame Watson-Siriboe because up until now he's been a loose cannon in the backline leaving huge gaps and causing more issues for the defense than preventing them. Even Falvey's return to his leadership role hasn't curbed Kwame from running up and playing a stopper role and leaving Falvey alone to stop an attack. 

While the return of Falvey clearly had a difference in how the backline work and rotated but even with Falvey's return the Indy Eleven defense is nothing compared to how strong the defense was in 2016. 

Coach Hankinson

It's pretty safe to say that the honeymoon phase is over. Last season was amazing but it's pretty clear that last season's successes rest right there. Last season. I'm not entirely sure what the plan was for this season but whatever it is it's not working. Between the roster building leaving huge holes in the structure of the team and decisions involving benching Eamon Zayed have left a lot of people, quietly, questioning what's going on in the mind of Indy Eleven's head coach. 

Some of this is on the field, some of this is general team cohesion but nevertheless it shouldn't a question. Speaking on the US Open Cup match against the Michigan Bucks, which removing the faces and names is an amatuer side that Indy Eleven should have at least beaten if not been comfortable in the victory even with squad rotation.

“Well-defended people are less likely to be evil.” 

It's not even to say that Hankinson is the problem. Clearly people need a direction to point and it's easier to point at the head coach than anyone else. There is a fair argument given last season's successes that Hankinson is definitely performing below expectations. His choices in the lineup, both at the beginning of the season to now, have left some questions out there.

Injuries have also played a huge part. Indy Eleven isn't the youngest team in the league by all means and as a result they have gotten ripped apart for lack of a better word by the injury bug and have struggled to maintain consistent performances. 

Off the field

The off the field troubles are pretty clear. A lack of a stadium, a lack of good results, losing good players, weather. All things that have impacted what every sport's team struggles with and lower division soccer in America is no different. 

The bottom line.

In an interview about the infamous Stadium for Indiana deal Ersal Ozdemir pulled no punches when he said:

“Without a new stadium, we have some serious decisions to make,” he said.

The stadium, which was reproposed for a fourth time, is an healthy 100 million dollar plus deal which would have Ersal and his 'ownership group' paying the fee for getting an expansion club and other expenses while resting the bill for the stadium on a 'public - private partnership' which would have the city and state pick up most of the tab. (At this moment we haven't reached out to the club on a comment for this quote)

The public movement of the bill (or lack there of) has weighed heavily on the shoulders of staff and players. What does it say when the owner of a team eludes to the possibility it could be the last year for his club and thus the last year for a lot of people to work for the club? Whether it was a tactic to help motivate those who have the ability to get financing for the stadium or just Ersal making his everyday stresses public the statement has hurt the club, players, staff, as well as the fans.

Whatever the case may be. This club is in the thick of it. Since the beginning of the season it's been like watching a roster collectively grab shovels and slowly dig a hole down. While they are working together in that regard it's hard for players to be motivated to win games, it's hard for staff to hear that the club is struggling financially and above all else it's difficult for casual fans who base their decision of attending games off of the performance of the team to feel inclined to come watch Indy struggle. We hope that this is just a rough patch on the road and things eventually turn around for a team that should clearly be performing better than it is. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Picked Apart: Indy Eleven vs Miami FC REVIEW (5/20/2017)

Frustration was the theme of the night when Indy Eleven faced league leaders Miami FC.

By Brandon Cockrum

Entering Saturday’s match head coach Tim Hankinson described the Eleven’s meeting last weekend as "being ripped apart" by Miami. This week the Eleven lined up with three defensive midfielders in an attempt to stymy a Miami attack that Hankinson said goes right down the middle of the park. The result: rather than being torn apart, Miami cooly picked Indy apart, taking advantage of two defensive errors from the Eleven to claim a 2-0 victory. The loss humbly ends Indy’s NASL record 21-game unbeaten streak at home.

The Eleven lined up with a full-strength back four, however Kwame Watson-Siriboe paired with Colin Falvey at center back to allow Lovel Palmer to shift forward into a central defensive midfield role next to Brad Ring. Gerardo Torrado was deployed in front of them, creating a defensive cone in the center of the pitch to deflect Miami attacks away from Indy’s core.

Ben Speas and rookie Tanner Thompson were split wide of Torrado as attacking midfielders with Justin Braun as a lone striker. Clearly, with just three true offense-oriented players, defense would be a priority for Indy and the strategy would be to manufacture a goal through heart and hustle rather than a refined attack.

For 25 minutes Indy held on with just a few breaks in their defensive shield and seemed to be gaining their footing. Jon Busch was forced to make a nice save from a corner kick header in the 10th minute and a Miami attacker shanked a shot high from seven yards out in the 16th minute.

In the 27th minute Indy looked poised to manufacture the game’s first goal as Justin Braun, after tackling the ball from Miami defender Rhett Bernstein, went one-on-one against goalkeeper Daniel Vega. But, Vega was up to the challenge and stopped Braun’s attempted flick dribble around him.

A rapid Miami counter after Vega's stop of Braun was halted by an Indy foul near the top of the penalty box. While Indy dropped their heads or turned their attention to the referee Miami quickly restarted play. Robert Kcira made a simple pass to Vincenzo Rennella waiting on Busch’s doorstep and the experienced striker calmly finished the play.

In a matter of one minute, Indy went from looking like they had the game’s first goal to being down 1-0 and staring up a large mountain with inadequate climbing gear.

The first half concluded with Miami content and Indy unable to create and possibly the only highlight after the goal being an animated discussion during a stoppage in play between Ring, Falvey, Marco Franco and Hankinson.

Defender Marco Franco looks to spark an Indy attack.

The second half continued similarly with Miami probing and testing the Indy defensive but not causing much trouble and Indy struggling to build anything resembling a threatening offense. Possession was frequently lost by the boys in pinstripes in the midfield through poor passing or lack of control. Only once in the game did the Eleven manage a shot from their opponents penalty box.

In the 72nd minute another defensive error from Indy provided Miami with another clear opportunity on goal. Away from the play, a slow moving Watson-Siriboe kept Miami’s Kwame Poku onside and allowed Michael Lahoud to play a through ball that beat Poku’s defender and put the attacker in on goal where he calmly beat Busch with a shot.

2-0, with Miami in front and not looking over their shoulder,

The sport’s most dangerous lead was never threatened as Indy continued to struggle creating offense. Mild urgency at the end was easily dealt with by the visitors as they saw the game out and claimed their league leading 17th point of the season.

Four Takeaways

Mares eagerly waits to take the field in Indianapolis.

Mares Thriving in Miami

It's bittersweet to see, but Dylan Mares has been a key cog for the league's top team. The plucky attacking midfielder has 2 goals, 1 assist and is a league leader in chances created. The Eleven would have liked to have kept the homegrown product but higher wages, sandy beaches and youthful ambition drew him to Miami. While highly respected, it might have taken a move away for Mares' quality to be fully appreciated by everyone in Indy.


The Eleven offense, currently missing in action, has now gone four matches without scoring a legitimate goal. Sure, they registered two goals last week in Miami but one was an own goal and one was due to a miscommunication between a defender and goalie on a ball that both had covered, a figurative gift from Miami for a clearly surprised goalscorer, Braun.

Among eight NASL teams, the Eleven are fifth in shots take and seventh in shot accuracy. So, they're not getting many shots off and those they do get are poorly taken.

A healthy Eamon Zayed and Don Smart should help the club find it’s lost attack but neither was even available for action on Saturday. It may be a few weeks (or more) before both return to full form and, even when they do, can we confidently say this team is poised for takeoff? More importantly, what do we do until then?

Roster Makeup

There has been pressure on coach Hankinson due to the poor results but he has lately been forced to put lipstick on a pig. A coach can only do so much with the ingredients he is given. Injuries should have been expected with a roster that is the league’s oldest club, however after the top 14 or so players there was a distinct drop-off in skill and experience. 

Now that injuries and poor form have hit the coach has few options to try. Two goalies are often part of our seven available subs on match day. Rookies David Goldsmith and Thompson have been required to play a lot of minutes, but this is a league that is very difficult for professional rookies to make an impact. Three in-season acquisitions have been feckless, to the point that none of them sniffed the pitch against Miami. On Saturday Daniel Keller was brought in late in the game with Indy needing to find goals. Last season, Nicki Paterson, Sinisa Ubiparipovic or other strong options were available off the bench for Hankinson. (Nothing against Keller but his skills are best utilized keeping the ball out of the net rather than putting it in.)

The club currently sits in sixth place (out of 8), well behind the top five. If club owner Ersal Ozdemir wants things to turn around it seems that he'll have to open up the checkbook for a key summer signing (or two).

Downward Spiral

The club’s poor results - six draws and three losses leave the club as the only pro team in the US without a victory - are now threatening the status of players and coaches. 

"If the downward spiral continues there will be changes, whether that’s coaching staff or players,” Hankinson told Greg Rakestraw on "Soccer Saturday" the morning of this match. 

With another poor result later that evening it seems that someone will be held accountable by the next match - the question is who and will it have a positive effect?