Monday, February 20, 2017

Third Time the Charm?



Jamaican scorer has had two previous trials with Indy scuttled due to injury


By: Brandon Cockrum


One week into official preseason training and the Indy Eleven have just 15 healthy, signed players on their roster. Two positions that they're most shorthanded at are forward and wide midfielder but there may be help on the way. In a February 9 interview with Casilero Deportivo, Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson said that Indy would be adding Jamaican Dino Williams to the roster this season. Hankinson previously coached Williams at Montego Bay United in the Jamaican Premiere League. Of the player’s skills, Hankinson has said, "There are strikers and there are goal scorers, and Dino is a goal scorer, but he also possesses the versatility to be a dangerous performer on the wings.”


Williams also signed with Indy in 2016.
Williams, has twice previously trialed with the Eleven and twice had said trials derailed by medical issues.

The 26-years old Williams is prolific goal scorer in Jamaica’s Red Stripe Premier League for defending-champion Montego Bay United. Upon the announcement of his signing with the team in 2016, former Eleven GM Peter Wilt stated, “Williams is a promising player that is coming off the best form of his career while playing for Coach Hankinson. We had Dino in as a trialist in 2014 and he showed promise before sustaining an injury."

After again returning injured to Jamaica from Indy in the spring of 2016, Williams play was limited but he salvaged his season by finishing as the league’s golden boot winner and scoring the decisive goal in the league final. When the Premiere League kicked off its current season this past September, Williams told Jamaica’s Gleaner that his body was fully rested and recovered from groin surgery and that he was ready to set the league’s goal-scoring record. 

Williams has partnered in both the Montego Bay attack with Owayne (Omar) Gordon, formerly of Indy Eleven, helping lead the team to the top of the Jamaican table. After 23 match days the striker is sitting on 7 goals, good for third place in the league’s golden boot race. (Former Indy Eleven and Sheffield Wednesday forward Jermaine Johnson is in second place with 9 goals.)

Willams has six appearances for the Reggae Boyz at the international level and most recently wore the green and yellow jersey of Jamaica this past November against Suriname. The attacker was called into camp in January 2017 to train for February friendlies versus USA and Honduras but skipped training at his club’s request due to injury. He did not make the traveling roster for the two matches. (Former Eleven attacker Gordon has made four consecutive appearances for the Jamaican national team.)

Assuming that the as-of-now unofficial loan of Williams to the Eleven becomes official, the attacker's arrival in Indianapolis will likely be delayed so that he will be available to United for their first round matches in the Caribbean Football Union’s Club Championship group stage, held March 1 to March 5. The player will then have to pass through immigration process' as well as a medical test (or two) before he could begin play for Indy. It will not likely be known until at least mid-March if Williams will get his third chance to practice with the Eleven. And then, as some might say, Only Jah knows if we will ever see Williams in the blue checkers.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Eleven Paths To Victory: How Indy Gets to MLS

Indy Eleven surprised the soccer community with its MLS announcement.

By Brandon Cockrum

Late in the evening of January 30, less than 24 hours before the deadline to formally apply for the next phase of MLS expansion, word began leaking out that Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir would be arriving the following day at MLS headquarters in New York City with his club’s application in hand. Hard-core supporters of the club and fans of the sport exhibited a spectrum of responses, with the most common being surprise. News of the bid also inspired plenty of skepticism toward Indy's chance at success.


Ozdemir signs paperwork for the bid at MLS HQ. // Image courtesy of: Indy Eleven

I too was surprised, but after reviewing the info the team did share, talking with others about the bid and conducting some research, I hold the opposite opinion: I think the club and Indianapolis will be highly competitive and that their bid will see the Eleven arrive in MLS. I’ll even kindly provide you (and Mr. Ozdemir, if he’s reading) a detailed path to victory for the Eleven.

Before we get to that though, here’s what we know about Indy’s MLS bid:
  • Indy is one of twelve clubs competing for four spots in MLS
  • Two clubs are expected be announced by October 2017 to enter the league in 2020 and two announced at a later date to enter in 2021
  • The MLS expansion fee for the first two teams is $150 million each; the fee could be higher for the second pair
  • The Eleven proposed a 20,000 seat stadium at an estimated expense of just over $100 million
  • In two previous Indiana legislative sessions, the Eleven were not quite able to successfully negotiate funding for a new stadium
  • The Eleven are in negotiations to purchase 16 acres of land for the stadium, bordered by Kentucky Avenue and Merrill, McCarty and West streets
  • The ownership group will provide “a significant” amount of money to get the new stadium built, but suggested public assistance may be necessary as well
  • The Eleven’s proposed ownership group consists of local auto dealer Andy Mohr; Elwood Staffing President Mark Elwood; Heritage Environmental Services President Jeff Laborsky; and Mickey Maurer, a shareholder in The National Bank of Indianapolis and IBJ Corp
  • The ownership group meets MLS' financial requirements but is likely to add more members


Proposed site of stadium. Photo looks northeast from the intersection of Kentucky, Oliver and McCarty streets.

Now, let's discuss their path to victory:

1. Three teams eliminated from the competition… by being successful bids

San Diego, Tampa Bay, Phoenix

Three great cities and three of the largest markets in the country without a MLS franchise. It’s hard to argue with any of these bids as they check a lot of boxes, plus San Diego and Tampa Bay are among the closest of all cities to having their stadiums fully approved. So, three down, only eight teams for Indy to beat now. This will be easy.

2. One city eliminated for being less experienced

Raleigh

The market of the North Carolina city is nearly equal to the league’s smallest in Salt Lake. Indy frequently hosts world-class sporting events such as NCAA Final Fours, the Indianapolis 500 and even a Super Bowl. What has Raleigh hosted? The College Cup? Please.


3. One city eliminated because the Eleven have a big head start

Nashville

The former supporter-owned club in the Music City has new owners and will be moving up from a lower league into the USL in 2017. Their bid checks some boxes but they’re the smallest market and their stadium plans are nowhere near being finalized. Meanwhile, Indy has posted at least the fourth-highest attendance in lower division soccer for three straight seasons and might be closer to getting a stadium built.


Image courtesy of: The Monsieur

4. Three cities eliminated because they can’t get stadiums deals done

St. Louis, Charlotte, Detroit

Stadia funding and locations seem to be significant holdups in these cities at a critical time. Each had a rejection of their stadium proposal on the eve of submitting their MLS bids. These cities might check more boxes than the Eleven, but, no stadium, no bueno. Indy has to get over the same hurdle, but it’s possible, you’ll see.

5. Three cities eliminated because of proximity to existing franchises

Sacramento, San Antonio, Cincinnati

Both Sacramento and Cincinnati have great clubs and supporters and are possibly the most deserving clubs making a bid. San Antonio is just barely off their pace. However, MLS doesn’t always choose the most deserving clubs to promote. (See Sacramento, still not in MLS.)

The San Jose Earthquakes have approved the addition of Sacramento, just two hours up the road, but the league may not be interested in five California franchises. The market is also not one of the best of the 12 but the city does have an approved stadium site and funding. However, at the final hour, the ownership group stripped Sacramento Republic FC and essentially many of their supporters from their bid. The mayor is attempting to negotiate a peace treaty but this opened the door to the city being passed over once again. Regardless, their bid comes up short of San Diego's and only one Cali team gets in this round.

San Antonio FC has half of an MLS stadium already in place and a classy owner in Spurs Sports & Entertainment, among the best in the NBA. The second year USL team stands on the shoulders of an NASL club that built the current stadium and established a good foundation of support. If there weren’t two MLS clubs each about three hours away by car the city would be nearly a lock. Unfortunately for them, the two cities are both that close and each struggles with attendance despite seeing success on the field, which might scare MLS away from taking a chance on the smaller San Antonio market.

Cincinnati is attempting to become the league’s second Ohio team. A two-hour drive separates the city from Columbus Crew and the cities teams pull fans from many of the same markets. The Crew have negative revenue, one of the league’s lowest attendances and have begun talking about needing a new stadium. FC Cincinnati averaged a larger attendance than the Crew and seems MLS ready, however the league appears to be pushing them to build a soccer-specific stadium. If think the Crew will view the Cincinnati bid as more of a threat to them than a benefit, and the club’s owner is on the expansion committee, making this bid a no go right now.

6. Plot Twist: A fifth expansion spot becomes available

The 24th spot in MLS is currently designated for David Beckham and Miami, however the likelihood of him making enough progress in the next year to hold onto his spot is looking less and less likely. As more high-quality bids from other ownership groups come together, the league will feel pressure to move on from Miami. They’ve not yet set a date for the expiration of Beckham's franchise rights to the 24th spot, but it will be here sooner than later.

7. Indy is a hub for a MLS midwest core

Indy is located almost exactly 3 hours from both Chicago and Columbus and their inclusion in the league would create an instant rivalry with each club. If Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis or even Louisville join the league at some point, Indy is an easy road trip and natural geographic rival with each. The same cannot be said for the other midwest bids as they are not located as centrally in the region. Competition between MLS’ Cascadian Cup clubs have taken the sport to new heights in North America. The midwest represents a similar opportunity to grow the US game and Indy is right in the middle of it.


As compared to Cincinnati, Indy is an easier road trip and more natural geographic rival with existing and proposed clubs. 

8. Ozdemir thinks big and has key connections

Eleven-owner Ozdemir has built an empire as a successful developer, and is not simply just the owner of a sports team. He’s also a reserved, thoughtful strategist that can execute big projects. Even if this bid came together quickly, Ozdemir would likely not jump into the fray unless he was confident in its’ success.

The club’s owner also has widespread GOP connections in a state dominated by Republicans. Indianapolis leans more Democrat and the developer has many positive relationships here as well. While the city and state governments are likely to be reticent in offering much public assistance for another sports stadium, they could be convinced with the right arrangement. The club will have to propose a better deal than it has in the past, and they’re already talking like that is going to happen. There is opportunity here, and Ozdemir might be one of the few people that can pull it off.

9. Herb Simon and Reno 1868

With his founding of Reno 1868, real-estate tycoon Herb Simon and owner of the Indiana Pacers, has recently become a player in the American soccer landscape. The Eleven are admittedly looking to add to their recently-formed ownership group and the current investor list includes names that are locally impressive but not quite up to MLS expectations. Getting the billionaire Simon on board would be more than enough to satisfy MLS requirements.

Launching this season in the USL, 1868 will play its games at the Triple-A baseball stadium also owned by Simon. MLS' San Jose Earthquakes currently work with the Reno club in an affiliate partnership, which is similar to a Triple-A team's relationship with a partner in Major League Baseball. With Simon as an owner of both, the USL club could easily partner with the Eleven instead of the 'Quakes. Having a reserve side ready to go on day one is a small but possibly important differentiator for Indy. Some of these bids - Detroit and St. Louis, for example - feature zero active teams; Indy could have two active teams in its bid package.

10. Plan 2020

The City of Indianapolis will begin celebrating it’s bicentennial in 2020 and is mobilizing to launch and execute plans to re-envision and redevelop areas of the community. The city has also been working hard but failing to generate development in the GM and Stadium districts on the southwest side of downtown and in December designated the GM land a TIF area, which allows them to reinvest district tax dollars directly into area improvements. This TIF area is also immediately adjacent to the Eleven’s proposed stadium location and improvements are already in the planning stages for streets that serve the stadium property. Coincidentally, the Eleven are using “2020” as part of their MLS marketing campaign. Partnering Ozdemir and Simon in a significant real estate and development project involving the GM and Stadium districts and that is in progress by 2020 sounds like a deal the will be hard for local and state officials to pass up.


Indianapolis has high hopes for the GM and Stadium Districts. The proposed stadium could spur more projects in the area.

11. Hamilton County saves the day

The continuously growing and affluent county to the north of Indianapolis is also a soccer hotbed. Home to the Eleven’s training facility and many excellent youth soccer programs, a community in Hamilton County might be willing to help fund the stadium if downtown Indianapolis does not work out. Carmel and Fishers are each investing in economic development projects and trying to change perceptions of their communities from sleepy suburb to sophisticated metropolis. A professional soccer stadium in their backyard might make the local soccer moms quite happy, however, a transition to MLS and move to Hamilton County might test the relationship with club supporters.


Indianapolis, Spring 2020. Is this what the future looks like?

Now, not all of these events have to happen for the Eleven to be successful. The key event is Indy securing a stadium and if that occurs Indy has a very good chance of being selected. 

I think there is a bit of serendipity in play right now and the timing is right for the club to secure a stadium. There are also just enough flaws with the other bids (and maybe a fifth expansion spot), which will allow the Eleven to enter MLS in Spring 2020, literally kicking off Indianapolis' bicentennial celebration.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Indy Eleven Announce first Nine Players for 2017 (1/12/2017)

Justin Braun was the first to be announced as returning for 2017
January 12th 2017 - Indy Eleven Roster Announcements.

As the NASL prepares to kickoff in 2017 Indy Eleven made their first roster announcements today bringing news of nine players returning.

1. Forward Justin Braun -  Former Sacramento Republic star signed in 2016 by Tim Hankinson scored nine goals and gave five assists in all competitions.

2. Goalkeeper Jon Busch - The veteran goalkeeper pulled out eleven shoutouts in 29 games for Indy Eleven in 2016


3. Goalkeeper Keith Cardona - Cardona made three appearances for the Eleven in 2016 against Miami, Tampa, and Rayo OKC as well as a clean sheet against Liga MX opponents CF Pachuca in our summer friendly match.

Captain Colin Falvey returns to lead Eleven's charge into 2017.

4. Defender Colin Falvey - 2016 Captain of the team signed by Hankinson from Ottawa Fury, despite missing a few games through injury Colin led the team from the first game to the final in New York in November.


5. Defender Lovel Palmer - Jamaican Palmer came to Indy from MLS side Chicago Fire along with Jon Busch. Lovel appeared 25 times for the Eleven in 2016.

6.  Midfielder Don Smart - Don has been a part of the Indy Eleven family since the beginning signed in 2013, pending further announcements he becomes for now the longest serving player at the club.

Don Smart currently Indy Eleven's longest serving player.

7. Midfielder Siniša Ubiparipović - Though limited in time through injury in 2016 Ubi made a great late push for contention scoring one of the most important goals of the season against FC Edmonton in the Championship semi final.

8. Defender Nemanja Vukovic - One of the biggest surprises of 2016 the towering Montenegran proved himself to be a critical dynamic to the Indy Eleven style with his box to box work on the left side.

9. Forward Éamon Zayed - Indy Eleven's leading score remained in contention for the golden boot throughout 2016 and became the teams all time leading scorer with 16 goals in league and cup play.

Indy's leading scorer Éamon Zayed returns alongside Braun in attack.

Negotiations will be continuing with other players so don't worry too much yet if you don't see your favorite player on the roster, it's just the beginning. Overall, Indy has returned a solid core of first team players in Busch, Falvey, Palmer, Smart, Ubiparipović, Braun, Vukovic and Zayed.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

USSF and the Continuing Path of Least Resistance

Is Sunil Gulati aware of a need for change, and is he the man to bring it?

By: James Cormack

On Friday the 6th of January 2017 the USSF released a long awaited statement that would make clear the immediate future of both the USL and the NASL leagues. The final decision was that the North American Soccer League would retain provisional Division 2 status and United Soccer League would now move from a D3 league to provisional D2.

USSF described the decision as being in the best interests of the sport and to some extent they are correct because neither league has taken a step backwards as a result of this decision. Both divisions can now start the process of scheduling and their respective teams can get on with preparations for their upcoming seasons.

Is it a step forward though? No it is definitely not, lower division soccer in the United States and Canada has been a cluster for some time mainly because the USSF has failed to keep up with the growth of the sport at this level. They have made a decision that keeps the wolves from the door but at the end of the day it has created an even more complex situation. As a federation how they handle this situation going forward is critical because they are now under more intense scrutiny than ever before.

Had the USSF decided to leave NASL at D2 and deny USL a promotion they probably would have faced legal action, the NASL has had so many waivers and chances over the last 6 to 7 years that to not offer the USL the same helping hand would have caused an outcry. This was pretty much the only viable solution could put forth, anything else probably would have meant either legal action from some corner or the death of a league along with it's teams. USSF through years of neglect backed themselves into this corner, it was the only way out.


US Soccer is now without a D3 league, there is one D1 league (MLS), two D2 leagues (NASL/USL) and two D4 leagues (PDL/NPSL). As I have stated in previous blogs having two leagues at the same level is not productive and neither is it in the best interests of the sport. We have already seen evidence of the problems it can cause with reference to the PDL/NPSL issues at D4, two different leagues, albeit amateur, competing for teams and players.

By placing the USL and NASL both at D2 it is akin to taking two guys, giving each one a knife and tying their spare hands together, put them in a small space and see who can slit each others throat the fastest. At this moment in time you would have to favor the USL to win that fight.

The USL and NASL will now be competing at an equal level for sponsor investment, TV and Media deals, new franchise teams and players! It is not good for the evolution of the sport here and if allowed to continue it will come down to a process of natural selection and one of these leagues will ultimately die or be consumed. It's now a Tug-O-War, the league with the most traction will survive the other will die.

What does this mean for NASL?



Bill Peterson has been a quiet man since November 2016, most likely on the way out.

Firstly I am very glad that the NASL will continue in 2017 and I appreciate the efforts of all owners and individuals such as Peter Wilt for the effort they have put in to make that happen. Unfortunately however over the last few months the sheer level of negative press the NASL has received is going to take a long time to repair and it will undoubtedly have knock on effects for the league and for teams.

The NASL has clearly suffered from very poor leadership and it is noticeable in all of the announcements from USSF and NASL that there is no mention of, or quote from, league commissioner Bill Peterson. The league has barely managed to survive with eight teams after taking seven years to finally achieve having twelve before imploding.

Ottawa and Tampa have jumped ship, Rayo OKC and Fort Lauderdale Strikers are most likely dead and the leagues flagship team New York Cosmos went on a spending spree they could not afford which ultimately helped them win three titles in four years and no doubt also influenced the over spending and demise of some of the other current and former teams in the NASL. Jacksonville Armada after only two seasons of play are now supposedly a league owned club. Having seen what happened in Atlanta under league ownership, I don't fancy their chances of survival after 2017, I hope I am wrong.

In the last few years we have seen Atlanta Silverbacks and San Antonio Scorpions disappear, we have brought Miami FC into a market area that directly affects Fort Lauderdale Strikers, we brought a team to Oklahoma that never should have existed and was doomed to fail from day one and we brought back Puerto Rico who had previously failed as an NASL club. Bill Peterson oversaw all of this including a 2016 final played in front of 2500 and the collapse of New York Cosmos. Mr Peterson has to realize now that it is time to step away from NASL, because he has failed.

For the NASL to survive past 2017 it will require an overhaul of NASL leadership, it will need people willing to work hard enough to accomplish a monumental task and have an ability to make clear logical decisions that will both improve the league and ensure it's survival. We did not have that up until 2017 but hopefully it's being worked on immediately.

The profile and the reputation of the NASL has been severely damaged, this is going to affect them in the pursuit of investment and media coverage. It's a 'back to square one' situation and it will be an uphill struggle considering they now have direct competitors at D2.

NASL is now on life support and without doubt will be viewed as the weaker of the two leagues now sitting at Division 2 in the US Soccer Pyramid. Unless there is a master plan to merge independent teams from both USL and NASL into one stable and sensible second tier in this country in the near future, it is very difficult to see how NASL will continue to survive.


For now there is a little breathing space for NASL, but that is all it is, survival for another year. What happens over the course of this year at the leadership and ownership level will go a long way to determine the lifespan of this league. It will take more than 'a few good men".

What does this mean for Indy Eleven?



Mayor Joe Hogsett and Ersal Ozdemir with the NASL 2016 Spring Trophy.

In the right here and now of course it is good news, Indy Eleven remains playing in the NASL and can go about the business of signing players, building a squad, selling tickets and continue to improve on what has been a great year in 2016. Indy is strong and I have no doubt will be stronger in 2017, they will be a favorite to win the league this year.

Indy Eleven have played a large part in helping the NASL survive and must stand by their decision not to exit the league for the USL. Hopefully for us the supporters that decision does not come back to haunt us in the near future. There are no guarantees if the NASL goes belly up after 2017 that we will be readily accepted into the USL. My feeling is with the support we have that the USL would be foolish to not accept Indianapolis, but entry may prove costly at a later date.

Throughout Indy Eleven's short history the need for a dedicated stadium has been an ever present theme for owner Ersal Ozdemir, despite having failed in one attempt already Indy Eleven will continue to try again. The appointment of Jeff Belskus last year was evidence of intent to step up our game.

The reputation of the NASL is now tarnished and despite surviving the league is far from stable or trustworthy. How does this affect our chances of a future stadium bid? In my opinion and it is only my opinion, this is going to be a major hindrance and unless Indy Eleven can build their own stadium using private funding I think we can forget about public funding assistance at any time in the near future.

When it comes to city and state funding it doesn't matter that we and our team know we are worthy of a stadium and we can support it, the naysayers and detractors out there will use every piece of ammunition they can find to knock it down if they feel it necessary to do so.

Indy Eleven will now also face competition from 20+ independent USL teams outside of remaining NASL teams for player signatures, any new player looking to come and play at D2 in the USA will need an explanation as to why the NASL would be a more viable option for him to play in over the USL.

Now more than ever Indy Eleven needs the loyalty of its support, every one of us needs to turn up for our team in the same numbers as before. Indy Eleven needs to continue to show that it is a successful team with an unwavering support, and we need to continue growing. As long as we can do that our team will be able to support itself financially, and any league that would not accept us would do so imprudently.


What needs to happen next?

All things neglected will decay over time.

In the broader scheme of things the USSF needs to start restructuring the game below it's prized MLS, for too long the groundswell of lower division soccer has been ignored and the USSF has failed in managing it. From the outside looking in it appears that the USSF only cares about MLS and USMNT, everything else is a distraction that can be cured with decisions that only provide short term solutions without any future plan.

US Soccer needs one single professional D2 that is stable and matches the structure of D1. Any situation at any divisional level that forces one league entity to compete against another is suicidal and needs to be remedied. It would be impossible to create that for 2017 but the work needs to start now and discussion between the USSF, USL and NASL need to continue regularly with the aim of providing a single D2 consisting of independent teams.

Creating a new D3 league will have to be a part of that and MLS reserve teams need to be returned along with any team not ready to fulfill the requirements of a D2. With USL now being a D2 and MLS reserve teams remaining we have a situation where a D2 championship final can be contested by two MLS reserve teams and that to me is not a good advertisement for the sport in this country.

Likewise a D2 championship final played in a stadium that can only hold 2500 people is neither a good advertisement for its league or the game in this country. The 2016 NASL final at Belson Stadium was the ill fitting crown on top of a pile of impending disaster and should never happen again. This happened one year after the NASL broke it's attendance record for a final since it's rebirth.

D4 PDL/NPSL also needs to be cared for, any suggestion of one league offering money to have a team join them over a competing league must be addressed by the USSF. D4 is predominately an amateur league and there is no reason why both the PDL and NPSL cannot form one organization and remain multi-regional. Soccer at grass roots is extremely important, vital in fact, D4 and D3 are the ideal areas for prospective owners to enter the game and grow their dream.

The ultimate goal for any federation is to maximize the development potential at all levels of it's game, the end result is a much stronger team at international level. US Soccer is still growing in size and popularity and it will continue to grow, but I think it is not close to it's full potential at any level, international or domestic. Of course it takes time to reach that potential but it will take even longer if hurdles and disasters are continually placed in the way.

Soccer is a competition between teams, played on a field with a ball. Soccer should never be a competition between leagues at the same level because it stifles the growth of the game and ultimately anything negative that arises from that affects the most important part of any professional sport, the supporters. Without supporters a professional sport is nothing, and if teams or leagues continue to face extinction people will lose faith and turn away. It is much easier to create an empty seat than it is to fill one.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

As Close As It Gets - Indy Eleven 2016 REVIEW

Peter Wilt enjoys the fruits of all his labors after Indy Eleven become 2016 Spring Champions.

By: James Cormack

The season is over, the final minutes have passed, after a long weekend in New York it is time to reflect on what has been an incredible year as an Indy Eleven supporter. Immediate reactions would have been worthless and irrational, it's important after a long year to sleep on it a little and garner a true appreciation and gratitude for what has been a truly amazing season for this team.

With regards to the 2016 NASL Soccer Bowl itself, all I can think of is "shooting fish in a barrel," which is basically what it came down to. Nobody likes penalty shootouts, but it is a necessary means to an end, whoever shoots the most fish wins. I often liken the same situation to a sideshow or carnival attraction... "STEP RIGHT UP!" hit the targets and win a stuffed animal. Only in this situation you're physically drained, you're nerves are shot and all the pressures of the world are on your shoulders and several hundred opposition fans are screaming at you.

There is no blame to be apportioned to any player or coach, we had ample opportunities to knock our opponent out an we didn't. A final was played, decisions were made, those decisions did not lose us the game, we gave it everything but we did not succeed, the Cosmos scored more penalties than us and deservedly lifted the Championship trophy.

Am I disappointed? Well of course it would have been nice to win, but I cannot possibly be disappointed with this team, with these players and our coaching staff. The have pulled off miracles all year long and transformed Indy Eleven into a team that is now respected and possibly feared in the league in which they play.

Indy Eleven have completed their third season as a club. In 2014 we finished 9th from 10 teams in the combined standings with 27pts and only 6 wins in the year, in 2015 we finished 9th of 11 teams with 33pts and 8 wins for the entire year. This year in 2016 we finished 2nd in combined standings with 15 wins and 55pts. We won more games in one year than we did in our first two seasons and were only 5pts short of equaling the amount we gained in our first two years as a team. THAT is incredible!

2016 NASL Spring Champions
2016 NASL Championship Runners Up
2016 NASL Coach of the Year - Tim Hankinson
2016 Goal of the Year - Duke Lacroix
2016 Undefeated at Home in NASL and US Open Cup Matches


Defining moments.....

Tim Hankinson proved to be a worthy hire for Indy Eleven picking up NASL Coach of The Year award.

On December 2, 2015, Tim Hankinson was named as the new head coach of Indy Eleven. There had been rumors in the weeks leading up to this about who may be the new coach, such as former Fort Lauderdale Strikers coach Gunter Kronsteiner. When Hankinson's name appeared on the radar it sent everyone, including myself, scrambling through the internet trying to figure out who we had hired.

Little did we know then, and I am sure many including myself questioned the appointment, but it was a defining moment. My immediate reaction was that the only way I could support and approve of this hire would be if we retained the services of Tim Regan. For me at that moment in time, before even thinking about players, was that it would be our most pivotal signing announcement, and that is exactly what happened.

On the same evening we all had our first chance to meet Tim Hankinson at Indianapolis City Market. I attended with my usual skepticism and an ear willing to listen and was then pleasantly surprised. I was worried and apprehensive about the coming season but coach Hankinson was very approachable and took time to talk to all of us. By the end of the evening I left knowing we had hired a knowledgeable man, we had hired experience, ambition and someone with a specific plan to make the club a "more" successful one. Words are words though, and despite feeling much more comfortable after listening I was still skeptical but excited.

Assistant Coach Tim Regan's experience of the team made him critical part of the 2016 setup.

Preseason, as we know from watching any sport, is never going to be in any way defining of how a team will perform when the real games commence. I remember, however, in the very first scrimmage against IU in Bloomington when Don Smart picked out a perfect pass to the far post in that game and I saw the movement of Éamon Zayed to drift away from his defender and pick out the header and score, I knew that we had signed an intelligent and experienced forward. Zayed had scored the type of goal that was elusive to us in previous years.

When the season kicked off proper in Tampa, we definitely looked like a team short of preparation; we did not look ready and I feared a walloping in the first game. We somehow scraped through it and pulled out a point, probably very disappointing to the Rowdies who arguably had better preparation than ourselves and were heavily favored for big things in 2016.

Hankinson's 4-2-3-1 formation initially proved difficult to breakdown, but it also lacked punch. This trend continued into a 1-1 draw in our first home game against Ottawa Fury, in which we had to come back from behind, one week before facing our nemesis and ultimately our final opponent, the New York Cosmos. In that draw against Ottawa we saw the first glimpse of the warrior spirit, which Tim Hankinson had eluded to before the season, in Nemanja Vukovic who stepped up with a last minute equalizer to avoid defeat in our home opener.



April 16 was huge day for Indy Eleven. Neither Indy nor the Cosmos had ever beaten each other having played out six draws in previous matches. The Cosmos were going to be the team to beat this season and the luck of the draw put them in Indianapolis twice. Hankinson had thrown his initial plans out of the window and moved to a 4-4-2 formation. Indy Eleven went a goal down but came back to win 2-1 thanks to a 95th minute goal from Éamon Zayed. That was the point where we began to sense something special was going to happen this year.

The change of formation and the result of this match sparked a new direction and belief in the team that would see them remain undefeated for the remainder of spring, culminating in a final match scenario where they had the opportunity to steal the spring championship from the hands of the New York Cosmos.

Another sign that Hankinson had built a squad of players who had chemistry and togetherness came in the 2016 US Open Cup. Indy Eleven had never beaten Louisville City FC and being knocked out of the cup by them in the previous year was a huge blow to the supporters at the time. 


In preseason Indy Eleven again lost to Louisville just as they had done in 2015. This season's cup match may not have been seen as a highly important game, but it was, especially for the supporters. A victory also offered an opportunity to play MLS opposition in the following round.

Indy Eleven avoided another early Open Cup exit at the hands of Louisville City FC

Indy's first 2016 cup game and chance for revenge came on June 1 in Indianapolis. Indy were still undefeated since the beginning of the season but had several injury concerns; the team that would line up against LCFC was as close as you could get to a reserve side. It was a concern as Louisville were an improving side and in great form at the time. Those concerns were realized when Louisville took the lead in the 21st minute. 


Indy struggled in the game until Justin Braun came on shortly before the half and Éamon Zayed appeared after half time. The pair's quality and work rate shone through and Indy Eleven came back as they did against New York earlier in the spring and won the game 2-1, setting up a tie against Chicago Fire in the next round.

Prior to meeting MLS opposition in a competitive match for the first time since 2014, there was a small matter of wrapping up the spring season. Ten days after securing advancement in the Open Cup, Indy Eleven faced a home game against Carolina Railhawks that could decide the Spring Championship. Prior to kick off Indy had the unenviable task of firstly winning to draw level on points with the Cosmos and then also score four goals and win by a margin of three to stop New York from winning through tiebreakers.

The match against Carolina Railhawks on June 11 was arguably the greatest game of the year. After taking a lead in the 16th minute through Éamon Zayed the stadium was silenced with a half hour played when Nazmi Albadawi put home the equalizer for Carolina. Indy had to score three more goals and conceding another probably would have been disastrous. 


In first half added time Justin Braun scored a vital goal to put the team into the break a goal up. Zayed would score two further goals to claim his hat trick, the match ball and seal a 4-1 victory and the spring championship trophy for the Eleven. The memory of that game will live forever as it booked our passage to the post season and also sent a clear message to every other team that the Eleven will never roll over and lay down.


3-1 and smoke still drifting, Indy push for a fourth against Carolina to claim the Spring Championship.

With the spring season behind them Indy Eleven moved on to face Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup. Indy stood toe to toe with Chicago in the match and pushed them all the way to penalty kicks. The Fire won that shootout but again our team could not be faulted for their play and effort. In a conversation with Justin Braun this past week about favorite games, Braun said he felt that was one of their best performances all year.

Shortly before the game Indy Eleven caused a social media frenzy by announcing the signing of Mexican international and former Cruz Azul player Gerardo Torrado. Torrado was not eligible to play in the US Open Cup game but was available to appear in Indy Eleven's next game against Liga MX Champions CF Pachuca.

It was the second year Indy Eleven had faced Mexican opposition in a summer friendly, having played Monarcas Morelia in 2015. Pachuca brought and fielded a very strong team. Indy Eleven rose to the occasion and again Éamon Zayed scored the goal that made the difference in a very tight match. Within a short space of time Indy had won their first silverware, made post season, pushed MLS opposition to the wire and defeated a league champion. We were not even half way through the season and it was already the best season to date.

Having reached the playoffs by virtue of a spring championship win, Indy still had incentive to try and win the fall season, thereby ensuring a home game in the league final and of course at the beginning of Spring we had an undefeated league record to protect. That ended on the 16th of July when we lost to Minnesota United 2-0. Despite the loss on the road, Indy would continue to defend an undefeated at home record and push for a fall championship win.



Joe Cole and company were no match for Indy in 2016, Indy Eleven took 5 points from The Rowdies.

One match that was defining or pivotal to that chase was the match against Tampa Bay Rowdies on the 3rd of September at Carroll Stadium. It was an important game for both teams; Tampa Bay had put themselves in a position where they pretty much had to win in order to make the playoffs, while Indy Eleven returned home from a punishing road schedule, taking only one point from matches against Carolina, Ottawa and New York.

Anything less than a win for Indy probably meant winning the fall season was out of their reach. Anything less than a win for Tampa would shut the door on them for a playoff spot. With a weeks rest that they badly needed, the Eleven drew the match 1-1 thanks to a 64th minute goal from Brad Ring. We were not going to be champions of fall, but this result was critical to protecting our home undefeated record, and a loss at home in that game could have been devastating to the psyche of the team.

After that game the Eleven only conceded one more goal at home in five games. That lone goal came in the very next game against Miami FC, who at the time were the hottest team in the league and pushing hard for a playoff spot. We destroyed their playoff dreams as well, winning 2-1, before going on to keep four consecutive clean sheets, beating Carolina, New York and Puerto Rico all by 3-0 results, before dispatching Edmonton by a goal to nil in The Championship semifinal.

The rest is fresh in our minds. Outside of the team that hoisted the Soccer Bowl above their heads on the Sunday evening of November 13, the Indy Eleven had played more minutes in NASL competition than any of the other teams. Their place in the final was deserved and they proved it throughout the year. In regular play we were arguably the best team of the competition but the final accolade eluded us and we have no reason to be bitter or disappointed. We began life in 2014 but 2016 is the year everyone came to know our name, and it will also be the year we talk of in stories for years to come.



Belson Stadium during the 2016 NASL Soccer Bowl Final.

Let's be thankful and move on...

It goes without saying, and we have said it before, that there are not enough superlatives to describe Peter Wilt, nor are there enough to describe the depth of our gratitude to him. For anyone who has come in contact with Peter you already know that he is the ultimate supporter, the most passionate fan, the first to cry in victory or defeat and often the last person we see when leaving a game, because he is always there for those who care.

It was a fitting tribute to Peter Wilt that Indy Eleven won the spring championship and made the post season in only their third year of existence. Peter is driven by success and that is all he wanted for this city and this team; he achieved it and not easily, as Indy Eleven learned a lot in their first two seasons. We learned from out mistakes, we adapted and made changes and decisions were made that were no doubt very difficult. Even without this year to look back on, in my mind Peter Wilt was already successful, having established something this city badly needed and giving us something to fall madly in love with.

Despite not being champions the foundations of something pretty special have been set, our coaching staff and our roster have gained valuable exerience about what is required to win this league in 2016 and the opportunity is there to regroup, move forward and improve upon our efforts from this year in 2017.

As we saw last year it will be a nervous wait to see which players are retained and which ones are not. The more successful teams in the league such as the Cosmos and Minnesota have maintained consistency in their play by keeping as much of their squad together as they can each year. Hopefully Indy Eleven will do the same, there is a very special chemistry in this squad and keeping as much of that as possible will be critical to a successful league campaign in 2017.

Thank you to all of the players, the staff and all supporters of Indy Eleven for making 2016 a very special year, it's been pretty amazing. Stay excited, and get ready for next season, it's going to be another great ride!

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We'll be keeping you up to date will all the news over the post season from Indy Eleven, NASL and NPSL as well as articles and interviews regarding Indiana Soccer and US Soccer in general. Our podcast the Bloody Shambles Soccer Show is returning very soon. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and at our website Bloodyshambles.com. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

There Was No Joy In The Brickyard - Eleven vs Cosmos NASL Final REVIEW (11/14/2016)



Indy's Greg Janciki succesfully fended off New York attackers all evening. Photo courtesy of NASL, Michael Stobe.

By: Brandon Cockrum


Oh, somewhere in this favored land the supermoon was shining bright;
a supporters band was playing somewhere, and somewhere smoke was lit,
and somewhere men were laughing, and somewhere children had shouted; 
but there was no joy in the Brickyard - the mighty Eleven had missed out.


Deciding the league championship with penalty kicks, after 33 games and 120 minutes of battle, will always be a difficult pill to swallow for whichever club misses out. And while narrowing down a game of such import to a few kicks just 12 yards from the goal seems harsh it remains the only, best way that has been found to decide a match winner when none can otherwise be found. It’s tempting to say, Let the player’s play, but as seen on Sunday evening, pushing the 22 men on the field any further, many of whom were cramping, limping, and had nothing more in their tanks, begins to seem torturous.

For two hours at tiny Belson Stadium in Jamaica, NY, the Indy Eleven and New York Cosmos played a final worthy of a much larger audience. Despite the final 0-0 scoreline, the match featured end-to-end action from the first kick, the teams trading off control of play, and narrow misses by both sides. Only the Cosmos found joy at the end of their journey but the Eleven had much to be proud of, for the only thing that separated the two squads were just a few kicks out of thousands.

The Eleven were unlucky to not get on the scoreboard 10 minutes in after a clever turn and shoot from near the top of the penalty box by forward Eamon Zayed. With his only official save of the night, New York goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer dove to his left, reached out a hand and parried the ball out of danger.

Indy continued to control the match for the next ten minutes, primarily through the efforts of right midfielder Don Smart. The winger repeatedly beat his opponents on that side of the pitch, midfielder Yohandry Orozco and right back Ayoze, finding good positions to deliver crosses and shots that tested the Cosmos defense.



Indy's Don Smart threatened New York's goal for 90 minutes and make a key defensive play. Photo courtesy of NASL, Michael Stobe.

By the 30th minute, the Cosmos had found their footing and were leading the run of play, finding four quality chances over the next ten minutes. Big defensive plays by Indy’s goalkeeper Jon Busch and Don Smart were able to keep the Cosmos off the scoreboard. 

At halftime, Eleven coach Tim Hankinson swapped out left midfielder Dylan Mares for Gerardo Torrado, a defensive midfielder. Mares had a quiet first half in the attack and the Cosmos found some of their success through his side of the field. Clearly the Eleven were trying to shore up their defense in favor of offense.

The match slowed first for the first 20 minutes of the second half as the teams dug in for the season’s final half of play. The Cosmos played with more possession and were able to threaten Indy but Busch again came up big as he commanded control of his penalty box. Torrado scuffed both a pass and a shot in dangerous positions, raising eyebrows among the Eleven faithful.


In the 70th minute, the resilient Don Smart popped up again, working with Torrado to create the game’s most electric moment. Near the top of the penalty box the two played a give-and-go, with Smart launching a streaking shot that beat a diving Maurer but that could not beat the crossbar.

For the remaining twenty minutes of the match the Cosmos controlled possession and missing hopeful attempts at the Eleven goal. The Eleven dodged a weak penalty shout in the 82nd minute and with hopes of playing hero, New York’s David Diosa and Eleven’s Zayed both missed opportunities in injury time to punch in a match winner.

Indy's Brad Ring shielded the defense and played quality football all evening. Photo courtesy of NASL, Michael Stobe.
The two 15 minute periods of extra time saw the match slow as the intensity of the previous 90 minutes took its toll. By the end of extra time players on both sides were playing primarily to not give up a goal and struggling to stay up with the play, or even upright, in a few cases.

In the end it doesn’t matter which players made or missed penalties, only that one team made more than the other. It would be unfair to attach blame to any of the those brave enough to put themselves in position to miss a shot or not make a save in the penultimate moment of the season because there was so much that happened prior that could or even should have decided the outcome of the match. And while the Cosmos and their supporters left the stadium late Sunday with the trophy and all the joy, the Eleven walked away with just as much honor.

Indy Eleven Man of The Match: Don Smart, midfielder
New York Cosmos Man of the Match: Jimmy Maurer, goalkeeper

Match Statistics
Match Highlights

Friday, November 11, 2016

Let's Get Ready To Rumble! - New York Cosmos V Indy Eleven PREVIEW Part 2 (11/13/2016)

Indy Eleven and New York Cosmos face off for the fourth and final time in 2016. Winner takes all!

By: James Cormack


In the second part of our preview we are going to give you thoughts and predictions from both sides of the divide. Myself, Brandon Cockrum and Caleb Ramp of Bloody Shambles as well as special guests and good friends Hot Take Louie Hernandez and Eagle Eye Steve Hamlin from This Is Cosmos Country. Be sure to check them out on their website and follow them on twitter.

The stage is set, the weekend is almost here and on Sunday as we all now know Indy Eleven will play the New York Cosmos at Belson Stadium in Queens NY to decide who will be the 2016 NASL Soccer Bowl Champions.

It is a one off game, it's knockout there is no second leg. If the game is tied we will have 30 minutes of extra time followed by a penalty shootout if the score is still level. If you are not traveling to the game you can watch on CBS Sports Network or get along to the watch party at Indianapolis City Market and watch it there.

The general consensus from our own members and Cosmos Country is that both sides will line up at the start as they did for their respective semi finals. Fingers crossed (at least for Indy Eleven) there are no last minute injuries or man-flu attacks!

Expected Starting Lineups for the 2016 NASL Soccer Bowl

If Indy Eleven elect to play the same bench as they did against FC Edmonton then we will see Keith Cardona, Nicki Paterson, Gerardo Torrado, Duke Lacroix, Souleymane Youla, Omar Gordon and Lovel Palmer.

If the Cosmos stick with the same bench as they did against Rayo OKC that will be David Ochieng, Jimmy Ockford, Daniel Szetela, Brian Holt, Yazmani Duk, Jimmy Mulligan and David Diosa.

Anyway, before this article becomes bigger than Belson Stadium (too late) let's get down to business we want to hear the opinion from both sides on what is about to unfold this Sunday. Each person has been posed a set of five questions and asked to predict a final result, and this is what we have to say.......

If you are Tim Hankinson and you are allowed to remove one player from the Cosmos starting lineup, who would you eject, and why?

JAMES: It may be a bit cliché but always take out the leader. Carlos Mendes was the first player signed and he is the captain. Cosmos have many dangerous players but Mendes is there to lead and keep everyone motivated. The Cosmos back line is not exactly perfect and removing the captain and defensive leader for me gives Indy a win.

LOUIE: The obvious choice is Juan Arango. With numbers comparable to Éamon Zayed, he is the clear threat to start or finish chances for the Cosmos. However, I'd also say Mike Richter or Adam Moffat warrant a shout since they'll be called upon to shit down service to Zayed.

BRANDON: I am tempted to say Golden Ball winner Juan Arango but I will go with Jimmy Maurer. The goalkeeper has the experience to keep his composure in a high-stakes match as well as the skills to make big saves and keep Indy off the scoreboard.

STEVE: Juan Arango. A very boring, very obvious choice, but my choice. Giovanni Savarese said it himself... Arango can disappear for big stretches, but he can pounce at any moment and completely change a game. One of the best (and most clutch) players in the league who has been on a hot streak as of late. Dangerous to any and all opponents.

CALEB:
 It's a boring pick but it would have to be Golden Ball winner Juan Arango. An incredible veteran presence and a key part of New York's success this season. He is also arguably the best free kick taker in the league.


Looks like Louie, Steve, Caleb and Éamon are giving Arango the boot, or the finger!

If you are Giovanni Savarese and you are allowed to remove one player from the Indy Eleven lineup, who would you eject, and why?

JAMES: As you can probably guess from my last answer yes I am going with captain Colin Falvey, when you have a captain who can take ten stitches in the head, three sets of bandages and still kick ass and take names, you would want that guy off the field, he epitomizes the spirit and warrior like ethic of the team right now.

LOUIE: Zayed. Obvious threat to the Cosmos back line. Honorable mention to Colin Falvey who's toughness could hamper Jairo Arrieta's game.

BRANDON: Jon Busch could make an argument for Indy Eleven MVP this season. He is a talented net minder who may possibly be playing the final game of his career, plus the match occurs less than five miles from his boyhood home. Put all that together and Busch may be in for an epic game on Sunday evening.

STEVE: Éamon Zayed. The Cosmos defensive issues play right into a poachers hands (or feet). There's a reason why Zayed has been a Cosmos Killer: a plague of this club is the defensive clearing of chances and balls in the box. Zayed pounces on those, and is even more dangerous against the Cosmos than other clubs.

CALEB: Justin Braun. We've spent an inordinate amount of time this season discussing Braun's workrate and overall offensive impact, but it's worth bringing up yet again. The dynamism he brings to the attack is hard to overstate. Even when he can't finish, he's everywhere. His combination of speed and strength on the ball -- along with tirelessly attacking the back line and elite holdup play -- makes Justin the ultimate facilitator.


Zayed is voted off, can Indy Eleven win without Éamon?


New York Cosmos can win this game if...?

JAMES: Just allow Indy to play their game, soak up pressure, defend from the front back the way in numbers and hit on the counter, above all be patient and don't panic, use every minute of the game like they did against Rayo and patience will pay off.

LOUIE: They maintain possession, control the midfield and provide good service to the attack as a result.

BRANDON: Indy gives up two to three close range scoring opportunities per game. Where Edmonton were unable to finish those chances last week, the Cosmos have the skills to bury those shots. If Indy gives the Cosmos many chances inside the six yard box then New York will simply outscore us.

STEVE: ...they play their game. Stay solid in the back, keep possession, and build dangerous attacks from multiple angles. The Cosmos need to stay calm, stay strong and stay focused. They have the hot hand.

CALEB: They successfully brutalize the Indy fullbacks. The Cosmos have thrived on lethal play down the wings all season, and the final is unlikely to be any different. It's no secret that Vukovic and Franco will be looking to get up the field early and often. Any lapse in communication between an Indy overlap and defensive midfield coverage will be punished without mercy.

Indy Eleven can win this game if...?

JAMES: Indy has to take the game to New York, we are not great away from home but this is not their home stadium and it will be a small crowd, we need to go for it early. We saw in the last game against Cosmos we can hit hard and early, we scored three in 51 minutes. Grab Cosmos by the throat and don't let up but stay alert and don't switch off at the back.

LOUIE: Two ways: absorbing pressure and hitting the Cosmos on the counter when they're exposed or getting physical in the midfield and denying the Cosmos control of the midfield and their ability to push the attack forward.

BRANDON: Indy needs to play a clean defensive game and not gift the Cosmos any goals through free kicks or close range chances. New York is likely to score at least once meaning Indy will need to keep focused when this happens and also find a way to score at least twice for themselves, which they have proven they can do.

STEVE: They force the Cosmos into mistakes force New York's opportunities to come few and far between. Feed off the crowd, and throw the kitchen sink at the Cosmos.

CALEB: They don't overextend early. Both sides will be looking to establish themselves and apply pressure in the first 15-20 minutes. Hankinson's men must pick their battles wisely and not be baited into opening the door for a Cosmos counterattack. Don't let them bypass one of your biggest strengths: defensive and midfield organization.


The guys have chosen five different players to be Soccer Bowl MVP


Who is going to be the 2016 NASL Soccer Bowl MVP...?

JAMES: I made my prediction to the guys a couple of weeks ago and I am sticking by it, my gut feelings are usually close and last week I predicted Ubiparipović. Dylan Mares is going to be Soccer Bowl MVP, he looks hungrier for success every season and he really wants this, his goal against Cosmos in the last game was one of the best I have seen, expect him to score.

LOUIE: Arango. He's only gotten better as the year has gone on and had a goal and an assist in the semi final. Look for a dangerous free kick goal and maybe an assist or two.

BRANDON: Justin Braun. Indy lost 3-0 in New York without him. He proved in Spring he is able to impact games with off the ball runs, linking play and defensive pressure but struggled to get shots on goal. Since returning he has found the scoring touch, he missed a few close range chances against FC Edmonton so I am expecting a return to form with him impacting the game through offensive and defensive hustle and by burying a timely goal for Indy Eleven.

STEVE: For the Cosmos, Andrés Flores. Against Rayo he was as dangerous as he has ever been in green and white. A repeat performance will surely gain MVP honors. For Indy, Éamon Zayed, he is the difference for them.

CALEB: The smart money for MVP has to be on Éamon. He's a big-time player who has proven he can perform at the highest level in the biggest games. His record against the Cosmos in 2016 is extremely impressive (three goals and an assist in three games), and when Big Z scores, he has a tendency to do so in bunches.


FINAL SCORE PREDICTIONS...?

JAMES: 2-0 to Indy Eleven. I think we will surprise like Rayo, but we will double up before Cosmos can reply and kill the game.

LOUIE: Cosmos 3-2 in Extra Time.

BRANDON: 2-1 to Indy Eleven in Extra Time.

STEVE: 2-1 to Cosmos. Arango and Flores score. Zayed nabs an early poacher goal for Indy in the early match chaos that is sure to come in a small stadium.

CALEB: 2-1 to Indy Eleven

One final question just for the Indy Folks, in the unthinkable scenario of a penalty shootout, who would be your first five kickers?

JAMES: Ubiparipović, Mares, Ring, Vukovic and Zayed.

BRANDON: Zayed, Vukovic, Braun, Paterson, Mares

CALEB: Zayed, Smart, Braun, Mares, Paterson


Belson Stadium looks bigger if you use a wide angle lens (pro tip)

Just a little sum up from me, Brandon makes a very good point regarding Justin Braun. I will admit during preseason and most of spring I was one of his biggest critics at times, but as the year has rolled on it is clearly evident that not only does Indy Eleven play better when Zayed and Braun are on the field together, but Zayed seems to play better when paired with Braun.

The other wild card for me again is the rejuvenated Siniša Ubiparipović. Ubi made his comeback to the starting lineup a week before defeating the Cosmos 3-0, in the match against the hottest streak team in the league at the time Miami FC. We looked comfortable against them with Siniša in attacking midfield then demolished the Cosmos 3-0 the following. Ubi was also the difference maker against FC Edmonton.

Throughout this season Tim Hankinson has shown great ability to tactically change a game in progress by adjusting formation or positions and at times using sensible substitutions, this will be key in a final match. In the second half of any game there can be three different scenarios, the game is drawn and both teams are still looking for the opener, or you are a goal up and have to decide to go for the killer goal or move to defensive, or you are a goal down and chasing how do you react.

Last week against FC Edmonton after we went ahead we brought on Torrado after a while and tightened things up defensively, we could do that against Edmonton because they have issues scoring anyway, it may not work the same against Cosmos. If we take the lead like that again I think we wait a little longer before changing shape or changing personnel and push for a second goal.

In the event the game is tied late or we are a goal behind then I think we utilize Vukovic as we have done many times and push him up into the midfield and attack, possibly switching to a back three, possibly bringing Palmer on for Franco. Regardless of how the game unfolds I have confidence not only in the team but in our coach to keep pushing until the very last second.

I think this game could turn out to be the best Soccer Bowl of the modern era, despite the diminutive size of Belson Stadium, the game itself is going to be spectacular. Hopefully remembered as Indy Eleven's greatest ever win, I am attending and I plan on driving back to Indy with a huge grin on my face, I think we deserve it. Don't expect a review until Tuesday... #INDYFOREVER