Thursday, February 25, 2016

Experience, Versatility, and Muscle! Indy Eleven is ready to roll!

Would you pick a fight with this team?
By: James Cormack

Around 24 hours from now, Indy Eleven will kick off their first pre season scrimmage against Indiana University. The team roster currently sits at 23 after the announcement of striker Dino Williams.

The average age of the 'new look' roster is 27, which is no bad thing in my opinion. Coach Hankinson has added experience in this roster along with skill and a very physical presence.

I have now lost count of the amount of former captains or champions in this team, it is mind boggling when you look through the list of players we now have and see the depth in the squad and versatility in many of the players.

This is the most prepared Indy has been for the beginning of a campaign. We have more players together and signed at this time of year than in any other and we will play more preseason games than we did in 2014 or 2015.

Can we be forgiven for being more than a little excited? It's easy to get carried away, but on paper the roster looks very good indeed. Tim Hankinson and Tim Regan will be the key to making the pieces fit together, if that goes well I don't think any team is going to look forward to playing us this year!

Why does depth and versatility matter... ?

There are numerous players within the squad now who can play comfortably in several different positions around the field. In 2015 despite having the aim to add better depth to the squad, we didn't achieve that, especially in the defensive third and in attack.

In the 2016 roster we already have 8 defenders with ample cover for full back and center back positions. The versatility in this area is having a back like Lovel Palmer who can play at left and right back and central defensive midfield.

Nemanja Vukovic can play at center back and left back, along with Stephen Deroux this gives us two left footed options. Combine that with Shaffer who can play on both sides, Marco Franco at right full back and four centers this gives us a lot more comfort in defense than we have had before.

Dino brings the roster to 23.

In midfield we have five players who can play comfortable in a defensive midfield position. Brad Ring, Dragan Stojkov, Nicki Paterson, Gorka Larrea and Daniel Keller. Stojkov's natural position through most of his career has been CDM but he also is utilized on the right wing and at times at right back.

Going forward in attacking midfield we have Ubiparipovic, Mares, Smart, and again Dragan Stojkov. Add to that the crossover from listed forwards Justin Braun, Duke Lacroix and Dino Williams who has played in from left at Montego Bay, we have ample amount of options without being top heavy in midfield players as we were in 2015.

Considering we are likely to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation we have three strikers of similar stature who can play that target man/holding forward type role in Éamon Zayed, Wojciech Wojcik and Justin Braun. Lacroix and Williams could also be used in a support forward or central attacking midfield position if required.

In 2016 Indy Eleven will play 32 league games, add to that the potential of more than one or two USOC games and a possible post season, Indy will need every inch of the depth in this roster.

The competition for starting positions is much higher than ever before, retained players and new personnel will have raise their game, this without doubt will raise the competitiveness of the team to a new high.

The versatility within this roster gives us many options for starting lineups and formations, as well as a better ability to change tactics during a game. A perfect example would be a scenario where Lovel Palmer starts at right back and one of our defensive midfielders takes a knock, we have the option to swap like for like or we can bring on a right back and move Lovel to defensive midfield.

There are numerous different options such as that available to us, as well as being a benefit to us in-game, it can also be an advantage when it comes to picking our bench. Several times Indy tried to rest players during back to back games within a week last year and it cost us badly because our depth wasn't really as deep as we had hoped. This year I think we have already solved that problem and it will pay off as we get further into the year.

Teams will not enjoy playing against us......

I remember when Indy started out in 2014, some of the teams we came up against were physically stacked. Edmonton I remember in particular, it seemed like no player on the team was under 6ft.

Of course mere physical presence does not win you games necessarily, but it does help in this league. At times in the past we have not dealt well with more physical teams. Looking at how we line up now, I would say we could well be one of if not the most physical team in the league.

Where stature and physique can matter most in this league is in defense and in attack. The average height of all eight of our defenders is a little over 6'2" and the average of our listed forwards is just over 6'1".

The roster looks aggressive and experienced, many of the players in the team have battled for a trophy or a championship of some sort and I am sure at times have had to use brute force and skill to get there. Any team that comes onto the field looking for a physical encounter with this team will regret that decision pretty quickly.

"I want our opponents to walk away feeling like they were in the fight of their lives." ... Tim Hankson

Get ready, get hyped, get pumped! ....

Indy Eleven will begin preseason competition against Indiana University tomorrow in Bloomington. The format will be simple 9v9 indoor scrimmage and will give the coaches a chance to look at combinations of players and how they work together.

Shortly after the boys will head out to camp in Arizona where they will face Ottawa Fury FC (NASL), Arizona United (USL) and Orange County Blues (USL).

After returning to Indy the team will play a further five games against FC Cincinnati (USL), St Louis FC (USL), Louisville City FC (USL), Butler (NCAA), and University of Louisville (NCAA). Check Indy Eleven's preseason schedule for location and ticket info for open to the public games (St Louis, Butler, and U of Lou).

We are only about a month and a half away from our first NASL home game, don't be left out in the cold without a ticket for the opener, single ticket sales start this coming Monday click here for more details. You can also still sign up for 2016 season tickets here!

Let's get ready to rumble!!!


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Aaron Gunyon
James Cormack
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