Sunday, February 21, 2016

Week 1 Is In The Books: Indy Eleven Preseason Has Begun

The Indy Eleven preseason in full swing and Saturday's practice concluded the first week of training. It was a beautiful day in Westfield, IN and Grand Park was full of activity for the rare sunny day in February.

The boys have been cooped up and held to indoor practice as the week started, but they have spent time at these regular practice grounds the last couple days.

Tim Hankinson is the new Head Coach and he is also new to Indy Eleven having just accepted the role not yet three months ago. The way he patrols the center of the pitch, you would assume the new boss had been an Indy mainstay, but this is his first experience with Indiana winter training.  

Dragan Stojkov is back for Indy Eleven but minus his signature mohawk

There is lots of work to do and and a relatively short amount of time to get it all done. These coming weeks will be fast paced for a team that has only just come together 6 days ago. New players from Chicago, Sacramento, Jamaica and Canada must find away to get on the same page with returning players as well as NASL veterans.  

"I want to see what they're about and how they see themselves...It's a discovery process."- Coach Hankinson

Indy Eleven will kick off the Spring Season in just 41 days against Tampa Bay.  The first taste of external competition comes from a small sided friendly against Indiana University Men's Soccer next Friday and the team will head to Arizona for some warmer weather and better preseason competition shortly thereafter. This is the best and most challenging preseason schedule the team has ever had.

"These guys have all held a cup above their head or they have all worn a captain's band at sometime or another. When you have been apart of winning teams, as these guys have been in the past, they know how hard a work it takes to win a championship. Lets not shy away from the hard work. Let's apply it because we know that's what it takes."-Hank

New players are not uncommon for Indy and assimilation is par for the course. The one unique aspect of this lead up to 2016 is the depth of roster at this current moment. This is the most complete and assembled team in Indy Eleven's short history. There are 22 players signed, rostered and with paperwork all squared away. Only one player is yet to be announced although his connection to the team was leaked months ago.  

23 players! That should help with training, chemistry and positional depth. The defensive corps is predicted to be the envy of the NASL and the updated scoring attack is likely to cause trouble for opponents all season long. Hankinson got his maestro, his goal scorer and his multiple organizers in the back. All that is left is for the players to find their legs and their rhythm.

Duke Lacroix heads down the sideline at speed

A split-second later his change of direction forces someone to take a seat

This is not an inherited or legacy team. This group has Hankinson's fingerprints all over it because he was able to evaluate and select his returning core players and he was brought in with plenty of time to begin scouting for this 2016 campaign. It is up to the players to put balls in the net or to keep them out, but not every coach has so many pieces already in place.

"Passion: Every time we lace our boots on, lets think like kids again like this is the most fun we have all day." - Hankinson

One thing for sure is that there will be less excuses to pull from and there will be less sympathy for poor performance. This team is designed to complete its task from start to finish and championship hardware is the ultimate goal.  It's how they should be judged.  

Justin Braun spent time after practice testing himself as others packed up for the day

I caught up with Coach Hankinson after training on Saturday and picked his brain for a bit. He has years of experience so perhaps its best to hear his thoughts directly from him. In 8 short minutes he covered some of his goals and coaching philosophies as well as his introduction to the team.

As always you can follow us on Twitter 
@Bloody_Shambles, Aaron Gunyon is @agunyon and James Cormack can be found at @BShambles_JC.

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