Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's all kicking off in Tampa Bay! Tampa Bay Rowdies V Indy Eleven Preview (04/02/2016)

Duke Lacroix: Most preseason minutes!
By: James Cormack

Preseason is all but over for NASL teams, it's time to put away the clipboards and dispense with the tinkering, the 2016 North American Soccer League season starts this weekend, it's cards on the table time!

These games count, we are playing for points, it's not practice, each game from now on in is about who wants it most and who can step up and take it!

In the previous two years Indy Eleven have marked the opening of their campaign with a draw, at home to Carolina Railhawks in 2014 and 1-1 away in Atlanta in 2015. For the second consecutive year Indy will begin their campaign away from home.

Arguably we have the strongest and most experienced roster we have seen to date. The question is, are they mentally and physically ready to challenge a Tampa team with big ambitions for the 2016 season.

We haven't signed a Raul or a Kléberson but we have spent wisely and added depth and experience. We also are not without our problems and look to have possibly now lost a few players during preseason. Preseason has not been outstanding in any way, but it is just that... the bit before the real season.

Tampa V Indy from beginning to end.

Saturday will mark the seventh meeting between these two teams and a third trip to Tampa for Indy Eleven. The honors are currently shared, both teams having defeated each other once, the other four matches have all been drawn.

Indy Eleven have not lost to Tampa since July 19th 2014. Tampa won that first meeting 2-1 in Indianapolis and since then have been unable to take more than a point from the boys in blue. Only once in meetings between these two teams has one side won by more than a goal deficit, that honor goes to Indy after a 2-0 win at home on August 19th 2015.

It's a very small stat to note, as we have only played twice in Tampa, but we have never lost there, definitely worth building on that one!

Indy Eleven have prepped for 2016 with nine games, it should be noted in the final game against University of Louisville we were a barely recognizable team with some trialists and several NPSL players getting a run. Indy have played one NASL team, five USL teams and three colleges and finished preseason with two wins, four draws and three defeats.

Unlike last year when Tampa had a storming start in spring season after having played thirteen preseason games, this year they have only played eight, but those games have been against some tough opponents.

Tampa began spring with matches against DC United, Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact, two matches against University of Southern Florida and Univeristy of Tampa surrounded a tour of England where they played select sides from Nottingham Forest, Notts County and Stoke City. Tampa finished preseason with three wins, three draws and two defeats.

Tampa started training early, it helps when you are based in Florida, the weather is always nice. They have an edge on us in that respect, they are a step ahead possibly but Indy has had a little more competitive playing time. Tampa are many people's tip for success this year, but I think the gap between us an them is not as big one might think!

How will the teams line up.... ?

I think we have a reasonable grasp on how Indy Eleven will lineup and what formation will be played. I have asked Rowdies supporter Daniel Endonino of the Unused Substitutes podcast to give me his projected lineup (and his expectations for the game below) which I have matched against what coach Hankinson may go with in the following graphic.

Rowdies: Pickens, Portillos, Antonijevic, Mkandawire, King, Guerra, Nanchoff, Espinal, Hristov, Avila, Heinemann.
Indy Eleven: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Vukovic, Franco, Paterson, Ring, Braun, Ubiparipović, Lacroix, Zayed.

As of today we know that Stephen Deroux, Dino Williams and Dragan Stojkov will not be in Tampa, all three have ben cut, Deroux and Williams both have unfortunate injuries, Stojkov has been 'sacrificed' for want of a better word, I am sure we will hear more about that later.

Indy Eleven have added Colombian forward Jair Reinoso to the roster prior to this game, he has been used at forward and attacking midfield in preseason. He may figure in to what is now the more questionable area of the field at right attacking midfield, with Stojkov being cut it is between Braun and Smart over there, I think Smart has looked more useful there so far in preseason.

Paterson and Ring is the more likely starting midfield duo, Larrea has not had game time in the last three preseason games.

The rest of the 18 man squad is most likely going to be Cardona, Miller, Janicki, Smart, Mares, Larrea and Wojcik. It is unknown if Jair Reinoso is moved and ready to be in the 18 man squad for the trip to Florida. We'll see, this is mostly guess work on my part! He has had 118 minutes of competitive play for Indy Eleven.

Up until the final preseason game Nemanja Vukovic had been leading the roster in minutes played, Duke Lacroix has now taken over after playing in Louisville. Behind them in order are Lovel Palmer, Marco Franco, Dylan Mares, Woj Wojcik, Éamon Zayed, Greg Janicki, Colin Falvey, Brad Ring, Keith Cardona, Cory Miller, Jon Busch, Justin Braun, Don Smart, Ubiparipović, Nicki Paterson, Neil Shaffer, Gorka Larrea, Jair Reinoso and Daniel Keller.

Hot takes, thoughts and expectations for this game.....

Daniel Endonino (Tampa) - Expectations for the opener are pretty high. We have rebuilt the midfield and hopefully have found the goals we were lacking in Tommy Heinemann. Add the energy of a possible sellout, it should all come together for a good victory for the Rowdies. Confidence is pretty high from the locker room, I feel.

There is a difference between last year. In 2015 there was a lot of energy and hype which was very much Rongen and this year there is a quieter confidence coming from this team, which is very much emblematic of Stuart Campbell.

The man to watch? Nanchoff is coming off a huge preseason. He was the engine of this midfield when he was on the pitch. If he continues this form going into the season, I expect him to make the largest impact against Indy and beyond.

Caleb Ramp (Indy)
 - Indy will likely be forced to cede the bulk of possession in this match, Tampa has a very talented midfield. Expect a measured approach from Hankinson. There’s value in starting the season with a draw on the road against playoff-caliber competition, Indy’s objective will be to protect that from the start.

I anticipate Vukovic to start at left back over Franco, with Janicki and Falvey in center. This maximizes the back line size, useful against a target man the like Heinemann (or Danny Mwanga off the bench).

Aaron Gunyon (Indy)
 - This season has arrived too quickly for Indy.  Too many variables in play and too many injuries during preseason have stunted development.  There is plenty of good chemistry and this team will gel, but not before dropping the opener to Tampa on the road.

This will be their toughest test since they faced Ottawa in Arizona.  Fitness will be their undoing in the midfield as neither Paterson nor Ubiparipovic can go 90. One of my projected starters in Dragan Stojkov has mysteriously been absent from all team public appearances, and has now been cut.


Keep up with us at and on twitter @Bloody_Shambles and on Facebook. The Bloody Shambles Soccer Show and Bloody Shambles NASL Preview shows are available on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher.

Check out the Unused Substitutes website and also follow them on twitter @UnusedSubsPod and keep up with Dan Endonino @Unsub_Dan



  1. Good preview, but I thought this was going to be the teams' seventh meeting, having 1W-1L-4D in their previous six games.

    1. You are correct, good catch, I was looking at the list as two pages and forgot the very first 1-1 draw between the two. Thanks!