|Don Smart returns to Belson Stadium, home of his first US Club, FC New York.|
By: James Cormack
The 2016 NASL Soccer Bowl will be played at Belson Stadium in Queens, New York this coming Sunday the 13th of November. It is an odd choice for a final location, with a very low capacity even by NASL standards, with seating on three sides only and built on top of a parking garage, the expected attendance will be around 2500-2600. Belson Stadium lies within the St. Johns University campus and is home to the St. Johns Red Storm in NCAA.
Fifteen miles to the northwest from Belson Stadium lies Central Park, one of the most famous and most filmed parks in the world, running parallel with 5th Avenue and from 59th to 110th street. Somewhere not far from the middle of that on East 89th street there is a school called St. Davids. This is where Tim Hankinson first kicked a ball. Hankinson was born and raised and fell in love with the sport that would consume the rest of his life in Manhattan, in New York's upper east side.
So for Tim Hankinson it is somewhat of a homecoming, but hopefully not the end of a round trip, the surroundings will be familiar. It would make for a heck of a movie itself, should Hankinson's team win the final on Sunday, the story of a scrawny five year old kid kicking a ball around for the first time on the grass greens of Central Park, returning some 55 years later to win a national championship in Queens.
Some five and a half hours flying time to the south of Belson Stadium lies Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela and birth place of New York Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese. In 1990 Savarese would travel to the United States to play for Long Island University, around fifteen miles away on the other side of Belson Stadium from Central Park. Savarese went on to play around the world with local stints at Long Island Rough Riders where he ended his playing career and also with the NY/NJ MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls).
|Jon Busch was born within 5 miles of Belson.|
John Busch, Indy Eleven's veteran MLS keeper was also born in Queens and probably can hold claim to being born closest to the stadium, it was literally his doorstep as a child, born and raised in South Ozone Park less than five miles away (which is about a three hour drive in New York traffic).
I doubt in any way that local connections are somehow going to help us in the game but it is interesting. For Indy it is still a road game, and road games have not been our forte this year. It is however a Championship Final and everything is at stake now, Indy are now a big game team, this is the biggest game to date so we have to find a way to win outside of Carroll Stadium. Hopefully we will have enough supporters of our own there to make some noise.
It is incredible to think in the space of one year we may see the highest ever attended Soccer Bowl and the lowest ever attended in the modern era. It has not been a great year for news surrounding the NASL, a final played in such a small venue is not really helping, the one saving grace may at least be that we will see the two best teams in the league compete for the trophy.
Indy Eleven V New York Cosmos
Indy Eleven all games - 2-6-1 (WDL) Indy Eleven 2016 - 2-0-1 (WDL)
NY Cosmos all games - 1-6-2 (WDL) NY Cosmos 2016 - 1-0-2 (WDL)
|2016 Final Combined Standings|
Up until Spring of 2016 the two teams had met six times and drawn all six matches. Indy Eleven drew first blood in the first meeting in Indianapolis of 2016, coming from a goal behind to win 2-1. Indy Eleven suffered a 3-0 defeat in New York in the first fall encounter and then returned the same result by beating the Cosmos 3-0 at Carroll Stadium on September 24th.
All three games in 2016 have had three goals scored (2-1, 3-0, 3-0) the overall score from those games is 5-4 in favor of Indy Eleven. The most goals in any game was four when the teams drew 2-2 in August of 2014. There has been three different scorers against New York for Indy this year, Éamon Zayed (3) Justin Braun (1) Dylan Mares (1).
Dylan Mares and Brad Ring have both scored against NYC previous to 2016 which means four players likely to be in the starting lineup on Sunday have combined for 7 goals against the Cosmos. Only two Indy Eleven players have scored goals in New York and both are still at the club, Brad Ring scored in 2014 and Wojciech Wojcik scored in 2015.
Despite losing to the Cosmos in August of this year, that was our first ever defeat in New York, it was our third road game in 10 days having played only a few days earlier in Ottawa the team was visibly worn out, that was a fact, not an excuse. Indy Eleven inflicted the same scoreline against NYC in Indianapolis against a fully rested Cosmos.
Tim Hankinson V Giovanni Savarese
While Tim Hankinson has a much lengthier coaching career than Savarese, Giovanni has more games under his belt as an NASL coach. Despite what anyone may have to say about the Cosmos, Savarese's ability to bring success is without question. He achieved post season in all three seasons as coach of the Cosmos, and won two of the last three finals. He now brings New York to four post seasons 2013-2016 and three finals in four years.
Tim Hankinson was hired in 2012 to be the first manager of the San Antonio Scorpions, he led them to post season in their inaugural year by topping the table but losing in the first play off game. He continued in 2013 but parted company with the club late in the season on August 28th after a much less successful year. His arrival at Indy Eleven this year marks his third season competing in the modern era NASL Division.
|Despite a shorter coaching career Savarese has the edge over Hankinson in the NASL|
Savarese has accomplished what he has with experience, knowledge and money at his disposal, this was evident in the hiring of Raul in 2015, and to be able to attract players like Arrieta and Juan Arango, it definitely gives you an edge in this division. Having said that Savarese has kept a pretty consistent pool of players throughout his tenure. Mendes, Maurer, Roversio, Szetela, Ayoze, and Diosa have all been at the club since 2013.
Hankinson pulls from a lengthy list of players he has experience with or has been watching for several years and combined that with worthy existing personel. Hankinson tried to sign Zayed to San Antonio but the timing was not right. Tim said before the season started that to be the best you have to beat the best, we have beaten the Cosmos, but the ultimate challenge for Hankinson now is whether he can guide his team to victory in New York.
Tim Hankinson has retained 10 players from Indy Eleven's 2015 campaign, five of which played in 2014 - Ring, Mares, Smart, Miller, and Franco. The other five are Janicki, Wojcik, Lacroix, Cardona and Keller.
For what it is worth Hankinson has proven to be a far superior player to Giovanni Savarese in the Hair Game. It's not even close, Savarese will probably be intimidated and ashamed, he may even wear a wig!
NASL Soccer Bowl Finals - The Stats and Stuff
|Chicago Sting won the 1984 Series, the last one of the original NASL era, Patricio Margetic (2nd left) scored the last goal of that age.|
In the modern era of the NASL (2011-2016) there have been five finals. The first two from 2011 and 2012 were played over two legs home and away. The last three have been one final game. Seven different teams have competed in the five finals to date, Minnesota Stars (Minnesota United), Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Tampa Bay Rowdies, New York Cosmos, Atlanta Silverbacks, San Antonio Scorpions and Ottawa Fury. The New York Cosmos are the only team to have won twice since 2011, Minnesota, Tampa and San Antonio have also been champions.
Only one final has ever been decided after regulation time, in 2012 Minnesota and Tampa Bay were tied 3-3 after two legs, Tampa won the championship after extra time and a penalty shoot out.
The average goals per final championship game including years of two leg games is 2.7. The most goals scored in a single championship game is 5 when the Cosmos defeated Ottawa 3-2 in the 2015 final.
Only one final championship game has ever been goalless and that was the second leg match between Fort Lauderdale and Minnesota in 2011.
Only one player has ever scored a hat trick in a championship game, Gastón Cellerino scored all three Cosmos goals against Ottawa in the 2015 Soccer Bowl.
In the three single game finals from 2013 to 2015 the average goals per game is three. Of the 9 goals scored in all three of those finals only one goal has been scored before half time in a game, Cellerino's 8th minute goal against Ottawa in 2015. Five of the nine goals scored in these finals have been scored between the 70th and 80th minute. Only one of those nine goals was scored after 90 minutes (Heinemann 90+2 in 2015)
The 2016 Soccer Bowl Final will be the 6th of the modern era since 2011. Indy Eleven will be the 8th team to appear in a final during this time. The New York Cosmos are appearing in their 3rd final in 4 seasons.
Watch out for Part Two of our preview where all of the Bloody Shambles writers will give their thoughts and predictions before the big game and we will also bring you any updated team news.
If you are planning to attend the final and would like to travel on the bus or just buy match tickets and travel yourself, you better act fast because they are being snapped up. CLICK HERE for details on attending the final including ticket purchase.