|Coach Rennie assembles his troops. Photo: Trey Higdon/Indy Eleven|
The Bloody Shambles team gives their final thoughts going into the first USL Easter Conference match against Richmond Kickers...
I’m looking forward to seeing the formation and strategy that Coach Rennie uses in a game where the Eleven should feel like strong favorites. Richmond was unimpressive, maybe even the exact opposite of impressive, in their week one match. I’m not too concerned with who starts this match - at this point in the season, the head coach might prefer players that he’s worked with in previous seasons and who best understand how he wants his team to play or maybe those who are most fit - because it is such a long season and the roster is very deep.
I’m more interested to see the strategy that Rennie applies on the road in a match that Indy should take three points from. Does the coach run out the team with an attacking mindset and try to keep Richmond on their heels? Or does Indy take a more conservative approach and sit back, focus on defense first and try to hit Richmond on the counter? The strategy applied here might tell us more about what's to come this season than the players that hit the pitch.
|Nico Matern defensive midfielder for Indy Eleven has been the latest signing.|
Player to watch: Nico Matern.
Based on preseason performances, Indy Eleven might have found a diamond in the rough in the Indiana Wesleyan product. As we've seen in previous seasons, it is extremely difficult for a rookie to make much of an impact in their first season in the second division; however, Matern seems like he might be poised to do it this year.
I know I said I wasn't looking too deep into the significance of the lineup this weekend but this is the exception. If Matern gets the starting nod he will have proven his worth among some very good central midfielders on the roster and it will show that Rennie believes the newbie has the potential to be an impact player in 2018.
I have probably been more impressed with the roster building this year than any other. Our 2016 squad was solid with great players for a starting lineup but we did not have the same depth, especially in defense, if one player was injured it was a major problem. We are very deep in defense this year and that is highly important. No matter how many times you try to pick out a starting XI from this roster you look at the players you left out and think "that's a very good team".
I watched multiple USL games over the opening weekend and saw several teams including Richmond that looked like they were not of the same standard and experience in terms of this roster. From what I saw of Bethlehem Steel, I think Indy Eleven will be more technical and clinical than they were despite winning that game 4-1. I don't expect Indy Eleven to lose this game, it's hard to call a win in an away day opener but if one team will win this game I can't see it being Richmond especially with two of the back line missing as well.
Player To Watch: Eugene Starikov
|Starikov (right) will be hungry for game time and he is finding goal. Photo: Trey Higdon/Indy Eleven|
Hard to pick out just one but so far from all I have heard about pre-season he has been a real ball of fire, as has Soony Saad and I am curious to see if both will start together as both have been real trouble for opponents thus far. If Justin Braun is still in recovery mode and doesn't start the game it's an ideal situation for someone else to show themselves. With limited playing time last year I think Starikov will be very keen to show why he should be picked every week and will score.
The last six months had been an era of unprecedented shortage for Indy Eleven and her supporters. The latter parts of the 2017 NASL season saw a shortage of wins. This was soon followed by an offseason short on hope, short on answers, and eventually short on a league to play in, a stadium to play at, and players to play with.
Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, the Eleven find themselves with the biggest surplus in club history. Not a financial surplus, to be sure (sorry, Ersal) -- but a surplus of hope. A surplus of anticipation. Excitement. Perhaps most importantly, a surplus of on-field talent.
This leads me to my "player to watch" for the 2018 opener: Martin Rennie.
|All eyes on Martin Rennie as he targets success in 2018. Photo: Trey Higdon/Indy Eleven|
Cheating a bit? Sure. But I'll stand by it. The 2018 Indy Eleven roster is -- at least on paper -- the deepest this city has ever seen. Nearly every player on our 23-man roster can make a case for a spot in the starting eleven. On game days, the Indy bench will be filled with players who have been critical pieces in a playoff or championship-caliber D2 squads in recent history, or have otherwise been spending time with quality D1 clubs.
Rennie will have an incredibly wide range (a surplus, even) of options in available tactics and personnel combinations. His ability to utilize this squad to its fullest potential (while still maintaining a healthy and involved locker room) will go a long way in determining the Eleven's ultimate success in a very competitive Eastern conference.
Richmond Kickers V Indy Eleven Score Predictions
It may seem a little cliche to call wins on the road for your team in their opening match, if we end up with egg on our face so be it, but this is not a case of giddy fanboy reactions. Indy Eleven is stacked with top level experience, let's see if that proves fruitful over 90 minutes or not.
Brandon Cockrum: 0-4 Indy Eleven
James Cormack: 0-2 Indy Eleven
Caleb Ramp: 0-3 Indy Eleven
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