|Matt Watson and Indy Eleven get their first taste of competitive play in 2018 this Saturday.|
By: James Cormack
Forget the unseasonably cold weather, forget the myriad of life-endangering potholes spread across the city like a plague of meteor craters, and forget the uncertainty of whether our team would play this year. Indy Eleven's season starts this weekend. It's finally happening and nothing else matters.
After an off-season of uncertainty, the Boys in Blue head off to Richmond for their first taste of USL. Other teams including our opponents for this week have already begun their season in round one while Indy took advantage of an extra week of preparation.
In the USL Eastern Conference, Richmond Kickers fell 4-1 at Bethlehem Steel in their opening match. Former NASL foes North Carolina and Tampa faced off in a highly entertaining match in Cary where the visiting Rowdies won by three goals to one. Another familiar foe Ottawa Fury suffered a 4-1 thrashing from Charlotte Independence.
Last years Champions Louisville secured a 2-0 victory over franchise boys Nashville SC. FC Cincinnati started with a 1-0 away win at Charleston. In the first of six opening games in the Eastern Conference last weekend two MLS reserve sides called II came head to head and one of the II won 2-1.
Are We Ready To Rumble?
Yes, I feel we are. As ready as you can be given the shortness of the pre-season. As mentioned in our earlier preliminary fluff piece, Martin Rennie has gone a long way to counter our lack of prep time by assembling a roster of highly experienced players. This doesn't mean anything of course unless they can bond quickly (and I think they have), but it does help a lot.
The USL and its schedule are a lot different to what you may have been used to with NASL. There are multiple games at times packed into a short period. Remaining injury free, fit, and having an ability to rotate strong players can give you a good advantage in this league.
From the evidence of the games we have played and the roster we have, Rennie has worked himself into a position where he could field two completely different teams in back to back competitive matches and each would be strong and competitive at this level.
|Nico Matern the latest roster addition is a good example of our roster depth.|
On two occasions this year we have seen Indy Eleven play back to back matches in one day, allowing the coach to field different teams and get all players an adequate amount of playing time. In the final day of pre-season play on Saturday, Indy Eleven played out a 0-0 draw with Jacksonville Armada and a 7-0 win over Indiana Wesleyan with a good mix of what could be considered starting players in each team.
In all Indy have played seven pre-season matches against varying levels of opposition and lost only once in the opening match against FC Cincinnati at Grand Park and have conceded only three goals and scored fifteen.
Our depth is very good compared to other years, especially in defense where even in 2016 we were lacking adequate cover. This past weekend the Eleven were able to play a back line of Moses, Ferreira, Mitchell, and Ouimette in one match, Venegas, Rusin, Pasher, and Ayoze in another. Neither back line conceded a goal, and each I think could hold their own in a USL league match.
The roster currently stands at 23 players and the latest to be added Nico Matern who came from Wesleyan with a German academy background has been turning heads in pre-season and could be one of the shrewdest signings in the league this year. Competition for starting spots is strong, and that is a very good thing.
When you can literally split your roster down the middle and field two very strong teams then you are in a good position going into the season.
Is Richmond Ready For Indy Eleven?
It would be wrong of me to make too many assumptions based on Richmond's 4-1 thrashing at Bethlehem in their opening match, but it was not pretty at all and they could easily have conceded twice that many goals. However, it was the opening match so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe first day jitters? Maybe not?
Richmond had Trevor Spangenberg sitting on the bench and I wondered at times what he was thinking watching that match. He is one of the few players in their squad along with Brian Shriver and Neil Hlavaty that I have experience watching and he must have been peeking through his gloves as the second half wore on. Richmond's performance was littered with defensive and goalkeeping mistakes from bad timing to bad positioning, poor decision making, and poorly executed passing.
If Richmond doesn't find a way to correct these issues over the coming week Indy Eleven have many experienced players who will pounce on mistakes like these faster than flat screen TV sales on Black Friday. However it's important not to read too much into these things this early, Indy can suffer first day jitters as well, but hopefully not.
|City Stadium in Richmond, Virginia (Photo: Richmond Times-Dispatch)|
Richmond has played five pre-season matches all against colleges. Three wins, one draw and a loss to William & Mary Tribe Soccer. 2017 was not a great year for Richmond, they finished the year 14th of 15 teams in USL East with the lowest standing of any independent team across both conferences.
So on the evidence of the first game perhaps they were underprepared for their league opener, but that doesn't mean they will be an easy team to beat at home, no team ever is. Nor does it mean they can't bounce back after suffering a heavy defeat.
I am sure the home support will be expecting the players to lift themselves after that and prove they have better to offer. With a few players missing it also gives some an opportunity to stake a claim on a starting spot, an important factor in any game. Expect the unexpected.
Richmond Kickers will continue to miss Brazilian forward Luiz Fernando through suspension. Mekeil Williams and Alex Lee who started in the back line against Bethlehem will be missing on international duty for Trinidad and Guam respectively. Bruno Mirando who appeared in the second half for Kickers will also answer the call for the Bolivian National Team.
Update: Jamaican Dane Kelly who did not feature in Kickers opening game is unavailable and on international duty also.
Indy Eleven will miss Nathan Lewis who will join Williams in The Trinidad and Tobago camp for matches against Guadeloupe and Curaçao. Justin Braun is working his way back to full fitness and scored in Indy's second game on Saturday. The status of Jordan Farr return from injury is unknown (is in full training) and we may see Fon-Williams and Lundegaard as the traveling goalkeepers.
In the event of further updates, we will bring those to you as the week progresses.
The City Stadium in Richmond boasts a usually well-tended natural grass surface. The future forecast shows low forties at kick off time with a high chance of rain before kickoff. If you fancy the ten-hour drive you can pick up general admission tickets HERE and meet up with other Indy Eleven fans before kickoff.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and our website BloodyShambles.com. The Bloody Shambles Soccer Show podcast will returning during the course of the season and is available on iTunes or directly from Soundcloud. If you are interested in being involved in supporter media with Bloody Shambles Soccer, possibly you have an idea for a supporter related article about your experiences or the team or you have an idea for a podcast please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us through Twitter. Indy Eleven needs more supporter driven content and we are more than happy to give fans a platform to express their opinion on the team or just relate their experiences from match days, road trips, community events etc.
|1st Bloody Shambles Match Poster of 2018|