Monday, March 7, 2016

Siniša Ubiparipović: Indy Eleven's Number 10

Siniša Ubiparipović in preseason vs IU Men's Soccer Photo: Lucas Carter

By: Aaron Gunyon

It has been a busy offseason for the Indy Eleven.  Wholesale changes have taken place all across the organization and many were needed for a team that has underachieved on the pitch since joining NASL competition in the spring of 2014.  

A new team president Jeff Belskus joined the club in January when Peter Wilt announced his intentions to join an NASL group in Chicago.  A new head coach Tim Hankinson came on-board in early December and bumped interim head coach Tim Regan back to an assistant role.  With Hankinson's arrival came the departure of many familiar players and many fan favorites who aren't likely to wear checkers for Indy anytime soon.  

The team's roster was toppled over like a Jenga game.  The players were examined, evaluated and placed back on the squad block by block.  This is a careful process and one that Head Coach Hankinson will take full responsibility for.  Indy has, by their own accounts, underestimated the level of competition in this league since the beginning and some roster choices have failed to pay dividends through two seasons. 

Gone are the rookies making their first professional appearances.  Gone is the reliance on local talent or diamonds in the rough.  Gone are the days when too many eggs are placed in one basket and gone are the days when any of that was acceptable.  

The same excuses cannot be used year in and year out and this is the year that Indy Eleven will be expected to come fully prepared.  The team has made great strides this offseason that begin with the coach and end with the players on the field.  This is the best and most complete roster the team has assembled to date.  

In my first meeting with Tim Hankinson, he described a type of player that he was looking for.  He said he was looking for a conductor on the field, he used the word maestro and it's no coincidence that Siniša Ubiparipović was announced less than 2 weeks after that conversation.  Truthfully though, Hankinson wasn't really describing the player that he was looking for.  He was describing the player he already had and he was more specific to the midfielder's qualities in the teams official press release.  

“A team’s attack is only successful if it’s based on the ability to break down a defense and create chances for strikers. Those are exactly the skills Siniša brings with him to club,” -Tim Hankinson  

Siniša Ubiparipović was Indy's first new block in this stack-em-up offseason game and he was the first puzzle piece for Hankinson's new era team.  He was billed as being the #10 by the team and the 32 year old who comes to Indy by way of Ottawa Fury FC is that middle piece the rest of the game balances on.  It's one of the things that Indy has been lacking in it's two previous seasons and it was addressed early.  It is worth noting that Ubiparipović was the 10th announced player on this new squad. 

Indy Eleven, NASL
Photo: Lucas Carter
Training camp is in full swing for this team and Indy Eleven will make every moment count as the clock keeps ticking toward April 2nd and the begining of the 2016 season.  Indy will face Tampa Bay to open the campaign but Ubiparipović has been here before so he is very calm and professional when he speaks about preseason.  

"The game in Indiana...It was a good little run around, but I don't think it was ideal.  Now we are down here in Arizona trying to take care of some business and trying to progress a little bit."

The team didn't look very strong during it's scrimmage with IU Men's soccer and everyone was aware of that elephant in the room.  Still Ubiparipović took a seasoned point of view as he explained a bit about his experiences in preseasons past.  He acknowledged that Indy "did not look amazing", but he elaborated on how important fitness is and where the value comes from in a small sided match like that.

Ubiparipović himself was coming back from a self described "knee knock" so perfect form wasn't his goal.  Preseason seems to be about more than measurable results, which is tough for anyone covering sports because we need measurables and quantifiable data to make outlandishly unfounded predictions.  We can't know that what's going on inside of an athlete's head or if they are improving...unless we ask.  

I think it's good that this team and these players maintain focus on improving.  It's a sign that Hankinson is pushing and setting goals.  The team is the most important thing here and Ubiparipović mentions additional goals a few more times during our conversation.  

"We want to make playoffs and we want to go far in the playoffs. I feel like if I set a goal for myself to be the best in every game that I can, I feel like I am giving myself a good chance."  

Ubiparipović comes to Indianapolis on the heels a great 2015 season and postseason run where he notched 5 goals and 8 assists for a team that simply forgot how to lose.  I told Ubi that Coach Hankinson said he was looking for a maestro and Ubiparipović laughed nervously and excitedly.

"I know one player they call 'Maestro' and that's Messi!" he said not wanting to take full responsibility for that comparison.  He did not seem to entertain the possibility that was even an option.  

I was told that Colin Falvey and Nicki Patterson did not carpool or share a UHaul down from Ottawa and that 3 former Fury members was sufficient to beating Ottawa in the Spring Season. Siniša Ubiparipović said he will do everything in his power to attain victories over Indy's more fortunate expansion twin.  

I asked him what it's like to be the #10.

"It means a lot. Growing up we were always told that the #10 always like the famous shirt on any team on any club...It's one of those things that everybody likes to wear, but the number doesn't play the game."

Lastly, I said "Super-cala-fragalistic".
He said, "Longest last name ever."

The interview can be found below in its entirety.  

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Aaron Gunyon
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