Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Takeover - We're Not Going There Just To Take Part!

Éamon Zayed is planning a takeover on Long Island

By: Brandon Cockrum

A power vacuum has opened up in the 2nd division of American soccer with the departure of Minnesota United and Tampa Bay Rowdies from the NASL. 

An impressive season culminating with a date in the NASL championship final has the Indy Eleven poised to step into the limelight as one of the league’s most prestigious clubs. 

Standing in their path to the title are the New York Cosmos. Now in their fourth season the Cosmos have won a lot of games but not much else, having failed thus far to translate their reputation as America’s first super club into similar success in the modern era. At this point in time they’ve been passed in worldwide reputation by the Los Angeles Galaxy, possibly the New York City Football Club, and maybe even others. Fans of the sport have a wide array of feelings for the Cosmos of the ‘70s but are largely indifferent and often hateful toward the modern version. 

If the Eleven defeat Cosmos on Sunday night and raise the Soccer Bowl Trophy is there any chance that the young midwestern club becomes America’s most prestigious 2nd division franchise?

For an attempt at an objective analysis I’ve identified five areas that we can use to evaluate the two clubs: Youth Development, Stadium, Playing Style & Results, Star Power, and Championships.

Player Development: Indy Eleven have no reserve side or youth clubs to develop players but they do run a NPSL team with an amateur roster of college players and recent college grads that primarily serve as practice bodies for the senior club. 

The New York Cosmos have an academy featuring boys' teams and more than 15 affiliate clubs, as well as a NPSL side (Cosmos B) with young professional players that have transitioned into impactful players for the senior side. 

Edge: Cosmos

Michael A Carroll Stadium on Indiana University's IUPUI Campus.

Stadium: Both clubs have less-than-ideal stadiums on university campuses and are currently waiting on governing bodies to approve plans for them to build soccer specific stadiums. The Eleven have maxed out the ability of Carroll Stadium, with a good size, setup, and location, and incredible fan support. 

The Cosmos' Shuart Stadium, which is not convenient to get to and is also a visual mess, with lines for multiple sports as well as large “Hofstra" logos on the pitch. To make matters worse, the Cosmos could not secure a venue for the NASL championship and their home for 2017 is up in the air. While the Cosmos win a lot of games at home they are now attracting crowds that rate among the league’s lowest. 

Edge: Eleven

You don't have to like it, but you can't argue with the Cosmos' star power.

Star Power: Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer and Raul have all donned the Cosmos green and white jersey at one time or another. 

The Eleven’s boys in blue include have included Kléberson, Jon Busch, Éamon Zayed, and Brad Ring. 

Edge: Cosmos.

Playing Style and Results: It took the Eleven three seasons to begin getting positive results on the pitch and they have, generally, over that time played a counter attacking, direct style of football that has been much more exciting, attacking, and successful at home than on the road. However, not until this year has Indy had the personnel to play the style they would prefer. Give Coach Tim Hankinson another season and the club should establish a playing identity with more longevity. 

New York on the other hand, thanks to their deep pockets and player pedigree, came out of the gate in 2013 playing a confident, high-tempo, possession-oriented game under Coach Giovanni Savarese. The club has bagged many wins along the way and won three of the seven split seasons they’ve participated in. 

Edge: Cosmos

Justin Braun one of many additions to the roster by Tim Hankinson

Championships: Only three clubs in the second and third divisions of US soccer have won a championship in the league they will be playing in 2017, one of them being the Cosmos. Indy can enter that illustrious club on Sunday night and join the USL’s Sacramento Republic as the only clubs to be bonafide success' both on the field and at the ticket window. 

The Cosmos have won two Soccer Bowl trophies in the modern era; a third would make them entirely insufferable. 

Edge: Cosmos
Using our criteria, it becomes evident that with a victory on Sunday evening the Eleven has not and will not takeover the Cosmos throne as the most prestigious club in America’s lower divisions. However, raising the Soccer Bowl Trophy will cement Indy’s takeover of the NASL in 2016 and place them firmly alongside the Cosmos as the league’s only flagship clubs. 

An Eleven squad that takes over New York on Sunday evening are the club that both the NASL and the Cosmos ultimately need. 

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