Monday, May 22, 2017

Timony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Soccer Events

“I suppose I'll have to add the force of Miami to my list of enemies.” 

By Brian Cook

Speechless. I think that might be the closest way to describe how the 2017 season has gone for Indiana's team. Whether it be good or bad the results have not been what the club nor the fans had expected going into the season after a runner-up NASL title season in the year 2016.

Harder than watching the results of this season is trying to pin point where exactly the problem lie and on whose shoulders do they rest on. Clearly the on the field results rest squarely on the head coach, the leaders of the team (Falvey, Busch, etc) and on rest of the players in that order. On the field Indy Eleven are stuck in the shadow of last season's results. It seems that while Hankinson has stressed to both the players and fans that you have to earn what you get from this team that the club has failed to adapt and grow on their performance from last year.

I always recall seeing the massive change in the club when it moved from the very staggered 4-2-3-1 formation that clearly wasn't working to the 4-4-2 that this was the new Indy Eleven. A club that has been destined for greatness and more importantly has been able to see the issues and fix them 

The argument now rests on whether or not it's fair to hit the panic button on the season and the correct answer is yes and no

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a winger with them.”

It is fair to panic. Miami FC is clearly the strongest and most well built team in NASL for a number of reasons. But even against a Cosmos team that was built in a similar fashion of building a team outside the general scope of how NASL clubs are built Indy Eleven found a chance to win. The team this season remains largely intact from the 2016 campaign and fans are expecting better from a club that put up four goals on the last day of the Spring Season to win the Spring Championship.

It also isn't fair to panic. The general understanding (when looking at the table) is that with another win or two the club would literally be back into the pile at the top half of the table. With the restructuring of the schedule for the 2017 season the Spring season is far less than a sprint and much more of a jog unlike previous years. The injury bug also plays a huge part into the performance this year. Indy Eleven has been far from healthy and their strongest first eleven really hasn't gotten the chance to hit the field year.

There are also plenty of distractions and issues on and off the field outside of the general scope of how the season has gone.

On the field:

Eamon Zayed: 

One of the largest question marks since the beginning of the season has been the on again off again place of Eamon Zayed in the starting lineup of Indy Eleven. It's safe to say the biggest change seen in the team in 2017 was the first game of the season not having Eamon Zayed in the starting eleven. Nothing was ever officially confirmed about the reasoning behind this move though there was plenty of speculation. Nevertheless the holder of the team's scoring record hasn't gotten off to the best start so far and one only wonders if the beginning of the season plays into that. 

Ben Speas 

There is a moment in the movie MoneyBall (with Brad Pitt) where Billy Beane realizes you can't replace a player directly but rather replace their results they give you. What he was talking about was the struggle that the Oakland Athletics (on a much lower pay wage than most of MLB) would have in replacing the bats of Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and the arm of pitcher Jason Isringhasen. The three of them had brought tremendous amounts of success for Oakland Athletics the season before the infamous Moneyball season and were huge losses for the A's. 

“It is one of life's bitterest truths that endtime so often arrives just when things are really getting interesting.” 

Cue the analogy, Ben Speas for all intents and purpose was dog eared to be the replacement for an outgoing Dylan Mares who moved onto the sunny beaches of Miami FC. Ben Speas, who last season averaged four goals and four assists against Mares five goals and seven assists as a member of the Boys in Blue was tailor made to come and fit the role Indy would be lacking which was a wing based playmaker and for the most part he truly hasn't failed at that.

He's just struggled to keep up the pace and I think Speas' performance shows more about how you wouldn't be able to play the same system as last season and use Speas the way you used Mares. Speas skill set allows you borderline more attacking presence than Mares did but Mares skillset was much more at hand with what Indy had on the field last season. 


When it was announced that Colin Falvey would be out for a portion of the beginning of the season due to surgery I think everyone gasped. . Colin Falvey and Jon Busch's work in the backline last season was all but key in the overall success of 2017. Losing Colin Falvey not only lost a great defender but a great leader and with no Cory Miller you were left with a versatile Daniel Keller and someone new to Indy Eleven, Kwame Watson-Siriboe.

In a previous blog, the positive impact of Colin Falvey's presence was discussed so it was no secret why it was vital he get back on the field as soon as possible. Early into the season with Falvey it was clear the defense needed another leader besides Jon Busch. Keller, who has been with the club for two years, has played nearly every position in the backline has the ability but not the leadership at least not what's been seen. 

Truthfully I'm still waiting for the moment where we understand what Hankinson saw in signing Kwame Watson-Siriboe because up until now he's been a loose cannon in the backline leaving huge gaps and causing more issues for the defense than preventing them. Even Falvey's return to his leadership role hasn't curbed Kwame from running up and playing a stopper role and leaving Falvey alone to stop an attack. 

While the return of Falvey clearly had a difference in how the backline work and rotated but even with Falvey's return the Indy Eleven defense is nothing compared to how strong the defense was in 2016. 

Coach Hankinson

It's pretty safe to say that the honeymoon phase is over. Last season was amazing but it's pretty clear that last season's successes rest right there. Last season. I'm not entirely sure what the plan was for this season but whatever it is it's not working. Between the roster building leaving huge holes in the structure of the team and decisions involving benching Eamon Zayed have left a lot of people, quietly, questioning what's going on in the mind of Indy Eleven's head coach. 

Some of this is on the field, some of this is general team cohesion but nevertheless it shouldn't a question. Speaking on the US Open Cup match against the Michigan Bucks, which removing the faces and names is an amatuer side that Indy Eleven should have at least beaten if not been comfortable in the victory even with squad rotation.

“Well-defended people are less likely to be evil.” 

It's not even to say that Hankinson is the problem. Clearly people need a direction to point and it's easier to point at the head coach than anyone else. There is a fair argument given last season's successes that Hankinson is definitely performing below expectations. His choices in the lineup, both at the beginning of the season to now, have left some questions out there.

Injuries have also played a huge part. Indy Eleven isn't the youngest team in the league by all means and as a result they have gotten ripped apart for lack of a better word by the injury bug and have struggled to maintain consistent performances. 

Off the field

The off the field troubles are pretty clear. A lack of a stadium, a lack of good results, losing good players, weather. All things that have impacted what every sport's team struggles with and lower division soccer in America is no different. 

The bottom line.

In an interview about the infamous Stadium for Indiana deal Ersal Ozdemir pulled no punches when he said:

“Without a new stadium, we have some serious decisions to make,” he said.

The stadium, which was reproposed for a fourth time, is an healthy 100 million dollar plus deal which would have Ersal and his 'ownership group' paying the fee for getting an expansion club and other expenses while resting the bill for the stadium on a 'public - private partnership' which would have the city and state pick up most of the tab. (At this moment we haven't reached out to the club on a comment for this quote)

The public movement of the bill (or lack there of) has weighed heavily on the shoulders of staff and players. What does it say when the owner of a team eludes to the possibility it could be the last year for his club and thus the last year for a lot of people to work for the club? Whether it was a tactic to help motivate those who have the ability to get financing for the stadium or just Ersal making his everyday stresses public the statement has hurt the club, players, staff, as well as the fans.

Whatever the case may be. This club is in the thick of it. Since the beginning of the season it's been like watching a roster collectively grab shovels and slowly dig a hole down. While they are working together in that regard it's hard for players to be motivated to win games, it's hard for staff to hear that the club is struggling financially and above all else it's difficult for casual fans who base their decision of attending games off of the performance of the team to feel inclined to come watch Indy struggle. We hope that this is just a rough patch on the road and things eventually turn around for a team that should clearly be performing better than it is. 

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