Thursday, April 26, 2018

Soaring Like Eagles, Indy Eleven's Power Animals Emerge - Charlotte Independence V Indy Eleven PREVIEW 4/28/2018

Indy Eleven going through final preparations before heading to Charlotte tomorrow.(Photo: Pitch Bitch)

By: The Pitch Bitch (Rebecca Townsend)

Today’s soccer story is not about individuals. It is about a team. About vision. About internalizing identity. Today’s soccer story is about what Indy is — and what it aspires to be.

Thanks to an upbringing among the hippies and woodland folk of Bloomington, Indiana, and the surrounding country, the Pitch Bitch is inclined to look toward her natural environment for signs and signals — for messages.

Today, the message was power — in the form of first an eagle and then three hawks. These magnificent creatures will bookend this soccer story.

Driving to Grand Park, looking forward to watching professionals coach and train on a beautiful, sunny spring morning, the feeling of gratitude pervades. Not everyone is so lucky to breathe fresh air and spend quality time immersed in their greatest passion. Let those of us who do, never take that for granted. A quarter mile from the field, an eagle rises above a retention pond, scoping out its breakfast opportunities.

It is strong, swerving … observant, deadly.

The eagle is a power animal. We can adopt its characteristics. “How high will we soar?” is the question. And after today’s practice, the Pitch Bitch answers, “As high as we keep pushing each other.”

Martin Rennie has shown great ability to mentally prepare his team for each game (Photo: Pitch Bitch)

The Indy Eleven squad was on the field on time, organized and warming up in a spirit of professionalism. By being on time and ready to go, players are saying they are serious. And when it came time to work, they were working. They were finding the balance between being tough with teammates but not too tough (aka breaking) teammates as they sharpen attacking maneuvers and accelerate defensive response times.

We are heading into a massive week — an away game in Charlotte, North Carolina, this Saturday followed by two home games in four days: a grudge match on Wednesday against nasty FC Cincy (which had the audacity to steal from us victory in our first home game) and our first taste of Louisville City FC on Saturday.  

Not wanting to be like a dimwitted war correspondent, telescoping the intentions of her troops ahead to enemy spies, the Pitch Bitch will not prognosticate at this point on lineups and formations, but instead on the team’s characteristics as a whole. In this spirit, she approached assistant coach Phillip Dos Santos after practice with this question: “How do you want this team to represent itself against the other teams in the league? How will you set yourselves apart?”

He responded, “We want to win. What we’re bringing to practice every day is a competitive environment — that carries through to games. We have a quality roster that allows for us to win every game — at home and away. That’s what championship teams are about. We work for that every day.”

Asst. Coach Phillip Dos Santos discusses with Ayoze Garcia (Photo: Pitch Bitch)

That’s a straightforward answer. It says: We are driven to push harder. We work with the intention of succeeding. 

If the eagle could speak English, it would say something like that: “I am strong. And I fly quick, decisive patterns to disarm — and then slay — my prey. I don’t work in vain. I don’t starve. I feast!”

Our opponents will see quick pressing, sprinting attacks from all angles, commitment to possession. They will see movement off the ball, slicing open their defenses, they will feel our penetration, they will watch with paranoia as our runners slip behind them, they will struggle and (more often than not if all goes according to plan,) fail to keep up with our relentlessness. 

Confidence is stoked by the words of keeper Owain Fôn Williams spoken with resonant confidence from his line, “Keep working, boys! Keep working!”

Returning to the city to find a heavenly perch in the sun overlooking a sea of trees and flowers in glorious expressions of long-overdue spring in Indiana, the Pitch Bitch begins to compose her report and review her photographs of training when her attention is at once stolen by the shriek of a nearby hawk.

She looks up to see not one — BUT THREE — hawks flying a circular pattern just 30 feet directly above her head. The message of power is cubed!!! The birds played with their flight patterns like a group of midfielders supporting each other as they work their way up the field, dropping, overlapping, drifting wide, pushing higher, higher, higher ...


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