July was a big deal for the Eleven, because it saw the first potential players take the field in four days of team tryouts. At the Build the Brickyard event, coach Juergen Sommer said that he’d received countless applications and highlight clips from players all around the world. However, the tryouts were kept small, with only about 35 players in each two-day session. Peter Wilt mentioned that many teams see tryouts as a profit center, charging players for the privilege and then inviting hundreds. But the Eleven wanted to make it a quality experience for both the players and the team staff, so instead they focused on players who had a real chance of making the team.
The tryouts were broken in to two two-day sessions. The first session (July 17-18) brought in 36 candidates from the Indianapolis region. The second session (July 25-26) included candidates from around the country, as well as about 10 guys invited back from the first week’s session. Coach Sommer was aided by assistants from regional youth and college programs, and they had good coverage to assist and evaluate the candidates.
Each day was divided into about three parts. The day started with stretches and warmup drills. That gave the candidates a chance to get ready for action, both physically and mentally.
After the warm-ups, the candidates were divided into groups to run group activities. When I was there, I saw one group running one-touch possession drills, while another was running pass-shoot drills. The goalies were kept running their own reaction-save drills.
After a brief break, the staff divided the candidates into three groups. Two groups each ran small-side scrimmages, while a third group ran agility/strength drills with a trainer.
The groups rotated through different matchups, each also taking a turn with the drills. Brief pauses between sessions gave the candidates a chance to catch their breath, but also gave the coaches a chance to discuss plans and (presumably) what they’d seen from the candidates. I haven’t seen this kind of tryout, but the impression was of an organized but flexible operation. The atmosphere was positive and focused, and the candidates seemed engaged.
The third session was a full-field scrimmage. Coach Sommer took a center-pitch station and for the most part the teams just played. Occasionally, Sommer would pause the action to decree a corner kick or a direct free kick, to see how both offense and defense would run it. Candidates played hard, and underneath the effort to play well you could sense an eagerness to make an impression, too.
I’m not skilled enough (at all) at player evaluation to say how good the candidates were individually or collectively. I do think there was a wide range of talent involved, but that’s to be expected at this stage. I would recommend that you read Doug Starnes’ evaluation of the tryouts (Part I, Part II, Part III) for a good take on the players. Like Starnes, my strongest impression was about the quality of the organization, staff, and experience; it’s clear that the Eleven are not messing about. This is not a shoestring operation, and the team is going to be the real deal.
This is the first time I’ve been able to use the “IXI On the Pitch” category for the blog. It’s great to see! If you’ve enjoyed the photos I posted, you should check out my Indy Eleven tryouts Flickr set for more.
Next up, a break in NASL coverage to look at a big game coming to Indy. I still can’t get over having Chelsea and Inter Milan coming to town. This is gonna be fun!