First on First update: First Player Guessing

On Friday, the team announced the third piece of the three “first” announcements for next Tuesday’s event. We’ll learn who the first Indy Eleven player is.

Big news! Having players is what makes this an actual team, instead of just a startup company. And we do have some clues about who it’ll be. Coach Juergen Sommer participated in a Reddit AMA a couple weeks back, and left a clue about who the Eleven might sign:

IndyFutbol: With Peter mentioning that international negotiations being underway and a recent article stating that negotiations are being done with a veterna goalkeeper, when can we expect to hear the 1st player signing?

SommerEleven: We are hoping to have some positive news on this front in the coming weeks – negotiations are ongoing.

I’d guess that the “recent article” mentioned is this story from Doug Starnes:

[A] source with intimate knowledge of the club’s dealings has revealed to me that Indy Eleven is in the final stages of negotiation with a veteran goalkeeper with an impressive professional resume.

Indy Eleven coach Juergen Sommer speaks to supporters at Black Acre Brewpub.

Indy Eleven coach Juergen Sommer speaks to supporters at Black Acre Brewpub.

I don’t think this is misdirection. I remember before the Chelsea-Inter Milan match, Sommer was asked which player from the two teams he would take if he could, and he said Petr Cech – because he wanted to build from the back. So a veteran GK sounds completely in character.

So — just for kicks — how about some wild speculation?

Like I mentioned Wednesday, it’s not likely to be a currently signed player. I don’t doubt that the Eleven could sign players from other teams, but with no games, team, or training, there’s no reason to have someone leave their current setup just yet. There could be verbal agreements, but that wouldn’t lead to a run-out on Tuesday.

Will he be an American? Probably. That goes over better for an announcement, and it’s just logistically easier in a lot of ways. Plus, Sommer’s connections are strongest here. It’s possible, I suppose, to bring in a foreign player. But I’d say 90% chance he’s American.

So, who will it be? I linked to Kasey Keller’s wikipedia page. That’s pretty much a joke. (I think.) Keller is raising kids in Seattle and I can’t see any reason why he’d come out of retirement at 43 to play with a startup 2nd division team. Still, it’s fun to dream. (Though I’d be trying very hard to get a photo of him with an Arsenal jersey.)

So seriously, who could it be? I don’t have deep expertise or insight to name players from memory, but that’s never stopped me from speculating. I did some research, and here’s a few names that caught my eye. All are recent MLS players (within the last two years), are under the age of 40 (arbitrary, I know). I can’t speak to their goalkeeping abilities, but all have been around long enough that they must have some quality. So here’s who caught my eye:

Adin Brown: Age 35. 85 MLS games (Colorado, Tampa Bay, New England, Portland) plus 5 years in Norway. Last played: 2011. Currently a “team ambassador” for Portland. Could happen because: Started for the US prior to the 2000 Olympics, so Sommer likely knows  him. Strike against: Apparently had knee surgery in 2010 and only played 2 games after that.

Steve Cronin: Age 30. 32 MLS games (LA Galaxy, DCU) plus 54 games for the Portland Timbers in the USL. Last played: 2011. Could happen because: Still young; extensive 2nd division experience; time with the US U17 and U20 teams would have brought him to Sommer’s attention. Strikes against: Long time out of the game (his 2 games in 2011 were as subs.) Has an active second career as a State Farm agent.

Bill Gaudette: Age 32. 32 MLS games (Columbus, LA Galaxy, NY). Last played: 2012. Also plays with the Puerto Rico national team. Could happen because: Has extensive NASL-level experience with Puerto Rico and Montreal; had a stellar game against Spain for PR last year, holding the world’s best team to a 2-1 win. Strikes against: Resume not as extensive as others; seems to have deep Puerto Rican connections and might not want to leave.

William Hesmer: Age 31. 133 MLS games (Mostly Columbus, 3 for KC Wizards). Could happen because: Long MLS experience, but still relatively young. Strikes against: Hip and ankle problems led to Columbus letting him go; has a second career in wealth management.

jnollyJay Nolly: Age 31. 22 MLS games (RSL, DCU, Vancouver) plus 83 games for Vancouver before promotion. Keeper for IU in their College Cup winning seasons of 2003 and 2004. Last played: 2011; was on the Chicago Fire roster for 2012 but didn’t get a game. Could happen because: IU Soccer is a pretty strong connection for both Sommer and the Eleven, plus the team has connections with Chicago too. Strikes against: Less MLS experience than the other names. Hasn’t played in a couple years.

zthorntonZach Thornton: Age 39. 282 MLS games (MetroStars, Chicago, Colorado, Chivas USA). MLS GK of the Year in 1998 and 2009. 8 caps with USMNT. Last played: 2011 (only 2 games due to injury). Could happen because: Vast MLS experience. Time with USMNT overlapped with Sommer’s, so they surely know each other fairly well. Was taken by Peter Wilt in the Chicago Fire’s expansion draft; was traded away by the Fire after Wilt had departed. Best fit for the “impressive professional resume” Starnes mentioned. Strikes against: Oldest candidate on my list (unless you want to count Keller). Pretty big MLS name to come play in NASL. Currently working with Loyola and Elizabethtown College in coaching roles.

So… who will it be? Like I said, I don’t know enough to evaluate the skills of the players, so I have to guess based on other info. Zach Thornton’s connections with Wilt and Sommer seem like a big deal. The Jay Nolly connection with IU is also a strong signal. The others all look like decent guesses but a bit less likely. I think at this point I’d split my money between Thornton and Nolly, with the edge to Thornton because of the long Wilt connection.

We’ll see Tuesday. Should be fun!

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