I haven’t posted in quite a while, but with the season about to start, it’s time to get back to it! There’s a lot going on — and a lot has happened already — but the most interesting things will start on Saturday. (It’s all about the games… right?) But while the actual matches haven’t started yet, much has happened in the last few months. Let’s get quickly caught up!
The Eleven haven’t completely filled out their roster — they’ve named a target of 20 players for the season — but at 17 players they’re nearly there. That’s just enough to fill out a squad sheet, but over the course of the season they will surely need at least a few more players. I’ll do a full post on the team roster later in the week, but the squad has some interesting potential.
The team has also put extensive effort into Carroll Stadium, working hard to add improvements to get it ready for NASL play. The pitch itself is in great shape (installed in 2012), but the facilities haven’t seen much attention and were never really designed for professional sports. The Eleven have added bleachers on the track behind both goals (the west end will serve as the open-seating home for the Brickyard Battalion) and a row of suites on the south track. They’ve also put work in to spruce up the main stands. It’s clearly a temporary home — a track stadium will always be less than optimal for watching soccer. But it should be in the upper third of grounds for NASL teams, and hopefully the team can put together a fan experience to match (certainly one of their priorities).
While Carroll will be the Eleven’s home for now, probably the biggest off-field story of the past few months was the push for a new stadium. Team owner Ersal Odesmir submitted a proposal for redeveloping the former GM Stamping Plant (just south of the Zoo) that included a stadium for soccer and music. That proposal was paired with a lobbying effort with both the public and the legislature for tax proposals to help finance the stadium. No decision on the Stamping Plant site has yet been announced, and the legislature adjourned without taking up the stadium tax proposal. So it’s not yet clear whether this plan will proceed or not. In any case, most of this discussion will play out in places that aren’t accessible to lowly bloggers like myself. Still, it’s interesting in itself that the stadium work is ongoing even before the first official match has been played.
Multiple corporate partnerships have been announced for the team, which is always a good sign. The most important deal, though, is a television partnership with WNDY-TV (MyINDY-23), the sister station to CBS-affiliate WISH-TV. The TV coverage is as good as any in the NASL, with all home games and select away games scheduled for broadcast. More importantly, the deal has resulted in an ongoing presence on WISH-TV, including regular coverage in sports segments, as well as “soft news” coverage in other ways. This is huge for both initial team awareness and for ongoing attention, and puts the team in a great place at the start of the season.
Signing of Kléberson
The biggest offseason news came just a week ago, on Monday March 31, when the team announced the signing of José Kléberson to the team. A player with worldwide recognition, and a key component of the 2002 Brazil squad that won the World Cup, Kléberson is probably only comparable to Marcos Senna within the NASL. It will be very interesting to see how he fits into the squad and how the story builds over time, but the potential upside is enormous and having him on the Eleven brings international attention and stature to the team. Let’s hope he also brings on-field success!
Signing Kléberson was the apex of the busy preseason schedule for the team. The team took two major trips in February and March, visiting both Arizona and Florida to practice, get matches under their belt, and evaluate trialist players. They played public matches against a wide range of teams, many from MLS, with at least one other closed-door match that I’ve seen reference to.
- Feb 5: IXI 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 3 (Casa Grande, AZ). Goals: Pedro Mendes, Don Smart.
- Feb 7: IXI 1, Sporting KC 3 (Tuscon, AZ). Goal: trialist “B. Elkhart”.
- Feb 12: IXI 0, Portland Timbers 1 (Tuscon, AZ).
- Feb 26: IXI 2, Sporting KC 4 (Kissimmee, FL). Goals: Pedro Mendes 2.
- Mar 15: IXI 2, Tourbeau SC 0 (Westfield, IN). Goals: Pedro Mendes 2.
- Mar 22: IXI 2, U. of Louisville 2 (Louisville, KY). Goals: Don Smart, Ben Spencer.
- Apr 1: IXI 1, Chicago Fire 3 (West Lafayette, IN). Goal: Kléberson (PK).
- Apr 4: IXI 3, Indiana U. 1 (Carroll Stadium, Indianapolis). Goals: Andrew Stone, Kléberson, Don Smart.
If you’re interested in tallies, that’s a record of 2-1-5, with 13 goals for and 17 against. Pedro Mendes led the scorers with 5 goals, followed by Don Smart (3), Kleberson (2 – in only 2 matches), and Andrew Stone, Ben Spencer, and “B. Elkhart” each with 1. (I can’t find confirmation, but I’d guess that “B. Elkhart” was actually Ben Spencer.) As with any preseason, it’s impossible to draw many conclusions from the overall record. The team took on top-quality opposition, and coach Sommers’ priority was clearly player evaluation and development, especially early on with numerous trialists seeing significant playing time. In particular, I would expect Sommer to want a sturdier defense, but that’s likely the hardest piece to stabilize in a hectic and rapidly-changing preseason.
By the way: I’ve created a public Google calendar with the full Indy Eleven schedule. I plan to keep updating it with results as the season goes on. You can subscribe with Google Calendar, or via iCal or XML.
Days, not Weeks
We are now about five and half days away from the first Indy Eleven game. Ever! It’ll be wonderful to see the speculation and preliminaries end and the team actually take the pitch for a game that counts. I plan to ramp up my coverage with several posts leading up to the game. Make sure to also follow @IndyEleven on Twitter, check out Rebecca Townsend’s excellent coverage at Nuvo, and keep an eye on coverage at WISH-TV and the Indy Star. I’ll post my stories here; you can also follow me on Twitter (@cisko) for updates.
Let’s get this started. Forth the Eleven!