Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Rowdies - 01.02

- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 10,421
- Final Score: 1-1
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Frias, Norales, Estridge, Hyland, Ring, Kleberson, Corrado, Moore, Ramirez, Ambersley

- Substitutions: Mendes (Corrado), Mares (Moore), Smart (Ramirez)
- Goals: Norales (81')
- Bookings: No XI cards

While attendance dipped slightly, it should be noted that the Indianapolis Indians had a home game and the Indiana Pacers had the first game of their playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, all starting within 30 minutes of each other.  More than 10,000 people with all of that going on is a good showing for the 2nd game of the season and I think helps show that the city is behind this team.

My single paragraph recap of the game could be very similar to that of the first week's game.  Great fight in the team, especially after getting behind a goal, but still some missed opportunities because of the players still learning what to expect from each other.  That can only get better with time.  

There was also some back bad luck with the woodwork working against the team too.  Kleberson hit the crossbar once and the side post once.  The one on the crossbar should be shown whenever possible:

Reminds me of this shot from the NWSL Championship game this past season:

The only difference, besides Tobin Heath's finding the back of the net, is that the Tampa Bay goalkeeper was rooted to his spot thinking that there was no way that it was going to be even close.  Kleberson found the woodwork another time in the game and seems to be just inches off from scoring every time he puts the ball on frame.

So two games in and two ties.  Technically undefeated, but that's not how you win the spring season.  The team would definitely like to see their name with a W behind it to reward them for the fight they have shown the past two weeks.  Maybe that comes in their first road game of the season against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

That's the on-field stuff.  As far as the off-field stuff, I didn't have a single major complaint.  The team took all of the feedback from people seriously and made changes to address them.  Quickly and efficiently.  Concessions seemed to move better, parking went better, and all of my complaints were addressed.  So I sent a follow-up email telling the team as much.  Within an hour, I had a response from Peter Wilt thanking me for my time to provide the feedback.  Keep in mind this is the President/General Manager of the team and he is responding directly to fans.  Again, to me that says a lot about what this team is striving to achieve, both on and off the field.

I can't wait until the next home game, but we have two road games before that happens.

UPDATE: Once again, for their effort, Indy Eleven players were placed on the league's Team of the Week: Nicht and Norales.  That makes back-to-back weeks for Norales. 

Indy Eleven - Inaugural match - 01.01

With a third of the Spring Season in the books, its probably time that I sit down and weigh in on the first three matches, two of which I was in attendance since they were home games at the newly painted and upgraded Michael Carroll Stadium (not sure why it has been taken to be called The Mike since I've only known it as Carroll Stadium, but #TheMike seems to be how it is being referenced in the team's twitter feeds).  I do hope to do a much more timely evaluation of the games in the future.

- Opponent: Carolina Railhawks
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 11,048
- Final Score: 1-1
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Frias, Norales, Estridge, Hyland, Ring, Kleberson, Corrado, Moore, Ramirez, Ambersley
- Substitutions: Mares (Moore), Smart (Corrado), Mendes (Ambersley)
- Goals: Ambersley (43')
- Bookings: No XI cards

In the highly compressed Spring Season of the NASL, at only 9 games, every point counts, but the team can't afford too many ties.  Despite that, and despite the fact that every player goes into a game wanting to win it, a tie in the inaugural match against a very good Carolina team is one that the team has to be happy about achieving.  A lot of press, a lot of intensity, and a lot of build-up for the first game in the first season in the league.  Just keeping the emotions in check might have been considered a good start.  So a 1-1 tie is acceptable.

There are really good sites forming on the interwebs concerning this team (here and here) with very detailed analysis of the games, and for now, I'm going to suggest you go there for the intricacies of the team's play.  I'm going to give some of that, but my focus will be less involved and will mostly be general recaps and impressions of the fledgling team.

To wit, this is a fledgling team.  I think two players were added to the roster the day before the game.  Obviously, there needs to be a familiarity with players before passes and runs look smooth.  This team isn't there yet.  You could see it with some of the passes that were made because they assumed one run was going to be made and another was actually done.  That only comes with time and a confidence in what your teammates are doing.  The upside is that I see talent, a team that doesn't quit fighting, and a team that despite some deficiencies in familiarity with each other still finished the game with a positive results.  That's promising.

That's my short, one paragraph, recap of a game that happened three weeks ago.  Now, I'll recap the off-field portion of the evening.  The team caught a lot of grief from a lot of people for trying to get the ball rolling on a new stadium before they had even played a single game.  Before the roster was even completed...  While I wish they had waited a little longer to begin the conversation, it was obvious from my visit to the facility last year to scope out season ticket locations that this was not a facility for a professional team.  The field, other than it being Field Turf which I hate for soccer, looks to be in great shape after its recent renovation in 2011.   The inaugural game just solidified it in my mind that the conversation needs to continue toward building a soccer specific stadium.  The team made good strides in getting the stadium in better shape, especially the appearance of the suites on the north side of the field, but it is not set up for a professional soccer team and it was reflected in the inaugural match.

I would like to tell you about the first ever goal scored by the Indy Eleven in their inaugural match, but I didn't see it.  I took my 6 year old daughter to the game with me and, as kids are prone to do, needed/wanted to get some food.  I convinced her to wait until about the 15 minute mark in the game and we headed out.  More than 30 minutes later and we finally had food and headed back to our seats.  While we waited in a line of only about 20 people, we heard announcements of the concession stand running out of veggie burgers (fine by me) and popcorn containers and water right as we were exiting the concession stand.  That can't happen.  Not even running a concession stand out of a cargo container, which is what the concession stands are at the stadium.  My kid's concession stand for her youth league is set up in a cargo trailer, running with only volunteer help, and it runs more smoothly than what we saw on opening night.

There were some other issues, which I won't go into, but there were enough that I felt inclined to send an email providing feedback to the team.  They asked for it, but it's not something that I would normally do.  To their credit, the team realized that they had issues with some of the logistics of running a game in a stadium that isn't set up for it and took steps within two days to make the second game run better.  To me, that speaks volumes about what the team wants to accomplish both from an on-field and off-field product. 

Despite the glitches of my first experience with the team, I left feeling very entertained and couldn't wait until the next weekend, when the team took on the Tampa Bay Rowdies.  My impressions of that game to come soon...

UPDATE: For the team's effort, three players were placed on the league's Team of the Week: Ambersley, Corrado, and Norales.  Well done boys!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Opening whistle

I assume that I'm like most former athletes who still crave the ball and can see the game play out properly in their head, but whose body has long since decided that the motions needed to perform that game are no longer possible. That's where I find myself at 38; older, slower, quicker to gasp for breath after a much shorter time. Nostalgic to enjoy the game the way that I did when I was a kid, teenager, and young adult. I also assume that I'm like other former athletes who long to stay connected to the game they love as long as feasibly possible in whatever capacity that they are able to do so. I'm still in love with a game that is becoming harder and harder to play, but it is not any less enjoyable. I just have to enjoy it differently.

So I watch from the sidelines more. I coach my daughter's team. I watch games on television, for all levels of play. From the NCAA College Cup to the World Cup and all divisions in between, I'll watch a game with you. Or by myself. With the increased availability of games on television, I could never watch all that is on nor do I have time to even watch all the games I want to see, but there is something about watching a game that is different for me than any other sporting event.

It puts me at ease. Like talking to an old friend you haven't seen in awhile. It eases my soul.

When I was younger, people would look at me and say that I must be a runner. That I had a runner's body. I would always respond, "No, I'm a soccer player." Soccer was only a portion of the activities that I did, but it was how I saw myself. Soccer was what defined me. It was where I was most happy. It was the epicenter of where my friendships started.

I can't look back through the years and tell you that the first time I picked up a ball I knew I would play it until the doctor told me that continuing to play competitively would mean surgery to repair an increasingly more painful knee. I can't recount every game I played. I can't tell you that I didn't divide my attention between other pursuits and that soccer was my only focus. I can't tell you that I was the best player on my team. I can't tell you that I ever realistically imagined myself playing professionally.

What I can tell you are the stories of memorable moments along the way. The moments within games that have lodged themselves into my memory banks and are the moments I cling to when I talk of my soccer career. I can tell you about the moments of sadness, the frustrations, the joy, and the moments that make me love this game.

I can tell you about what I think of the "beautiful game."

From my experiences as a player, to my new-found position of volunteer coach of my daughter's team, to my views as a season ticket holder for the newly formed Indy XI in the NASL, to whatever else I feel like talking about the game, this will be the place I'm going to document my thoughts. They may not always be great, well-worded thoughts, full of insight into the intricacies of the games, but it's going to be my way of helping me hold onto the game I love for as long as possible.