Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sommer's departure

As we've all heard by now, Coach Sommer and assistant coach Paul Telfer were released from their duties today and assistant coach Tim Regan will take over as interim head coach with Kleberson stepping into an assistant coach role while he rehabs his injury.  There's a lot that goes into that sentence and what it means moving forward for the team. However, I've come to a conclusion from this latest personnel change for the Indy Eleven: I love the game of soccer, but I hate the business of it.

Just like last fall when the team made a mass release of players, this firing hit me the same way. Good people now without a job.  Worse though, is that there are people relishing and taking joy in that fact.  I understand that we want successful teams and that if that isn't happening, then changes have to be made.  That's consistent regardless of your profession, but I think it seems worse for me when I so often think of soccer as a game and forget that it's a job for these guys.

I'm also not entirely convinced that the issue was with Coach Sommer and that his replacement will mean success for the team.  Only time will show whether it was a successful decision or not. Though, this could be a good time to mention something that I've been trying to figure out how to incorporate into my other Eleven posts.

There's no question that the Eleven had some defensive issues last season and took steps to try and solve that problem this season.  Hence the resigning of most of the starting back line that was so successful at the end of the fall season and the addition of Janicki.  Then the team looked to provide guys that could score.  Good defense, get a goal, win the game.  Defense wins championships, right?  Except that hasn't happened.  The team has yet to have a clean sheet and the guys brought on to score aren't scoring.  I don't think that is just in the coaching.  Guys have to play better too and I think they all know it.  Sommer knew it after Saturday's game for the few dozen people that were still around when that game finished.

In this league, though, there are small differences between the ones that have had success this season and the ones that haven't.  Look at the standings and there is something that immediately sticks out to me.
Do you see it?

The top four teams in the league are the only ones who have positive goal differentials.  It's true that they don't give up a lot of goals, but they put the ball in the goal to help their cause. While the Eleven, a team built around its defense this season, is forcing its offense to score at least one and a half goals per game and the offense isn't getting it done.  That's an issue for both sides of the ball.

It's not a hard fact, but turnover from season to season seems to play a part of the success in this league.  Using the rosters from last season and the rosters as they stood at the end of March when the NASL Media Guide was printed, I created the following table.

What sticks out to me is that NY and Minnesota, who are currently in the top 3 in the standings both retained players that accounted for more than 70% of the minutes played last season.  San Antonio, last year's Champions, retained less than 50% and find themselves near the bottom of the table this year.  Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale retained less than 20% and are also in the bottom portion of the table.  Only Tampa Bay and Carolina, who coincidentally both retained approximately 37% of their roster, have found success and are in the top four.  While the middle is all fuzzy, the ones that retained the most are at the top of the standings and the ones who retained the least are at the bottom of the standings. There's something to be said for consistency.

I know it sounds like I'm making a case against Coach Sommer.  The team retained nearly 2/3rd of their minutes from last season, building from the back that was successful at the end last season, and added scorers.  So it must be Sommer that is at fault, right?  As a volunteer coach, I can appreciate the fact that no matter what I tell the players (albeit my level and Sommer's level are completely different), they still have to go out there and execute the plan.  If they don't execute the plan well, the failure of the team lays with them too.

I have the feeling that was part of interim coach Tim Regan's speech to the team today based on what he said to the media.  That there's been a change in the coach and his departure is on all of them to do better or there could be more departures. I'm not a big fan of firing a coach mid-season nor after only a year and a half on the job, but then I'm not, apparently, a fan of the business of soccer.  Hopefully, Coaches Sommer and Telfer find new jobs soon.


Don said...

I hate to see him go, but something had to be done to try and turn this team around. Hopefully this will wake them up.

Jeff C. said...

Sommer seemed like a good guy. But he was tactically outmatched from the start. The strong finish last year gave hope that he was growing into the role, but it proved to be a false dawn: the team regressed badly in May. Sad as it is to see a decent man fire, it needed to be done.