Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Indy Eleven Off-season To Do List

I think enough time has passed from Indy Eleven's final game of the year that I'm able to sit down and objectively evaluate where the team goes in the off-season before the start of their third season next year.  There are a lot of unknowns going into the off-season, some of which may be a concern and others that are just normal change of roster issues. Jacksonville has already gotten down to the business of releasing players, Atlanta still doesn't have a local owner and is run by the league, and Puerto Rico, Miami, and now Oklahoma are all set to join the league. Those are big issues for other teams, but let's look at what I see for the Indy Eleven.


There will a push for a stadium again as evidence by a November 7th article in the Indianapolis Business Journal. Given that it will be like 2014 and will be a short session in the Indiana Legislature (i.e. non-budgetary session), I don't expect it to get enough traction to move it to being passed. So Indianapolis is looking at closer to 2019 before a game would be played in a new stadium if it got passed in 2017. Though the team still feel that a stadium will help them (and a potential NWSL team) succeed in a way that isn't possible in the current situation with Carroll Stadium, I'm becoming more and more convinced that it doesn't happen until Mr. Ozdemir and maybe other investors lays down at least half of whatever is the final dollar amount and even that might not be enough and that includes the hotel backstops.

The current argument is that it won't be paid by taxpayers, but I don't think it matters to most. At a minimum, it feels like a taxpayer subsidy for a rich owner and many people have issue with that even if it doesn't directly affect them. Given that there are groups of Indy Eleven fans that are hesitant about the process doesn't bode well in a short session. Keeping the attendance strong this year will help to a point, but the downward trend from last year could be used to point to a decreased interest in the team. The team is still well above the league average so that helps their case even if season ticket sales were down from season 1 to season 2.

Given the short legislative session and the unlikely chance that it goes anywhere, I almost hope that the team takes a measured approach to the marketing of any bills and spends the money where it will be better utilized.

On a sidenote, I'm not convinced that a stadium has to come before a NWSL team. I think Indianapolis would definitely support a NWSL team even if games take place in Carroll Stadium. Can you imagine what the Indiana Eleven's marketing group could do with a Lauren Holiday backed team in Indianapolis and the potential to see USWNT players on a regular basis? Oh to dream...


At this point, Regan still has the title of "interim head coach" and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the player decisions listed below are contingent and delayed until a determination of who will be the next coach is finalized. My gut tells me that Regan gets the job because Wilt seems to like him and if he didn't have faith in his abilities, then he would likely have been gone with Sommer. Even though Regan had a very tumultuous and uneven job interview thanks to poor results and constantly having to try and find lineups that worked due to a long string of injuries, I still have this feeling that Wilt sees promise and a future with Regan.  When the initial change was made, I kept hearing that the players love Regan, but I don't know whether that changed when he went from "assistant" to "head" or if the players still want to play hard for him.

I don't follow the available coaches enough to give any kind of educated guess on who Wilt might select if Regan isn't hired without the "interim" tag. Though there were a few NASL coach firings this year, including Thomas Rongen, so maybe one of those guys gets a look. Bob Bradley just signed with French club Le Havre, so I don't think Wilt could convince him to come here (even if he could afford him, which is doubtful) despite their past history.  My gut says it's Regan anyway.


I've already talked about Wilt's involvement with an investor's group trying to get an NASL team to Chicago so I won't go into a lot of detail here. What I will say is that this development might be just as important as finding (retaining) a coach and whatever roster moves happen during the off-season. Wilt's involvement with the Indy Eleven gave it immediate credibility, just as his name is giving credibility to the Chicago group. I don't doubt Wilt's loyalty to the Indy Eleven, but I do wonder about his ability to objectively work for both the Eleven and a competing NASL team. I also wonder if he does go to Chicago, are there any of the front office staff who go with him? Tom Dunmore also seems to like Indianapolis, but he's also worked with Peter before and familiarity with your staff is a valuable asset in starting teams if Peter moves. I don't want to go into this much more because it could be a complete non-issue, but the article's statement that "both an ownership or upper level management role may be in play" does have me somewhat concerned.


So with all of those off-season issues, what team do we see next year, right? I've seen comments from others saying that they need to blow up the entire team and start over; that only a few players should remain. I'm completely against that mentality. When Sommer was fired, I did a post that included a graph of the Spring Table at that point in comparison to the amount of the roster retained from the previous season. I've updated that table here to incorporate the full table results:
So the four teams in the Championship are New York Cosmos, Ottawa Fury FC, Minnesota United, and Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Those are the four most successful teams over the course of the entirety of the 2015 season. Those are also the only four teams with positive goal differentials. In ranking how many players returned from last year, those teams are 3rd, 1st, 5th, and 9th, respectively.  So three of the Championship teams are in the top half of the minutes retained from last year (all of this doesn't get into mid-season acquisitions), with Fort Lauderdale being the lone anomaly having retained only 28% of their 2014 roster.

There are a lot of factors that go into a winning season, but familiarity and consistency are key components of teams that win. Let's look at Ottawa for a minute, shall we?  They were the most consistent team in the Fall Season and it isn't even an argument. They lost once in the Fall Season. Let me state that again. The Ottawa Fury lost once in the Fall Season. They had a 12-game unbeaten streak to end the Fall Season and had a 12-game unbeaten streak before that loss, losing just four times over the course of the 2015 season. You know what sticks out to me. Consistency.

GK - Peiser started 29 games and "earned NASL records with a 648-minute shutout streak, 14 total shutouts, 15 league wins, and equaled the Modern Era’s lowest goals against average at 0.76."
Defense - "Falvey, Rafael Alves, and Ryan Richter have started all 30 games, while Mason Trafford has made 25 appearances."

Think of the last time you saw the Eleven start the same lineup in back-to-back games. Without going into my notes, I know that it didn't happen very often. There was absolutely no consistency in lineups between week to week. Injuries were the biggest part of that, a couple red cards added to it, but another factor were new players that needed to be added because of the injuries. It just seemed like there were no chances for the team to really get in sync with each other. Practice time is one thing, but it's another thing to have game time reps together. With that in mind, I think that a good chunk of the team should stick around, but a break down of who I think leaves, should definitely stay, and who might go either way is below.  The team retained 13 players from last season and I would expect that a similar number is retained this year. I'm hopeful that the team sees the core players as valuable enough to bring back given the flashes that we saw from this team. There is talent on this team and I think consistency would go a long way next year.

  1. Nicht - Kristian has been a valuable member of the team, from being the team's first signing to his stint with Montreal that helped bring some publicity to the Indy Eleven, to his final game, but the rumors are that he is moving on. Like Wilt and Dunmore above, Nicht seems to really like Indianapolis and has frequented the other sports teams in town, but I think that these rumors are true. I think he's gone.
  2. Kleberson - It was nice to see him get in a few minutes in the final game of the season after his achilles injury with a shot on goal that reminded us why he was added to the team, but I think his salary is killing the budget. Reports have been that he accounts for 25% of the player budget and that can't continue. There have also been rumors that he might stay on as a player/coach with reduced salary. That would be the only way I see him still here next year.
  3. Frias - on loan and I don't think the loan gets renewed.
  4. Rugg - on loan and his productivity was poor this year for one reason or another. Charlie had zero goals and one assist in 1271 minutes. That's not the kind of production the team needs from one of the four players officially listed as "forward."
  5. Woj - Similar to Rugg. Not a lot of production out of Woj, but I do like his hold-up play so I kind of hope I'm wrong here.
  6. Richards -  on loan, but there was a tweet about the Eleven buying him outright so I might be wrong about this one.
    Source: Indy Eleven planning to buy Dane Richards outright from #RBNY.
    — MLS Transfers (@MLSTransfers) October 29, 2015
  7. Steinberger - I think he might be gone, but it will depend on whether Houston saw enough progress this season to bring him back into the Dynamo fold full-time. 
  8. Brown - I think this will also will depend on whether Harbour View FC saw enough progress this season.
Priorities to re-sign:
  1. Mares - For me, he was the best player this season for the Eleven and his absence was critical. If you remember, Mares was one of the players that was released and re-signed between season 1 and season 2, but I hope that doesn't happen again. Re-sign him and re-sign him now. Though I'm guessing there could be some others who have seen his play improve too and he might find other pastures.
  2. Smart - His defense has improved and his play at the end of the season was fantastic as he got more playing time.
  3. Miller - The defense needs a physical presence and Miller provides that in spades. Did he ever miss a defensive header?
  4. Janicki - I was critical of Janicki at times, but he has veteran experience and it's nice to be able to have him as a sub considering how Miller and Norales play.
  5. Franco - The team's leader in minutes and starts and was consistently solid in the backline.
  6. Norales - I think the team needs to retain this consistency in defense, but I'm also fearful that his play has opened other people's eyes to his value.
  7. Hyland - Solid. 
  8. Ring - Solid. You always need players like Hyland and Ring who just do their job. It may not always be flashy (though they both did give us a couple of doozies to remember), but you know what to expect from them. I want them back.
  9. Lacroix - His speed can change games. I'm not sure he's ready as a starter just yet, but he's just a rookie and we saw how much Mares improved between season 1 and season 2.
  10. Cardona - I think he's back and I love his athleticism in goal.
  1. Dawson - Jon was another player that was released and re-signed between season 1 and season 2 and given my expectation for Nicht's departure, the team will be looking for another goalie to back-up Cardona. I like Jon (friend of the site), but at some point I have to wonder if he wants to go some place and actually play a game. In the Eleven's two seasons, Jon is one of only 4 players to have never logged a minute of action (Sprenkel, Wey, & Rozo were the others). 
  2. Stojkov - Work horse. Shown ability to play both sides of the field and in multiple positions if needed. I think he might stay, but I just don't know.
  3. Pineda - The team signed him directly off of his loan from his 2014 loan with the Chicago Fire so I can see him coming back, but I just don't know for sure with him either.
  4. Pena - I think, despite the injury, he has shown plenty of ability. Wouldn't be surprised if he finds somewhere else next year. 
  5. Cuevas - Not enough data to give a good impression on whether he should stay or go. Given the effort to get him on the team and his past association with the U.S. National teams, I think he might be retained.
  6. Ceballos - I love his pace and vision, but this may also come down to what happens with Kleberson and/or Steinberger. The presence or departure may factor into Ceballos' future as an Eleven.
  7. Keller - Young, but did a solid effort. Think he could be a good one to remain.
  8. McKinney - Just not enough data to give a good impression on whether he should stay or go.

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