Monday, August 29, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Fury - 03.21

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Ottawa
- Attendance: 6,139
- Final Score: 1-1 D
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Smart, Ring, Paterson, Mares, Gordon, Zayed
- Substitutions: Torrado 64' (Mares), Youla 67' (Paterson), Lacroix 77' (Gordon)
- Unused: Cardona, Ubiparipovic, Keller, Miller
- Goals: Ring 64' (assist Zayed)
- Bookings: Smart (Yellow)
- Adage goals: Two

Fear has officially set in for me for the Championship. There are still 11 games remaining (5 home, 6 away), but as it stands right now, the Championship doesn't go through Indy. That means an away win is required to bring home the Soccer Bowl trophy and that has not been a strength of this team. Win at home? Check. 9W-2D-0L. Win on the road? No check. 1W-6D-3L. I wish I could point to the silver bullet that will fix the road win struggles, but the best I can do is say that they seem "off."

There were struggles with defending, with first touches, and with dribbles. As the Ottawa commentators stated during the game, there were stretches by both teams where nothing seemed to happen. Some of that was a result of the above said struggles by the team. The stats show that this was an even game, but the eye test again showed that the Eleven were not the better team for long stretches of the game. That's disappointing considering that the Fury list 9 different players as injured and were coming into the game on a four-game winless streak (LLLD).

The Fury were out-of-sync themselves as pass after pass was missed, overshot, or poorly communicated. The Fury had a perfect look at the goal in the 37th minute off a set piece that would have given them an earlier lead if it hadn't been for a poorly played first time shot by Rosebloom and a last ditch recovering defensive effort by Palmer to send the ball wide. Even after multiple viewings of the Fury's 59th goal by Stewart, I'm still not sure how Busch misplayed the set piece kick from Williams.

There's just something about the road games that causes this team to not be as successful as they are at home and despite continuing to get points on the road, at some point, they are going to have to win when they aren't at Carroll Stadium. I, personally, would feel better about it if they figured it out prior to The Championship starting. A mid-week game at New York would be a good way to start, but I'm not sure that I see a win coming until the end of the week when Tampa comes to town.



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An Indy Eleven Stadium Update with Jeff Belskus

Shortly after Jeff Belskus became the president of the Indy Eleven, I was informed that he not only had read my series of articles on the details of an Indy Eleven stadium, but that he was also impressed with those articles. To further add to my surprise, Mr. Belskus agreed to answer some of my questions about the stadium. Similar to the way that I conducted the Peter Wilt Exit Interview through email exchanges, I wanted to give Jeff the opportunity to answer the questions with as much or as little as he wanted. Additionally, he was just getting into the job and its responsibilities and a new world of soccer for him so I expected that it might take him awhile to answer and hoped that a more laid back approach to my questions would result in more honest and insightful responses. So I provided an initial series of questions related to the Funding, Location, Design Status, Ticket Prices, and his Experience. I realized at some point that my continued interest in this subject matter and my excitement in getting the questions answered by someone in the Front Office resulted in a series of questions that was too extensive and over-reaching. While I would love to definitively know what locations the team are most heavily considering, I also understand the difficulty in answering those locations honestly due to the potential issues with competing investors purchasing those sites for the sole purpose of increasing the cost to the team. So those were the first questions to be eliminated. I've also had conversations with Peter Wilt in the past about ticket prices being as much art as science in a stadium where they are already playing so to speculate on prices in a new stadium that could be at least a couple years down the road were unnecessary and so they were eliminated too.

So I trimmed it down to the topics and questions that I felt were most likely to be answered and resubmitted. Recently, Mr. Belskus provided answers to all of those questions. That also means that I still have a series of questions for the next time Mr. Belskus feels like answering some more questions about the stadium. Until that day arrives, the following is Indy Eleven President Belskus' responses to my questions.

1. Given that there has been some hesitancy by the legislature, some in the media, and taxpayers and that there seems to be a growing trend against publicly‐funded stadiums, at what point does Ersal and the team decide to forego the legislative process and seek funding through completely private financing? Would a failure in the 2017 legislative session be the final piece to move ahead with trying to fund privately given that the legislature showed this year (and in 2014) that this kind of bill doesn’t get much traction in the shorter non‐budgetary sessions or would the team wait again for 2019?

JB: A new stadium will be a fabulous addition to the city of Indianapolis and for the people of central Indiana. I’m very optimistic and enthusiastic about the potential for a multiuse soccer stadium being built in Indianapolis within the next 5 years. It is important to remember that we received 2 positive responses from the legislature in 2015. While the responses were different (House version and a Senate version) it indicates that our legislative leadership understands the benefits to this community for a new stadium and the importance of soccer. It should be noted that no new taxes are being requested. The stadium will be paid for via the taxes generated from the use and operation of the stadium. We continue to examine all viable options for the funding and building of a stadium. Should a proposal to build a stadium via private financing be presented or developed, it certainly would be given full consideration.

2. How are last year’s differences between the House version of the bill and the Senate version of the bill being discussed and resolved?

JB: After the 2015 legislation died in Conference Committee, the two Chambers discussed the differences and the options going forward. They remain open to proposals that resolve the difference and have asked us to describe what we think works best. With this input, I’m confident the House and Senate will resolve any differences they may have.

Not to be overlooked is the City of Indianapolis which will play an important role in this process. We are actively engaged in conversations with various leadership groups from the City. This project will require cooperation from the City and the State and we are encouraged by the early conversations with City leadership.

Screen capture from Stadium proposal video
3. Related to the location piece of the stadium design, how far along has the Populous design progressed given that there are different challenges to building a stadium at different site locations? How far along has that design progressed? Just the conceptual renderings that have been presented by the team or has detailed design begun? 30% complete? 60% complete? How long is it projected that it would take Populous to finish the design once the final decision is made for location and financing?

JB: We continue to examine stadium design options for various locations. They are all very high level and conceptual at this point. No investment in detailed designs will be made or can be made until we are certain about the location and ready to proceed with the project. The design team will make this a priority once given the green light and can have enough design completed to break ground in a very short period of time once given the green light.

4. Populous has worked on numerous stadiums throughout the country, including the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and the recently released renderings of the proposed stadium for the Minnesota United. The Coliseum cost $52M to renovate and the Minnesota United stadium is projected as $150M. What are some of the key design features that gets the Indy Eleven a stadium for $85M instead of $150M in relatively similar markets?

JB: Much of the construction budget is dependent on the size of the stadium and the location. The $85M is a very early budget estimate and will be refined once detailed design plans have been developed. Budget aside; we are committed to building a first class stadium that provides a great experience for our fans.

5. If the stadium does become privately‐funded, are there additional features that might be eliminated to lower the cost even further?

JB: All appropriate options will be considered.

6. Has there been any consideration of incorporating a parking garage or mixed‐use facilities into the design?

JB: Yes. While a parking garage is not our preferred solution, depending on the site, one could be incorporated into the design. We will make the best use of the space we have available and are committed to bringing a first class stadium to Indianapolis and to our fans.

7. Has there been any thought to include park features or futsal courts around the stadium to bring the public into the area around the facilities?

JB: Yes. Same as above. Much of this will depend on the site and the amount of land available.

8. How do you anticipate that your experiences at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will help the Eleven’s stadium procurement process? What experiences at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are directly related to the stadium process? Pagoda? Project 100? Others?

JB: My previous experience will be very beneficial to this process. Project 100 is particularly relevant. As a result of my experience, I understand the legislative process and personally know many of the people involved. Like most dealings in life, having a personal relationship and knowledge benefits all parties. Further, I believe I have credibility with our elected officials based on past dealings. They know me as an honest and trustworthy individual who is very straightforward.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Indy Eleven vs RailHawk - 03.20

- Opponent: Carolina RailHawks
- Location: Cary, North Carolina
- Attendance: 6,106
- Final Score: 3-2 L
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Miller, Janicki, Vukovic, Smart, Ring, Torrado, Mares, Youla, Zayed
- Substitutions: Gordon 66' (Smart), Lacroix 66' (Mares), Paterson 79' (Youla)
- Unused: Cardona, Ubiparipovic, Keller, Falvey
- Goals: Janicki 20' (assist Mares), Zayed 30' (PK)
- Bookings: None
- Adage goals: Two

I wish that I had been able to find a way to shine a good light on this game, but the simple truth is that this team struggles on the road. Yet, to state that this result was only because the Eleven played poorly would be an injustice to the RailHawks. While it seemed like the Eleven was going to get out of Cary with a draw, the stoppage time penalty kick by Bravo was likely a fair result for a game that the Eleven looked out of sorts, particularly in the second half. There were moments in the second half where Carolina looked like they could move the ball at will against the Eleven defense. Fondy and Bravo, and later substitute Orlando, had the Eleven defense scrambling and the last ditch sliding effort from Ring that preceded his handball in the box was just one of many where the Eleven's defense was playing catch up and only being only moderately successful at times.

Opta/NASL stats for the Eleven defense distribution
In a lot of ways, to me this game had the feel of an old school Eleven game. The Eleven scored a goal off a Janicki header from a Mares' corner kick only to give one back mere minutes later. The new team mentality kicked back in and the Eleven pulled back ahead when Youla was pulled down in the box and Zayed scored the ensuing penalty kick. Carolina took the game to the Eleven in the second half, scoring in the 54th minute, but the game didn't have the recent Eleven feel that they were going to be able get another goal. The Eleven had a Fall Season high percent of long passes with 26.8%. While I was watching, I even had the thought that Palmer reminded me of Jaime Frias. Unsuccessful long ball after unsuccessful long ball. Palmer wasn't the only one though.

Maybe most surprising to me, and possibly one of many indicators of how disjointed the team played was Gerardo Torrado's play. I've come to expect him to play with a consistently calm demeanor, but even Torrado struggled with his passes and decision making. Torrado completed a season low 66% of his passes, which is well below where he has been averaging since coming to the Eleven. He only won 2 of his 9 duels. He wasn't the only Eleven player to struggle, but just the one that was most striking to me because of the way that he has played to date. Statistically, Mares had a decent game and he looked like he left the game, not because of normal substitution plan, but because of an injury to his ribs.

The good news is that this team has shown its resiliency time and again. The bad news is that they apparently don't play as well after sleeping in a hotel and the game against Carolina was the first of three straight away games. Luckily, the Eleven's next game comes against the Ottawa Fury, who have had a rollercoaster Fall Season (LLLWWWLLL) and will be coming off a midweek game against Miami. Given their recent form on the road, an Eleven win against a seemingly inferior opponent isn't a guarantee, but with Indy headed to their own midweek game after that to the New York Cosmos, a win on the road at Ottawa would be a great time to overcome their road issues.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Rayo OKC - 03.19

- Opponent: Rayo OKC
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 7.066
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Falvey, Janicki, Vukovic, Smart, Ring, Torrado, Mares, Youla, Zayed
- Substitutions: Gordon 78' (Youla), Paterson 90+2' (Zayed)
- Unused: Cardona, Ubiparipovic, Keller, Miller, Reinoso
- Goals: Mares 41', Falvey 84'
- Bookings: Ring 11' (Yellow), Zayed 45+2' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

On a night with a constant rain falling through most of the game, the Eleven dominated nearly every statistical category, but required another in a long string of late game goals to get the win. This week's heroics came in the 84th minute by Eleven captain Colin Falvey who pounced on a ball on the six after OKC's goalkeeper Fernandes mishandled a corner kick.

Brad Hauter's keys to the game beforehand were for the Eleven to limit set pieces and for OKC to get out ahead early. Neither of those happened as OKC was awarded a free kick in the 12th minute that Michel put perfectly into the box and Danso put into the top of the goal. A completely opposite start for the Eleven from the way that Hauter felt they needed to begin. Yet, as we've seen all season, you better put the Eleven away when you get your chances, otherwise, you're just flirting with losing your win (or draw). In both of the Eleven's losses this year, they went down by multiple goals and couldn't overcome them. OKC had some chances early, but similar to the way that Fernandes couldn't handle the corner kick on Falvey's goal, Fernandes couldn't handle the 41st minute headed ball from Zayed off a Torrado cross and Mares was in the right place at the right time to blast the rebound into the back of the net bringing the team back to level right before halftime.

The Eleven may have officially lost the possession battle for only the second time in the Fall Season, but that hardly matters when they dominated so much of the rest of the game. The Eleven had 12 corners to OKC's 0. Zero.

OKC didn't manage a single corner kick.

The Eleven put 11 Shots on Target to OKC's 1.

Fernandes had 7 saves, while Busch is credited with zero saves.

And proving me wrong, the Eleven matched their season high cross total by successfully achieving 30.2% of their 43 crosses. The Eleven had multiple chances and were just barely off on several of them. Zayed, in particular, had a few headers that he couldn't get over enough to get on frame, but a wet ball on a wet forehead can further complicate the placement. Though I doubt he would use that as an excuse.

With the defensive players finding the back of the net, Palmer is showing signs recently that he might want to get in on the action. Palmer had a shot in the 22nd minute that was a rocket very similar to another one of his three shots on the season. The power he showed in this week's shot mirrored the one recently and they were directed on frame. With that much power, and keeping them on frame, anything can happen on its way to the goal, including pinballing around to a fellow teammate for a rebound goal. I'm ok with him testing the keepers from 35 yards out, especially like Saturday with the wet field conditions where the ball could take any kind of strange skip. He might not be the next defender to get a goal, but he might find one by the end of the season.

The Eleven's victory extends their home win streak to 8 games and home unbeaten streak to 13. While the team finished their Spring Season undefeated, they've lost their last two away games. This becomes important because starting next Saturday, the team's next three games are away from the friendly confines of Carroll, playing at Carolina and Ottawa before finishing at New York. Wins on the road are the next step this team needs to take and the next three games will go a long way in determining if they can make that next step.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Soccer Life - Tammy Haley

This was going to be just like every other survey on this site, but as I got into it, I realized that it needed to be more than that. I had some great coaches during my playing career. Looking back, though, I don't remember having that many of them. I was with the same coaches during my club days from the time I was about 11 to until I started playing for the high school in 9th grade and then there were a couple of coaches during my time in high school. This edition of the Soccer Life highlights my JV coach during my freshman year. That year, I played on both the JV and Varsity squads. However, it was my JV coach who seemed to really value my abilities and had faith in me to make the right decisions on the field. So while some people may have disliked being on the JV team, I saw it as a way to get more games and learn. Coach Tammy Haley was a coach and administrator during my time at Ben Davis, went to school with my Dad, and I value my time playing for her. However, her soccer playing days are just the surface of what she has meant to Ben Davis High School. So interspersed with the normal soccer survey questions, I'm going to give you some other details of her time at Ben Davis. I want to thank Coach Haley for being willing to fill out my questionnaire, but I also need to thank Sandra Squire (Principal of Ben Davis); John Clark (BD Athletic Director) and staff; Megan Kramper (Assistant Director of Media Relations for Indiana State University); and the internet for helping me find the information and photos used below.

1. Name:
Tammy Haley

2. Role (Player, Parent, Coach, Referee, General Spectator, All of the Above, None of the Above, Other):
Player, coach, administrator, team captain, team manager, fan

3. Soccer-specific Nickname (and any story behind it):

4. Age started playing:
Started at 24 yrs. and played to 48 ½.  Came out of retirement to play in the over 50 national cup at 50 years old.

5. First recollection of the game:
Over 30 indoor national champs

6. Highest level of play achieved:
Played in over 30, over 40, and over 50 national cups

7. Last competitive match – Date (if known) & Level of Play

8. Position:
Played many positions but usually stopper and center mid.

9. Jersey number:
24 & 18

10. Most memorable moment(s):
[Winning the 2000] Indoor national championship

11. Least memorable moment(s):
Same game [indoor national championship], a girl and I collided and she had a severely broken leg. I was badly bruised and sore through GK long pants, socks, and the shin guards made of plaster and another pair of socks.

12. Favorite team:
Any US World Cup Men’s or Women’s teams

13. Favorite player:
Historical: Pele

14. Indoor vs Outdoor:

15. Grass vs Turf:

16. Coaching experience:
Here's a good place to interject since Coach Haley didn't provide anything here, but she, obviously, was my coach so she had coaching experience. I'm also going to combine this with the "Other sports played" question below.

Coach Haley was my soccer coach in the early 90's, but she began her coaching career in the late 70's. For basketball... Coach Haley was the Ben Davis High School girl's head basketball coach from 1978 - 1984, compiling a 67-52 record and winning a sectional and regional title along the way, and making it to semi-state in 1981. That's her on the far left with her 1979 team.

As if being the Head Coach of the girl's basketball team wasn't enough, during that same timeframe, she was also the assistant coach for the girl's volleyball team in 1978 and 1979. A team that just happened to be the 1979 girl's volleyball state champions. 

Apparently not one to sit around and twiddle her thumbs, not long after leaving her duties as the assistant volleyball coach, but while she was still coaching the girl's basketball team, Coach Haley became the girl's softball coach for their inaugural season. She was not only coaching the team, but she also helped with the design of the field AND the uniforms. 

All of this while being in her mid- to late-twenties. Tamara Haley was a 1973 graduate of Ben Davis High School, went away to college at Indiana State University where she was a three year letterwinner in volleyball (unfortunately, I couldn't get any stats of her college volleyball career because ISU lost a lot of data in a fire), and came back and spent her entire career teaching students at Ben Davis HS. I personally knew her because of her involvement with the soccer team, but even during that time of her career, she was involved in multiple things. She was a coach, the coordinator for both boys and girls' teams, and the event manager. 

She was also heavily involved with the Special Olympics during my time at the school. 

Now she's the contact person for the Ben Davis Former Athletes and Coaches Club.

A person with this much dedication to the school couldn't have always been that way, could they? Yes. Yes they could. Let me recap her senior picture activities listing: 

  • Americanism (yeah, I don't know either)
  • Ecology Club
  • President
  • Pep Band
  • Symphonic Band
  • FTA,
  • YFC,
  • Junior Classical League
  • Lettermens,
  • GAA
  • Vice-President
  • Yardleys, and
  • Student Council Representative.

That's a lot of things to do to fill your time.
"In 1971, we weren't in the yearbook or newspaper. I guess we were just happy for any opportunities. We were called the Girl's Athletic Association. We were encouraged to do as many sports as possible even if they overlapped. I played every sport. My most memorable was going to the first ever IHSAA sponsored state volleyball championship game. Now girl's sports are considered newsworthy. Girls who play sports have more opportunities like better coaches, facilities, uniforms, referees, scholarships, and recognition," said Haley.

I would argue that it is because of women like Coach Haley, who not only participated in playing the sports, but also took a significant leadership role in helping the next generation of women athletes that helped create those opportunities. 

17. Refereeing experience:

18. Favorite World Cup moment(s):

19. Honors/Awards:

20. Other sports played (and to what level):

21. Other Comments:
Extra:  It is cool to know one of the women’s premier players, Lauren Cheney, [is] from Ben Davis. She has been fun to follow while at UCLA and now on the world stage.

Lauren [Cheney] Holiday, another one of those females who went through Ben Davis athletics that were helped by the women like Tammy Haley who helped paved the way.

Some additional photos of Tammy Haley's time at Ben Davis and ISU:

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Indy Eleven vs Fury - 03.18

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 7,760
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Busch, Franco, Falvey, Miller, Vukovic, Smart, Ring, Torrado, Paterson, Youla, Zayed
- Substitutions: Gordon 64' (Youla), Mares 64' (Paterson), Palmer 76' (Franco)
- Unused: Cardona, Lacroix, Keller, Reinoso
- Goals: Smart 90'+2' (assist Mares)
- Bookings: Falvey 36' (Yellow), Youla 57' (Yellow), Smart 85' (Yellow)
- Adage goals: None

One of these days, the Eleven are going to not pull out the heroics at Carroll Stadium, but it wasn't Saturday night. A second half stoppage time cross from second half substitute Dylan Mares found the foot of Don Smart (my bet for this week's entry into the NASL Team of the Week) who put it on frame with enough pace that Peiser couldn't clear it and the Eleven grabbed another victory at home. There were opportunities for both teams throughout the game, most notably the 23rd minute attempt from Eamon Zayed that managed to bounce over the goal from 4 yards out. Uncharacteristic of Zayed and a goal there would have likely drastically changed the complexion of the game, but while there weren't a lot of chances for both teams, the ones that they did have were really good chances.

The game didn't have the same offensive explosion as the game on Wednesday, but it might have been a more beautiful game if you're a long-time fan of the Eleven. Don Smart got the winning goal on a cross from Dylan Mares, with Brad Ring involved in the build-up to the goal, all players from the original roster. Instead of losing at the end of the game like teams in the past have done, the team continues their trend of winning at the end of the game.

Maybe as encouraging as anything was that for the seventh time in the eighth game of the Fall Season, the Eleven controlled possession. While that might not immediately seem like a big deal, it wasn't just possession for the sake of possession. It was build-up possession. Probing possession. Possession intended to look for the way to break down Ottawa's 3-5-2 defensive lineup. There was a moment where I couldn't recall how many successful passes were completed between the team as they looked to get the ball into good offensive positions, but it was easily over 20. Ultimately, it didn't amount to an actual shot, but it is a promising change from the Spring Season where possession was very rarely won. Teams of the past often had a few passes in a row and then a long-distance pass over the top. Vukovic still has some of those from 40 yards out, but given his normal placement with those long distance crosses, I'm okay with a few of those.

This game may be remembered for Don Smart's finish at the end of the game, but it's one more step towards making this a formidable favorite to win all games. A "never stop playing" attitude with improved finishing and now a routine possession victory means that they are never out of a game, but can increasingly keep other teams out of it. All that with players like Braun, Ubiparipovic, and Lacroix not playing. That kind of depth should scare a lot of teams as they look towards making runs to get into The Championship. It's a good time to be an Eleven fan.