Friday, September 1, 2017

3.5 Years of Indy Eleven Stats

This was originally intended to be a discussion about the attendance in the North American Soccer League, but evolved as the process of data gathering and writing took place. As a result, this will include not only some interesting findings on the attendance, but also some tidbits about the goals that the Indy Eleven have scored throughout their tenure in the NASL.


Since the Indy Eleven's introduction into the NASL, I have kept track of not only their attendance, but also the rest of the league. Without exception, and has been well documented by myself and others, the Indy Eleven are consistently in the top of the league in attendance. In the Eleven's inaugural season, average attendance at the Mike was significantly higher than every other team, including being approximately 2,300 people higher than the second place attendance team, Minnesota United. In year #2, the Eleven dropped slightly while Minnesota increased slightly to narrow the gap. In year #3, Minnesota United's final season in the NASL before their departure to MLS, the two teams were within 3 people of having the same total attendance in the Spring Season with Minnesota edging out the Eleven for the year.

With Minnesota's exit to larger pastures, the Indy Eleven once again reign supreme as the attendance leaders, with Miami FC a distant second. Coincidentally enough, currently averaging approximately 2,300 people less than the Indy Eleven, just as in the Eleven's first season attendance gap. In fact, the Indy Eleven are leading the 2017 attendance by such a margin that their lowest attendance for the season is still 1,000 more people than Miami's average and 300 more people than Jacksonville's, San Francisco's, New York's, and Puerto Rico's combined low totals. Though, Jacksonville's season low of 780 people really brings everything down.

So the Eleven have been, and continue to be, the attendance leaders of the NASL, with only Minnesota United providing a competitor. Though, as Mike Pendleton routinely provides in his Twitter feed, the USL has three teams right now in Cincinnati, Sacramento, and Louisville that are averaging more than the Eleven. But for now, we're talking about the Kings of the NASL and not all of  Division 2. Digging deeper into the data provided some interesting, and initially surprising results. For example, I broke down the average attendance for all four seasons, based on Wins, Draws, and Losses. Over the four seasons, the Eleven have averaged:
  • 8,839 people during Wins,
  • 9,562 people during Draws, and
  • 9,757 people during Losses.

At first blush, that would seem to be counter to the general idea of home field advantage and player's statements that the Brickyard Battalion's constant voice helped spur them to the end of the game. Yet, we have to remember one of the team's most memorable moments in the history of the team to put this statistic into context.

October 11, 2014.  The Indy Eleven defeated Minnesota United by a score of 2 - nil, in the team's 13th home (league) game of the year. Indy's field-storming inducing first home victory. So while the team's attendance was at its highest in its inaugural season, its on-field results were struggling. As the team's on-field performances have improved, the attendance as declined, thereby skewing the overall results. Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.

What we can see is that average attendance has decreased every year, but may have started to level out as the difference between each year isn't as significant as the year before it. In response to the team's attendance, the team has also adjusted the stadium capacity accordingly. For the sophomore season, the team increased the capacity slightly to 10,524 since they had capacity crowds for every single home match. However, as a result of falling short of that capacity in the second and third seasons, capacity was reduced this season, the team's fourth in the league, due to "the expansion of the two hospitality decks on the stadium's north side for an upgraded group and corporate hosting in addition to the reconfiguration of both the East and West Goal Stands has resulted in an official capacity of 9,563 spectators for the 2017 season". Team sources have indicated to me that the 9,563 is incorrectly listed and capacity for the 2017 is now 9,072 due to the modifications.

As can be seen in the aerial and the chart above, the capacity of the stadium in the team's first year was 10,285 and is represented in blue. As can be seen above, the current capacity of the stadium is listed as 9,072 and is shown in yellow. The adjustments to the stadium lay with reducing capacity in the BYB stands on the West end, the East end stands, the southeastern most section that was partially listed as seating for away fans in the initial years (and has only been used a few times), and a reduction of the seats near the suites. The first of those three are a removal of seating, while the last one consisted of converting the seats into "party" decks. With those listed capacities, the Eleven have had capacity crowds at 18 of their 56 home games, or just over 30% of the time, but 78% of those occurrences happened in the first year. Interestingly, if the team had reduced capacity between seasons 2 and 3 to its current level as attendance fell anyway, they would have had 7 more "capacity" crowds.

Should we be upset about an ever-evolving "capacity" of a stadium that was capable of seating 12,111 people for track and field events? Honestly, it doesn't concern me. Given that the U.S. Soccer Federation's requirements for a Division 2 team indicate that "All league stadiums must have a minimum seating capacity of 5,000," which the Eleven clearly do. Not all of the 12,111 seats would provide worthwhile views once the West and East End stands were added to provide a better atmosphere. Given how few amenities Carroll Stadium has, it's not surprising that the average attendance has dropped. Many people (myself included) are there for the soccer and aren't concerned about Porta Potties for bathrooms and concessions out of cargo containers. Yet, those kinds of things are detractors for many people and I don't fault them for wanting to spend their limited entertainment budget in nicer surroundings. I'm more concerned about the lack of amenities for the players and what that means for attracting players here. The voice of the fans, and league leading attendance, has to overcome those deficiencies for it to be an easier sale. Luckily, that has been the case to date and players consistently state that they enjoy playing in front of the Indy fans.


While pulling together all of that information, it became obvious that it wasn't the extent of interesting stats that could be culled from three and half years of data. Before we dive into the goal scoring statistics, let's look at the three coaches who have led this team; Coach Sommer, Interim Coach Regan, and Coach Hankinson. For what it's worth, I've given credit to the victory in Season 2 to Coach Regan when he was suspended and Assistant Coach Kleberson led the team to a 2-1 victory over the RailHawks.

In his tenure, Coach Sommer overall achieved an 8W-13D-16L record across all competitions. However, he started year two with a 1W-4D-3L record, which ultimately led to his demise following a Kyle Hyland goal in the 97th minute to salvage a 2-2 draw versus the Rowdies in a rain-soaked 2 hr delay where the Eleven had a man advantage (at finished with 11v8) for 17 minutes of regulation and 7 minutes of stoppage time. As the couple dozen fans that remained after the rain delay, Coach Sommer railed into the players about finding other players that could do their job if this was how they were going to play. He didn't see the look that I received in the press box from Peter Wilt during the stoppage time, nor did he know that a couple days later he would be the one that was looking for a new job. With a 22% win percentage, Coach Sommer sits in last place of the Indy Eleven coaches.

Coach Sommer was let go before the Spring Season concluded and Assistant Coach Regan was promoted for the remainder of the year to Interim Coach. Interim Coach Regan had a more successful stint than his predecessor, but only just, finishing with a 7W-6D-11L record and a 29% win record. Interim Coach Regan had the faith and trust of the players and I thought that might translate to having the "interim" tag removed and him be made the official coach for the 2016 season. That turned out to not be the case as Coach Hankinson was hired, but Interim Coach Regan dropped back down to the Assistant Coach role and I believe that was a major part of the team's success in 2016. Ironically, while Regan had a better win percentage than Coach Sommer, the team's Goals For per Game Played (GF/GP) went down and the Goals Against per Game Played (GA/GP) stayed basically the same.

Coach Hankinson took over for the 2016 season and success followed. To date, Coach Hank has compiled a 23W-21D-15L record, for a 39% win percentage. Amazingly, that translates to a 75% success rate in achieving positive results, either through a win or draw. A portion of that success originates from the fact that Coach Hankinson's teams have increased the GF/GP and decreased the GA/GP and is the only one of the three coaches to have teams with a positive goal differential. And that's including giving up 12 goals in the last 4 games. While the team isn't matching their 81% positive result rate from last season, they're still getting it done at a 64% clip this year.


That seems like an acceptable transition to talking about goals. With the notable exception of how great the fans are at Carroll Stadium, one of the major talking points about the stadium is the orientation. Carroll Stadium is in the undesirable orientation of being laid out East to West, which creates a unique aspect to the coin toss. Depending on which side of the field you defend first, goalkeepers are either looking into the setting sun for at least the first half or he's standing immediately in front of the Brickyard Battalion. Over the years, that generally means that teams, including the Eleven, pick their poison and try to choose to defend the West end first. It may limit the communication with the defense, but at least the keeper can see the ball coming. In 61 home games across all competitions, the Eleven have defended the West end more than 60% of the time and in those 38 games, they have a 19W-10D-9L record, scoring 64% of their goals.

Staying with that percentage, the Eleven have scored 90 of their 153 league goals at home or just under 60%, with 25% of their goals coming during last year's Championship run season. Not surprisingly, the rest of the goal scoring stats are skewed towards the success of last year's home results. A season where the Eleven didn't lose a single game at home. It's also not surprising that when the team scores multiple goals, they tend to win. What is surprising is how much above two goals a game the team averages during their wins at home. Even removing last year's relative goal-fest, they still average more than two goals a game. They also don't let teams score much when they win.


The Eleven have often felt like they either score late or give up goals late. In this case, the former looks to be true, while the latter doesn't pan out. The Eleven, across all years and halves, score more goals in the final third of each half than any other time of the game and score more goals in the second half than the first half. The closest thing to a trend for when the opposing teams score is that the Eleven do give up a lot of goals in the 16 - 30 minute interval.

I think we've reached maximum stat overload. You know what they all mean? The Eleven are the leaders in attendance by a wide margin, Coach Sommer struggled while Coach Hankinson gets positive results, and they score a good deal of their goals at home in the East goal.

No comments: