Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Indy Eleven roster talk

I've been a Cubs fan for nearly all of my life. As such, the phrase "there's always next year" has become ingrained into my personality when it comes to sports. Last year's Indy Eleven team (and the Cubs for that matter) made "next year" a much more enjoyable and less worrisome prospect. The Cubs look to be on their way back to the MLB playoffs, while the Indy Eleven look to be starting their off-season earlier than last year. I would love for the guys to prove me wrong in the remaining games available, but I haven't seen anything consistent this year to convince me post-season play is in their future. So with that as my backdrop, "there's always next year."

For a minute, let's assume that the Indy Eleven will be playing soccer next year. Let's look past the fact that the NASL, the league in which the Indy Eleven currently play, looks more like the Titanic after hitting the iceberg known as the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) than a viable long-term league. The ship may be going down, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the row boats don't work and that the Indy Eleven can't stay afloat.

Let's assume, too, that the Indy Eleven are playing in whatever Division 2 league falls out after we all hear from USSF about what they are going to do with USL. They too could be stripped of their provisional Division 2 status awarded to them in January and a couple dozen teams between the two leagues could fight to stay alive in some manner. I have the impression that Indy Eleven's owner, Ersal Ozdemir, prefers the business model of the NASL over USL and that he prefers the optics of being in a Division 2 league rather than a Division 3 league. However, I have no idea what to expect of him when it comes to staying in contention for #IndyMLS. I can't imagine he's making money yet with the Indy Eleven, but Peter Wilt told him when they started that he might be operating in the red for awhile, so maybe he's willing to continue taking the risk, in whatever league gives him the best chances to find a way into MLS.

So with those assumptions, what's the roster look like next year? Do guys bail out in fear of there not being a team or do some of them ride it out because they like us so much? I have a feeling some of that is going to depend on USSF's decision about USL and how much risk the guys are willing to accept for their careers. Let's do a quick rundown of the roster, as a reminder, listed by jersey number:
#1 Cardona (GK)
#3 Watson-Siriboe (D)
#4 Ring (M)
#6 Torrado (M)
#7 Smart (M)
#8 Henderson (M)
#9 Zayed (F)
#10 Ubiparipovic (M)
#12 Vukovic (D)
#13 Manning (D)
#14 Thompson (M)
#15 Keller (Swiss Army Knife)
#16 Miller (D)
#17 Braun (F)
#18 Busch (GK)
#19 Speas (M)
#20 Goldsmith (F)
#23 Franco (D)
#30 Lomeli GK)
#31 Junior (M)
#32 Falvey (D)
#33 Ables (M)

So 22 players. We know for sure that Torrado and Ubiparipovic are retiring at season's end. Torrado to go back to Mexico to work with the national team, Ubiparipovic to rest an aching body.

20 players.

I fully expect that Busch retires as well. There's something about his demeanor this year that makes me think he's trying to enjoy a final year as a player.

19 players.

I've been informed that there are three players who are on multi-year deals, extended through the 2018 season, "the rest will be free agents at the end of this year." At the end of last season, we know that Mares, Franco, Ring, Keller, and Lacroix were all free agents. Mares is in Miami, on his way to winning a Championship. Lacroix is at Orange County SC in the USL. So Franco, Ring, and Keller were all free agents who re-signed. Conveniently, those are the exact three players that I would have picked to be on contract through next year. I've been told that two players are already under contract for next year, though I haven't been told what two players. I assume it's two of those three.

Those are the 3 players I fully expect to be leaving and the three players I fully expect to be back. That leaves 16 players who could go either way, right? That depends on other rumors, but yes. So who wants to come back and who does the team want back?

Cardona's a tricky one for me. He's been here for three seasons, playing in 18 games, most of which came in the 2015 season when Kristin Nicht went off to play for Montreal. I think if he finally gets his chance to be the #1 goalkeeper, then he stays. If not, a young guy like him wants, no he needs, starter minutes to be able to improve. If Busch stays, don't be surprised if Cardona tries other pastures.

Thompson, Goldsmith, Lomeli, & Ables are all, basically, rookies. The last of which was added mid season, in essence, being a walk-on after training with the team. Like Cardona, all four of these guys could go either way depending on the salary requirements. They've all shown signs of being promising players who could be valuable additions to next year's team. I think all four players are back next year, not because Coach Hankinson sees them as starters, but because they are young, inexpensive, depth.

Watson-Siriboe under-performed all year. I don't expect him to be here next year.

Henderson hasn't had enough minutes to get a good impression of what he can really do because of his injuries. Guys with his minutes have historically not seen the next season.

Paulo Junior was brought on as a stop-gap to address injury concerns and provide a spark. Guys like that have also historically not seen the next season. Ask Jason Plumhoff and Brandon Poltronieri.

Based on the length of Manning's concussion issues, I personally hope that he retires as well. I'm a proponent of not letting your desire to play soccer ruin your health for later in life, particularly when most soccer careers are over by a person's mid-30s. I don't know much about what has been preventing him from playing, but anything that has kept him out for this long can't be good for your long-term health.

Which leaves us with the guys I believe Coach Hankinson thinks of as NASL starters: Smart, Zayed, Vuko, Miller, Braun, Speas, & Falvey. At best, I think Smart, Miller, and Braun return, but Braun's injury could limit him in the spring depending on how his rehab progresses. I honestly don't think Zayed, Vuko, Speas, and Falvey return next year. I can't pin-point any definitive information about why they don't return. I just don't think they are happy and Vuko's and Speas' play reflects their attitude right now.

That gives a returning roster of 11 players: Franco, Ring, Keller, Smart, Miller, & Braun as starters and possibly Thompson, Goldsmith, Lomeli, and Ables as depth. Cardona subject to Busch's decision. 11 returning players, 5 of which Coach Hankinson doesn't think are NASL-level starters.

Don't you just love Division 2 soccer's roster turnover?

There's always next next year?

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