Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Indy Eleven 2020 Recap & 2021 Off-Season Outlook

Despite any of the successes that can be gleaned from this year, the 2020 season feels like a failure. Indy Eleven were built to contend for a conference and league championship with an expectation that anything less than a run in the playoffs would be falling short of their goal. The roster was not intended to take a step back from last year and watch the playoffs from the comfort of their own homes. 

The 2020 season turned on its head with the suspension of play due to the COVID19 pandemic and the realignment of the conferences into 8 regional groups, but Indy still looked to be in a prime position to make the playoffs. While Indy's Group E initially looked like, and end up being, one of the hardest groups to get out of in the league, Indy was still considered by most to be one of the two teams that would make the playoffs from the group. Louisville looked to be a given, while Saint Louis FC and Sporting KC II would get points off of everybody. Indy's out-of-group games were some of the hardest in the league, having to face Hartford once and Pittsburgh twice, who ultimately finished as first and second in Group F, respectively (admittedly against less than stellar competition in New York Red Bulls II, Philadelphia Union II, and Loudoun United FC). 

After Indy defeated Pittsburgh on August 15th, the Eleven had a 6W-1D-2L record, were top of the group, and were 5 points clear of Saint Louis with Louisville sitting in third after a rough start to their season. Then the wheels came off as Indy finished the season with just one win, one draw, and 5 losses. Three of those losses were to Louisville and the other two occurred in 2-1 defeats in the final two games of the season, which solidified Indy's place as spectators for the playoffs. 

I've said it on numerous occasions over the years that to be the best you have to beat the best and right now, that's Louisville City FC. Indy should be competing against LCFC and getting better results based on Indy's talent, but it can be forgiven to an extent as they try to get over the hump. However, there's no excuse for spending the postseason at home after losing the final two games of the season when one of those games was at home and the team only needed a draw in the other. Indy are, and need to be, better than those results reflected. 

How the team moves past this season's setback and moves forward may be determined by what happens during this off-season.

Looking to 2021


I'm going to touch on this briefly, only because I have addressed it in every off-season recap that I've ever written. However, from an outsiders perspective, and since I can't get any information from the team, nothing much has changed during 2020.

  • Indy still have approval from the state legislature to build a development thanks to Senate Enrolled Act 7. 
  • The stadium and development still need to be within Marion County. 
  • The stadium and development can be "discontigous," but within 1 mile of each other. 
  • Indy Eleven's ownership group has to provide 20% of the cost of the stadium, whether up-front or throughout the life of the loan. 
  • Final approval needs to go through the State, City of Indianapolis, and the Capital Improvement Board.

In last year's review of the season, I indicated that I knew that the team intended to use Lucas Oil Stadium "for the foreseeable future," which is at least 2 years, maybe 3. With the length of time required to design the stadium/development and construct it, and with seemingly no progress made this year, it looks like it's going to be at least 3 years (or 2 more years from now).

I do not have any update on a location nor do I feel like speculating about locations, having covered the stadium multiple times over the years. If I get any hints of a direction, I'll post another stadium specific article.


Many people are starting to outwardly express frustration with Coach Rennie and the team's inability under him to win against the top teams in the league, and particularly, against Louisville. Which is understandable. However, I don't see any way that Coach Rennie is let go after this season. As I indicated after the Sporting KC II loss, Rennie still has one of the highest win percentages of the modern USL for his time here. In a pandemic year where the team didn't have enough games to bounce back from a rough patch (that's a euphemism for the end of the season), unless Rennie decides to go somewhere else or is caught doing something illegal, I just don't see Ozdemir and Stremlaw firing Rennie.  

Though, and I know a few folks who this will make happy, Coach Hankinson now goes back to being the Indy Eleven coach with the highest percentage of games to get positive results. 

Last year, I stated that "I would like to see Coach Rennie take a step back from the Technical Director role that he is also filling and see the team hire a dedicated person for that role. Though I don't expect to see that happen." Thinking about it further, I wonder if it might be best to keep Rennie as the Technical Director and hire a new coach. He clearly has an ability to find talent and to get them to buy into a system, but this same group of players with a different coaching philosophy might be able to push them over the hurdle that continues to block their way, i.e. consistently scoring their opportunities and getting better results against Louisville.


The 2020 season marks the third season under Coach Rennie. Many of the players were released after his first season here, which means that many of the players on this year's roster have been part of Indy Eleven for two seasons. It seems that the majority of the player contracts for Indy Eleven have been two year contracts or 1 year with a 2nd year option. Either way, there are a lot of guys whose contracts are ending. Which means that the quick player announcements that we saw last year might take a lot longer as the team will need to go through more extensive player evaluation. Last year, Barrett, Gibson, Hackshaw, Ilic, Newton, Ouimette, and Walker were quickly announced as returning, likely because they were on 2-year contracts. With the way that this season ended, guys could decide that they have unfinished business and are eager to come back, which could make many of these guys come back for at least one more season. However, here are my thoughts on what might happen with this year's roster (these are just my opinion and I have not been able to get any information from the front office on the roster evaluation process):

Definitely gone:

  1. Contreras - Could he return since he was only released due to the COVID restrictions? Yes. Likely? Probably not.
  2. King - Coach Rennie said often that he liked King and that he thought he was poised for a breakout season. Little did he know that it would be with a different team. Macca was traded to El Paso mid-season and became an immediate starter and key cog of Coach Lowry's lineup and is now set to play Phoenix in the Western Conference finals. Seems like the trade has turned out okay for him and a new set of fans are seeing his well-placed crosses.
  3. Walker - Traded to Louisville at the end of the season for depth. He's now set to play Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals. Seems like the trade has turned out okay for him too. 

Probably gone:

  1. Dumas - He saw just 77 minutes of action in the season. I seem to use this phrase in season recaps, but if history is any guide, that's a bad sign for him being on the roster next season. 
  2. Carleton - I think he could use another season around this group and it will likely depend on what Atlanta does with their roster, but I have a hard time seeing this loan extended another season. 
  3. Farr - This is entirely contingent on what Newton does. As of right now, if Newton returns, I don't see Farr getting regular minutes, just as he didn't this season. Farr can't keep sitting on the bench behind Newton if he wants to be a regular starter and his only choice may be to try and do it somewhere else.
  4. Pasher - I see this much in the same way that Indy lost Dylan Mares. Somebody is going to offer Tyler money that he would be foolish to reject and Indy can't or won't be able to match the offer. You don't score double digit goals in back-to-back seasons without catching people's attention.

Probably returning:

  1. Antley - a young player that Rennie seemed to favor towards the end of the season. He should improve with experience and Rennie will try to keep him around.
  2. Ayoze - at Ayoze's age, he might have difficulty finding another team, though not because his talent has waned. Ayoze is still quite often the most talented player on the field and whose first touch, intellect, and vision of the field will keep him on the field another year if he desires continuing. 
  3. Barrett - Anchor of the defense. Rennie is going to want him back.
  4. Conner - Drew changed the way the midfield operated this year and is why Walker's minutes were reduced to the point where he wanted Kentucky pastures. Conner's effort in the midfield is vital in Rennie's system.
  5. Gibson - You don't start every game if the coach doesn't want you around. 
  6. Hackshaw - May be the best left back in the league. Unless Hackshaw wants to be somewhere else, Rennie would be foolish to let him go.
  7. Haworth - He was Rennie's preferred right winger and consistently had good service into the box, as well as being effective on set pieces. 
  8. Lindley - Cam has bounced around on loan to different teams, so this could go another way, but I think he showed enough promise that Rennie might try to get him back.
  9. Moon - Rennie put Moon in early and never took him out of the lineup, playing in all 16 games. Moon is much like Antley in that he is young, has potential, and will get better with experience. I think Moon did enough this year for Rennie to want to keep him around.
  10. Newton - At 32, Newton has a lot of potential years as a goalkeeper, but he might be running out of chances to make it to the next level. So he might be here until he wants to be somewhere else or Rennie decides to move forward with Farr as the starter.
  11. Osmond - Rennie's "fourth starter" on the backline. Again, I can see him wanting to be somewhere that will give him more regular minutes, but Rennie definitely likes having Osmond for depth for Hackshaw, Barrett, and Ouimette.
  12. Ouimette - He was one of Rennie's first signings in 2018 and as long as Ouimette doesn't want to play somewhere else, I suspect he will always find a place on a Rennie roster.
  13. Watson - Watson has been with Rennie in a number of locations. As I said last year, his age makes him less likely to want to make drastic changes to other locations as long as he is reasonably happy, healthy, and playing well. Watson ably filled the role that was asked of him this year and, like Ouimette, I suspect that he will always find a place on a Rennie roster if he wants to be there.


  1. I'm going to lump all of the Academy signings here, including the ones that left after the summer to return to their school programs: Brown, Folds, McDonald, Nieto, Roou, Senanou, and Svetanoff. The team is going to bring back or sign more Academy players because they do not require a salary and it's good to have extra bodies during training even if they aren't being used during games.
  2. I'll also put Penn and Guitar in this category. As, presumably, low income players, it would make sense for the team to bring them back for the same reasons as above with the Academy players, but with more potential as depth and gameday roster depth. Penn has already shown his ability in that regard. Yet, as young guys looking to get minutes in the league, they might find somewhere else that offers them more money or time.
  3. Ilic - Ilija has had consistent, but not earth-shattering, minutes the past two seasons. Whether that's enough for him to want to stay here may be something that gets discussed during the player evaluation period. 
  4. Rafanello - He's one of those players that could go either way for me. For the right dollar amount, he could be back.

Final Thoughts

I'm generally only partially correct with the player guesses and with so many players having their contracts ending at the same time, it really is an unknown on what the roster will look like next season. The expectation will remain that Indy will field a championship contending team, but that was what was supposed to happen this year. 

Indy really needs to provide the fans (and maybe the politicians) with something concrete on the stadium or risk losing interest. As much as fans appreciate the ability to see games in all weather conditions and the cavernous aspect of Lucas Oil Stadium that allowed Indy to be one of only 8 teams in the league to allow fan attendance at the games, it's been over a year and a half since the legislature approved the bill. No news isn't always good news.

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