Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Mutually Parted Ways - Martin Rennie

The thing about being a supporter for a North American professional soccer club, but particularly for a lower division soccer club, is that you have to be impervious to change. Change is going to happen. It isn't a matter of if, but when, and to what extent. Players come and go, many playing for your club for one or two years, sometimes even less. Players that are around for longer than that are generally rare and usually become part of the lore of the club. In Indy, that has been players like Ring, Smart, Mares, Franco, Miller, Ouimette, Farr, and Ayoze. Some guys find their way onto that kind of list with much less time, but those often are consistent with winning seasons/championships or are just great personalities. 

Managers/Coaches are no different. Long-term tenures with a club often change as rapidly as the players. Many times, the changes coincide. New coaches bring new players. Sometimes in mass. 

For both players and coaches, your tenure at a club can be short no matter what the results of the team. Team does well, other teams want you and give you more money. Team does poorly, team doesn't want you. There's a reason it's often referred to as a carrousel.

Photo Credit: Don Thompson
Today, the carrousel affected Indy Eleven and Martin Rennie.

After last night's 1-nil defeat to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Rennie said, on-air:

"I've been struggling to coach well on this field, and I don't know that I'm the right guy to take it forward so I'm thinking I need to speak to the owner and to Greg [Stremlaw], but I've had a great time here with Indy. It's been a lot of fun and we've had a lot of great results, but here at Carroll, I find it difficult to get the team playing the way I want them to play. I have a real idea how my team should play, how we should pass, how we should move, and it's very difficult to control the ball, even just normal situations. So I'm looking at that now, but certainly want to thank everybody for everything they've done while I've been here and, obviously, I need to speak to the right people before I say too much more. But that's kind of where my head's at the moment." 

This statement raised a bunch of antenna all across the Indy sports landscape, even getting the attention of the sports reporters who never cover the team. While all my inquiries after his post-game came up empty-handed, there was a definite feeling that Rennie was going to be gone sooner, rather than later. Less than 12 hours later, Indy officially announced they were "mutually parting ways" with Rennie. As one source said to me, "that's rarely the case, but it might be here." Another source told me that there was a long conversation between owner Ersal Ozdemir and Martin Rennie during the post-season, presumably about Rennie's return for his fourth year after Indy's collapse at the end of the 2020 season that kept them out of the playoffs. I have a gut feeling that Rennie was given a small window for error during that conversation and with the start to this season, with guys Rennie had hand-picked in his third scorched Earth rebuild of the roster, the window closed. Whether Indy closed that window or Rennie closed that window himself may remain a mystery to fans, but it closed nonetheless.

Photo Credit: Don Thompson
Martin Rennie was announced during the flurry of activity in 2018 as Indy Eleven made the transition from NASL to USL, from Carroll Stadium to Lucas Oil Stadium, from Tim Hankinson to Martin Rennie, and the corresponding 1st scorched Earth roster rebuild. Three years, 5 months, and 0 days later, Rennie exits Indy Eleven as the longest tenured coach in the club history. Officially, Rennie led the team in 99 games, with a 45W-35L-19D record, or a 45.5% win percentage (or getting at least a point from a game 64.6% of the time). Counting a win in a friendly against Detroit City FC in August 2019, Rennie officially reached the #CenturyClub for Indianapolis. For comparison, Coach Hank finished his tenure in Indy with a 25W-21L-24D record, or a 35.7% win percentage (or getting at least a point 70% of the time). 

Many fans have been wanting Rennie to leave for awhile, some as far back as that first season. However, whatever you thought about his tactics, he has achieved positive results for the majority of his tenure in Indianapolis. For some additional stats (including the unofficial friendly), Rennie's teams have scored a total of 127 goals, while giving up 108. This gives Indy a 1.27 GF/GP average and a 1.08 GA/GP average, the latter being the best by an Indy Eleven coach. 

Coach Rennie took Indy Eleven to the playoffs in 2018, falling to Louisville City in the first round. Then Indy made it to the Eastern Conference final in 2019, ultimately falling, again, to Louisville City as a result of a last second goal in regulation and then a collapse in extra time to lose 3-1. Indy's inability to make the playoffs last year is likely part of what precipitated the small window and Rennie's frustrations that led to today's announcement.   

Whatever you think about Martin Rennie the coach, I had enough interactions with him over the years to know that he was a good man. He may have not been able to get the best out of his players to achieve the ultimate desired successes, but he was a good steward for Indianapolis and cared about its supporters and its residents.  

I don't know the next challenge that lays ahead for Martin Rennie, but I wish him the best of luck. Earlier this year, I saw an article in the Evening Express, a news site in Aberdeen, Scotland where a former Aberdeen FC player, Brian Irvine, felt that Martin Rennie should be on Aberdeen's radar for their next manager. The job ultimately went to former Atlanta United 2 coach Stephen Glass, who was a former Aberdeen and Newcastle United winger, and "Aberdeen had entered into a strategic partnership with Atlanta United in November 2019." 

Brian Irvine said: 

“Martin Rennie definitely has the credentials to manage Aberdeen and do well.

“He has had a very successful managerial career and is doing very well in the United States.

“I have high regard for the way he works from the youth set up all the way to the first team.

“Martin has a great footballing knowledge and knows how to get the best out of players.

“It is a scenario similar to Jose Mourinho in that he didn’t have a real history as a player but has been highly successful as a manager.”


Rennie, 45, was born in Thurso and raised in Bettyhill, a small village on the North coast of Scotland. 

He began coaching in the United States in 2005. 

Irvine said: “Martin has a good head for how a club works in terms of infrastructure  – but more importantly he has a good head for how players work. 


“Martin may be an unknown name to many of the Scottish public but he is a fully qualified UEFA licence holder. 


Irvine insists Rennie remains clued up about Scottish football despite being based in the States. He said: “Martin understands the game in Scotland. 

“He lives for football. 

“When we were out in Korea we were following the Scottish game as regularly as if we were back home. 

“No-one has been at games over the last year due to Covid but that doesn’t stop you following the football.”

I don't know if a move back to Scotland is in the cards for Martin Rennie, but I wish him the best. It's not easy being a coach in American professional lower division soccer and I believe he was doing what he thought would win games, regardless of what the supporters thought. I have often questioned his decisions (some of which I can't speak about), this year more than most, but I don't begrudge his time here in Indianapolis. As I said, Martin generally seemed like a good man and cared about Indianapolis.

"Mutually parted ways" doesn't mean that you can't still be #IndyForever.

Good luck Martin moving forward.

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