Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Mark Lowry announced as new Indy Eleven coach and Technical Director

Photo Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre
for El Paso Locomotive
Indy Eleven officially announced today that the club's fourth (permanent) coach, as well as its new Technical Director, is Mark Lowry. Mark comes to Indy Eleven from El Paso Locomotive, where he lead the team to three playoff appearances in the club's first three seasons, reaching the conference final in the first two seasons, and a record of 42W-29D-19L, "including playoffs and the U.S. Open Cup." The El Paso press release included the following quote from Lowry after the Western Conference quarterfinal loss to Oakland Roots:

“The three years I’ve been here have been great,” shared Lowry after the Western Conference Quarterfinal. “I felt the love from the fans every single time we stepped on the field, personally. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done and what we created here over the three years. They are a huge part of that. We’ve won, we’ve scored goals, we’ve had fun, and celebrated with them. Those are memories that will live with me forever and will hopefully live with them forever as well. There will be lots more of those in the future.” 

Hearing his voice in that press conference from November 5th, in hindsight, it almost makes me wonder if he knew then that he would be headed to Indy. Based on my inquiries to Indy Eleven last week, I have to think he probably did. It's a bit ironic that the person that officially replaces Martin Rennie was the coach that handed Indy a 2-nil loss on June 9th prior to Rennie's on-field, post-game, unofficial resignation on June 15th against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

After El Paso announced Lowry's departure, I immediately tweeted that I wondered if the coaching carrousel was bringing Lowry to Indy Eleven. Simultaneously, I reached out to some people whose opinion I trust and one told me that it was, but that "you didn't hear it from me," while the other one said, "no comment," but then praised my intelligence. Shortly after all of that, Jeff Reuter at The Athletic tweeted that their sources were indicating the same thing. For some reason, Jeff's tweet was more popular than mine. Oh well. By the end of the business day, the El Paso news sources had an interview with Coach Lowry where he confirmed that he would be going to Indy.

I laughed out loud when I heard the interview clip because earlier in the day I had said, "If nothing else, @IndyEleven continue to be able to sell guys on the "long-term goals of the club." Rennie & players routinely stated it & I bet @CoachMarkLowry says it when he is officially announced." 

It didn't even make it to today's official announcement, as Coach Lowry stated in the clip, "Indianapolis is a market where they've had that aspiration and they've tried before [moving to MLS]. I know they're still ambitious to do that and it's a market that can have a case for an MLS team and hold an MLS team. So that's all, that's in the back of my mind." As Colin Deaver indicated in the beginning of the clip about Indy Eleven, "Ownership has long wanted to try to make the jump to MLS and if they do so, Lowry would get a shot at that level. Plus, if he's successful in Indianapolis, he would also make himself even more attractive to clubs at higher levels of soccer." I think Lowry's got a better shot at the latter scenario than the former, but either way, he's being pragmatic about his goals, particularly for a 36-year old coach. 

Indy Eleven made all of that official today. When I asked what he thought about the hiring, former Indy Eleven President and General Manager Peter Wilt stated, ""I love it. Surprised he was available. Proven head coach. Knows the league. Respected by his players. Great hire." Current Indy Eleven play-by-play announcer Greg Rakestraw provided similar praise of the hire, stating,

"I'm a huge fan of this hire. In his previous stops in Jacksonville and El Paso, it hasn't taken long for Mark to turn teams into consistent winners. I think this speaks to the power of the Indy Eleven brand and fanbase that Mark would feel comfortable leaving what he had established in El Paso to make the move to Indy."

Greg's television lifemate and color commentator, Brad Hauter is also a big fan of the hiring of Mark Lowry, stating, 

“I’m very excited about Coach Lowry coming to lead the team. From back in the Armada - Indy eleven days, I enjoyed the way his teams played and felt he was able to get more out of his players then people expected. What he did in El Paso this year was incredibly impressive and I think naming him this far in advance of the season allows him to create the roster he wants. He has shown he can win at this level and I think it’s a great fit!”

As for me, I'm ecstatic about the promise of what Lowry can bring to Indy, having began intently following El Paso after Dylan Mares joined the team in March 2020. After Macca King joined the squad in August of that year, I began to watch even more closely, even indicating that September, that "I have become a fan of @eplocomotivefc and the way @CoachMarkLowry has them playing." In August of this year, I tweeted, "I'm an @IndyEleven supporter but I really like watching @eplocomotivefc play." For my article this year regarding my journey into the Scottish Professional Football League, I had watched enough of their games to know that their midfielder Nick Ross was from Scotland, so I reached out to Derick Fox, their Manager of Communications (and always helpful to me), to get comments from Nick. In August, while pointing out the anniversary of the last hat trick scored by an Indy Eleven player, I noted that Lowry was on the bench for the visitors that day, the Jacksonville Armada, coached by Tony Meola at the time. I'm going to come back to that tweet in a minute, but I think I may have been willing this move for the past two years...

While El Paso plays on a baseball field (and I have repeatedly stated my hatred of those fields for soccer), Coach Lowry had the team play a very possession oriented style of play, but in a more attack minded way. Where Indy Eleven fans have seen a very defense minded style of play the past four years under Rennie and Rogers, El Paso maintains a very solid defensive line, but has a more attacking presence than we've seen out of Indy in recent years. There are about a dozen players on that roster that I wouldn't mind seeing make the trip to Indy with Coach Lowry; Dylan Mares, Macca King, Richie Ryan, Nick Ross, Jerome, Borelli, Carrijo, Solignac, Herrera, Yuma, Luna, Ketterer. Though, I'll feel a bit bad about it for the rest of the El Paso fans.

As I mentioned in tweets today, I might have to rethink my list of what I thought might happen to the current Indy Eleven roster this off-season. One of the players in my "Possibly Gone" category was Karl Ouimette, because of his reduced minutes late in the season, he was a Rennie man having been here since Rennie's first season, and he might be out of contract. However, as noted in the tweet embeded above, Ouimette was on the Jacksonville roster when Lowry was an assistant there. If Lowry liked what he saw in Ouimette's loan at the end of that season, we may see the two reunited again. I think Ayoze, Moon, Hackshaw, Timmer, Arteaga, Law, Wild, Adewole, and Ledesma could all fit into Lowry's system of play as well. 

This was the first step that had to take place this off-season for Indy Eleven. Now that this domino has fallen, expect to start seeing player announcements in upcoming days or weeks as Lowry takes inventory of what players are contractually obligated to return, what ones he might want from the rest, and what other players he might want to bring in from other squads. It's notable that of the names I listed above for El Paso that I wouldn't mind seeing come with him, Jerome and Richie Ryan were on that 2016 Jacksonville team. From the current El Paso squad, Matt Bahner and Bryam Rebellón have also played at both locations for Lowry as well. If you're wanting to do a deep dive of players that might be on next year's Indy Eleven roster, a review of past Lowry teams will provide you a good indication of the style of player he prefers, and may even provide you with some actual names.

Indy Eleven's post-season was going to be a busy one, but today's announcement of Mark Lowry is a positive step in the right direction.

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