Thursday, October 20, 2022

Indy Eleven 2022 Recap & 2023 Off-Season Outlook

In 2019, Indy Eleven made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to Louisville City in extra time. Indy hasn't made the playoffs since that game. The 2019 El Paso team rode a 6th place finish in the table to a Conference Final. The 2020 El Paso team rode a 4th place finish in the table to a Conference Final. The 2021 El Paso team rode a 2nd place finish in the table to a Conference Quarterfinal. In November of 2021, Indy Eleven announced El Paso's only coach to date was to be the new coach of Indy Eleven. In Coach Lowry's first season in Indianapolis, neither Indy Eleven nor El Paso Locomotive advanced to the USL Championship playoffs. Both teams had long-term players announce they wouldn't be returning for another year. To say that 2022 didn't meet either team's expectations and goals for the year is an understatement. 

So as the playoffs get underway and Indy sits at home as spectators, my yearly recap and off-season outlook for Indy Eleven can get started.

When your season timeline looks like Indy's, the fact that Indy is sitting at home for the playoffs isn't too difficult to comprehend. A Mariana Trench of defeats and draws in the middle of the season doomed Indy's early and late successes. Back-to-back wins against the top two teams in the league proved that the latter half of the season roster could compete with nearly anybody. A 5-0 thrashing to Monterey Bay just two games later proved that they could still lose to anybody as well. A work in progress is just that; in progress. Make no mistake, Indy Eleven expected that the introduction of a coach of Mark Lowry's caliber would provide more immediate positive results, but a number of factors went against them this year. 

I have long been a fan of teams where the refrain, "there's always next year" is a common refrain, so this year is no different for Indy Eleven. I renew my season tickets every year thinking that I'm going to see more success from Indy Eleven next year. This mindset hasn't changed and I might, maybe, have even more optimism than in the past. Coach Lowry said multiple times in end-of-season interviews that he "guarantees" Indy will be a playoff team, and hopefully a top playoff team next year. Obviously, that's coach-speak, but I've watched too many El Paso games over the past few years to know that he is capable of changing this team to be at that level. Keeping guys healthy is another issue that he won't be able to control, and that was a factor this year, but I just can't foresee a 12-game winless streak happening next year.  

Regardless of who is on the squad next year (more on that later), having guys healthy and available will be key. What would this season have looked like if Ayoze was healthy at the beginning of the year and in the form he was in at the end of the season? What if Arteaga had played more than 21 games, and he and Pinho could have played off of each other more? What if the goalkeeper position hadn't been a revolving door, with the longest consecutive run of games being 10 by Panicco to start the season? After his departure, Trilk, Meredith, and Lewis (who Indy traded from Tulsa for Noah Powder) traded time, with Academy players making the bench at times due to the senior guys' injuries. The success of a team is highly contingent upon having guys healthy, knowing who they will predominantly be playing with, and getting consistent minutes next to each other. Among other issues, that didn't happen this year. With the midseason roster adjustments (Powder/Lewis described above, Law to Tampa Bay for Tejada, Fjeldberg to RGV for Vazquez, etc.), there were still moments at the end of the season where guys didn't seem to be on the same page. I lost count of how many times I observed Dambrot shake his head in frustration as teammates didn't make the run that he wanted or thought they should make. 

A lot of how Indy does next season will depend on the relationships that were started this season and the players that get added to fill in the areas where they struggled this year. Coach Lowry has indicated that he has already had players training with the team in preparation for next year, and that he has already started evaluating players to be added for next season (again, more on that later). Another thing that will help Indy next year is that the horrible turf at Carroll Stadium was replaced in June. Unfortunately, the month of away games in June also coincided with the start of the wheels falling off for Indy, but the new turf is, without a doubt, much better than the old turf that was replaced; even I could tell the difference. Coach Lowry repeatedly said that the team couldn't play their preferred style on Carroll Stadium at the beginning of the season, and so "they didn't try." After the turf change, he felt much better about the turf and the team's ability to play the way they want to play on it. It's such an obvious question that I'm not sure why I never asked it at any point during this season, but Coach Lowry had 3 successful seasons at El Paso playing on a BASEBALL FIELD. How was Carroll so much worse than that? It's an answer to a question that no longer applies as Carroll Stadium's new turf will work fine until Indy move into the new stadium, scheduled for 2025. With that...

Looking to 2023


An ongoing theme in this stadium discussion is that there are large gaps in when information is released from the team to the public. Indy finally announced a location for Eleven Park, and some of the expanded details of how that development will look. That was in June. It's been nearly 4 months and there hasn't been a single word mentioned about the stadium and the development since they "put a pin in the map." That pin resides at the site formally known as the Diamond Chain Company site, located just west of Lucas Oil Stadium. From the club's official press release:

As per the conceptualization of the development project outlined in 2019, today’s news confirmed the Eleven Park development will include hotel, office, apartments, retail and public spaces – all anchored by a 20,000-seat multipurpose stadium built with soccer at its core. Eleven Park will be constructed on the plot of land previously owned by The Diamond Chain Company, bordered by West Street, Kentucky Avenue, and the White River – an area that was recently acquired and is now 100% owned by Keystone Group.
Keystone and Indy Eleven are continuing their ongoing discussions with the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana to finalize project terms this year, which would allow for tear down of existing buildings and additional site work to begin in Spring 2023. After approximately two years of construction, Indy Eleven expects to begin play at its new Eleven Park stadium home in Spring 2025.

Due to a myriad of factors, including the rise in construction costs, inflation, and an increase in the scale and scope of the project, Eleven Park is expected to exceed a $1 billion investment in the largest piece of property in an under-developed area of downtown Indianapolis. All facets outside the stadium project – retail, restaurants, hotel, apartments, and office space – will be developed by Keystone Group. As per the State legislation that was passed and signed into law in 2019 , the City of Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board (CIB) would own the Eleven Park stadium, while Indy Eleven would lease and operate the venue.
Indy Eleven and Keystone also announced three key additional partners for the Eleven Park project as part of today’s announcement. Populous, the global industry leader in soccer/multipurpose stadium design, will serve as the stadium project’s lead architecture and design firm, partnering with Indianapolis-based Browning Day Architects. In addition, D3i, a Baltimore-based international design firm with award-winning mixed-use projects that span five continents, has been hired as the master planner for the project.

My rough sketch of a Scottish style stadium for Indy Eleven

To date, no new renderings have been released, though based on my previous evaluation/discussions (1, 2, 3) of the site, I don't expect it to look like the last renderings that fans were shown. I just don't think it will fit on the site any longer. If I'm being honest, the graphic that the team released that is shown above makes me think of something else I wrote about the stadiums in the Scottish Professional Football League, which I'll reiterate here: 

I have to say that having watched this YouTube video highlighting Tynecastle, and doing my research on so many of the other stadiums around the SPFL, I really wish that Indy would consider going with this style stadium design. For me, it's just a classic look that the new American stadiums don't do. The supporters are on top of the action, nearly all of the seats have some level of protection directly above them, and the sound from them should just bounce directly out onto the field, giving you the environment that Nick and Nicky appreciated.

I like the Scottish stadiums that I've looked at so far. There's a similar look to many of them, but they just have a look that appeals to me. In comparison to the sports cathedrals that we build in America, they have a very utilitarian feel to them, particularly knowing that they are stadiums associated with the top tier of Scottish football. This is not intended to denigrate the Scottish stadiums, they're just a different style than we build here. Some Indy supporters have dubbed Carroll Stadium, "American Soccer's Greatest Dive Bar," and I think a Scottish style stadium would be a way to lean into that part of Indy's history. As I said, there's a utilitarian appearance to the stadiums that fits nicely into the idea that I mentioned in my "Indy Eleven and its place in the American Lower Division Soccer Landscape" article about Indy "punching their weight." I like the idea of building a stadium that reflects Indy. Maybe many in Indy strive to consider Indy a "high class" city, but are we, really? Don't get me wrong, we have some really nice things, but deep down we're a tenderloin, root beer (or beer), and a day at the track kind of people. Let's be honest, a utilitarian stadium fits us well. Field, seats, a little protection from the Indiana weather, a place to be safe from the more extreme Indiana weather, and corn dogs and nachos in the concession stand. All that fits nicely into a Scottish style stadium. Yet I know architects and I know the architects that typically get hired to design American stadiums (e.g. Populous [Editor's note: I got that one correct]) and they would look at one of the Scottish stadiums and cringe. Either way, I suspect an architect is either already under contract to design the next iteration of Eleven Park and it won't be anywhere close to this style. 

As has been the trend of the Indy Eleven stadium discussions, Indy jumps to the next lily pad and then pauses. Maybe we'll see some renderings this off-season before the demolition crews start their work on the Diamond Chain site that is listed in the project schedule of happening in the spring of 2023. 


Coach Lowry was announced in November 2021. Despite some midseason questions from fans about whether he should be let go or was the right guy for the job, I believe that he was always going to be around for the 2023 season unless he catastrophically lost the locker room this season. 

I'll reiterate what I stated in my above linked article, "For now, I still have faith in Mark Lowry. From my discussions with him, he is fully aware that the entire squad, from coach to assistant to starters to bench players, are at risk and are responsible when things are going poorly. That includes him and he has said as much to me. He has said exactly what Sommer told that team after the Tampa Bay Rowdies game in 2014. Everybody's job is on the line, including his. I don't see him "pulling a Rennie," and exiting the club during a post-game interview with Rakestraw and Hauter, but I have waited on the field for him to come back from the locker room after enough games recently to know that he is not enjoying this stretch of games any more than we're enjoying watching them."

This team had a historically bad stretch of games under his watch. However, as players became healthy, other players were added that better fit his system, better turf was installed at Carroll, and guys had more time together in Lowry's preferred style of play, the team began to find success at the end of the year. I don't think Indy sees a repeat of this season next season.


The 2022 season was the first season under Coach Lowry. As I've discussed over the years in these season end reviews, it seems like the majority of the player contracts for Indy Eleven have the appearance of 2 year contracts or 1 year contracts with a 2nd year option. The existing contracts, loans, trades, and retirements that happened this year make it another year where it could be difficult to accurately determine who will be returning next year. However, before I give my thoughts on which players from this year's roster might be returning, there are a couple other things I want to note. After the last home game, I asked Coach Lowry about when he started thinking about the roster for 2023:

"It started a few weeks ago. Soon as we weren't making the playoffs, my head turned to next year, I'm not going to lie. ... But I don't want to miss out on prime targets for next year. I know who we got to get, I know who we want here. I want to go make it happen, because that's the only way we're successful. The players play the game. ... Ultimately, it's the players that got to connect passes, the players win 1 v 1, the players got to hit the target, and the players have to provide that final ball quality. That's just how it is. It's a player's game. We know who we need here next year from around the league that will be successful in this system. Players that are proven in this league. It's our job to try and make that happen because I think we put a decent platform out there. We understand things a little bit more now in terms of the club, the conference, playing at home, playing away, all those things. If we get the right players, which I believe we will, we'll be very successful. ... We want to try and keep it as local as possible in terms of Eastern Conference, very much in the mold of Bayern Munich taking Borussia Dortmund's best players. You get better, but they get worse. Who from your competitors got game? Who from them would do well here, and we'll try to get them. You're getting better, and they're getting worse. ... We definitely want to keep it as much Eastern Conference as possible. Guys that are familiar with the league, the temperatures, the weather, the climates, all those things, the travel. We get better, other teams get worse. That's the goal."

As I write this, El Paso has announced a few different players as not returning next year. If he hadn't announced "retirement," I would have almost banked on Richie Ryan being Indy's #6 next year. Could he still find his way here? Maybe. ELP also announced Andrew Fox as not returning. He's another player that I could see find his way here. Similarly for long-time Indy fan favorite Dylan Mares. Mares is exactly the kind of #10 that works well in Lowry's system. Earlier this year, I asked John Morrissey for help with Dylan's stats compared to last year (see on the right). Dylan has improved from last year in a very similar role this year as he played last year under Coach Lowry. I wouldn't hate it if Dylan came home next year. [Editor's note: While I was doing my final proofread of this article, El Paso officially announced that Dylan will not be returning to ELP next year... Do I dare dream?]. From the Eastern Conference, "we get better, they get worse" scenario, what players from Louisville, Tampa Bay, Pittsburg, Detroit, and Memphis fit in here? For me, the focuses are #10s to feed the ball to Arteaga and Pinho (spoiler...) and a defensive midfielder. Could Tyler Gibson find his way back to Indy from Louisville? 

I honestly don't know who Lowry might add, but as I stated above, I do know that there were some players training with the team before the season even finished. So Lowry was good to his word about getting started on next season's roster as soon as the club didn't make this year's playoffs.

Based on my own opinions, here are what players from this year's roster that I can envision being somewhere else and who might be returning (not including the Academy players as they seem to fall under an even larger variable than the 1st team players):

Gone or Probably Gone:

  1. Ayoze - Already announced he would not be returning to Indy. That doesn't mean that he will be "retiring." Don't be surprised if you see him announce that he will be joining another team as a player/assistant coach, someone who isn't expected to play a ton of minutes but could still affect a game.
  2.  Ouimette - Loaned to Detroit in May having played in just 2 games for a total of 91 minutes. I don't think Lowry recalls the loan and brings Karl back to Indy for next season. "Beans" is near the top of the club's minutes (2nd), games started (2nd), and games played (3rd), but I don't think he will be back to add to those totals. 
  3. Law - Traded to Tampa Bay for Tejada. A player that I'm disappointed that he didn't seem to fit into Lowry's plan, but I wish him nothing but the best. His new team has a chance to win the playoffs, so the trade seems to be working okay for him.
  4. Powder - Traded to Tulsa midseason. Another player that I don't think works his way into Lowry's future plans.
  5. McQueen - Played sparingly over the last part of the season. History indicates those players rarely return for another year.
  6. Michael - Totaled just over 100 minutes of action across the entire season. Same as with McQueen, history indicates those players rarely return for another year.

Possibly Gone:

  1. Briggs - I think Briggs could go either way. He was good, and effective, depth, but his injury just limited his time on the field. Unless Lowry saw something from him in training to keep him around, I think Tejada's introduction to the squad likely bumps Briggs off the roster.
  2. Brown - I could go either way with Brown, but I think Lowry wants a more solid #6. Depending on salary, Brown might be around for depth. 
  3. Hackshaw - I know. I just feel like Lowry could never quite figure out where Hackshaw works best in his system with the other players. Hackshaw worked well in Rennie's 3-back system because his focus was defense. In Lowry's 4-back system, pushing Hackshaw forward in attack often meant that he wasn't able to get back in time for his defensive responsibilities. Hackshaw did reasonably well at times as the holding midfielder, but I don't think Lowry was convinced of having Hackshaw in that role. I could be wrong, but I think Hackshaw will be elsewhere next year.
  4. Timmer - Feels weird to say that the team's leader in minutes and games played for the season doesn't return, but I don't think he does. I just don't think Lowry sees Timmer on the roster if he can find other players who don't have the issues that Lowry feels Timmer has. He is likely in the 2nd year of a two-year deal, but I don't think he gets an extension.
  5. Torres - Loaned to Forward Madison FC early in the season. This will depend on whether the club saw enough growth from Alann's time in Madison to bring him back.

Possibly Returning:

  1. Aguilera - For the right amount, Aguilera remains in Indy as good depth, energy, and effort.
  2. Asante - Lowry brought him in midseason to fit a need. Successful in doing what Lowry wanted and so he will return.
  3. Arteaga - An injury free Arteaga makes for a dynamic pairing up top in Lowry's 4-4-2 diamond system. He is likely in the 2nd year of a two-year deal, but I think he gets an extension.
  4. Cochran - Strong defender and good in the air. Given the height of the other defenders that I think will be returning, Cochran's physical nature helps keep him in Indy. He is also likely in the 2nd year of a two-year deal, but I think he gets an extension.
  5. Dambrot - Lowry brought him in midseason to fit a need. Successful in doing what Lowry wanted and so I think he will return.
  6. Fjeldberg - Loaned to RGV to be able to get Vazquez to Indy. Had to give up something to get Vazquez, but Lowry knew that he wanted Fjeldberg as part of next year's plan. 
  7. Ingram - Ingram was a bright spot for me this season. For the right amount, Ingram remains in Indy as good depth, energy, and effort, but other teams had to notice him too. He might find another team willing to offer more money. Staying close to home, the Pike graduate might sway him enough to stay in Indy and play in front of family and friends.
  8. Jerome - A "Lowry guy". Despite a few more uncharacteristic errors than I'm used to seeing from Jerome in my time watching ELP, I suspect he will be a cornerstone of any Lowry team until he just can't play any longer.
  9. Pinho - Lowry took a chance on Pinho, hoping he would be the goal scorer that Pinho had been in the past. With 13 goals on the season, Pinho did exactly what Lowry had hoped he would do, and so he'll be back. With more regular crosses, and just a bit more clinical finishing, Pinho could be a 20-goal scorer.
  10. Rebellon - Another "Lowry guy." At one point in the season, Coach Lowry, in essence, said to me that a guy like Rebellon will always be a part of his team because of his effort and the way he plays. Lowry knows Rebellon will make some mistakes, and is willing to accept those mistakes, because of Rebellon's mentality to try and make something happen. His injuries this year are concerning, but at a minimum, he will be back for depth.
  11. Revolorio & Rivera - young guys with a ton of promise. Revolorio will likely be back. Much like with Torres, but in the other direction, Rivera will depend on whether Inter Miami saw enough to recall his loan. If not, it wouldn't surprise me if Indy attempts to extend the loan. 
  12. Tejada - Lowry brought him in midseason to fit a need. Successful in doing what Lowry wanted and so I think he will return.
  13. Vazquez - Lowry brought him in midseason to fit a need. Successful in doing what Lowry wanted and so I think he will return. 

Goalkeeper Discussion:

  1. I think the club goes out and finds a seasoned #1 goalkeeper that can't be pulled back on a loan deal like they had happen this year with Panicco. The team needs more stability at the goalkeeper position and the loan deal backfired, causing more goalkeepers to be used this year than in any previous year. 
  2. Trilk & Lewis - both showed they can be a #1 goalkeeper, but who returns will likely hinge on who Lowry finds for the #1 position, their salaries, and who Lowry trusts more as the #2.
  3. Meredith - Was on a loan deal with Nashville and I don't think he comes back.

Final Thoughts

Indy have now gone three seasons without making the playoffs. A fourth missed playoff will likely mean that Lowry will be released since the 2023 squad could be composed of players he has brought to the team. Arteaga being the notable exception if my above expectations are close to being correct. With an improved Carroll Stadium turf and a few months to start to learn how to play on it, the excuse that Rennie and Lowry have been using about not being able to play their preferred style has to no longer be something that can be used. Whether it stays that way or not, Indy's announced attendance has again grown to be close to 9k to 10k per game, meaning that The Mike is once again reaching max capacity. Therefore, success or failure in 2023 will be because of tactics, players, and staying healthy.

Indy fans should expect some kind of renderings related to Eleven Park in the off-season. When that might happen is beyond anybody's guess. When I know something that I can share, I'll pass it along

As of right now, this should be a much different off-season than last. The team has a coach, a solid core of players that should be returning, and a settled stadium location (now and in the future). Given that the playoffs are just starting, and that Lowry wants to plunder from the top teams, I wouldn't expect any player announcements soon, but I wouldn't expect it to take long as teams start their own off-seasons. Whether Lowry can convince the players to leave current playoff teams to come to one that hasn't made the playoffs in three seasons will be seen. 

1 comment:

Robbie said...

Not a strong indicator by any means but Briggs was at the end of the season BYB awards.