Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Parted Ways - Mark Lowry

In the summer of 2021, I wrote an article about how Indy Eleven "mutually parted ways" with Martin Rennie after an odd on-air rant after a game. Twelve hours later, and the club and Rennie went different directions. Today, the club announced that they "parted ways" with Mark Lowry, who joined the club just over two years ago. Not sure if there was anything to the different phrasing by not including the "mutually" part, but it stands out to me as interesting if nothing else.

I think the last time I was this surprised about a front office move was the off-season before the aforementioned Martin Rennie joined the club. That off-season was full of surprises as the 2017 team led by Tim Hankinson transitioned to the 2018 team led by Martin Rennie, in a new league (NASL to USL), and in a new stadium (Carroll to Lucas Oil), much of that announced extremely last minute as the club tried to extract itself from the dying NASL. The 2018 team had no resemblance to the 2017 team, returning just Ring, Braun, & Speas, after Rennie decided that he couldn't see any place on his team or in the club for any of the 2017 players who had just a season before made it to the NASL's Soccer Bowl before being beaten by the Cosmos in penalty kicks. Rennie couldn't see a place for a ball-hawking forward like Eamon Zayed or a goalkeeping legend like Jon Busch. Hell, it was seemingly only because of a near fan-uprising that he kept club legend Ring around. That off-season was weird as hell.

Today's surprise departure of Lowry takes a close second in my opinion. 

There was absolutely nothing from my perspective that would have made me guess this was going to happen. Lowry seemed to genuinely convey to me during conversations that Indy was the place he wanted to be to keep moving Indy forward, and to be a part of the first games at Eleven Park. It seemed like such a given to me, after getting the team back to the playoffs this year, that I barely wrote anything about the coaching situation in my end-of-year off-season article

Could I have misread the situation? Definitely.

Do I think there is something else going on? Definitely. 

The following is a scenario that I can envision happening to lead us to watching yet another coach, this one highly successful in this league, walk away from the club after signing nine core pieces of the 2023 roster.

Martin Rennie "mutually parted" Indy, in part, because of the poor turf at Carroll stadium. Despite a new turf being installed in 2020, the team that Mark Lowry put together still found that field to be less than ideal in the way that it played. Lowry found late in the season that with some pregame effort, this new version of the turf could be massaged enough to play in a more predictable way, thereby allowing the team's preferred style of play to shine. That level of field maintenance takes time, and time is money. Part of the theory behind artificial turf fields is that they are supposed to be low maintenance. I'm guessing, and I stress guessing, that Lowry requested more budget next year for the field maintenance.

That, by itself, wouldn't have been enough to "part ways," mutually or otherwise.

However, and I don't remember if this was said to me on- or off-record, so I could get in trouble here for saying something that I shouldn't, but many of the clubs' groups had their budgets frozen for at least the last month of the season. Lowry likely had one of the highest paid rosters in the USL Championship this past year, but that money was focused on the core group of players. As the team found out, that created a depth of skill problem when suspensions or injuries sidelined some of those core players. I'm guessing, and I stress guessing, that Lowry requested more budget next year to bring in some other players to have a higher level of depth than what the team had this year. That additional depth was going to come with a cost.

Ersal and/or Stremlaw said no. Lowry said that he didn't think he can get the team any higher without that money for stadium and player help. "Then we have reached an impasse." 

Ways parted.

There's an oversimplification in that scenario, and I honestly don't know if any of that scenario is true. Can I see all of it, and more, happening? Definitely. 

As I stated today on X (formerly known as), whatever happened on the field, Mark Lowry was the first coach from this club to remember my name at press conferences after games and answer all my questions, on- or off-record. The last game of the season, he asked Ian Gilmour if I was there. He was conscientious of me being a grassroots, fan perspective of covering the team. On multiple occasions, he would honestly answer questions for me that he didn't have to answer. Questions that I wouldn't have bothered asking his predecessors because I knew they would just answer them in general coach-speak terms. He knew that he could trust me with the information and answered my questions openly, knowing that if he said "this part is off-record," that it would be, which gave me the confidence to try and find out more about the way his coaching mind works. 

I honestly think that Mark Lowry was the right man for the job to get Indy to higher level. The club and even fans think that Indy need to get back to the successes the team used to have. That is not this club. Actually, I should be more specific and say that is not the men's first team. The Academy and the women's side have been successful. The men's first team is, and has been, an average to below average performing team for nearly the entirely of its history. 

  • The team has now had 4 permanent coaches and 2 interim coaches in 10 seasons of action. 
  • The team has made the playoffs just 4 times in those 10 seasons.
  • The team has just 4 seasons with a positive goal differential and two of those have just barely made it to that threshold (2016 - +21; 2019 - +20; 2020 - +2; 2023 - +3).
  • In the team's time in the USL-C, they have finished 7th (2018), 3rd (2019), 3rd (out of 4 teams in their group due to the 2020 pandemic arrangement), 12th (2021), 9th (2022), and 6th (2023) in their conference.
  • The team has made it to one league final (2016 NASL season, which had just 11 teams in the league and 4 of them made the playoffs).
  • The team has made it to one conference final (2019 USL season, which imploded in the final minutes to Louisville).
  • The team has 1 piece of hardware; a "spring season" championship because the NASL was kooky-dooks and split the season into two parts, that Indy won on the third tiebreaker. 
Look, I love the team, the players, and those limited successes, but this is not a team that can be described as being a consistent on-field beacon of light. 

Assistant Coach Gabe Zapponi was brought to Indy as one of "Lowry's guys." Don't be surprised if he departs too. Jerome, Rebellon, Velasquez, to name a few, are guys that Lowry has taken with him from place to place. Don't be surprised if none of them return to Indy. Nobody knows what player contracts look like, but a caveat that I would want in my own contract with a team would be that it was contingent upon the manager in charge. King was in El Paso with Lowry and then Lowry brought King back here to Indy. Did he know Lowry was on the way out? Would he have re-signed if he knew Lowry wasn't going to be here? I think Lindley wants to be here close to family. Same for Quinn, whose wife's family is from Ohio. Did the rest of the guys that re-signed want to be here or to play for Lowry? The guys that haven't signed yet? I have no idea where they will fall now that Lowry is onto a different team. As a result, announcements for returning players might not happen again until the new coach is hired, whenever that might happen. 

As I already said, I honestly think that Mark Lowry had the ability to get Indy beyond just the occasional good season and turn Indy into a perennial contender. Whatever happened between when the announcement of the first group of players returning and today's announcement of Lowry's departure, Indy took a step backwards today.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

An In-Depth Look at Eleven Park

Okay, you're about to figure out that the title of this article was probably my first click-bait title ever. It's also supposed to be funny because I doubt anybody outside of the club or the design team is going to have any kind of in-depth look at Eleven Park until the team releases an article in the IBJ.

It's the Indy Eleven off-season and so content on this site tends to slow way down. I have the idea of an article in the works, but it is still trying to get off the ground at this point. Instead, you get this look at the Eleven Park in a way many of us probably haven't done to date.

There hasn't been any substantial news from the club regarding the stadium design since the ceremonial groundbreaking at the end of May, so let's remind ourselves what the current, publicized, version of Eleven Park looks like from the architectural renderings from that time.

I can't wait to be in one of those seats (or hopefully on the sidelines with my press credentials, assuming guys like me are still provided credentials in the new stadium) for that first game in 2025. 

Let me start the rest of this by saying that my day job is an engineer and that I work with architects, so I understand the constraints they are under. There's normally a need to do things in great detail, quickly, and under budget. Normally, you can only get one or two of those done to the level you want, but rarely do you get all three. So you have to develop the occasional shortcut to give yourself a fighting chance at getting close to achieving all three goals. I believe that is what I observed when I recently, for unknown reasons other than maybe needing a stadium news fix, I started zooming into the image files. I began to notice the shortcuts.

Let's start by looking at the full development view looking west, and let's specifically focus in on the part of the image I've highlighted below.

Match Report for a game against FC Cincinnati. A team that played their last game in the USL in 2018. Trust me, this is the least weird use of a graphic in this post...

How about we move to the Street View image?

Three of the same guy with a lightsaber just hanging out in the plaza. He's not the only one waiting to take part in the Clone Wars, but he's the one I saw the most. 

Staying with that image, but moving to the right side of the image.

What The absolute F!! Zooming in further makes it look like the creepy panda-esque soccer ball is wearing a NYCFC hat, but I could only find an image where the creepy panda was wearing a NY Red Bulls hat. Either way, we're starting to see a pattern of using MLS team images as filler in the Indy Eleven graphics.

Moving to the Balcony View creates a plethora of stock images being used in unfortunate ways.

For crying out loud... In the graphics of a $1B development, we immortalized Indy losing to Charleston in the 24th minute by a score of 1-nil. The good news is that based on other contextual clues, Indy did go on to win that game 4-1 in front of 10,272 fans with a goal from Cochran, a brace Pinho, and Own Goal getting in on the action. But still... All the available screen shots that could have been used for a fuzzy small piece of a larger image and that's what made the cut?

Looking out towards the stadium:

Save the children! They're everywhere! Seriously, they're scattered throughout the image in various forms, all just as creepy and unnerving as the next.

What if we look down at the fans that are sitting immediately below us?

Wright-Phillips. We've already seen a panda soccer ball that might have originated from a New York Red Bulls image, but modified to NYCFC colors. So let's assume that a #29 Wright-Phillips is Shaun Wright-Phillips. Don't recall him ever playing for Indy. Or even playing against Indy... 

What more can we find standing on the balcony overlooking the plaza? Let's look to the far left.

What do you know, Indy Eleven has some NYCFC fans in the crowd. Somebody at Populous is clearly a fan of New York City.

Getting inside the stadium doesn't make anything any better. Given the proximity to the virtual camera, I think Populous was just getting rushed for time at this point. You get quantity not quality. Can't always get both.

She's not the only one seeing herself...

And the Clone Wars are in full effect just around the corner from our vantage point.

Identical Septuplets?

The absolute horror movie of this in-depth look at Eleven Park occurs in the lower left corner of the image with one of the clones and the person with her.

It's one thing to be in touch with your friends, but it's quite another to have your limbs going through each other's.

Eventually, Indy Eleven will release more information on the stadium now that demolition of the buildings is nearly complete and the site work will be able to begin in earnest. Until then, I might play a bit more of this weird game of Where's Waldo to see what else I can find lurking in the details of these images. I'm nearly sure I found a few more NYCFC flags, but who knows what else I'll find.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Indy Eleven 2023 Recap & 2024 Off-Season Outlook

Is simply making the playoffs considered a successful season? That depends significantly on who you ask and your perspective. If you've haven't made the playoffs since the 2019 season, it's at least a successful step in the right direction. When that playoff appearance ends in a 5-nil drubbing on the road, some of the shine is taken off the achievement.

So I clearly have mixed feelings about the 2023 Indy Eleven season, but maybe that's because a team like Louisville, who had a drastically down year for them, still finished ahead of Indy and still played in the Eastern Conference finals for like the hundredth season in a row. So the "why can't it ever be us?" and "will it ever be us?" thoughts are rampant in my brain and I don't think I'm the only Indy Eleven who is thinking this way. Indy was playing some really good football down the stretch as injuries and suspensions slowed down. Then they seemed to lose their way for a couple games when Quinn became unavailable due to his season ending injury before the New Mexico game. Wins against Detroit and Tulsa, and one of the best halves of soccer they played all season in San Antonio before finishing with a draw after an Asante red card, and Indy looked like they had the chance to do something special in the playoffs. Missing Asante, and then Blake, for the playoff game meant Indy's season-long trend of trying to field their best team but being undone by injuries and suspensions once again reared its head to similar results as the early part of the season. Indy had, on paper, one of the most talented rosters in the entire league, but a 5-nil loss to end the season feels like the team underachieved. When the roster began taking shape during this past preseason, Indy looked like they had a very solid core, but might struggle with young and inexperienced depth. Lowry and the club struggled all season to find the players and the on-field group to provide consistent results. With the exception of the 6-game undefeated streak in August/September, when most of the guys were healthy and not suspended, Indy looked like a team that could win the league one game and looked like a team that might not make the playoffs the next game.  

Last season, Coach Lowry guaranteed that Indy would be a playoff team in 2023. The team made good on that guarantee, but it still feels like the team underachieved. 

Looking to 2024


Let's start with "American Soccer's Greatest Dive Bar." Indy continued to play at Carroll Stadium this season, which has the same issues it has always had. It's starting to show its age, it's not ideally suited for professional soccer, it's branded with another team's logo, and it has a significant lack of amenities that most fans have come to expect from other sporting venues in this city and around the country. Concessions continue to be run out of cargo containers, and from my experience seem to have a very minimal amount of items sold from them. Most of the concession effort is accomplished through a rotating string of food trucks from the area. That isn't necessarily a bad way to accomplish concession, but I don't think I've ever seen the club provide a list of what trucks will be at each game. That's something that I would recommend the club provide, even if it is just a social media post a couple days before the game, so that fans/families know what to expect and/or be excited about seeing (for me, it's the Ben's Pretzel truck). 

The stadium does have a relatively new turf, which was replaced during June of 2022, but the team doesn't always have the best opinion of it. After the Detroit victory at the end of the season, Lowry was happy about the turf for that game, but had a poor opinion of it from the previous game, stating "the turf was so bad last week. I don't know what happened. It was so bad. Today though. It got brushed. Me and Gabe got here early and did some work on it. It made the difference." He expanded, wanting this next part to be "on record":
"The field conditions are not the same for both teams. It's not. Conditions are different for each team based on each team's style of play. So it's not the same for both teams. For example, we went to Detroit to start the season, the third game, I think it was super windy. It suited us better, because we keep on the floor, they like to go long and their balls get caught [in the wind], so we beat them. We like to play on the floor. If the field surface isn't great, then it affects us more than the other team. It's not the same for both teams. It's based on style. The turf played great tonight. We saw some goals and great action. That's the reality."
Indy had a better record on the road than they did at home, despite everybody's desire to make The Mike a fortress. Indy had an 8W-4D-5L record on the road and a 5W-6D-6L record at home. With all of that in mind, I fully expect that the team will be brushing the turf a lot more next season because "keeping the ball on the floor" isn't going to change next season (more on that in a minute). Indy, if the schedule goes as planned, will have another season and a half on the Carroll Stadium turf because Eleven Park has started moving forward. 

Indy announced in June of 2022 that the location for Eleven Park would be at the old Diamond Chain site near the convergence of South Street, West Street, and Kentucky Avenue next to the White River. In February 2023, new renderings were released showing the updated vision for the Eleven Park development including the stadium, residences, offices, hotel, parking, and even a 4,000 seat music venue. 

On the last day of May 2023, the club held a ceremonial groundbreaking on the site to publicly kick-off the process of converting the historical site into the Eleven Park development. As has been the trend of the club when it comes to the stadium, there had been nothing conveyed to the public about the stadium until this past week when it was announced that the "The Metropolitan Development Commission on Wednesday gave preliminary approval for the creation of a new downtown taxing district to support the Indy Eleven’s proposed soccer stadium." 

That doesn't mean that the site has been without activity since the groundbreaking ceremony. If you recall, here is generally what the site looked like in November of 2022.   

Diamond Chain Site (Google Maps - 2022)

Below are some photos of what the site looks like as of this past Friday... The building that was all the way to the left in the Street View has been demolished for a few months. The southern and western portions of the main building have been reduced to just a small sliver, leaving just the easternmost section by West Street and several large piles of debris waiting to be salvaged or sent to the landfill.

Unfortunately, I don't know much about the status of the design of the stadium or the initial components of Phase 1 (stadium, parking, and Tower 1). I've heard rumors, but nothing that I can or should convey at this point.  

Photo: Patrick Cummings

Photo: Patrick Cummings

Photo: Patrick Cummings

Photo: Patrick Cummings

Photo: Don Thompson Photography
I'm not sure there's much to say here. Unless Coach Lowry goes to a different team, making the playoffs this year likely saves Indy fans from going through another team rebuild with a new coach and new players. For good or bad, his results here in Indy don't exactly lead to a ton of teams trying to steal him from Indy, regardless of his successes in the past. I also have the feeling that Lowry now sees Indy as the challenge that is going to show his coaching chops. With the injuries, suspensions, and general depth or field concerns, Lowry was forced to dig deep into his bag of tricks that weren't his normal tactics to try and find ways to get results. It also doesn't hurt that there is a stadium coming that will likely be the best stadium in the USL when it is finished in 2025. There's a feeling that players and Coach want to be around when the stadium opens. Much like coaches at universities use their facilities to entice teenagers to come play football/basketball in Division 1 sports, the Eleven Park development is a facility that will draw top players to the team.

When Lowry left El Paso, it was a surprise to their fans, but they had been going through a run of successes without the final payoff. Without the same level of success here, I think Lowry intends to be here for at least the next couple of seasons.


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, and trades that happened this year make it another year where it could be difficult to accurately determine who will be returning next year. However, the all the roster movement also meant that Lowry brought in or released the players that he thought would make the team better. Moving forward will likely be this core, while also bringing in depth at all positions.

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):


  1. Fjeldberg - Transferred to Colorado Springs. for King. No matter how positive an opinion Lowry has/had of Fjeldberg, there's almost no way that I can envision Jonas being loaned to RGV one season and then transferred in a second season and then find his way back to Indy. 
  2. Taghvai-Najib - loaned at the end of the season and I don't recall him even making an appearance on any gameday roster. Signed for depth at the end of the season and still didn't see the bench. Historically, that never bodes well for a player returning the next season.
  3. Tejada - Transferred to Colorado Springs. 
  4. Torres - Alann was released from the team early in the season and I hesitated even including him in this list, but have done so for completeness. Also, something mysterious happened around his departure because I can't find him on any team this year after he was released and club staff refused to provide me with any information on what happened, neither on or off record.
  5. Walker - Already released in September.

Possibly Gone:

  1. Chapman-Page - loan expired, but he could be resigned. Hard to say. He was very effective in his time here, but you just never know with loans. 
  2. Molina - this is one of those times when I really don't know what might happen. He could just as easily be in the returning list.
  3. Reveno - loaned from NE Revolution in August. Historically, not many of those kinds of transactions have persisted into the next season.
  4. Rissi - loaned to Miami for Chapman-Page, so in theory he could have been coming back to Indy, but I think Rissi's play that prompted the loan was because Lowry and the players had started to lose confidence in Rissi. I would be surprised if he returns.
  5. Robledo - loaned from FC Cincinnati. This could depend on whether FCC think the loan was effective enough to bring him back into their fold full-time or try a loan with a different team.
  6. Trilk - After Oettl went out injured, Trilk proved in the second half of the season that he is a #1 capable goalkeeper in this league. Goalkeepers are a different breed so I could be surprised, but a third season in Indy as the #2 wouldn't be good for his further development or his personal goals and he might be seeking a place where he can be the #1 from the start. He wouldn't be the first keeper to return to the team knowing they weren't going to be the #1 so I could be wrong on this one.

Probably Returning:

  1. Asante - Solo has reached that age and stage in his career where he will likely never reach the same level of goal scoring and assist proficiency that he had during his time in Phoenix, but his vision, first touch, and set piece ability is enough to keep him around. 
  2. Blake - His presence in the midfield for the playoff game would have helped just like it did the rest of the year. I think he'll be back.
  3. Boudadi - Younes is dynamic up the wing forcing teams to deal with his pace and effort. If history is any indication, a player that accounted for as many minutes as Boudadi usually returns the next season.
  4. Dambrot - When healthy, Robby provided the same as Boudadi but on the opposite side. Lowry likes his wingers to get involved in the offense and Dambrot is an eager participant in that part of the field. 
  5. Diz Pe - Diz learned to control his emotions as the season progressed keeping teams from provoking him into bad decisions and he became the rock in the defense. At 6'-3", he's a great presence in the air on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. 
  6. Guenzatti - Sebastian played in every single game for the Eleven this year; all 34 regular season games, the 2 U.S. Open Cup games, and the playoff game. Guenzatti was the team's leading scorer and Lowry brought Guenzatti to Indy because he thought Seb could be a double digit scorer again despite some down seasons in Tampa.  
  7. Jerome - Mechack is a "Lowry guy". As I indicated in last year's recap, Jerome had a few more uncharacteristic errors than I saw from him when I watched him in ELP, but he played really well down the stretch of the season. Unless something drastic happens, he'll be back.
  8. King - Played for Lowry in ELP. Traded Fjeldberg to get King to Indy. Lowry will want to keep him around in 2024.
  9. Lindley - A local guy who was a cornerstone of the roster this year. Cam wants to be in Indy closer to family and Lowry wants him in the Indy midfield. There aren't guarantees in the business of soccer, but Lindley returning next season might be close.
  10. Martinez - Provided pace up top and showed a flexibility in where he could play. He could slide into the "Possibly Gone" category, but I think he returns for next season.
  11. Oettl - Until his injury, Yannik was the clear #1 for Lowry. I don't see that changing next year.
  12. Pinho - He left Indy to be closer to family in Brazil. However those issues were resolved, Pinho seemed to be glad to be back in Indy. I'm surprised he didn't get more minutes, but I still think he returns next season.
  13. Quinn - The other player in USL Championship history to have at least 50 goals and 50 assists besides Asante, and Indy's second leading scorer this year behind Guenzatti, Aodhan was a key component of the Indy midfield. He has also started setting roots here with a young family and that will make him want to stick around. Lowry would be crazy to not keep him.
  14. Rebellon - I continue to have concerns about his ability to stay healthy, but he's another "Lowry guy." 
  15. Vazquez - Until his injury, he was nearly a guaranteed starter. Whether his returning next year will be as a starter, or much needed depth may depend on the rest of the roster, but I think he also returns. 
  16. Velasquez - A midseason addition to the roster can often be a hit-or-miss on whether they return the next season. Velasquez played for Lowry in ELP. As such, he might not yet be a "Lowry guy," but getting him here this year could be the start of that designation.

Final Thoughts

As I said in the beginning, making the playoffs makes the year feel like a better campaign than last year's season. Losing as badly as they did in that playoff game makes it feel like 2 steps forward, but 1 step back. For now, I'm clinging to the fact that I believe Lowry is a really good coach with really good players at his disposal. The returning players and whatever gets added during the offseason need to stay healthy (which is difficult to project) and available for selection (which is easier if you don't make bad decisions on the field that get you multiple yellow cards or red cards). If that happens, and the team isn't constantly being forced to find a new combination of players, I think there were several games that get better results to match their good performances. Indy was just 4 points behind playoff-hosting Memphis in the table. It's not difficult to fathom just a few games going differently to place Indy in the playoff-hosting line and things being different.

I'm not a huge fan of using the turf at Carroll Stadium as an excuse, particularly given the new age of that turf, but now that Lowry knows with some regular housekeeping of the field throughout the season the field will play better, that should be one more excuse to remove from the list.

Announced attendance remains high, and despite some changes in the renewal benefits for season ticket members, I think attendance is going to continue to remain high. That continues to be something that Indy can't claim as being a concern. 

Indy's season hashtag was #It'sTime. It turned out not to be (at least for the men's 1st team), but the club has found success in other areas (women's and Academy) this year. Expectations were high this year, and I don't see any reason why they should be just as high next year with another year under everyone's belt with Lowry's system and more players who he think fit that system. Can success breed more success? Guess we'll see.