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.

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