2017 Preview: Indy Eleven

2016 Season Review

Last season began in disarray for Indy Eleven. With an astounding eighteen players on their way out the door, including Brazilian midfielder Kléberson, incoming Head Coach and former San Antonio Scorpions manager Tim Hankinson had his work cut out for him. With rumors of unrest in the locker room, players coming and going daily, and Hankinson publicly expressing his frustrations in preseason, many around the NASL expected a down year for the third-year club.

That is, in part, what made Indy’s 2016 campaign so incredible: it came out of seemingly nowhere. Hankinson guided the club to a 4-6-0 undefeated Spring season, with the club hoisting its first silverware on the final day of the Spring Season with a resounding 4-1 defeat of the Carolina RailHawks. Indy followed their Spring success up with an equally impressive fall campaign, posting an 11-4-7 record in a runner up finish and earning the second playoff seed in The Championship. After defeating FC Edmonton in the semi-final, Indy Eleven fell in The Championship Final to the New York Cosmos 4-3 on penalty kicks.

Additions and Subtractions

Out 

  • D Neil Shaffer (Retired)
  • D Greg Janicki (Retired)
  • D Cory Miller (With club, but unsigned due to injury)
  • M Dylan Mares (Miami)
  • M Nicki Paterson (East Fife)
  • M Gorka Larrea
  • F Duke Lacroix (OC Blues)
  • F Wojciech Wojcik (OKC Energy)
  • F Jair Reinoso (CD San Jose)
  • F Omar Gordon (End of loan from Montego Bay United)
  • F Souuleymane Youla

In

Over the course of the offseason, Indy Eleven announced the return of Jon Busch, Keith Cardona, Colin Falvey, Marco Franco, Lovel Palmer, Nemanja Vukovic, Daniel Keller, Brad Ring, Don Smart, Gerrardo Torrado, Siniša Ubiparipović, Justin Braun, and Eamon Zayed.

  • GK Christian Lomeli (Indiana University)
  • D Anthony Manning (Portland Timbers)
  • D Kwame Watson-Siriboe (Orange County SC)
  • M Craig Henderson (GAIS)
  • M Ben Speas (Minnesota United) 
  • M David Goldsmith (Butler University)
  • F Tanner Thompson (Indiana University)

Preseason Thus Far

Indy Eleven have been undefeated this preseason, registering a 3-3-0 record that featured a pair of 1-0 wins in February over Butler University and a 1-1 draw over USL side Louisville City on March 18th. Indy Eleven also drew 1-1 against USL side Swope Park Rangers and 0-0 against the University of Louisville.

Off the Pitch

Indy easily had one of the more shocking preseasons in the NASL off the pitch, announcing on January 31st that they had officially submitted an expansion bid with Major League Soccer. Indy joined current NASL side North Carolina FC and former NASL side Tampa Bay Rowdies in this round of bids. Club founder and owner Ersal Ozdemir hand delivered the bid, saying “Indy Eleven has permanently established professional soccer in America’s premier sports city, and now is the time to show that Indianapolis is the next great MLS city. We are excited to make the case for our tremendous fan base, dedicated partners, visionary civic leaders and all Hoosiers who embrace the sport.”

It has not yet been announced, but Indy also has a new kit deal, set to take effect in late April. The club will start with Diadora for the first few weeks of the 2017 season. Also, Soc Takes is reporting that in additional to old sponsors Honda, the kits will also bring Turkish Airlines on as a secondary sponsor for the upcoming season.

Predicted Starting XI

Tim Hankinson made a NASL Final run out of the diamond 4-4-2 formation, so one can assume he will employ the same to start the 2017 campaign. This season’s opening day lineup could see only two changes from the side that lost to the Cosmos on penalties in last season’s finale, with Dylan Mares and Greg Janicki both departing to Miami and retirement respectively. Gerrardo Torrado could start over Brad Ring and Ben Speas could switch wings with Don Smart, but expect much of the same tactically and personnel-wise for an Indy Eleven side that lost a lot of depth this past offseason.

Predicted Finish                

Indy may find 2017 difficult without star winger Dylan Mares and much of the depth that propelled them to last year’s final. That being said, this is a squad that still has nine of its starters from said title game, with Eamon Zayed leading the line and Minnesota United standout Ben Speas now giving him extra service and support in the attack. Kwame Watson-Siriboe certainly adds to a back line that was already solid, but other than that, Indy has mainly lost pieces this offseason. How they fill out their roster between now and their opener will determine whether they sink or swim, but for now it’s not looking too great for the Boys in Blue. Expect a playoff contention solely out of the continuity of the starting XI, but last season’s Spring champions are in danger of falling behind the pack this season.

Final Grade: C-

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