Indy Eleven well behind 8 ball as season approaches
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indy Eleven have had a busy January. First, the team confirmed a switch to the United Soccer league first reported by Soc Takes’ own Nipun Chopra. A week later, the team announced the head coach that will lead them in the club’s first-ever USL campaign. The 2018 season is rapidly approaching and truthfully, Indy is already at least a couple steps behind.
As busy as the Eleven have been in the new year, fans of the team should expect nothing but a breakneck pace from here until the start of the season. There are puzzle pieces in place, but some of the biggest ones are missing. For a team in its fifth year of on-field operations, it sure looks like an expansion team on paper.
Let’s look at how the Indy Eleven stack up against another team in the USL. Louisville City FC is the league’s returning champions. As champs, they become the standard bearers for competition and preparation on and off the field. Louisville City will begin its fourth year of competition in 2018, but is light years ahead of the Indy Eleven with little more than 60 days before Indy’s first kick.
Louisville City FC will play all its home matches at Louisville Slugger Field as it has since its inception. It’s not an ideal scenario, but wheels have already started turning for LouCity to get its own soccer-specific stadium in Butchertown.
The Indy Eleven have yet to decide where they are playing in 2018. They are unhappy with Carroll Stadium and unable to strike a deal at Lucas Oil Stadium. There is more to this deal than meets the eye. A political game of chicken is being played that is eerily reminiscent of the NASL’s legal feud with the USSF.
This simple concept is being overlooked, but ticket sales are moving along as they should with two months to go in Louisville. Fans know where the seats are and how much they cost. The ticket sales department will be thankful for the boost in interest that a championship might bring.
Indy Eleven fans remain unable to buy tickets. They don’t know how much they will cost and they don’t know where they will be. The team has begun accepting season ticket deposits and Indy president Jeff Belskus has made public comments about similar pricing structures, but none of that information is available anywhere on the team’s website.
James O’Connor, Daniel Byrd and Thabane Sutu have all been wearing purple for four years. They won the championship like three months ago.
Martin Rennie has been the head coach of Indy Eleven since Tuesday and had been out of work since 2016. He is the only one listed on the team’s technical staff page. Trevor James has served as an assistant up until now. His future with the team is uncertain. It is also not known if Jon Busch, who served as Indy’s goalkeeper coach for the last two years in addition to starting in net, will be returning to the club in any capacity.*
“With the coaches I am working on finalizing their agreements, but there is nothing to announce yet. With Trevor (James) he is working with me day-to-day on building the team. He’s doing a great job and helping me a lot. He had good knowledge on our team and other teams. He has experience networking so we are working together on that. I am looking to bring in a couple of coaches who I have extended offers to. One of them has now verbally agreed. We are putting together paperwork and the other one is still considering it. Literally, in a couple days, that part should be a lot clearer.” -Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie
Louisville City FC have 20 players rostered for the 2018 season and had begun signing new players in 2017 with the addition of Pat McMahon on Dec. 5. The majority of the LouCity roster is intact; 16 returning players had their options picked up.
There are no Indy players under contract. There are a few players that need to re-sign due to a league switch and complex contract language, but Indy doesn’t have any USL players ready to go. Former Indy Eleven forward Eamon Zayed was under contract, but his was terminated last week. There are no players listed on the team’s website. An earlier launch of the USL page had listed Brad Ring, Ben Speas and David Goldsmith incorrectly. The glitch has been fixed.
“I am two days into it and the first thing I wanted to do was to try and let some guys, who I knew weren’t in my plans, I wanted to try and let them know as soon as I could and give them as much possible time as I can. I wanted to let them know that they were not really in my plans. Now what I am doing is working on getting the other guys that I need all lined and getting the paperwork I need and everything else.” -Rennie
The Indy Eleven have a mountain to climb to get ready for the season. Why did they leave so much work to be done? Even if they were going to play in the NASL, they were going to need players and a coach. They were going to need a venue. While it is easy to expect USL champion Louisville City to have its act together, it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch for the Indy Eleven to have more than a team crest with players reporting to camp on Feb. 7.
“I am just focusing on Indy Eleven. There is nothing I can do in terms of what the other teams do, who they sign or how good they are…I’m right now focused on getting the players in that I want to get in, planning towards preseason. It’s quite a short lead time in this particular case, but that might not be a bad thing. There are a lot of players available, because there and not as many teams as there were last season. Economics teaches us about supply and demand and I feel like we are in a good spot right now.” -Rennie
Indy needs to finalize and announce a venue soon. They need to hire coaches immediately. They need to start a marketing campaign for tickets. When they get a chance, they should sign a few players. Indy’s first match of the season is away to Richmond on March 24.
*Language has been clarified. An earlier version stated that Busch would not return.
Follow Aaron on Twitter: @AGunyon.
Support Soc Takes on Patreon for access to patron-only Soc Takes Pod episodes, exclusive written content and tier rewards. Click here to become a patron today.