With all of the news coming out of Indy Eleven this week I waited until today to post for two reasons. First, you are better waiting to comment and have an opinion a few days after breaking news when analyzing all of the facts of the circumstances. Second, I wanted to wait for the final results of the CONCACAF Champions League Final and the Indiana State Legislation concerning Indy Eleven’s proposal for a new stadium. In this segment of Lady Victory and Her Quest for Glory, I will be discussing Kristian Nicht, the new stadium proposal, and Indy Eleven’s 4-1-3-2 formation.
There are 11 teams in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Having an odd number of teams creates a bye week for each team. As Indy Eleven headed into their bye week on the heels of a 1-1 draw with the Carolina RailHawks, Indianapolis said goodbye to Kristian Nicht. On Monday, Nicht was transferred to Montreal. There are strong ties between Montreal and Indianapolis because a good friend and former teammate of Juergen Sommer is Montreal Impact Head Coach, Frank Klopas. The Impact play in Major League Soccer (MLS) and competed in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League. The winner of the Champions League has the privilege of representing CONCACAF in the FIFA Club World Cup later this year. The Impact was only the second MLS team to make it to the final of the Champions League. The final is played over two games and the team with the highest aggregate advances. But, the Impact were in a crisis situation after the first game of the final. They were without a goalkeeper. Their first string goalie, Evan Bush, was suspended for this game for card accumulation. They had another keeper, John Smits, on loan from another NASL team. However, Smits did not know the team the way Nicht did. Earlier this year, Kristian Nicht spent some time with Montreal in their preseason preparations one month prior to Indy Eleven’s preseason starting in Arizona.
Upon hearing the news that Nicht was going to Montreal the soccer community of Indiana, including myself, had a wide range of reactions. Even though the soccer community was happy for Nicht, some felt Eleven was selling Nicht because the team was desperate for money or outraged because the team’s best player was gone. However, this transfer brings up a valid point. Hoosiers are used to seeing players from the teams they support, most likely the Pacers and Colts, come and go. But for the soccer community, this was the first time we witnessed a franchise player go. It was as if, we took it personal. The reason I believe the community took this personal is because we are not use to supporting a club where we see the team interact with us on a daily basis. Our soccer community for some time now has supported teams from a far. In this instance, a player leaves the club we support, we have no personal ties to. The club and players we support from a distance are not a part of, nor represent our city and state. In the case of Nicht, he was the first Indy Eleven’s player and the face of the franchise. He was active in the local community and could be easily approached. Kristian Nicht is Indy Eleven’s first great player and in my opinion, Nicht’s name and/or number will be retired inside Eleven’s current or future stadium once he hangs up the boots. I can see one day when Nicht come back to coach Indy Eleven to glory. In the end, it was a good deal for all three parties. Nicht has played so well for Indy Eleven he deserved the call up. Montreal needed a goalkeeper for the biggest game in franchise history. As for Indy Eleven, the club has stated before the transfer, if the player is given the opportunity to move to a bigger club they will not stop that player. The only negative part of the transfer concerns Nicht. What will he do living in Montreal without baseball?
Another major news story that came from Indy Eleven this week, concerned their attempt to build a new stadium. Earlier this year, Indy Eleven asked the Indiana State Legislation for $82 million in order to build a new stadium with taxes generated within the new stadium and from a hotel going to help payback the loan. After passing the House with ease, it moved on to the Senate where the momentum stalled. An amendment was added for a $20 million upgrade to Michael A. Carroll Stadium, the current home of Indy Eleven and IUPUI, instead of a new stadium. Then, representatives of Indiana University stated $20 million would not be sufficient enough to upgrade Carroll stadium and realistically Carroll Stadium needed $50 to $60 million. With the proposals having such a drastic view on how much money to allocate to Indy Eleven and the amount of time the legislation had before the session ended, any such bill to help Eleven’s stadium situation ended. I have two opinions concerning the new stadium Indy Eleven is seeking. First, I find it interesting other major professional sports teams in Indiana do not have as much trouble getting a proposal and deal passed for their new stadium or arena. Even though these teams, stadiums, and cities are still in debt from building these stadiums that were significantly higher than the amount of money Indy Eleven was requesting. Second, I believe when IU stated $20 million would not be significant enough and $50 to $60 million would be to upgrade Carroll Stadium, actually killed the bill. I feel the legislation was willing to give $20 million, but anything more was too much.
Switching gears now, I will discuss Indy Eleven on the field. More specifically, I want to investigate Eleven’s 4-1-3-2 formation. The phenomenon the past five years in soccer has been the trend of the 4-2-3-1 formation. This popular formation, which gives balance behind the ball and allows creative options in the attack, has been used by; Spain’s National Team, Real Madrid, and Chelsea. This formation consists of four defenders (4), two defensive center midfielders (2), three attacking midfielders (3), and one striker (1). The basics of using this formation allows two defenders and one defensive midfielder to push into the attack with the other defensive midfielder staying behind with the other two defenders. In the midfield the three attacking midfielders consist of two wing players and the number 10. The number 10 is the most creative player in the team. These three attacking midfielders are allowed to interchange positions to create space and make attacking runs. The lone striker can move freely and does not have to settle for a central position.
Indy Eleven has adjusted this formation to fit their strengths and has created more opportunities to score when on the attack while keeping shots and goals at the other end, to a minimum. Their strengths so far this year has been the quick acceleration and speed of their strikers in Brown, Rugg, and Wojcik, the ability of the outside defenders to push into the attack, and the play of the solo defensive midfielder to win the ball and distribute moving forward. I enjoy watching Eleven play in this formation for two reasons. First, this allows the team to play the ball forward and for the strikers get behind the opposition’s defensive and chase down the ball in front of goal. This is not the most attractive or entertainment way to play but it is effective. Second, the play of Brad Ring and Sergio Pena in the defensive midfield role. However, I do see some weaknesses when using this formation. The wingers have a tendency to help in the middle leaving major gaps on the outside. When facing a team with quick outside midfielders and outside backs, like the Cosmos, this can expose Eleven. Second, until Kleberson is healthy and contributing a full 90 minutes, Eleven will not be a full strength at the number 10 position. MC