Rick Giesel passed away last weekend on the soccer field watching his son, former Carmel FC and CHS starting Goalkeeper Henry Giesel, playing a tourney in Ohio. Great story about him in the Current in Carmel this week.
“Watching Heath and Henry play soccer was his joy, and it is in some way fitting that he took his last breath on the sidelines of the pitch,” his wife Mary said. “We love him and we miss him already, but there is no doubt in our minds that he will continue to be present at every game Heath and Henry play.” Rick was a fantastic soccer dad and the entire Carmel FC family joins me I am sure in wishing his family Mary, Heath and Henry the best. A go fund me page has been set up to help with funeral expenses visit gofund.me/71b1c2f5.
Champions League – Pulisic 1st American to score in Semis
The US actually has a chance to put 2 Americans thru to the finals of the Champions League (the world’s greatest club competition) this season as Christian Pulisic became the first American to ever score in a Champions League Semi-Final match as his goal put Chelsea ahead 1-0 early on. 13-time Champions Real Madrid and Benzema did tie the match up at 1-1 so the two teams will head to London next week with Chelsea with a slight lead as they head home with the ½ goal lead. Pulisic’s 5 Champions League goals also breaks Ft Wayne’s own DaMarcus Beasley’s record of 4. Can’t wait to see if Pulisic can help Chelsea win at home next Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm on CBS Sports Network and Paramount plus. PSG dominated the first half and should have scored at least 3 goals but their 1 goal scored was not enough as Man City recovered scoring 2 lucky goals in the 2nd half to take a 2- I will give cudos to the CBS Coverage as the Pre and Post game shows have been solid and CBS Sports Network is replaying the games at 7 pm each night and again at midnight along with other times overnight each week. The Finals of course will be on Saturday, May 29th on CBSSN and perhaps CBS?
Indy 11 & USL
The Indy 11 season starts Saturday as they will travel to their first game tomorrow at the Birmingham Legion on ESPN+ at 7:30 pm. Just 1 week and Counting until the Indy 11 kickoff the home season at the Mike on Sat May 8 7:30 pm vs Tulsa. Due to stadium limitations only season ticket holders will be allowed in for the games in May –- with hopes that will change in June. Season Tix start at just $10 per game and are still Available. Indy 11 Louisville opened their new stadium in style with 2-0 win last Sat night. USL will have a new show USL All Access on SeriusXMFC Tues nights at 7 pm, of course the Indy 11 are heavily featured each Soccer Saturday at 9-10 am on 93.5/107.5 the Fan with the voice of the Indy 11 – Greg Rakestraw.
Expected Starting Line-Up
GK Jordan Farr
The news out of Germany’s Red Bull Leipzig that American Coach Jessee Marsch is taking the head job next season is huge news for American coaches. Marsch has moved up the Red Bull coaching tree from NY Red Bulls in MLS to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria where he is about to win his 2nd league title. Will be great to see him unite with American Tyler Adams – with midfielder also rumored he may get a look for the German team currently in 2nd place just 7 points behind Bayern Munich. Huge news for American forward Daryll Dike as Orlando has extended his stay at English Championship team Barnesly thru the playoffs at the end of May as they battle for the last EPL slot. He has 9 goals in 18 games and was the Dykes player of the month in April.
Great to see Javier Chicharito having success now for the LA Galaxy – his hat trick last weekend puts him at the top with 5 goals in just 2 games (he had 2 goals all last season). The Mexican #9 has a chance to be one of the biggest stories in MLS this season. The turnaround for the Galaxy has come along with their new coach Gregg Vaney which puts them at the top of MLS Rankings this week. The huge game of the week has the Galaxy traveling to Seattle on Sun night at 9 pm of FS1. Look what popped up on the Toronto practice field in Tampa last week!
GAMES to WATCH This Week
Of course Champions League Semi Finals with Man City hosting PSG up 2-1 Tues and Real Madrid tied at 1-1 traveling to Chelsea and American Christian Pulisic on Wed both on CBS Sports Network at 3 pm lead off the big games this week. With pregame shows starting at 2 pm and post game right after on CBSSN as well. Saturday Chelsea and Pulisic will host Fulham America at 12:30 on NBC – (Tune in folks – this will have the only 2 American’s currently starting in the EPL). La Liga has 3 teams battling for the top and 2 of them play this weekend as Real Madrid host Osasuna Sat at 3 pm on beIN Sport, and Barcelona fresh off a loss Thurs travel to Valencia and American midfielder Musah at 1 pm on Sunday. Sat night our Indy 11 of course start the season on the road at Birmingham at 7:30 pm on ESPN+, while at the same time the North Carolina Courage will look to grab a NWSL Cup playoff spot as they host Alex Morgan and the Orlando Pride at 7:30 on CBS Sports Network (look – you probably have this station you just don’t know it).
Sunday huge top 6 EPL battle between Man United and Liverpool with Champions and perhaps Europa League next year at stake on NBCSN at 11:30 on Sunday AM. American Weston Mckinney and Juve travel to Udinesse in a must win situation on ESPN plus at 12 noon if they want to stay in the top 4 Champions League spots. Here’s where all the American’s are playing.
Congrats to The Indiana Hoosiers who Won their 3rd Straight Big 10 Title and are headed to NCAA’s where they will play Sunday night. The No. 3-ranked Indiana men’s soccer program (9-1-1) earned the third overall seed and a first-round bye. The Hoosiers will await the winner of Milwaukee (8-4-0) and St. Francis Brooklyn (5-1-2) in the first round of action.
GAMES ON TV
Fri, Apr 30
2:30 pm ESPN+, Des Werder Bremen (Stewart) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)
3 pm NBCSN Southampton vs Leicester City
7:30 pm ESPN2 Phoenix Rising vs San Diego Loyal (Donovan) USL
10 pm FS 1 Tijuana vs Necaxa
Sat, May 1
7:30 am NBCSN Crystal Palace vs Man City
12:30 pm NBC Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Fulham (Robinson)
3 pm Peacock Everton vs Aston Villa
3 pm beIN Sport Real Madrid vs Osasuna
7 pm Univsion Houston vs LAFC MLS
7:30 pm ESPN+ Orlando City vs Cincy
7:30 pm ESPN+ Birmingham Legion vs Indy 11
7:30 pm CBSSN North Carolina Courage (Lynn Williams) vs Orlando Pride (Morgan)
10 pm FS 1 Monterrey vs Mazaltan
Sun, May 2
9 am NBCSN New Castle vs Arsenal
11:30 am NBCSN Man United vs Liverpool
12 pm ESPN+ Udinese vs Juentus (McKennie)
12:30 pm Paramount + NY/NJ Gotham FC vs Racing Louisville FC (NWSL)
1 pm ESPN Nashville vs Inter Miami
2:15 pm NBCSN Tottenham vs Sheffield United
3 pm beIN Sport Valencia (Musah) vs Barcelona (Dest)
7:30 pm Paramount + Houston Dash vs Portland ThornsFC (Dunn, Horan, Sauerbrunn, Smith) NWSL
9 pm FS1 Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy
Tues, May 4
3 pm CBSSN Man City vs PSG Champions League Semis
8 pm FS1 Atlanta United vs Philly CCL
10 pm FS1 Toronto vs Cruz Azul CCL
Weds, May 5
3 pm CBSSN Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Real Madrid Champions League Semis
8:30 pm FS2 Columbus Crew vs Monterrey CCL
10:30 pm FS1 Portland vs America CCL
Thurs, May 6
3 pm CBSSN? Para+ Villarreal vs Arsenal Europa Final 4
3 pm CBSSN? Para+ Man United vs Roma Europa Final 4
Sat, May 8
7:30 am NBCSN Leeds United vs Tottenham
10:15 am beIN Sport Barcelona vs Atletico
12:30 pm NBC Man City vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
1 pm CBS NWSL Challenge Cup Championship
7:30 pm ESPN+, Myindy TV Indy 11 vs FC Tulsa
Sun, May 9
10:!5 am ? Aston Villa vs Man United
11:30 am NBCSN West Ham vs Everton
1 pm ABC Inter Miami vs Atlanta United
2:!5 pm Peacock Tottenham vs Sheffield United
2:45 pm ESPN+ Juventus (McKinney) vs Milan
3 pm ABC Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders
3 pm beIN Sport Real Madrid vs Sevilla
7:30 pm FS1 Sporting KC vs Austin FC
Indy 11 and USL
In Conversation With… Martin Rennie, Indy Eleven
2021 PREVIEW – Western Conference, Mountain Division
2021 PREVIEW – Top Five Forwards in the Championship
Champions league Semi-Finals 2nd leg Tues/Wed
Pulisic makes USMNT history with UCL goal
Christian Pulisic becomes first US men’s international to score in Champions League semifinal
Christian Pulisic becomes first American to score in Champions League semifinal
Pulisic ‘didn’t expect to be so free’ for Chelsea UCL goal v Real Madrid
Pulisic Becomes First American to Score in Semis – SI – Avi Creditor
Three things we learned from Real Madrid – Chelsea
Three talking points from Real Madrid 1 Chelsea 1
Benzema embodies survival spirit after leading another Real Madrid recovery
Tuchel: ‘Composure, precision’ eluding Chelsea finishers as Werner ‘angry’
Chelsea’s Tuchel criticises Champions League reforms: ‘Quantity, not quality’
Pulisic Update after West Ham Win
Premier League run-in: What’s the latest in the top four battle?
Premier League run-in: What is the relegation situation?
Muslim soccer player thanks opponent for allowing him to break Ramadan fast in-game
USMNT prospect Balogun signs new Arsenal contract
Henry and Shearer inducted into Premier League Hall of Fame
Galaxy’s Hot Start not Just 5 Goals from Chicharito
‘Chicharito’ scores first MLS hat trick in Galaxy’s victory over Red Bulls
Nagelsmann to Bayern, Marsch to Leipzig: Bundesliga’s top clubs in transition
Advantage Barca, Bayern champagne on ice, ‘King’ Burak: Talking points from around Europe
Atletico defeat by Athletic Bilbao hands initiative to Barcelona
Inter on brink of Serie A title with ‘nine point’ win, Atalanta move second
Teams set to be allowed 26-man squads for Euro 2020
Danish FA calls for FIFA ‘action’ on Qatar World Cup
Nagelsmann to become new Bayern Munich coach
UEFA to probe Ibrahimovic’s alleged betting company investment
Pulisic Watch: USMNT star scores, draws 6 fouls v Real Madrid (video)
Nicholas MendolaTue, April 27, 2021, 3:23 PM
Christian Pulisic could’ve had at least one assist by the time he took matters into his feet in the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Real Madrid on Tuesday.Pulisic was at the heart of everything Chelsea was doing early at the Bernabeu, and he put the Blues up 1-0 within a quarter-hour of kickoff.Moments after Pulisic’s cross-box header to Timo Werner was denied by ex-Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois, the American took advantage of the goalkeeper when given acres of space in the Madrid box.Antonio Rudiger looped a pass over the Madrid defense, and Raphael Varane had no idea that Pulisic had zipped behind him.The USMNT star was calm with the ball as only Courtois came near him, touching around the keeper before smashing a shot off Varane’s shoulder and into the goal.Pulisic’s fifth Champions League goal is easily his most important and gives him two for the Blues this season and three in his Chelsea career.
7th minute: There have been some quick touches and tidy passes as Pulisic and Chelsea have held onto early possession but the chess feel of a late stage first leg is apparent.
9th minute: There’s an assi— oh no! Ex-Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois makes a terrific leg save on Timo Werner after Pulisic heads a deflected ball into a very xG place for his German center forward.
12th minute: A big part of the combination play as Chelsea brings the ball from right to left before Ben Chilwell’s cross goes out for a corner.
15th minute: He’s got their attention now — Pulisic scythed down by Nacho Fernandez at midfield.
22nd minute: The American leads a rush but a combination of miscommunication with Werner and a slightly-too-hard pass find the ball out of bounds for a goal kick.
25th minute: He’s got the ball off an incisive square pass and cut a ball back toward the top of the box but Chilwell mishits his drive through traffic and it’s wide for a goal kick.
41st minute: A quiet spell after Real equalizes, Pulisic is in the center of a three-wide rush and has the ball but Werner moves toward him instead of stretching the defense and seems confused when Pulisic plays the obvious ball. Werner smashes wide.
66th minute: A cagey if quieter start to the second half sees Pulisic subbed off with Werner, as Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech enter the fray.
FT statistics: 54 touches, 25-of-28 passes completed, three key passes, 54 touches, 13-of-19 duels won, six fouls drawn, two tackles, goal.
Pulisic Scores vs. Real Madrid, Becomes Third USMNT Player to Feature in UCL Semifinals
AVI CREDITORUPDATED:b APR 27, 2021 SI
Christian Pulisic joined exclusive company on Tuesday with his appearance for Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals, becoming just the third U.S. men’s national team player to feature on such a lofty stage—and the first to score on it.Pulisic joined Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, 2020) and DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven, 2005) with his showing vs. Real Madrid in the first leg of their semifinal clash, and he scored the opener to put Chelsea on the right path in a 1-1 draw. Pulisic joins Beasley as the only U.S. players to start a semifinal match, as Adams came off the bench for Leipzig vs. PSG last season following his heroic goal in the quarterfinals that clinched the club’s place in the final four.
Pulisic’s appearance comes nearly 16 years to the day Beasley started vs. AC Milan in a series that PSV ultimately lost on the away-goal tiebreaker. Pulisic will hope for a different fate, which could present him with the opportunity to become the first U.S. player in a Champions League final. Jovan Kirovski was part of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League–winning team in 1997, but he did not feature for the club that deep in its title run.On Tuesday, Pulisic very nearly helped give Chelsea the lead in the ninth minute, teeing up Timo Werner for an early point-blank chance only to have Thibaut Courtois make the save.He wound up taking matters into his own hands five minutes later, taking a long ball down from Antonio Rüdiger, rounding Courtois and showing his composure in the box before finishing for a key away goal. In doing so, he became the first U.S. player to score against Real Madrid and he became the highest-scoring U.S. player in Champions League play with five goals.Pulisic, who called the goal a “proud moment” in his postmatch remarks, exited as part of a triple substitution in the 66th minute, with Chelsea level at 1-1 following Karim Benzema’s 29th-minute equalizer.Pulisic has endured an up-and-down season at Chelsea, one beset by injuries and then required him to win back his place under Thomas Tuchel, who was the coach that gave him his first-team break when the two were together at Dortmund. He’s rounded into form recently, with three goals in his previous six appearances, including a pair against Crystal Palace in Premier League play on April 10.”I feel very confident in my body and fitness level at the moment,” Pulisic said on Monday in his prematch comments. “I have played a string of games. I had some time out in the past year and a bit. It is really just about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every game. I feel good about that right now.”Before Tuesday’s strike, Pulisic had one goal in the Champions League this season, which came against Krasnodar in the group stage. His most significant Champions League goal in his brief career to date came in the 2017 knockout stage when he helped Dortmund get by Benfica in the round of 16.His latest goal adds to what’s been a history-making season abroad for U.S. men’s national team players. Man City goalkeeper Zack Steffen became the fourth American to win the League Cup with his shutout of Tottenham last Sunday (he’s expected to be City’s backup vs. PSG in the other Champions League semifinal on Wednesday). Sergiño Dest became the first U.S. international to win the Copa del Rey after helping Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao earlier this month. In January, Weston McKennie won the Italian Super Cup with Juventus, while this past weekend, Mark McKenzie won the Belgian Cup title with Genk.
Marsch’s Leipzig Move a Step Up Red Bull’s Ladder and a Giant Leap for U.S. Coaches
While U.S. players are breaking glass ceilings in Europe, coaches still have a ways to climb, but no one has positioned himself better than RB Leipzig’s new manager, Jesse Marsch.
BRIAN STRAUS APR 29, 2021
It would have been fitting if Neil Armstrong were still alive and available to break the news.Jesse Marsch’s managerial move from Austrian champion Red Bull Salzburg to German contender RB Leipzig is, in several ways, a small step. He’ll be working for the same bosses at the same company, wearing an almost identical logo and coaching a similar style of play. Marsch won’t even have to study a new language.In other potentially historic ways, however, Thursday’s announcement represents a giant leap for the U.S. game. It has been a season-plus of breakthroughs by U.S. players in Europe, many of whom have started to set new standards for Americans abroad. Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and their compatriots are redefining what’s possible. They’re proving to the powers that be that Americans can play the game at the highest level.Convincing them that U.S. players know the game, however, has been tougher. U.S. coaches remain largely sidelined by skepticism, inertia and the lack of an established pathway to Europe’s top leagues. Bob Bradley got his chance toward the end of 2016 at U.S.-owned Swansea City, but he was saddled with a struggling team and overwhelmed by doubters from the start. He used funny but intolerable phrases like “road game” and had American mannerisms, and when Swansea lost three Premier League matches in a row that December, he was gone. Bradley lasted 11 games. The benefit of the doubt had been less than zero.David Wagner (formerly of Huddersfield Town and Schalke 04) and Pellegrino Matarazzo (VfB Stuttgart) have managed in Europe’s “big five” leagues, but neither developed as coaches in the USA. Wagner, whose father is American, was born in Frankfurt and has spent his entire life in Europe. Matarazzo, who’s from New Jersey, has been in Germany for more than 20 years and got into coaching after spending a decade playing in the country’s lower tiers. He rose through the German ranks.Marsch is U.S. born and bred, and so, like Bradley, he’s vying to be considered an exception to what’s felt like a couple of almost ironclad rules: U.S. players don’t understand soccer, and they can’t lead or inspire a European locker room. It has taken years to forge a players’ pathway to Europe, and it’s still somewhat tenuous. Delivering a U.S. coach to a club like RB Leipzig, which was a Champions League semifinalist in 2020, always was going to require something a bit more novel—something that would cut through the skepticism and insulate a coach while he grew accustomed to the European game.Enter Red Bull. Bemoan New York’s status as the secondary appendage of a global soccer conglomerate all you like, but without the MLS team’s ties to Austria and Germany, Marsch never steps foot on a path that leads toward the top of the Bundesliga. After his 2012 departure from the Montreal Impact (reportedly by mutual consent), Marsch was hired by New York in the wake of the sudden dismissal of fan favorite Mike Petke. It was a moment of inflection for the club and its supporters and an opportunity for Marsch to prove himself in a skeptical environment. He blossomed, mastering Red Bull’s system of play while leading the team to the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2015. Marsch also shepherded Adams from the club’s USL Championship side to the first team, helping him become the elite midfielder who’d make his own way to Leipzig in 2019. https://d1e279f99c04e0b4e0cc992f5ed5561e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html Red Bull’s teams are closely integrated, and Marsch had earned the trust of his colleagues and passed every audition. He trusted them in return, electing to leave New York in the summer of 2018 for an assistant’s role in Leipzig. It was a step back in seniority that prepared him for a subsequent leap forward. When Marco Rose departed Salzburg for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer of 2019, Marsch stepped in as the seamless replacement.“Pedigree still matters a lot to people in Europe,” Marsch told The Guardian in 2019. “A year in the Bundesliga as an assistant and working under Ralf Rangnick gave me a little bit more to put in my back pocket to go into the next job. It has helped me be better at my job, but it’s also helped the perception of me here.”Salzburg was already an Austrian juggernaut, having won six consecutive league championships before Marsch arrived. But there was still plenty to prove. This was a head coaching gig in Europe. The dressing room would be his. The expectations and standards were high, and the Champions League beckoned.“My goal was to assimilate, to be myself, but to also honor the culture that I’m working in,” he told The Guardian.Marsch once again aced his exams, winning the domestic double with Salzburg, unleashing Erling Haaland on Europe and giving Liverpool and Napoli all they could handle in the continent’s biggest competition.“I couldn’t have more respect for what Salzburg are doing here, the way they play football,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said following the second game between the clubs. “Massive respect for Jesse and what they did.”That respect seems to have spread a bit throughout Europe. Marsch was linked to Borussia Dortmund over the winter, to Celtic last month and to Tottenham Hotspur this week. Whether or not those connections were legitimate, seeing an American’s name mentioned in those reports represents a big step. But Leipzig always was his most logical destination. Every Red Bull team is a feeder team—and like every German side, RB Leipzig supplies Bayern Munich. When Julian Nagelsmann announced on Tuesday his intention to take over the German champions this summer, Marsch immediately was listed among the favorites to succeed him in Leipzig. The confirmation came quickly. Marsch’s two-year contract begins July 1.It’ll be the most significant, high-profile test ever faced by a U.S. coach at the club level. And Marsch’s performance could have a lasting impact on the width of that transatlantic managerial pathway. He needed Red Bull to help blaze the trail, but now he’ll rise or fall on his own merit. He’ll be at the apex of the Red Bull pyramid, where results matter as much or more than development. He seems ready. He’s proven himself at every stop, and he’ll have the organization’s best players and resources at his disposal—along with the pressure that comes with Champions League expectations.”I love football—training, tactics, all of it,” Marsch told the BBC last month. “But people and relationships is what really makes me tick. And ultimately if you were to ask me why I came to Europe, it was to see if my idea of relationships and leadership could function in the most competitive environment in our sport.”His command of training, tactics and building relationships has taken him to the top at Red Bull, and further than any U.S. coach has gone before. Now he’ll really see if his ideas will work at the highest level, while the rest of the world gets its first look at an American doing the same.
Indy Eleven 2021 Season Preview
By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org, 04/20/21, 5:00PM EDT
Having advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2019, Indy Eleven’s flying start to the 2020 season that saw it win four consecutive games and five of its first six supplied the belief that the side could go one better last year. Instead, a second-half swoon that included three consecutive defeats to rival Louisville City FC and two to Sporting Kansas City II helped the postseason slide away after a final-game defeat to Saint Louis FC.It’s hard to figure where things went wrong, but regardless the Boys in Blue are going to have plenty of new faces for the 2021 season after a busy offseason in the transfer market. Both leading scorer Tyler Pasher (Houston Dynamo FC) and goalkeeper Evan Newton (Vancouver Whitecaps FC) were sold to Major League Soccer clubs, while potential newcomer Cal Jennings was sold to Los Angeles FC before playing a game for Indy after signing as a free agent earlier in the offseason.That said, there’s plenty of new talent coming on board, especially to replace Pasher’s absence in attack. Fellow Canadian Jordan Hamilton has produced impressively in previous stints on loan in the Championship from Toronto FC, while Gordon Wild and Manuel Arteaga also look like solid options to join the returning Nick Moon. Another new arrival is defender AJ Cochran, who could team with Karl Ouimette and Neveal Hackshaw to make a solid back three. After last year’s disappointment, things are set up for a positive rebound for Head Coach Martin Rennie’s squad.
TWO TO WATCH
Jordan Hamilton, Forward
Looking to replace Tyler Pasher – who notched 21 goals over the past two seasons – Indy brought in another forward from north of the border who could have just as large an impact on their attacking fortunes. Jordan Hamilton never quite found a breakthrough in Major League Soccer, although he did notch 11 goals in more than 50 appearances between Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC. While on loan in the Championship, though, he proved he’s capable at this level. Hamilton recorded eight goals in 10 games in the 2019 season, averaging a tally every 92.4 minutes. Indy will be hoping their new arrival is up there with the Golden Boot contenders.
The Spaniard may now be 35 years old, but his ageless ability to create and defend makes him an ideal fit as the left-sided wing back for Head Coach Martin Rennie’s system. Ayoze has notched 16 assists over Indy’s first three seasons in the Championship and has continued to shine so far in preseason ahead of the new campaign. Ayoze’s ability to create will certainly be welcome for Hamilton, Gordon Wild and Manuel Arteaga as they look to make their mark on Indy’s attack.
Jordan Hamilton, Forward: The Canadian brings experience from both MLS and the Championship
Aboubacar Sissoko, Midfielder: Shone in Canadian Premier League for HFX Wanderers in 2020
AJ Cochran, Defender: Former Championship All-League selection makes way from Phoenix
Manuel Arteaga, Forward: Venezuelan forward has played previously in Copa Libertadores
Tyler Pasher: Transferred to Houston Dynamo FC
Evan Newton: Transferred to Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Conner Antley: Signed with Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tyler Gibson: Signed with Louisville City FC
In Conversation With… Coach Martin Rennie, Indy Eleven
By NICHOLAS MURRAY – email@example.com, 04/29/21, 8:00AM EDT
AHEAD OF HIS CLUB’S SEASON OPENER, WE GO IN-DEPTH WITH THE BOSS OF THE BOYS IN BLUE
After a busy offseason that saw numerous players moved on via transfer to Major League Soccer clubs and the recruitment of high-profile replacements, Indy Eleven kicks off its 2021 USL Championship season this Saturday night with a visit to Birmingham Legion FC (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+).
USLChampionship.com’s Nicholas Murray caught up with Indy Head Coach Martin Rennie to talk about new Houston Dynamo player Tyler Pasher, getting his break in Cleveland, what it means to be returning to Michael A. Carroll Stadium permanently, and the players he’s most excited to have aboard for the new campaign.
This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Nicholas Murray: So, have you been keeping up with Tyler Pasher the last couple of weeks?
Martin Rennie: Yeah, I’ve noticed he’s done well the first couple of games. Not surprised at all, though, it took us three years to really get him going, but he’s a great player, got great ability.
NM: How does it make you feel to see him not only getting starting minutes for the Dynamo, but looking sharp in the way he’s performing?
MR: Not surprised, but really happy. That was the thing, he was with us for three years and the first year he didn’t really play, had a lot of things to work through and I think we worked very hard to help him, but his ability is way beyond. I think his level is above MLS, he can play at a level higher than that, it’s just whether he can put it all together and find that little edge that you need to have. Technically and physically, he’s a top, top player.
NM: I’ve got to say, it’s been really exciting for me given how much I’ve enjoyed talking with and watching him play. It feels like it used to be mostly defenders that could move up from the Championship and find a solid starting spot somewhere, this feels new with an attacking player like Tyler starting to shine a bit more brightly.
MR: Exactly, and we sold four players in this window, and while Evan [Newton] was a goalkeeper, the other three were all attacking players. Cal Jennings has already been on the field, Josh Penn has already been on the field in MLS as well, so they’re also very talented players and I think you’ll see a lot from them, especially because Josh Penn’s so young, he might surprise at just how well he can do, but Cal Jennings has that potential as well.
It’s really good for a club like Indy Eleven to be able to sell those guys, and it’s helped us recruit guys that are very talented that could also do that.
NM: Do you think we’re getting close to a turning point in terms of the way top Championship players are starting to be perceived by more MLS executives?
MR: It’s hard to know. I think it should be the case. There are certainly a number of guys who have had success at this level who would definitely be able to do well in MLS, and definitely would add to the squad of an MLS team – the first 15, 16 players – so I definitely think that. The game’s maturing, the USL Championship’s developing, there’s a lot of very talented players and really excellent coaches, and I think there’s going to be more of a pathway for players and coaches into MLS going forward.
There’s a lot of guys who come over from other countries – coaches and players – and they don’t know the system, they don’t adapt to the culture. There are always some, of course, that are big hitters that have done really well, but there’s a lot of guys that are on that next level down where there are better players than them in the USL.
NM: Last year – I hate to drag that back up – everything seemed to be going right, and then suddenly it wasn’t anymore. What was that post-mortem like looking back on how the season unfolded, ultimately missing the postseason?
MR: I think last season was really an unusual year, and obviously you’ve got to review everything and take lessons from it, and we definitely did that, but you’ve also got to look at it and say we’re in the middle of the most unusual part of time in history, certainly our history, and I think it impacted us in the sense that we started off really well, going along really well, had a lot of good results, lot of wins, and then didn’t finish well. I think there were some reasons for that, some if it was just the mental drain on players over time in the sense of you were just going to training, going back to your apartment, go to training, go back to the apartment. You weren’t really socializing too much, when you went on the road you weren’t able to connect with people, get out of your room and that, so I think there were a lot of things outside soccer that impacted us last year, and maybe impacted us more than some other people.
Of course, it affected everyone and there’s no excuse that comes just down to that, but I do think that was a factor. I think as well, there was a lot for us to learn in making adjustments and growing our team and adding to our squad. One of the big things that we took from it was over the past few years, we’ve built a very good team, we’ve become one of the best teams in the USL, but we want to be the best, and to do that we maybe need to find some other players that maybe haven’t played in the USL before.In the three years before, the players that we’d signed had been players at this level, and they’d been good players at this level, but if you want to be better than that, you’re going to have to try and find some players that are above that level, and that’s very hard to do, but we feel like we had a long offseason and an opportunity to do really put so much time into scouting and recruitment.
There were also players available this year that aren’t normally available, so I think we were able to get some guys that would normally have been out of our price range or budget, but also just wouldn’t have really been looking at the USL. With what’s going on in some other markets, they were interested, and we’ve been able to get some guys we’re really excited about.
NM: You mentioned this earlier, the higher you go, the more you start to think about it, there can be a challenge that when things don’t go right, you can start to question yourself – I think that’s true of any profession, not just soccer. How do you try to compartmentalize, learn and then move on without looking back too regularly?
MR: I’ve done this for a long time, I’ve done it for about 15 years, and before that I had a 10-year career in business, and from that one of the skills you learn is winning, but then learning from your mistakes and moving forward from it. There’s no point dwelling on your mistakes or beating yourself up about, ‘oh, this game didn’t go well,’ or ‘we lost that cup final, this means we’re terrible.’ The reality is we’re very close. All the teams I’ve coached, we’ve won, I’ve been successful, but there are some of them that were just a game or two away from being the best, and that’s really the trick, finding a way to win those consistently, win those big one or two games that take you over the top. That’s, I think, where we are with Indy Eleven and where I am as a coach, and I think that’s a good place to be.
Obviously, the best place to be is to be winning, and keep winning, and keep winning, and keep winning, but there’s only a couple of coaches in the world that do that, and even they have years and days and weeks where it doesn’t work out. That’s just part of the game, when you’re playing, when you’re competing, there’s another team and another club trying to win, so you’ve got to give respect to the others as well.
NM: You’re back at Michael A. Carrol Stadium – The Mike – this regular season, which I think a lot of fans are excited about. After the taste you guys got during the 2019 Championship Playoffs, what is it going to mean calling that venue home for the full campaign this year?
MR: I think that’s something everyone involved with the club is very excited about – the front office, the players, and of course the fans – just because the atmosphere in that stadium is really electric. It’s almost like a European-type venue where it’s really loud, the fans are very close to the field, it’s open air as opposed to Lucas Oil where you couldn’t have any pyrotechnics or anything like that. It’s a great venue, it’s an old venue but it’s a venue with character, and a venue that brings certain homefield advantages as well.
NM: Your preparations seem to have been going well, too. How close do you think we are to seeing a fully realized lineup and the potential that it holds the newcomers that have come aboard this offseason?
MR: We have our first game this weekend on [May] 1st, and then our second game on the 8th, then we have a week off, and then the week after we get back at it and then we’re consistently playing after that. The first couple of weeks, we want to be ready to go and play and win and do well – and we think we can – and at the same time I think we’ll be building our squad at that time. We’ll be learning more and more, we’ll be getting guys into full fitness to start those games, so it might take those first two couple of weeks, but I think hopefully once we’re into the mid- to end-of-May we should be up and running and looking good.
NM: Who are you most excited about in terms of the newcomers that have joined the club, because for me personally, I love Jordan Hamilton, I’ve gotten to know him a little bit seeing him when Toronto was down here for preseason, and the ability he brings, I’m really excited to see what he can do full-time in this league.
MR: Me too, I think in preseason him and Manuel Arteaga – who you might not know – both scored six or seven goals each. They’re both strikers, they’re both very good, high-level players, and that was something I think last year we didn’t really have, a No. 9, and now we’ve got a couple of guys who can score goals, who can hold the ball up, who can lead the front line, who can do a lot, so I think those will be two to watch, but there’s quite a few guys that maybe aren’t well-known in the USL but are very good players.
Someone like Gerson Koffie, who has played about 200 games in MLS, has played at a high level in Europe, he’s a really accomplished player. Abou Sissoko was the best player in the Canadian Premier League last year, he isn’t well-known here but we’ve seen him up close throughout this preseason and he’s an extremely exciting player, very talented, and then there’s guys like Nicky Law, who people here don’t really know but has played 500 games in his career and is extremely fit, extremely motivated and I think has scored 100 goals, 100 assists in his career, which is just phenomenal for a midfield player.
NM: I know the hype train from Canada has been steaming down the tracks about Sissoko, so I’m really excited to get to see him on a regular basis. I got to see him a little bit in the Canadian Premier League last year, those games were airing on Fox Sports, so I got a couple of chances to see that league in action, but I think he’s a really intriguing prospect.
MR: He is, and I just think there’s a lot of guys in our team that have a lot to prove. There are guys like Patrick Seagrist, who’s on loan, who’s a very talented player, Rece Buckmaster, who a short time ago was playing in MLS Playoff games for the Red Bulls, so there’s a lot of guys like that who are maybe a little bit below the
I think also this season, because last year was a little bit different, I think a lot of teams in the USL looked at last season as, ‘Oh, we had a really successful year,’ but they may not have been playing against the best competition every week, and there’s a significant difference between the top three or four teams, and the bottom eight teams. So, if you were in a group where you were playing the bottom eight teams on a consistent basis, you might come away thinking, ‘we don’t need to improve our team that much, we’re right on track.’ If you look at us, where it was pretty much Pittsburgh, Louisville, Saint Louis pretty much every week, then we look at our season a bit differently. We’ve been working so hard to improve our team, we’ve put so much into really improving and developing and even selling players, so I think this season’s going to be interesting. Last year might have thrown a few people off on exactly where their team’s at. Not sure, but just a feeling I’ve got.
NM: If you had to rate yourself, where would you put Indy in the pecking order in terms of the Eastern Conference?
MR: [Pauses] I don’t know, that’s one that comes back to bite you, doesn’t it? Because as a coach it’s my job to see ourselves as the best, and it’s our job to see ourselves as the ones that can win it all, and I think that’s definitely possible for us. That’s not being disrespectful to other teams, because I think there’s a lot of good teams – Pittsburgh, Louisville, Birmingham, Tampa – and others that are always going to be good like Charleston, Hartford were good last year, so there are a lot of good teams in the East and there are new teams in the East that I don’t really know. Even teams like Kansas City last year had a lot of players who were not young, academy kids, who were talented players who were 23, 24, looking to make their breakthrough into the First Team.
Ultimately as a coach of any team, I’ve got to believe my team can be the best, and I’ve got to believe that my team can win it all, and I’ve got to believe that we can be consistently winning games and playing in an exciting way, because we can. We’ve already shown that in preseason, but now it’s up to us to show it in the regular season, and then importantly to do it, but then to keep doing and to be consistent with that. I think we’ve got the players to do it, we’ve got the coaching staff to do it, what we really need is that connection amongst each other, that culture and that sense of team sprit that we feel like we’re getting that is just so, so important.
NM: The Mike’s great, everyone’s excited to be back there, but we’re seeing the new venues start to appear around the Championship that are really taking the league to a new place in terms of infrastructure. We’ve seen the plans for Eleven Park. What would it mean for Indy to see Eleven Park come to fruition as a permanent home for the club?
MR: That would be an absolute gamechanger because we already have all the other pieces in place. We’ve got the fanbase, we’ve got the front office, we’ve got the people on ticket sales, sponsorships, all that kind of thing, we’ve got incredible ownership, unbelievable training facility, great housing, really nice place to live, all sorts of recovery, nutrition and psychology there for the team, but the stadium is the key because that’s where you can find a home and a field that can take you over the top and maybe even allow you to add a few more players to the squad. That, to me, would be a gamechanger.
NM: Do you hope it happens? Do you think it happens?
MR: It will happen, there’s no doubt about it.
PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN TRAVELS TO BIRMINGHAM LEGION FC FOR 2021 SEASON OPENER
By Indy Eleven Communications, 04/30/21, 11:00AM EDT size=1 width=”100%” align=center>
2020 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON RECORDS
Indy Eleven: 7W-7L-2D, 25 pts. (+2 GD), 3rd in Group E
Birmingham Legion FC: 7W-5L-4D, 25 pts. (+10 GD), 2nd in Group G
The dawn of Indy Eleven’s eighth season will break this weekend in the heart of Alabama, where Indiana’s Team will take on Birmingham Legion FC as both teams begin their “Central Conference Era” at BBVA Field. The first of 32 USL Championship regular season affairs will break the chain of 210 days without a game in official competition, ending the longest hiatus between games in Indy Eleven’s growing history.With that much time off, it is needless to say that Head Coach Martin Rennie is not the only one itching to see what the new-look Eleven have in store – though he’ll certainly be the most interested observer. The Scottish skipper led a roster overhaul that features 16 new Boys in Blue added to 10 returnees – with only six of those familiar faces seeing minutes in Championship action for Indy in 2020.Those that return will be looking to quickly expunge the memories of last year’s grueling finish, the squad’s 7W-7L-2D record and 25 points ultimately falling just short of qualifying for one of two postseason bids from a Group E that arguably was the Championship’s “Group of Death” in 2020. Meanwhile, Birmingham didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either, but their earlier body of work stood tall enough to overcome a 1W-4L-1D mark down the stretch run of the regular season. The Hammers’ first USL Championship Playoff berth did not last long, however, ending their first time out with a 4-2 loss in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to eventual conference victor Tampa Bay Rowdies.Indy Eleven’s 2021 preseason left plenty of room for optimism, with an impressive 2-0 showing against a young outfit from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC, a thorough 3-0 trouncing of USL League One side Forward Madison FC, and a 1-1 draw against fellow Championship foe Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to close things out last weekend. The preseason featured plenty of goals from the new forward tandem of MLS veteran Jordan Hamilton and Venezuelan newcomer Manuel Arteaga, both of whom will look to make up for the departure of two-time defending Eleven scoring leader Tyler Pasher (currently showing out for Houston Dynamo FC after his offseason transfer to the MLS side).The club’s “fountain of youth” – midfielder and newly-named captain Ayoze – also showed he has plenty left in the tank during his preseason performances, while third-year pro Nick Moon also provided plenty of spark mostly from the right flank.In goal, it looks as if fourth year Eleven performer Jordan Farr will earn the number one spot between the posts over newcomer Bobby Edwards. In front of him, there will be plenty of competition for spots on Rennie’s three-man backline, a corps stacked with talent that includes two-time All-USL performer Neveal Hackshaw, vice-captain Karl Ouimette, another one-time All-USL honoree in A.J. Cochran, 15-year Austrian leagues veteran Nedeljko Malic and former Butler University standout Jared Timmer.Meanwhile, Birmingham enters 2021 having added serious fuel to its attacking fire in the person of defending USL Championship Golden Boot winner Junior Flemmings (15 goals in 2020), the Jamaican set to play alongside two of the league’s other top scorers from 2020 in forward and fellow countryman Neco Brett (9 goals, T-9th) and Brazilian playmaker Bruno Lapa (8 goals, T-11th).Alex Crognale, who enjoyed a cup of coffee with Indy Eleven in 2019 on loan from Columbus Crew, was Birmingham’s Defender of the Year in his first season with the squad in 2020 and will look to anchor the Legion backline that added ex-STLFC standout Phanuel Kavita in the offseason. Rennie will see another familiar face in Daigo Kobiyashi, the 38-year-old midfield stalwart now in his third season in Birmingham; he was under Rennie’s charge with Vancouver Whitecaps FC in 2013, the first of the Japanese legend’s five MLS campaigns. Behind everyone will be Matt Van Oekel, the 34-year-old goalkeeper who will be familiar to Eleven fans – although he could be pressed for time this season by Valparaiso native Trevor Spangenberg.
SERIES HISTORY VS BHM (1W-1L-0D)
With both of 2020’s originally scheduled meetings cancelled after the COVID 19 pandemic caused an early season re-shuffle into groups, the series history consists of their 2019 contests, both won by the home sides.Indy Eleven impressed in the first meeting on June 26, 2019, a comprehensive 3-0 win at Lucas Oil Stadium that featured a five-save shutout by Jordan Farr and tallies by Tyler Pasher (7’) and Thomas Enevoldsen (90+1’) bookending Mathieu Laurent’s own goal (44’). Legion FC got the better of Indy in the return match at BBVA Field on Sept. 20, Brian Wright’s 39th minute goal proving enough in a 1-0 triumph over an Eleven squad that finished with 10 men after Drew Conner’s 53rd minute red card.Saturday’s game marks the first of four 2021 matchups, the series continuing with a pair of meetings in the Circle City three weeks apart on July 3 and July 24 and concluding back in Alabama on Oct. 10.
INDY PLAYER TO WATCH: MF NICK MOON
Even with all of the shiny new toys to play with in regards to the Eleven’s bevy of offseason additions, Moon’s preseason showings earns him the pole position in this space. The former All-USL League One performer showed flashes of his potential at forward during his first campaign with the Eleven in 2020, but early returns from 2021 seem to indicate he’ll provide more danger facilitating from out wide, be it from the midfield or top-line positions.When the competition stiffened over the last three spring exhibitions, the 24-year-old had a hand in five of the squad’s six goals (a goal, two assists and two hustle players resulting in “hockey assists”), helping to make the case for his inclusion in Rennie’s first XI selection this weekend. With Pasher’s production needing to be replaced, don’t be surprised to see Moon fill his fair share of that void alongside Hamilton, Arteaga, and Gordon Wild.
BIRMINGHAM PLAYER TO WATCH: MF BRUNO LAPA
While Matt Van Oekel was the original option because, well, it seems like we’ve been playing against him for forever, the more we looked into it the more the spotlight shone on Lapa. The 23-year-old burst onto the Championship scene during his rookie campaign in 2020, starting all 17 matches for Birmingham after a decorated collegiate career at Wake Forest University.Including Legion FC’s playoff match, he went on to lead the team in chances created (35) and in shots (26), tie for the team lead in assists (5), and finish second in goals (8). The midfielder finished the season as one of only two players in the Championship to tally at least eight goals and five assists – the other being reigning league MVP, Solomon Asante of Phoenix Rising FC. For all the firepower the Jamaicans Neco Brett and Junior Flemmings bring to the front line, Lapa deserves at least as much attention – and you can bet he’ll get plenty of it from the Eleven midfield collective in an attempt to cut off his dangerous service.