As Indy Eleven heads into their first season in USL, early signings show plenty of promise as they prepare to handle the USL Eastern Conference in 2018.
The Indy Eleven has always been one of the more intriguing clubs within the NASL. With the NASL still waiting on their appeal for an injunction with the anti-trust suite they have filed against USSF, the Eleven have followed fellow league members North Carolina FC former NASL clubs the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury in rejoining USL.
Indy has also opted to move on from head coach Tim Hankinson ahead of their new season. In his first season, Hankinson led the Eleven to their best season yet, winning the 2016 Spring Season in spectacular fashion before losing to the New York Cosmos on penalties in the NASL Soccer Bowl later in the year. In 2017 however, Indy struggled with injuries and roster changes, ultimately finishing in last place in the NASL combined standings.
Hankinson has been replaced with Scottish coach, Martin Rennie, who returns to the lower leagues of the US after spending the last few seasons coaching in the South Korea first division. Rennie previously coached the Carolina Railhawks in NASL (now known as North Carolina FC), along with the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS.
The move to USL caused a termination of players held under contract, giving Rennie a fresh start to build an entirely new squad. Only captain Justin Braun has been brought back from last year, while the Eleven have taken advantage of their NASL roots in building their first-ever USL squad.
NASL Best XI Signings
Behind Justin Braun, Indy has assembled an impressive backline, landing SF Deltas center backs Karl Ouimette and 2017 NASL Best XI defender, Reiner Ferreira. The former Deltas duo will likely be flanked by 2015 Best XI right-back Kevin Venegas, while the club is also rumored to be closing in a deal on New York Cosmos veteran and 2016 Best XI left-back, Ayoze.
Along with an already impressive list of defenders, the Eleven has also reached an agreement with MLS, NASL, and USL veteran Brad Rusin, who last played for Miami FC. The club also reached a loan agreement with Scottish Championship side, Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC, for goalkeeper Owain Von Williams.
The team is still filling in the attack. Jacksonville Armada standout Zach Steinberger, who previously played for the Eleven in 2012 on loan from the Houston Dynamo, was brought in the lead the midfield along with Cosmos midfielder, Juan Guerra. The club is also rumored to be closing in on another former Cosmos player, likely winger Eugene Starikov.
The signings by Indy have definitely been impressive, and likely not close to finished. The club still has plenty of room on their roster for more pieces including several NASL standouts who are currently without a contract.
With everything they have in place already, it would be wise not to sleep on Indy to make waves in their first USL season against neighboring clubs Louisville City FC and FC Cincinnati, along with a potential run in the US Open Cup.