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Indy Eleven home opener Saturday

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The Indy Eleven sold out every home game last season - REBECCA TOWNSEND
  • Rebecca Townsend
  • The Indy Eleven sold out every home game last season

The highly anticipated second season for Indy's professional soccer team is underway as the Indy Eleven played to a 1-1 draw against the Atlanta Silverbacks on April 4. The Eleven look to build on that result when they host the New York Cosmos Saturday, April 11 in the team's home opener.

Indy Eleven struggled in the spring season last year, amassing a measly four points while failing to record a single victory (0-4-5). The team picked it up in the fall, recording six wins on the way to a 6-5-7 record and 23 points. The record was boosted by a great finishing stretch, as they won three of their final four matches.

Despite the up and down play, the fan support was strong throughout the entire season. Check that, the fan support was amazing. The team sold out every league home game and averaged 10,465 fans per game, a North American Soccer League-best.

NUVO spoke with head coach Juergen Sommer as he was boarding a flight back to Indy Thursday.

The Mike sold out every game last season, how important is the continued crowd support to your success this season?

Sommer: The crowds have really come out and supported the team. Last season we knew that underlying support has always been with the Indy Eleven since the franchise started. Even 18 months before that. It’s always important. The strength of the Brickyard Battalion and their support creates a great energy and environment for the rest of the fans and the players and the staff. So that’s always really enjoyable and a pretty intricate part of a professional soccer game. We think we’ve got a very unique market, a very unique fan base compared to the rest of the league and the rest of the country. That’s always a special part of a soccer club, the support they get from their fans and it looks like it’s going to be a great year.

Do you think there might be a drop off in support because it’s not the “new thing” in town anymore?

Sommer: I don’t know. The jury’s out. We’ll see after we get through five or six games as to what that the support is and what it looks like.

The team returns two thirds of the roster from last year, how big is that?

Sommer: It definitely helps quite a bit. We return 14 players from last season and we build on that with some additional players that we picked up in the offseason, which was a busy time for us. For a club, and especially for a coaching staff, it’s a three to five year build out window where you’re developing the young talent we have and building by adding the right pieces at the right time as you go from one season to the next. We’re really excited about the quality of the team starting out year two. We brought back a good core group of guys from last year and added to that in the offseason with certain signings. We’ve got a great foundation of strength now that is definitely much improved from last season.

You mention the key additions this offseason, none bigger than Greg Janicki, how does he fit into your gameplay?

Sommer: He’s the captain of our team now so Greg brings a big presence not only in personality and athleticism but from experience, whether it’s a NASL championship or MLS experience. He was also a great player here in the Big Ten at Michigan State so he brings a wealth of knowledge and game experience in the professional game and the NASL. He’s a very experienced player so that will bode well for us week in and week out.

Last year it seemed like games came down to one key mistake or defensive lapse, is defensive discipline the focus going forward this year?

Sommer: Yeah it really was. We’re always trying to strengthen the team in every position around the roster, which we think we’ve done. You want to make each position competitive. But especially defensively, we drew a lot of games, especially late in games, and at home, that came down to a couple small details, individual mistakes. But that’s where Janicki really plays in as a veteran experienced player that will help us in central defense. You look at Sergio Pena and Brad Ring that will play that central defensive midfield position that is a very important strategic piece to the team. So we’ve got two great guys in Brad and Sergio that will help us there as well.

What are the realistic expectations for the season?

Sommer: We want to be competitive. We did have a great run at the end of last season, the guys really gelled and got to know each other, especially with the loan players that we brought [in] towards the back end of the season that are now with us at the very front end. The goal is to be competitive throughout the spring and fall seasons and put ourselves right in the way of getting into the playoffs this time. Had we got a few more results during the course of the season, we would’ve been in the playoff mix at the end of the season. I think the goal for year two is [to] put ourselves in contention to get into postseason play. I think that’s really what we’re shooting for.

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