Photo courtesy of Robbie Mehling/Soc Takes

Indy Eleven: Addressing the Attack

Indy Eleven make moves to fix attack

When news broke this week on the moves Indy Eleven was making to fix their attacking issues, many, including myself, were intrigued. Indy Eleven fans have been extremely vocal about the issues on the attacking front. Dane Kelly and Thomas Enevoldsen were signed because of their strong stats and have, unfortunately, fallen well below even modest expectations.

At 30 goals on the season, Indy Eleven sit at the bottom of the top half of teams in the East:

Goals (East)
1. RBNY – 56
2. Rowdies – 39
3. Nashville – 41
4. Indy – 30
5. NCFC – 38

Something, anything, had to change. Whether they liked it or not, Indy Eleven are lucky to be in a strong position heading into the back half of the regular season. They currently stand to host a playoff game and possibly make a deep run into those playoffs.

Three in and one out

The loss of Thomas Enevoldsen as a member of Indy Eleven was politely tucked at the bottom of their press release Monday afternoon. Enevoldsen, who joined from Orange County as a runner up in the golden boot race (20 goals and 10 assists) in 2018, has not found that same production in Indianapolis.

However, even with low statistical numbers, Enevoldsen was by far Indy Eleven’s most complete forward. At 5 foot 11 inches, Enevoldsen may not have had the traditional build of a target man/hold up player but he was also able to provide opportunities for the other star striker, Dane Kelly.

Enevoldsen did that to the tune of 7 chances created, the most of anyone on the Indy Eleven team. He could sit under Kelly and wait to fight, work or drive the ball forward as needed. His work rate is bar none and arguably something the team hasn’t seen since Justin Braun’s peak in 2016 when the team was still a member of the North American Soccer League.

The big question that comes from Enevoldsen’s move back west to Sacramento is whether or not it was a team chemistry issue. Though you never really saw Enevoldsen upset or annoyed on the field (unless he wasn’t scoring) and no one visibly antagonizing him we only have an outsiders view. The question will remain as to whether or not he requested the move himself or if this was a mutual decision between Enevoldsen and the team.

Obviously, 2019 has not gone the way anyone foresaw when his move was announced. The team, understandably, had to shake up their attacking structure to invoke some kind of change.

Many fans were vocal following Enevoldsen’s move that they would have rather seen the league’s all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly move on. Kelly has squandered 17 total chances this year and though he has the greatest number of shots taken this statistic is directly tied to the role he plays as the poacher who sits up high waiting for his chance to strike and not simply innate skill.

Kelly, like Enevoldsen, had a mountain of expectations that came with his name. This despite the fact that he hadn’t played in the league since last season as a loaned player to Richmond Kickers from D.C. United, before that he played with Reno.

Kelly is a product of a failed system not built for forwards. Indy Eleven have a strong defense with 15 total goals conceded (tied with Tampa Bay at 3rd in the league with 10 total clean sheets) and it has felt as if Indy Eleven built the defense, built the midfield and assumed that they could put any talent up at the top and it would all gel without any additional work.

It hasn’t.

Enter the new players

Christian Novoa, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Drew Conner come in with not only a load of intrigue but, at least for the two south American players, clear ideas of their place and role in the team.

Novoa, at 5’ 7”, is shorter than Dane Kelly. This could pose a problem, though obviously shorter players have proven to be successful in other leagues and levels.

“Cristian is a player we tried to sign in January before the start of the season, but we weren’t able to do so at the time,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martine Rennie. “He’s an exciting goal-scorer with a proven record and we’re excited to have him on our squad.”

The 28-year-old has spent the majority of his career in the Venezuelan top flight Primera Division, beginning with Caracas Futbol Club in 2010. Novoa enjoyed his most successful seasons with Primera Division side Carabobo FC, where he made 93 appearances and scored 32 goals across two stints from 2013-14 and 2016-17. Novoa played alongside current Indy Eleven Assistant Coach Juan Guerra twice, first at Caracas in 2010 and again with Carabobo from 2013-14.

With Rodriguez the team, who has begun to trend to a younger base as evidenced by their current signings as well as academy signings, gets a raw and unknown commodity. However, Rodriguez fits a desperately needed role as his 6’4” 180 pound frame will surely provide a strong level of hold up play.

Conner joins from Chicago Fire and, with the subsequent release of Kim Do-Heon, may allow Indy Eleven to open up the midfield and add him on a rotating basis going forward.

“We are excited to add such a dynamic, versatile player to our roster at this stage of the season. He will be a very valuable asset to our team on the field and in our community,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie.

A band aid needing to be pulled.

Often, teams do dramatic shakeups to address known needs as well as relight the passion of the players. Whether the specific moves were desired by fans, it was clear that additions were needed in the attacking front and there wouldn’t be enough room to maintain the same quota of time for current players.

The shakeup and, presumably, the specifics behind it weren’t pretty. For many, it was felt like a bandaid being ripped off. It was painful at first but eventually, you barely remember the discomfort. For Enevoldsen, the overall reaction to his departure seems to be centered around his love for the west coast and disappointing performances this season.

Many fans were unhappy but remain hopeful that all of the changes will reflect positively come the end of the season. For now the hype is alive as Indy Eleven look poised to make a strong stand in the second half of the season.

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