An Indy Eleven win, a new stadium in Colorado Springs, and much more!
We are back, in a new location, and ready to dive into another thrilling week of lower division soccer. A well-deserved road win for Indy Eleven, thanks to their much-maligned striker, gave the Eleven a much-needed boost. The addition of a stadium announcement for one club, a coaching hire for an expansion side, and D-3 expansion drama made sure that there were plenty of twist and turns. Let’s buckle up and take a look at another roller-coaster week of Life in the Lower Divisions.
Indy Eleven  Bethlehem Steel 
Indy came into this match on a slide, having lost their previous two matches by a combined score of 5-2. The Eleven had been struggling to finish chances, which put massive pressure on a thin defensive unit. After losing to Bethlehem in Indianapolis earlier this season, fans had come into the match expecting similar results. However, the Eleven managed to flip the script and had a rare complete performance in the victory.
The match was cagey from the get-go, with both sides sharing equal possession of the ball. Bethlehem and Indy had chances throughout the match to break the tie, with Soony Saad having the best one of them all right after halftime. Great holdup play by Matt Watson allowed a great one-touch shot by Saad in his favorite scoring position outside of the box. Striking with the inside of his foot, the ball had the curl and knuckle that we have come to expect from the midfielder. Had it been a few inches lower, the Eleven would have celebrated another Goal of the Year candidate.
Indy finally broke through in the 85th minute, after a Zach Steinberger corner was headed in by Jack McInerney. The former Philadelphia Union striker lost his marker and executed a textbook header into the bottom corner, giving the Eleven the victory. Indy played controlling soccer after that point, ending up with 52% of possession. Owain Fon Williams made some solid saves, but the defenders in front played solid and organized to prevent quality chances. Steel had nowhere to go with the ball, and Indy walked away with their eighth clean sheet of the season.
Indy has the talent to compete against any team in the Eastern Conference. The combination of solid defensive play and set-piece execution have led them into a comfortable spot in the standings. As long as the Eleven continue to play to their strengths, a playoff position should be well within their reach.
Colorado Springs Update Their Stadium
Another USL side has announced a new stadium, as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks will be moving to a new facility for the 2020 season. While the Switchbacks look to improve their infrastructure, Indy Eleven fans can’t help but feel left behind.
The NASL did not put an emphasis on stadiums, academies, or long-term development. Their sanctioning was lost, in part, because the teams were not built for long-term success. Rather, the league focused on achieving first-division status as the primary goal, leaving their clubs lacking solid foundations. Now that they are in the ultra-competitive world of USL, it’s time for Indy to face their new reality.
I, personally, always loved the original rendering the team produced in 2014. The European styling, large amount of seating, and futuristic features would draw attention from around the globe. However, as reported by Brian Cook earlier this week, Indianapolis cannot support tax payments for another large stadium. Migration to the suburbs, crumbling roads and bridges, and a poor school system are well in line for payments before the Eleven. Combined with the albatross Lucas Oil Stadium payments, Indy cannot support the project on their own.
The Statehouse has previously offered around $30 million towards the renovation of an existing stadium, or the construction of a new one. Land would not be an issue, either, as the state is open to helping the team acquire what they need for the project. The only thing holding the team back is the stubbornness of the front office. And if the ownership group fails to budge on their proposal, Eleven fans will be stuck watching other clubs grow while they remain stuck in place.
El Paso Announces Their Coach
A familiar face has taken the reigns at USL El Paso. Mark Lowry, who coached Jacksonville Armada during the 2017 NASL and 2018 NPSL seasons, takes over the new side ahead of their debut in 2019. Lowry, originally from Solihull, England, led the Armada to their best finish in NASL play, narrowly missing the playoffs. This past season saw the Armada finish 2nd in the Sunshine Conference, eventually losing to National Finalist Miami FC 2.
Drama in Chattanooga
When USL D-3 was announced, there was very little controversy involved. Many fans saw this league as an opportunity for smaller cities to take part in the pro soccer boom taking place. But a piece from BGN’s own Soc Takes sparked the first round of controversy surrounding USL’s newest project.
According to the report, USL D-3 has found an investor willing to purchase the rights to start a team in Chattanooga, TN. The new team has apparently recruited the GM of Chattanooga FC, Sean McDaniel. The USL side has been alleged to be looking into using the stadium occupied by Chattanooga FC, as well. These moves have led fans of CFC to claim USL is attempting to muscle them out of their home to build on their success.
Most likely, this is a case of an investor and GM having a different vision than CFC ownership. Like Detroit City FC, and other successful NPSL sides, CFC is ready to take the next step as a team. While ideas like NISA and NPSL PRO have been tossed around, neither currently exist. Meanwhile, McDaniel is reported to have supported a move to USL D-3 for CFC, while the club declined to apply for USL membership. The club has been stuck in an odd position since, with their current league status hindering their ability to grow.
Chattanooga FC is one of the best stories of how fans can build their teams into whatever they want. However, they have made a conscious decision not to join D-3, despite having enough demand for the jump. Stating that USL doesn’t match their values, CFC would rather stay amateur and wait for a different option to emerge.
Both sides make compelling arguments, and the ultimate decision will rest on the people of Chattanooga. CFC will have to make their case to keep their spot as the top team in the Scenic City.
Here are the updated USL Standings, as of July 29, 2018 (courtesy uslsoccer.com):
||Louisville City FC||19||10||4||5||12||35||
||Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC||19||9||3||7||12||34||
||New York Red Bulls II||22||8||6||8||11||32||
||Ottawa Fury FC||20||8||9||3||-7||27||
||Bethlehem Steel FC||22||7||9||6||5||27||
||North Carolina FC||20||7||8||5||3||26||
||Tampa Bay Rowdies||20||7||8||5||2||26||
||Atlanta United 2||20||3||11||6||-23||15||
||Toronto FC II||19||1||15||3||-26||6||
Next Match – August 5 at Louisville City FC (5:00 PM)
The first local away match will take place at Louisville Slugger Park in Louisville. The defending USL champions are rebounding after the loss of their coach and will look to avenge their defeat against Indy earlier in the year. Expect a strong atmosphere for this emerging rivalry, and a tense, closely fought match. Don’t be surprised if a draw or late winner decides the outcome in this one.