Trialists Take First Shot at XI

First group of trialists invited to 2-day Indy Eleven event
by Doug Starnes   |   Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Checkered Flags – column on Indy NASL (Indy FC) & the Indianapolis soccer scene.

A group of 36 hopefuls took to the field today at Michael A. Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI where Indy Eleven will play its inaugural season next spring.

The 36 in attendance this morning represented the 1st half of an eventual 72 players who were selected from over 200 applicants to attend a pair of 2-day sessions, the second of which is scheduled to take place next week on July 25 and 26.

Indy Eleven manager Juergen Sommer explained that the 36 attending this initial 2-day trial were selected mostly from local applicants and that the attendees slated to participate in next week’s session, in order to allow time for more complicated travel plans, are from a broader pool, geographically-speaking.

On a blisteringly hot day made all the more so by Carroll Stadium’s synthetic pitch, Sommer and a watchful coterie of 8 other local club and university coaches put the 36 hopefuls through their paces for every bit of 3 hours.

The session began with an extended warm-up comprised of stretching and sprint/agility drills, then moved on to possession and small-sided games before building to 9v9 matches, dynamic crossing/finishing drills and an eventual full-sided match. The capstone to the session was a series of sprint and agility drills that took everything the sun-baked and exhausted trialists had left.

“Dude, that was hard. Like hard. And I thought I was fit,” said one attendee after Sommer addressed the group and ended the day’s session.

In this first group of invitees, the majority are between 23 and 26 years of age, with the youngest checking in at all of 18 and the elder statesman of the group a ripe old 33.

It’s difficult to determine how many spots this first 36 are playing for given that another group of players selected from a broader pool of talent will be justifying their inclusion in just 1 week’s time, but realistically, it would seem a safe bet that of the initial 36, perhaps 5 to 7 will get called back and therefore have a decent shot at making the final roster.

Tomorrow’s session, to be comprised mostly of more open play and full-sided matches, will certainly answer more questions about who those 5 to 7 players may be, but a number of attendees caught the eye this morning and will be hoping to capitalize on their momentum tomorrow.

Nago Mbengue, a pacey and graceful 24-year-old from Indianapolis and listed as a forward on the tryout roster, finished smartly and provided clever one-touch passing in the 9v9 drills and served as a composed link to the front runners and wide players in the full-sided session to end the day. He did seem prone to collapsing under a hefty challenge or 2, but in fairness, he appeared to get his foot stomped on a couple of times after languidly turning and outstripping his central midfield markers.

Zach Rodgers, a 19-year-old midfielder from Noblesville, Ind., also caught the eye with his crisp touches passing in the small-sided matches and dynamic crossing/finishing drills, but became slightly anonymous when deployed as a right winger in the full-sided match. He did make 1 confident outside in run with the ball that beat 2 defenders and rather unjustly culminated in a scuffed shot wide of the opposition’s near post.

The elder statesman of the group, Rosen Kaptiev, a 33-year-old forward from Greenwood, Ind., also provided some bright moments with a thumping one-touch drive in the 9v9 drills and an insouciant one-touch, chipped finish off a through ball from former IUPUI player, Chris Wey. One has to wonder, however, how much Kaptiev’s age will work against him with so many younger players hungry for the same roster berths. Still, Kaptiev appeared to have a touch of class and nous about him that set him apart as unhurried while so many younger players were busy bustling around him, often to little effect.

Shaunovan Wilson, listed as a 26-year-old defender from Indianapolis impressed with his range, pace and physical ability. Although his touch wasn’t always the most refined, he showed very good closing speed, covering ability and a willingness to put his body on the line in both the offensive and defensive roles of the crossing/finishing drills. Obviously, it’s dangerous to make Premier League caliber to NASL caliber comparisons, but for the sake of a mental image, think a more slightly built and possibly faster Christopher Samba.

Other players who caught the eye, albeit on a tier maybe just below the aforementioned hopefuls either because they were bright in slightly fewer spots or because I just couldn’t watch all 36 trialists with the same level of attention, were Bradford Callahan, 23, from South Bend, Ind.; Mamoud Sesay, 24, from Indianapolis; Robbie Lynch, 25, from Carmel, Ind.; and Paraskevas Pantazopoulos, 24, from Mount Prospect, Illi.

Callahan drew a foul after a penetrating run during the full-sided match and then finished the ensuing set piece on a curled effort from about 20 yards.

Sesay seemed crisp and confident in the crossing/finishing drills and firm in the tackle as a central midfielder in the larger sided matches, but also got caught in possession and then fouled his nemesis rather cynically.

Lynch, although he didn’t do anything unmistakably eye-catching, was competent and confident on the ball as a holding midfield player in the full-sided match and appeared to have the pace and physical strength to cover a lot of ground and put out fires.

Lastly, Pantazopoulos looked to be cast from the same mold as Lynch, only he is slightly shorter and slightly faster. Personally, I hope he makes the final roster based on name alone.

Tryouts will continue today at 9 a.m. at Carroll Stadium and are open to the public.


Baylor Univ.
Club Domestic:
Indy Eleven
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A reformed goalkeeper, cheese enthusiast, beer aficionado, and all around unrequited lover of The Beautiful Game, Doug currently resides in Indianapolis and is chomping at the bit to cover Indy Pro Soccer in all of its soon to be glory.