Indy Eleven on roll with intl, local players 

click to enlarge Indy Eleven President and GM Peter Wilt (shown here with his new players and team owner Ersal Ozdemir) had a lot to smile about on 11/11, including the signing of two local players, the sale of 7,000 season tickets and partnerships with two of Indiana's military organizations. - REBECCA TOWNSEND
  • Indy Eleven President and GM Peter Wilt (shown here with his new players and team owner Ersal Ozdemir) had a lot to smile about on 11/11, including the signing of two local players, the sale of 7,000 season tickets and partnerships with two of Indiana's military organizations.
  • Rebecca Townsend

Indy Eleven is on a roll.

The city's new professional soccer team, which kicks off its inaugural North American Soccer League season next April after having sold 7,000 season tickets, has marked several other milestones this month, including the addition of two local players, one international player and an assistant coach to the roster.

click to enlarge Indy Eleven Head Coach Juergen Sommer traveled to Central American to scout and sign Honduran - defender Erick Norales. - COURTESY OF INDY ELEVEN
  • Indy Eleven Head Coach Juergen Sommer traveled to Central American to scout and sign Honduran defender Erick Norales.
  • Courtesy of Indy Eleven

On Tuesday, the team announced the signing of Honduran defender Erick Norales, who, in addition to a decade's worth of professional experience, has 30 career appearances, or so-called "caps," for the Honduran National Team between 2007-2011.

Just two weeks before, on Veteran's/Armistice Day, the team revealed several other developments in its quest to field the best-possible team to represent Indiana.

"The process of getting players on the team is a long one and it started with emails like crazy from around the world, every day dozens and dozens of inquires of how people can be a part of Indy Eleven," Indy Eleven President and GM Peter Wilt said.

And while the team is scouring the globe for the best applicants, it also opened the process up to local players hoping to prove their readiness. Two local players so far have made the cut: defender Babalakin "Baba" Omosegbon, a 23-year-old Indy native with Nigerian roots who played varsity soccer for Harvard University, where he major in neurobiology, and goalkeeper Nathan Sprenkel of Zionsville, also 23, who played for DePauw University, where he majored in psychology and minored in education.

"We pride ourselves in our work ethic on the field," Sprenkel said. "We think it parallels with blue collar mentality of this city and the state as a whole."

Omosegbon said that their local roots will drive he and Sprenkel to play as hard as possible.

"Being local, this opportunity means even more to us," he said. "We have the opportunity to develop as players and individuals on and off the field in an environment that is very comfortable for us. We take the opportunity very seriously.

We have a lot to offer the team and our organization. We know this relationship will be mutually beneficial."

The team also named, Tim Regan, its assistant coach.

Wilt called the new coach "a shining star who is going to be a bright, great coach in the future of American soccer," noting that Regan had played under and had the endorsement of Bob Bradley (who went on to coach both the U.S. and Egyptian national teams) and, by way of local connections, "had the wisdom to choose a wife from Indianapolis."

Regan said he is ready to work toward victory, but that he had other goals, as well.

"I had the privilege of playing for Bob Bradley and seeing how he executed on a daily basis, putting together a team and understanding that character and ability are combined for success," Regan said.

"We're here to entertain but we also want to make sure that everyone that is a part of our organization understands that it's bigger than wins and losses — of course we have to win — but there's a bigger role we have to play in the community."

The name Indy Eleven was chosen in honor of the state's strong military roots, but team owner Ersal Ozdemir said, "It is our actions that will ultimately earn the respect of many active and veteran military members that call Indiana home. That is why Indy Eleven is honored to announce our first two partnerships with military organizations, the Indiana National Guard and Operation: Job Ready Veterans."

The team will utilize Operation: Job Ready Veterans to staff many game-day functions, such as security.

"Twenty-one years ago, a young Indiana native Hoosier joined the United States Air Force – it was the best choice I've ever made; 21 years later, I retired, not knowing what to do," Ed Perez said. "There are a lot of Hoosiers returning that really don't know where to go or what to do. Today I am the vice president of business operations for Operation: Job Ready Veterans, I've assisted and will assist as many Hoosier veterans as possible.

"I want to thank Indy Eleven Soccer for giving us the opportunity to partner."

The Indiana National Guard is the team's second official corporate partner, after Honda, which will have its logo on the front of the team's jerseys. The team will support the Guard's "Books and Boots" literacy program and a "Tickets for Troops" ticket donation program effort to support participation of Guard families in Indy Eleven games and events.

"It's a great day to be a soccer fan in Indianapolis," said Lt. Col. Shawn D. Gardner, the recruiting and retention commander for the Indiana Army National Guard. "On behalf of Major General R. Martin Umbarger, the adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, thank you for allowing us to be a part of this monumental event."

Turning to Ozdemir, Gardner said, "Sir, thank you for your vision, your insight and your leadership for bringing the world's game to the city of Indianapolis."

The Guard, he added, "is excited to partner with the Indy Eleven, whose very namesake pays tribute to Indy's Eleventh Regiment, commanded by soldier, author and leader, Lew Wallace. The very battle steamers earned by the Eleventh Regiment in the Battle of Shiloh and the siege of Vicksburg to this day still don the command colors of the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team here in Indiana."

And, Gardner said, "It is quite fitting that we gather here on Veteran's Day in Indianapolis ... the very city that has more memorials and tributes to veterans than any other city outside of Washington D.C. It's equally as fitting as fitting that we gather here this evening to celebrate Indianapolis' mark on the soccer world."

The team is also working with graphic designer Pat Cummings, who designed the team's lead "Victory" logo, to identify a secondary logo upon which to build the team's identity.

The quest ushers in what will likely be one of the most popular questions in the stands next season: What the hell is a zouave?

Hint: Ask Lew Wallace.

Disclaimer: Readers please be aware that this reporter is a rabid soccer fan, an Indy Eleven season ticket holder and overall club supporter. She appreciates the indulgence on this particular subject as loving Indy Eleven and wanting nothing more than its total success is as natural as her Hoosier roots. If a reporter's job is to report the truth, this is the truth: This reporter wants Indy Eleven to kick ass, to win the NASL Soccer Bowl,to beat any MLS team it may have the opportunity to play and dominate any international matches in which it appears.


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Rebecca Townsend

Rebecca Townsend

Rebecca Townsend served as NUVO news editor from May 2011 to August 2014. During a 20-plus year career, her bylines have appeared in publications ranging from Indiana AgriNews to the Wall Street Journal. Her undergraduate degree is in sociology and anthropology from Earlham College, and her master's is in journalism... more

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