German goalkeeper Kristian Nicht is the first footballer to sign with Indy Eleven, the team announced Tuesday evening during a fan celebration at the Rathskeller. Nicht is a veteran of the Bundesliga, Germany's pro league, and most recently played with the Rochester Rhinos
, a USL pro team. When he was named USL Player of the Week in May 2012, during his first year with the Rhinos, his club made USL/Major League Soccer history as the first in 17 seasons to open a season with six straight shutout wins.
"Kristian's representative Justin Stone and I have known each other since 2008," emailed Peter Wilt, the team's president. "Justin contacted me about several players this summer including Kristian. Our research indicated he had the experience, talent and personality to be an important building block for the team. Juergen scouted him in person and spoke to him, which added to our confidence that Kristian possesses the qualities to represent Indy Eleven well on and off the field."
The team also unveiled its new Honda-sponsored Diadora jerseys - white for away games and the jury is still out on the home color - blue or red. The team is conducting a fan poll
on the matter.
Here are some additional details from a news release issued by Indy Eleven on Tuesday:
"It means the world to me to be here with Indy Eleven as the first signing in club history. It's a very big, very overwhelming thing for me," Nicht said. "I saw so many great places in my career but I never imagined I would be here. It's a business where you can't really plan anything, so you just have take everything as it comes, and obviously I'm very happy. I just want to enjoy my time here, be out in the community and support the club in every way I can."
Nicht, 31, is a formidable presence who has won Goalkeeper of the Year honors in both the Bundesliga 2, the second tier of competition in Germany, and, more recently, the USL PRO, the third division in the United States.
"It should be no surprise that a former goalkeeper would begin to build his team around another goalkeeper, but Kristian will be so much more than that for Indy Eleven," said Director of Soccer Operations/Head Coach Juergen Sommer. "Kristian brings a great deal of experience on the field, but he also brings an attitude, work ethic, and leadership traits that will go a long way in helping the younger members of our roster become better players and better professionals."
A native of the east German city of Jena, Nicht spent his youth with the academy of the most accomplished club in the area, FC Carl Zeiss Jena. Since transitioning to the professional realm, he has made full use of his sizable 6'5" frame for more than a decade, accumulating no fewer than 200 total appearances in that time.
The first addition to the Indy Eleven roster, expected to eventually round out in the 23-25 range, arrives on the heels of a two-year stint with the Rochester Rhinos of the USL PRO. Nicht served as the starting goalkeeper throughout both the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons, compiling 45 starts overall.
In 2012, perhaps his most accomplished individual season to date, he registered 11 shutouts in 23 games and set a North America record by beginning his Rochester spell with six consecutive shutouts. Ultimately, he logged a 0.91 goals against average in his debut campaign, anchoring a Rhinos defense that advanced to the USL PRO semifinals. For his efforts in this first season in America, he received the league's Goalkeeper of the Year award. The ensuing 2013 term saw him add another seven shutouts and 22 appearances to his résumé while recording a 1.56 goals against average.
Nicht has also excelled on his home continent, where he acted as the top-choice goalkeeper for German club Alemannia Aachen when it achieved promotion to the Bundesliga 1, the top division in Germany, after the 2005-06 season. His impressive campaign, which featured 11 shutouts and a 1.10 goals against average, launched him into consideration to represent Germany during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which was hosted in his home nation the following summer.
In the 2006-07 campaign, Nicht contributed key minutes in Aachen's return to the Bundesliga after a 36-year absence. Starting half of all league matches, he earned himself a place in club lore by playing all 90 minutes in a 4-2 win against Borussia Monchengladbach, the first home victory for Aachen in the top flight since May 3, 1970. Later that fall, he helped the club earn a vital away point, holding Borussia Dortmund without a goal in a scoreless draw.
After departing Aachen in the winter of 2007 for a two-year spell with Viking FK, one of the most tradition-rich clubs in Norway, he returned to the Bundesliga 2 in Germany, spending the two years prior to his fruitful Rochester stay with Karlsruher SC.