Exuberance Over Spring Title Spills Onto Field For Indy Supporters

John Koluder

by JAKE NUTTING

As long as the NASL continues to operate its split season with a significant imbalance between the spring and fall, there will be plenty of vocal criticism from supporters in every market.

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson has admitted numerous times the league’s plan is to even out the two seasons as expansion ramps up, so those critics aren’t out of line. Attaching the word “season” to a ten-game sprint and awarding a home playoff spot to the team that finished at the top is inherently silly.

So scoff at the notion of a team getting to lift a trophy for being the best after only two and a half months if you must. Just don’t do it in front of Indy Eleven supporters this week.

If Saturday night’s celebration is any indication, no one in the Circle City is in the mood to hear your musings on how unjust it is that they hold hosting rights to at least the semifinal round and perhaps the final.

The exuberance over their club’s perfectly-scripted 4-1 win over the Carolina RailHawks to wipe away the New York Cosmos’ lead in the tiebreaking goal differential and goals scored was so immense that they poured out of the stands and onto the field to embrace the players and staff that helped them secure their first-ever hardware.

Compare the joyous atmosphere at Michael Carroll Stadium this weekend with more reserved celebration at Shuart Stadium last spring when the similarly unbeaten Cosmos clinched the title with a 3-3 result against Jacksonville Armada FC. This is the kind of  result Cosmos supporters expect from their club, so they trickled out of the stadium that day with their mind on the upcoming the U.S. Open Cup more than anything else.

For Indy Eleven and its supporters, this Spring Season championship is an historic and emotional moment. After faltering with ninth-place finishes in their first two years of existence, the club has already booked its first appearance in the NASL postseason and is in prime position to solidify its table position in the fall.

For the supporters, the achievement is a genuine payoff after pushing to get a club in their city before an owner or even a league showed any kind of interest. The Brickyard Battalion’s persistence in pushing for a club of their own undoubtedly played a huge role in the NASL looking at the city.

They’ve rewarded that investment from the league and club owner Ersal Ozdemir by helping the club lead the NASL in attendance every year since joining. If you doubt the group’s influence or the importance the front office places on its role in the foundation, listen to the personal message Ozdemir gave to the group on Sunday when they officially clinched the Spring Season championship.

No one is going to convince anyone that the Spring Season championship is the hardest or most important task in the NASL. Last year’s Cosmos are the only team to follow up a spring title with a combined standings win and the Soccer Bowl trophy. With only three points separating them from the sixth-place Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Indy certainly still has plenty of work ahead of them if they want to keep hoisting more trophies this year.

For the moment, though, try to let go of the cynicism and let a club completely born and bred in the modern NASL enjoy its moment in the sun.