As the news of Indy Eleven to the United Soccer League (USL) became official, priorities immediately changed to the search for a new coach to replace Tim Hankinson, whose contract was not renewed by the club.
While Indy owner Ersal Ozdemir confirmed on Twitter that the search for candidates was underway, the identity of those candidates has remained unknown until now.
According to sources, the club has narrowed down the candidate pool to four individuals: Trevor James, Jimmy Nielsen, Martin Rennie and Mark Lowry.
Trevor James has been involved with American soccer at multiple levels. Having previously worked at Colchester United, LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire, James served as Tim Hankinson's assistant at Indy XI last year. While James' knowledge of Indy XI is an advantage, much of his career has been spent as an assistant or a scout. An infamously risk-averse Ozdemir is likely to count that against him.
Jimmy Nielsen made over 500 appearances as a top-level goalkeeper including stints at Millwall and Sporting Kansas City before retiring in 2013. From 2014-17, Nielsen served as head coach of Oklahoma City Energy. Under Nielsen, OKC Energy reached the conference playoffs from 2015-17, reaching the final in two of those years. While Nielsen clearly stands apart from the other candidates due to his knowledge of the league, questions about his exit from OKC Energy remain.
Having coached the Carolina RailHawks (WTF is a RailHawk?) and Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS, Martin Rennie possesses the strongest resume of the four candidates for the Indy XI hot seat. Yet, the Scotland-born Rennie has been away from the American game for four years having coached in South Korea from 2014-16. Rennie has not had a top-level coaching job since leaving the second-division Korean side Seoul E-Land FC in June 2016. Rennie is "a very nice guy whose teams were generally organized," noted one MLS insider, adding that "he had a habit of shoehorning as many defensive midfielders into the XI as is possible, with predictable results."
A name familiar to all NASL supporters, Mark Lowry is the current coach of Jacksonville Armada FC. Lowry famously led the Armada to a strong opening to the NASL 2017 season in spite of working with a shoestring budget at the time. At that time, the team was owned by the league and therefore Lowry achieved strong on-field results in spite of any semblance of stability. Yet, Lowry's short stint as a head coach -- he has been a head coach for 17 months -- may yet count against him.
Soc Takes understands the club flew in two of the four head coaches for on-site interviews this week, and Ozdemir is also interested in hiring a technical director before the 2018 season to assist in identifying players.
Another coach that many in Indy wanted at the club, NASL championship-winner Marc Dos Santos, has joined the coaching staff at LAFC -- info first reported by Soc Takes contributor Kartik Krishnaiyer.
Photo credit: Jacksonville Armada FC
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