Carl Haworth's arrival at Indy Eleven makes for a potent threat from either flank for Head Coach Martin Rennie's side, with Spanish veteran Ayoze on the left and the Canadian on the right side. | Photo courtesy Steve Kingsman / Freestyle Photography / Ott
Are you ready, Eastern Conference defenses? Indy Eleven is coming for you.
Friday’s announcement of the acquisition of Canadian standout Carl Haworth effectively gives the Eleven the best one-two punch from the flanks in the USL Championship, and two of the deadliest set piece specialists in the league.
With Ayoze set to return on the left flank, and Haworth on the right, Indy has the potential to go from a side that was in the middle of the pack in the Championship this past season with 538 crosses or corners, seven assists from set pieces and only one goal directly from a set piece to the upper echelon, where teams like defending title-holder Real Monarchs SLC (14 assists, 5 goals) lived this year.
Let’s start with Ayoze, who over the past two seasons has recorded 13 assists, recorded 146 chances created overall – good for ninth in the league in that span – of which 76 came from set pieces. Only Louisville City FC’s Oscar Jimenez and Orange County SC’s Aodhan Quinn had more from dead ball opportunities.
The Spaniard’s left foot has been described by some as a magic wand, testament to his ability to create chances with precision from either the flanks or deeper-lying positions. His ability to hold his own defensively also remains, only 47 times in the past two seasons has he been beaten off the dribble by opponents, a number far below that of Jimenez’s (85), meaning the 34-year-old continues to be an ideal option for Martin Rennie’s left wing-back position.
“Ayoze has been a vital part to what we’ve built here the last two seasons, and we know he’ll have even more to give this club in 2020,” said Rennie when the club announced his return last month. “The passion and tenacity he brings to the field every single day leads our squad by example, and anyone who has watched him this past season can see that he is still very much one of the most skilled players in the USL Championship.”
Now add in Haworth, who after his stellar performances for Ottawa Fury FC over the years would have been a major prize for any club. He joins Indy after a season in which he led the league with five goals directly from set pieces while also recording six assists, 65 chances created of which 32 came from set piece situations.
The Canadian standout now figures to start on the right flank for the Eleven in the 2020 season, bringing his ability to deliver in open play and finish chances in a way that harken back to his former days as a forward to a side that is looking to go two wins further than its appearance in this year’s Eastern Conference Final.
“Carl Haworth simply checks all the boxes you want in a player both on and off the field,” said Rennie. “He’s a willing distributor and proven capable finisher in the final third, and he’s also versatile enough to be a top-caliber outside back in our league. Carl is also a genuine leader and will amplify the culture we are cultivating in our locker room and across the organization. We are eager to have him contribute to what we are building here in Indy.”
As it stands, there’s one person who could be poised to benefit the most from Friday’s move more than anyone, and it’s the all-time leading scorer in the Championship’s history. With the service that Ayoze and Haworth could provide Dane Kelly, a return to the form that earned him the Championship’s Golden Boot in 2017 – and a potential run at becoming the first player to record a century of goals in the league, he’d need 23 goals to get there – could be on the cards.
And for the defenses that will face this lineup? The only goalkeepers that are going to enjoy imagining Haworth’s right foot and Ayoze’s left standing over a set piece 25 yards from goal are Indy’s duo of Evan Newton and Jordan Farr.
For everyone else, it’s an image that might keep them up at night.