Dylan Mares may have been out for an extended period of time for the Indy Eleven. He might have been quiet on the front and not as productive as the top producers of last year but none of that matters. When you look at most valuable players and dynamic game changer,s it really shouldn’t go much farther than the young Indiana University product playing in Indianapolis. Mares has a tangible difference for the boys in blue on the field and has an ability to create, perform, and succeed in just about any position.
Dylan Mares: Young Player of the Year
North American Soccer League has released their yearly end of the year awards. The list for Young Player of the Year includes Akeil Barrett of Jacksonville Armada, Brian Brown and Dylan Mares from Indy Eleven, Dustin Corea and Mallan Roberts from FC Edmonton, Darin Espinal from Tampa Bay Rowdies, Mauro Eustaquio and Oliver from Ottawa Fury, Leo Fernandes from the New York Cosmos, Marlon Freitas and PC from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, and Yago Silva from Minnesota United.
The list has all very qualified candiates but one has stood out in my eyes all season. Dylan Mares was a signing from year one of Indy Eleven as a professional club in the North American Soccer League. Coming from Indiana University’s infamous soccer program that has turned out such alumni as US Men’s National Team player Lee Nguyen, Indy Eleven midfielder Brad Ring, and US U-20 starlet Tommy Thompson among others.
Mares had a quiet role last season making just four appearance for the Boys in Blue without being able to put a ball into the back of the net, but he has grabbed 2015 and made it his year. As it currently sits, Mares leads the team in goals scored (4) as well as leading the team in assists (4). Indy Eleven have had a few people switch out into that forward attacking midfielder that Mares has played this season, more so with the injury that caused Mares to ground his high flying season for a number of weeks.
Among the on field results, Mares has given Indy Eleven a confidence they haven’t been able to really enjoy. During the transition from the loose 4-4-2 diamond formation that Indy used, which at times read more as a 4-1-3-2, Mares sat up top in the space between the midfield and the forwards and helped create as much as he scored. Even after the injury that sidelined him and Indy brought in Zach Steinberger from MLS side Houston Dynamo, the role that Mares had in that position wasn’t really able to be filled by anyone else.
One thing that has always been brought up is the concept of what makes a players “the most valuable.” Ideally, you want them at the top of whatever league or team they are a part of. With sports like basketball players like Lebron James will always be in that discussion because he commands such a powerful presence. While Indy Eleven haven’t dominated teams with Dylan Mares on the field, his youthfulness and ability to get forward and help build has given this team a lot more confidence and success than they would have had without him.
Even in the shadows of defeat Mares understands what that means. After the recent loss to San Antonio Scorpions at home that saw Mares score the lone goal for Indy Eleven, he said, “That’s a good goal for anyone because it gives you a little bit of confidence, knowing that you can still put it in the back of the net. It brought us back into the game for a little bit, then they came back down and immediately scored, it made things really difficult for us.” Mares understands his role, even coming off the bench. When asked about having to come off the bench he replied, “It was tough coming into the game being down, but I knew I had to give the team a lift a little bit. I did what I could; Tim (Regan) told me to stay high on the pitch, and it’s kind of tough playing with two attacking midfielders because Marvin (Ceballos) and I communicate in two different languages. But, we try to sort it out between us and I just tried to stay as high as I could and just be around the goal to have something like that happen.”
Another layer to Mares seems to just be his overall leadership and intelligence on the field. Whether it just be his freshness in being a pro soccer player or his genuine ability to lead you can tell a huge difference in how tactically Indy Eleven plays by the fact that Dylan Mares is on the field. He knows how to lead people properly and get the ball forward. He knows timing with moving up and being able to help out in specific aspects of the game. It’s stuff like that you can’t easily teach but rather the player just knows.
Indy Eleven haven’t had the season that the team was looking for. While Tim Regan, the team’s head coach, is already looking toward next year saying that (after the loss to San Antonio) the next three games, “It’s a chance to look at guys for 2016. Whether it’s a certain tactical lineup, or to see them at certain positions and certain moments, that’s what we’ll take advantage of down the stretch.” One thing is for certain. While many of the players might leave one name needs to stay on that roster in order to provide a helpful direction next year: Dylan Mares.