By Michael Lewis
With three games remaining in the National Premier Soccer League season, the Rochester Lancers find themselves between that proverbial rock and a hard place.
Not only must they win those matches, they need to win big and have some outside help.
They enter the weekend in fifth place in the East Conference with a 3-3-3 record, good for 12 points. Rochester must win all three matches to have a shot as the top two teams will reach the playoffs.
Cleveland SC (6-1-3, 21 points) lead the conference, followed by Erie Commodores FC (6-1-2, 20), Fort Pitt Regiment (6-3-0, 18) and FC Buffalo (5-3-2, 17).
The Lancers, who meet the struggling Greater Binghamton FC Thunder (0-9-0, 0) in a home-and-home series this weekend, which has been outscored 54-4, must score early and often
“We’re still alive,” said Lancers head coach Doug Miller, who will come out of retirement to play the final minutes of Saturday’s encounter at Marina Auto Stadium at 5 p.m.
Miller has done the math.
“It’ll come down to having three teams tied at 21 points,” he said, adding that it a playoff berth could be decided by goal differential. Since Rochester is even with 14 goals for and 14 goals against, it must bulk up against Binghamton (Cleveland SC is at plus 23, followed by Erie at 18, Fort Pitt at 11 and FC Buffalo at six).
Binghamton hosts Rochester Sunday at 2 p.m.
Miller said every team has played two games against Binghamton in which “everybody has gotten their goal differential way up there.”
“That’s going to be a challenge for us this weekend,” he added. “Go out and really take it to Binghamton and get nine or 10 goals to get our goal differential up to other teams.”
Then the teams above the Lancers in the standings need to lose or draw to keep Rochester’s playoff hopes afloat.
“Mathematically, we are still in it, but again, we need a lot of help,” Miller said.
After missing the 2017 postseason by a point and learning more about the league, Miller expected the Lancers to be an improved side.
Despite qualifying for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup before falling to Erie on penalty kicks, it has been a frustrating season.
“We’ve given points away where we shouldn’t have because we were the better side.” Miller said. “There’s two games maybe the entire season we should have lost. Every other game we were the better side. Without having a true No. 9 who could go in and score 10 goals, it makes your job that much more difficult because you’ve got players who aren’t training on a daily basis and don’t have the mindset in the short season like this to compete every day like you have to.”
In a battle for first place in the United Women’s Soccer East Conference, the Lady Lancers host the Western New York Flash in the opening match of the doubleheader at 2 p.m.