Doug Miller: “Any time you can start the season with a W that’s a good thing.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For at least two hours Friday night after enduring a personally tumultuous week, Rochester Lancers head coach Doug Miller had something to smile about.
After a 3 ½-year hiatus from the indoor game, his team came out strong and recorded a 7-3 victory over the Detroit Waza Flo in the Lancers’ season-opening game in the Major Arena Soccer League 2.
“Any time you can start the season with a W that’s a good thing,” he said. “So, that’s the first thing we’re happy about.”
The second thing? Easy. It was the atmosphere at the Dome Arena in suburban Henrietta as a capacity crowd of 2,500 packed the venue for the team’s first indoor soccer game since 2015. The environment was second to none.
“It was huge. It was a great crowd, a sellout crowd,” Miller said. “We wanted to make a good impression because you have only one time to make to make a first impression and we did. And we’re going to continue it [against the Cincinnati Swerve Saturday night]. They know now this is the first time we played in the arena and got kind of the nerves out.”
It has been a nerve-wracking week for Miller and his family. On Tuesday, he experienced tragedy when the bubble roof of his business, his Doug Miller Family Sports Park (also called Glacier Ridge Sports Park), in Spencerport was blown off by some New Year’s Day high winds.
“Yeah, it’s a been a challenging week,” he said. “If this was nine years ago where I was in my faith, it would have been a little bit more difficult. Nine years later, where I am and that I know what I believe in that in all my heart that God works all things for the good. He’s got a plan and I just trust him. I think maybe it’s that I’m older now. I’m not afraid of work. Going forward I want to make sure that I do the right thing, that I can make my program even better with what we’ve got going here, outdoor, with the Lancers and with the youth.”
So Miller gets high grades for focusing on the Lancers and having them prepared, although Friday night after the game he made a list of 36 things in which the team can improve — and that’s after a 7-3 result on the positive end.
Miller said gave the team a C or a C plus “because the expectations we have are high for the players.”
He noted that the Lancers enjoyed a 5-1 lead late in the opening half but were even with Detroit the rest of the way at 2-2.
“That’s not good enough for the caliber of players we have,” he said.
“If we really want to have some influence in this league, we’ve got to work on few of the things that weren’t very good tonight — the entry passes into our target, the movement where we like to drive and finishing. I think we might have had 35 shots. We have to do a better job with that.”
Especially in the second half when Rochester lost some of its sharpness.
“We lost that [third] quarter, 1-0,” Miller said. “Coming off after halftime, we started well. We had two power plays and didn’t convert. The quality there and the sharpness wasn’t good enough. We had a couple of set pieces that we should have done a better job. When we execute our set pieces, we’re very good. And that’s the sharpness. Then again, guys are just getting here. It’s not like we’ve trained 37 times together. So, we’re going to get there.
“The shifts were a little bit long on some of the guys. When the legs get tired people start to get away from what works.”
When Miller returned home, he made that 36-item list of improvements and after maybe 5 1/2 hours of sleep, he emailed that to his players.
Miller has told his players the following:
“When you’re sleeping, I’m coaching. When you’re eating, I’m coaching. I’m trying to do my very best.”
The same thing could have been said for Boomer Steigelman, who tallied the first two goals of the match in his Lancers debut.
“Once guys start to understand and play with [each other], it’s going to get even better,” Miller said. “He’s a very good target. His details get a little bit sharper and it’s going to be even better.
“He holds the ball really well. He’s a futsal guy so you can see he gets the ball at his foot and he can roll guys and get off good quality passes. When we’re playing that way, we have to use his assets and give good entry passes.”