The Lancers could not have asked for a better start at the Dome Arena this past week. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
HENRIETTA, N.Y. — Two games do not a season make, but it certainly is important to get off to a good start.
For the Rochester Lancers, it could not have been a better one, especially since they play a 12-game schedule in the Major Arena Soccer League 2 this season.
They got off to a great start, winning both encounters, outscoring their opponents, 24-10, while besting the Cincinnati Swerve, 17-7.
“It was a great weekend for the Lancers,” head coach Doug Miller said. “I think it was a great weekend for individual players to get acclimated to what we have here. I think we’re on the start of something great.”
No one disagreed with the boss.
“It’s the start we wanted,” midfielder Gary Boughton said Saturday night. “We’re looking to peak at the right time. So, yesterday’s game, strong defensively. Today’s game, strong offensively. As we continue throughout this season, we want to put that together, so we can ultimately win a championship here for these great fans. But to start 2-0, that’s the dream situation in a season like this.”
Miller wasn’t surprised by the Saturday night result. In fact, he felt the goal differential would have been higher had Rochester played better defensively.
“I think last night could have been, 17-2,” he said. “They had a couple of more opportunities. As I told the guys at halftime, if you want to go fast, you go by yourself. if you want to go far, you’ve got to go together, and you’ve got to serve each other. And you’ve got to sacrifice yourself to be to have this team win. Defense wins championships and we came out and defended properly in the second half.”
In so many ways, the two victories were a statement to the rest of the league that the 2019 version of the Lancers mean business. Both games also were sellouts at the Dome Arena, at 2,500 each encounter.
“You know, it all starts with the owners and Doug,” said forward Boomer Steigelman, who kicked off his Lancers career with four goals over the weekend — two in each match. “They’ve done a great job coming in here. It’s packed Friday and Saturday night. That’s a huge statement, having [2,500] at a game. And then it’s up to us to perform on the field. Yesterday we struggled a bit but today 17 goals is a lot. I think that should be a statement to anybody that is coming here or we’re going there to play against them.”
The second game’s result looked more like an American gridiron football result, not an arena futbol score. In fact, some observers might be inclined to call it a Saturday Night Massacre. Cincy entered the match well-rested, not having played Friday, while the hosts toiled 24 hours prior.
Forward Michael Cunningham, who finished with a hat-trick vs. Cincy, felt the Lancers made a statement.
“I think we did,” he said. “Is that the most goals a team has scored in the league so far? Seventeen goals. I think we’re showing our experience. Some guys have played at a much higher level. I think we have a lot of quality on the team and I’m excited to see how things turn out at the end of the season.”
On Saturday night, the Lancers fell behind on an early goal, but recovered quite quickly to roll to a 10-5 halftime advantage.
“We responded really well with the next three, four,” said Boughton, who had the honor of scoring the first Lancers goal of the season in the 7-3 win over the Detroit Waza Flo Friday night before adding three goals and three assists the next night. “I think that’s big in the indoor game. You’ve got to respond right away. It’s a game of runs. There are ups and downs. The more that you can level off and be consistent, that helped us get our legs under us.”
Still, there were concerns that the team took its foot off the pedal because Rochester allowed two goals in the final 50 seconds of the opening half, including one with one second remaining.
“I’m an intense guy. U like for everybody to be disciplined, know the time on the clock,” Miller said. “There were a few guys, veteran guys that should have known better. If X happens, then I do Y. If Z happens then I do A. And it just repeats itself over and over again. And if you don’t know that and it’s all been explained to you, then that is a lack of discipline and understanding. And that’s your soccer sense. When we gave up those two goals, they probably weren’t very happy at me at halftime.”
The Lancers played a better all-around game in the second half, while outscoring the Swerve, 7-2.
“Its just unacceptable from the quality of players we have here, especially from the experienced guys that played indoor before,” Steigelman said. “Momentum shifts. You’re going into the half winning 10-3. You’re up by seven goals and it goes to five goals. Doug was just saying that can’t happen. They come out and score a goal in the second and it’s a 10-6 game. We were able to score a few more. If we don’t give them the momentum shifts, I think we’ll be fine the whole year.”
Rochester will find out soon enough. The team have a few days to catch its collective breaths before hitting the road for its first trip this season. The Lancers play at the Muskegon Risers Friday at 7 p.m. and at the Waza Flo at 5:50 p.m.
They then take a three-week break before returning home to face the Chicago Mustangs Friday, Feb. 1 and Cincinnati again Saturday, Feb. 2. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.