Doug Miller on if the Lancers win the MASL 2 title: “I think what it does for the community and for Soccer Sam [Fantauzzo], all the blood, sweat and tears and the sacrifices that has gone into rebooting the Rochester Lancers, there’s the light at the end of the tunnel.”
By Michael Lewis
He has won national championships, including the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the A-League title.
But those were as a player.
Now, Doug Miller wants to win one as a head coach.
To accomplish that, the Rochester Lancers need to win twice this weekend in the Major Arena Soccer League 2 Final Four, starting with Friday’s semifinals.
As an integral part of the Rochester soccer community for a generation, guiding the Lancers to their first title of any kind since the 1970 North American Soccer League season, would be quite an achievement.
“It puts Rochester soccer back on the map again,” Miller said. “I think what it does for the community and for Soccer Sam [Fantauzzo], all the blood, sweat and tears and the sacrifices that has gone into rebooting the Rochester Lancers, there’s the light at the end of the tunnel. To do it in the short period of time like we’ve had would be an incredible story.”
Citing rising insurance costs, the Lancers were forced to go dormant after the 2014-15 MASL campaign before returning to the league’s second division this season. The team did not have much time to pull it off — on and off the field — but it sold out the Dome Arena in its six regular-season home games and enjoyed a successful season. Rochester eliminated the defending champion Chicago Mustangs in the Eastern Division final last week.
The Lancers could top it off with the M2 title this week.
They will take on the Cuervos of Juarez in an M2 semifinal match at the Upland Sports Arena in Ontario, Calif. Friday at 4 p.m. The winner will play the victor of the other semifinal (6:30 p.m. ET) between the San Diego Sockers 2 and the Las Vegas Knights at the Citizens Business Bank Arena at 5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, the loser in the third-place match at 3:30 p.m. ET.
“From the get-go, it’s always about winning a championship,” Miller said. “In the fashion that we’re doing it, we’ve had a lot of obstacles that we had to overcome, but we continue to develop players, local talent who can have an impact and influence on the game. For us, it re-energizes, rebooting Rochester soccer with the entertainment value with quality soccer. That’s been the No. 1 goal for Sam and I, whether that’s indoor and then moving outdoor right after this season started.”
The Lancers’ recent success has allowed him some respite from a business tragedy when the bubble roof of his business, his Doug Miller Family Sports Park (also called Glacier Ridge Sports Park), in Spencerport, N.U. was blown off by some New Year’s Day high winds.
“For me, it has been a wonderful distraction in the midst of chaos for me,” he said. “I enjoy being around the guys where we can sharpen each other as we understand the game. I can influence and mentor these young players that they can be successful in the community that they grew up in. I know how important that is to a lot of them, especially here in Rochester. I’m excited when that happens. For us to finish that out properly is the biggest goal for me in the end because it goes to show our model can work, that we can be competitive and can win. Hopefully, it carries into our next venture next year.”
There have been strong rumblings the Lancers will deploy a team in an MASL women’s league.
Regardless what transpires in California, Miller will be ready to tackle yet another challenge when the Lancers go outdoors in the National Premier Soccer League. They open their third season May 19.
Miller already has an outdoor plan percolating, but he won’t jump into it until he and the team complete some unfinished business this weekend.
“Right now, my only focus is the final two games and then celebrating a championship the team, my family and Soccer Sam and reminiscing for a good 24 hours,” he said. “Then we’ll reboot come Monday, Tuesday of next week to get the outdoor season underway.”
And don’t be surprised if many of those indoor Lancers become outdoor Lancers this spring and summer.
“The goal would be to have as many plyers to return to be involved,” Miller said. “I think that’s a crucial thing. So based on schedules, what guys are doing working and stuff, we want to keep this as a family. That’s what Sam and I had wanted from the get-go and hopefully we can continue to build, win an MASL championship and win an NPSL championship.”