By Michael Lewis
The Rochester Lancers did not forfeit their National Premier Soccer League playoff game after all.
Their fate will be decided by a Wednesday coin toss on whether they will reach Friday’s semifinals.
The Midwest Region game against AFC Ann Arbor, which had been delayed twice by lightning, was stopped in the 69th minute because there were no lights at Concordia University. The NPSL doesn’t require stadium light as a minimum standard. The match kicked off at 6:30 p.m.
The Lancers claimed they needed to return to Rochester, N.Y. Wednesday morning because many of the players had to report to their jobs. The NPSL, for the most part, is an amateur league.
Originally, the Lancers announced they had forfeited the match.
“Playing a weekday night playoff game at a stadium with no lights is an embarrassment to the sport I love,” Lancers owners Soccer Sam Fantauzzo said in a statement. “Our players worked hard all season to get to this point and this isn’t fair to our staff, players and amazing fans. We plan to be in Detroit Friday to continue to fight for the NPSL championship.”
The Midwest Region final is set for Detroit Friday.
What had transpired turned into a he said vs. he said situation.
According to AFC Ann Arbor, both clubs were informed by the fourth official who was in contact with NPSL’s head of officials Paul Scott that the rest of the game should be played Wednesday at a mutually agreed upon time. Rochester refused this as an option.
In a press release, AFC Ann Arbor claimed it “went out of their way to create a contingency plan to play the match” at Total Sports Wixom if any weather issues arose. The Michigan said that it had pushed back the game’s kickoff to 6:30 p.m. at the request of Rochester. All evening AFCAA games had been started at 6 p.m. during the regular season.
AFC Ann Arbor Bilal Saeed said that Lancers head coach Doug Miller refused to complete the match at another facility, although a Lancers press release said otherwise.
“Once Rochester refused to play at the indoor facility, we were directed by Paul Scott to try and complete the game at Concordia which we attempted. We are now being forced to decide the outcome of this match by a coin flip, because Rochester refused to stay and play the next day, which was also under the instruction by Paul Scott,” Saeed said in a statement. “Rochester claiming that they didn’t refuse to play at the indoor facility is a bold lie. The GM of Rochester told me to my face, that their head coach, Doug Miller, wouldn’t change facilities in the middle of the match. He told me that multiple times. I apologize to our fans and especially the players, that the match will be decided by a coin flip, rather than completing the match on Wednesday as originally instructed.”
According to a Lancers press release, Miller reminded league officials that they claimed to have another facility if weather issues occurred and the game needed to be moved. Miller offered the option of deciding the match with penalty kicks or even a coin toss.
Fantauzzo said he had warned the league that a playoff game must be played on a field with lights.
The outdoor Lancers reached the playoffs for the first time in 42 years. They last participated in a postseason match in 1977, when they met the Cosmos and Pele in the semifinals of the North American Soccer League playoffs. The Cosmos swept the two-game series and qualified for Soccer Bowl ’77.