Michael Cunningham admitted he was “a bit shocked” when Rochester Lancers head coach Doug Miller offered him a co-captain role for this Major Arena Soccer League season.
It didn’t take long for the 28-year-old forward to embrace it.
“I was immediately excited,” he said.
Cunningham was visiting family when Miller emailed him about his idea.
“He didn’t pressure me into it,” the Nottingham, England native said. “He said, ‘Would you like to be a captain? I think this responsibility would be good for you, to serve other players, and through that, serve yourself.’ As a player, you do think of yourself a lot. You want to perform, especially coming into this league.
“It has been great for me, even though I have very limited knowledge of the indoor game, compared to a lot of players, That little experience that I have I can share with others and through me, try to mentor some younger players who have no experience whatsoever.”
Cunningham will share the co-captain responsibilities with Anthony Rozzano. He thought it was a perfect fit for the squad because he and Rozzano bring different aspects to the role.
“I think that was a good pairing, a good choice from Doug because we both have very different personalities, but they work well together,” Cunningham said. “Anthony’s very good at sort of going one on one with the players, side by side with them. I am more of a group speaker. I like to get guys motivated. Some might see me as a bit more harsh on how I talk, a bit more cut throat. If something is not going right, ‘Guys, we need to pull it back.’
“Anthony comes in if someone looks like he’s struggling, individually he’ll come along aside them and spend that time a bit calmer approach. I think the two work really well together. I address the team and Anthony comes in and is really good at building those individual relationships with the guys. It’s a good partnership. I’m glad we’re taking it on together.”
Cunningham admitted he might not necessarily have the most MASL experience on the team, but he felt he certainly can make a vital contribution to the team.
“There are guys in our squad that have a lot more experience — Jeremy Ortiz and Gary Boughton,” he said. “I think the reason why Doug wants us to be captains is that we’re here in Rochester all the time. We can be there for guys when the older players are out of town. We’re always there to help guys through these extra training sessions. He knows we’re going to be at every practice. He’s looking for guys who are going to be in the community throughout the entire week. I’m enjoying the role. It’s tough, a challenge, but it’s only going to build me as a player and a person. I know Anthony feels the same way.”
The Lancers kick off their 2019-20 MASL with two games at the Dome Arena this Thanksgiving weekend.
They host Utica City FC on Friday before welcoming the Harrisburg Heat on Saturday. Both games start at 7 p.m.