The Lancers plan to return to the Dome Arena, as long as it is open for business. (Lancers Photo)
By Michael Lewis
After finishing its return to the Major Arena Soccer League with one victory during the 2019-20 season, Rochester Lancers owner SoccerSam Fantauzzo obviously wants to improve on his team’s record.
So, whenever the MASL signing period begins, he says that he plans to bulk up the squad for next season.
“We’re trying to reach outside the box,” he said, adding that the MASL free agent season will begin either July 1 or Aug. 1.
Fantauzzo hoped to discover the exact date at the MASL owners meeting via conference call on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow [Tuesday], we find out if its July 1 or July 31 is going to be the release of the contracts,” je said on the Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show on Monday night.
If the start date is July 1, Fantauzzo said that he was “going to go after some heavy-duty players to make a difference with the Lancers. And if it’s July 31, I’m going to wait to August to go after a lot of players in indoor soccer to make a difference and give our fans a team that they will be proud of and hopefully will do better than .500.”
Fantauzzo did not reveal in which players he was interested.
Using a team of primarily homegrown Rochester players and former Lancers standouts, the team struggled in its return to MASL after finishing third overall in MASL2 during the 2018-19 campaign.
The Lancers finished in ninth and last place in the Eastern Division at 1-21.
Coached by Doug Miller, the team is serious enough to prepare for the next season that it has been training in a facility in Penfield. On Monday, the Lancers signed a deal with Total Sports Experience in Rochester to train at least once a week, perhaps twice.
Had there not be a COVID-19 pandemic, the Lancers men would have been headed toward the end of the National Premier Soccer League season and the Lady Lancers would be just about finishing up their United Women’s Soccer campaign. Both leagues cancelled their seasons.
“I think it was a smart thing to do,” Fantauzzo said. “Some of the other amateur-type leagues are continuing. Some of our players are going to play in those leagues in Rochester and Buffalo and wherever there are teams. They’re going to try to stay fit and we’re not going to stop them from doing that. We’ve never really interfered with what they do in the offseason. Our focus, our 100 percent focus right now is the upcoming indoor season.”
The Lancers plan to play at the Dome Arena in Henrietta, N.Y. for the third consecutive season. But that will be determined by the pandemic.
“We hope so,” Fantauzzo said. “Because of COVID, there’s a lot of uncertainty with a lot of things. But we think we’re going to play there.”
The soccer club as a five-year contract to play at the Dome, with three years left on the deal,” he added.
The facility has been closed for several months due to the pandemic.
“Rumor has it they weren’t really going to open up after Jan. 1 which doesn’t affect us because our season won’t start until after that,” Fantauzzo said.
But the Lancers have a Plan B and perhaps a Plan C given how fluid things have been since the pandemic hit in March. Plan B would be a possible return to the Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester. The indoor Lancers performed there from 2011-15.
“So, we’re trying to keep all doors open,” Fantauzzo said. “We would love to go back to the Dome Arena. If we can’t go back to the Dome Arena for whatever reason, we would try to go back to the Blue Cross Arena.”
Fantauzzo added that a local soccer fan has plans to convert former Tops Market locations into indoor soccer facilities.
“So, we have a lot going on,” he said. “My goal is to keep indoor soccer going for at least the next 20 years until I am ready to retire.”
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