For the first time in 274 days on Saturday night, Doug Miller and Jeremy Ortiz will get an opportunity to play the game they love so much.
Miller, the Rochester Lancers coach, and Ortiz, a midfielder, will roam the field at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence, Mo. for the Eastern Conference at the Major Arena Soccer League all-star game at 8 p.m. ET,
“It’s always exciting to be involved in an all-star game or at this point, the pandemic, in any game,” Miller said.
“Once we start to see all the other guys from other teams, I think it’ll be a little more real. There’s still a lot of moving parts for us to get there and for everything to go smoothly. These guys [Kansas City] are doing an incredible thing at a really challenging time. I believe … there’s going to be a lot a lot of positive things that come out of it.”
The last time these two Lancers played was a 9-7 win over the Kansas Comets at the Dome Arena on March 7 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2019-20 season.
Ortiz will make his first all-star appearance while Miller is an indoor legend, having set several records and standards in the sport.
“Jeremy’s a great player,” Miller said. “He’s paid his dues, a long time back to the Philadelphia KIXX, where he first met Leo Gibson the coach of the East. “It’s well deserved for him. He was a big part of our team last year.”
The 34-year-old Ortiz, who began his indoor career with the KIXX, has played five indoor seasons for the Lancers since the team was revived for the 2011-12 Major Indoor Soccer League campaign. A member of the Lancers’ Indoor Hall of Fame, Ortiz has scored 63 goals and added 40 assists in 100 games, helping Rochester reach the playoffs three times.
“He’s been doing for it for 10 years now,” Miller said. “Even when he left Rochester for the 2015 season when we ceased operations, he went to Baltimore. He was grinding down there to help them win a championship. So, it’s nice for Jeremy and his family to be celebrated in playing for an all-star team, especially coming out of the pandemic. It’s the first opportunity to showcase. People will be talking about it as they watch on online and in the stadium.”
Ortiz has looked forward to getting back onto the field with his 51-year-old coach. Miller put on a uniform for the final two games of the 2019-20 season, scoring three goals and assisting on two others.
“I always enjoyed playing with Doug ever since the original season with the Lancers in 2011,” Ortiz said. “I learned quite a bit from him in the indoor game. I thought that we were always linked up pretty well throughout the years. I still look to him as a coach and mentor and even as a teammate.
“Last season when he played a few games he was able to make an impact. This indoor game is a veteran game. The more seasons you are able to play this game, the more you become familiar with it and become that veteran. It just doesn’t go away for a player like Doug, especially because he’s been around for so long.”
Several former Lancers will play in the game, including Utica City FC’s Darren Toby and Nate Boudreau for the East and the Tacoma Stars’ Evan McNeley for the West.
“I haven’t seen Evan in a long time. He was here the 2014 season,” Miller said. “Great defender. Looking forward to seeing him because the last time I saw him online, watching games, he had a big beard. So, it would be exciting to see him.
“Darren Toby, Nate Boudreau, true professionals, when they played outdoors the Lancers. It was always a pleasure because you always knew what kind of mentality you were going to get from them. They’re students of the game and true competitors. Instead of them kicking me when they were in Syracuse, it’ll be nice to be on the same team with them.”
Miller, who said the all-star contest will be “a fun game,” praised its organizers.
“I sit here and pray about the situation that we’re in, that this event goes as smoothly as it possibly can, a huge success for the guys in Kansas City,” he said. “There’s a lot of time, effort and money that went into making this happen. A lot of people don’t see that from the outside. They just see a game being streamed online or if they’re lucky enough to be there. Give these guys a ton of credit for being stewards of the indoor soccer world and wanting to take a chance when nobody else wanted to. That’s what leaders do. The Kansas City ownership group and Leo Gibson should be well pleased at the outcome.
“I see it from a different perspective because I know what it is to run a business in a time like [this]; a soccer business when you’re dealing with a lot of moving parts.”
Fans can watch the game on pay-per-view streaming via Facebook for the cost of $15. Go to the MASL Facebook page: facebook.com/MASLsoccer.