KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Rochester Lancers head coach Doug Miller made history on Saturday, becoming the oldest participant in a soccer all-star game at the Major Arena Soccer League all-star game Saturday night.
Miller, the oldest professional athlete playing in the United States, played for the Eastern Conference, which dropped a 9-4 decision to its Western Conference counterparts at the Cable Dahmer Arena.
The indoor soccer great was given the honor of taking the opening kickoff for the East, passing the ball back to a teammate. Miller certainly didn’t look like a fifty-something during his shifts, play defense and chasing down balls in the corner. Lancers midfielder Jeremy Ortiz also participated in the match.
West goalkeeper Danny Waltman (Tacoma Stars), who made 15 saves in the second half, was named game MVP.
Cory Keitz (Tacoma Stars), Chris Gonzalez (Ontario Fury) and Cesar Cerda (San Diego Sockers) scored two goals apiece for the West. The start of the contest was delayed because it took several minutes for the “fog” used during pre-game ceremonies took did not dissipate as quickly as anticipated. The early stages were more of a defensive battle.
The West drew first blood at 11:56 of the first quarter as Keitz (Tacoma) scored off a counterattack, beating goalkeeper William Vanzela (Baltimore Blast) to the bottom right corner.
The East, however, countered with the next two goals to grab a 2-1 edge 3:29 into the second period. With the quarter only 18 seconds old, the East took advantage of a defensive error off a bad pass involving 2019-20 MASL goalkeeper of the year Chris Toth (Tacoma). Former Lancer Nate Bourdeau (Utica City FC) was given credit for the goal with Miller running toward the net just in case there was a rebound.
Dominic Francis (Harrisburg Heat) found the range into the lower left corner for a 2-1 East lead before Gonzalez fired a shot from the middle of the penalty area to knot things up at 2-2 at 4:38.
The West pulled away from its foes with three unanswered goals in the third period past goalkeeper Paulo Nascimento (St. Louis Ambush). Cerda snapped the deadlock with a powerful shot from just outside the yellow line 88 seconds into the quarter. Keitz connected for his second, a side volley off a Micheal Ramos (Tacoma) assist at 10:43.
Kraig Chiles (San Diego) made it 5-2 by slotting home a rebound of a Ramos shot off the boards with 20 seconds remaining in the period. Gonzalez netted his second of the match and the West’s fifth in a row with a powerful long-range shot from the left side to up the West lead to 6-2 at 3:30 of the fourth quarter.
Elton de Oliveira (Harrisburg) snapped the streak by tallying for the East past Waltman at 7:31. The West, however, wasn’t finished. Guerrero Pino (San Diego) chipped the goalkeeper at 11:24 before Cerda added a short-handed goal at 11:44 for an 8-3 advantage. Uzi Tayou (Ontario) increased the West margin to six goals at 13:13 before Ian Bennett (Florida Tropics) closed out the scoring off an assist by his former Milwaukee Wave teammate Max Ferdinand (St. Louis) with 85 seconds left in the game.
Lancers owner Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo attended the match. The game was played under strict COVID-19 protocols. Seating at the arena was limited to 1,600 and all fans had to wear masks and stay six feet apart.
Glass partitions surrounded the field with nets behind the goal. Players were tested before they departed for the game and were tested again when they landed here. Five players did not pass protocols, four on the East, including former Lancer Darren Toby. The Lancers to kick off their 2020-21 season after the new year.
No schedule has been announced yet, although the team is expected to play a regional schedule that will include Utica City, Harrisburg and Baltimore. Eleven teams will participate in the season, with five clubs sitting out the year.
Competing teams will play between 12-24 games with winning percentage deciding which squads will qualify for the playoffs. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.