Antonio Manfut loves the fact he is returning to Rochester.
But it might not necessarily for the love you might think.
Oh, he loves the Rochester Lancers, for whom he had played in 2017. But he is back for a greater love. The fiancé of the former Cleveland SC standout lives in upstate New York and he wants to be close to her as they plan their October wedding.
“Happy wife, happy life,” Manfut said. “Got to keep ’em happy.”
But that’s not to forget about the Lancers.
“I’m excited to come back,” he told Andrew Battisti and Joe Sirianni on the Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show.
“It’s a great organization, Sam and Doug, great people,” he added.
Manfut was referring to Lancers owners SoccerSam Fantauzzo and head coach Doug Miller.
The 26-year-old attacker is expected to be one of the keys to the Lancers’ attack this season. He and Miller talked about his role on Monday.
“He sees me as the goal scorer, as a threat up front, which is what my role was all throughout my career in Cleveland,” Manfut said. “So, I plan on bringing that to the Rochester Lancers and looking for more of a No. 9 role going forward and being an offensive threat, whether it be scoring goals or laying off to assist. That’s something that I see myself as offensive threat going against the opposition.”
That will be just fine with the Lancers. Manfut played for the club in its inaugural NPSL campaign in 2017.
The last time the Lancers saw Manfut in an outdoor match turned out to be the last National Premier Soccer League game they participated in prior to the COVID-19. They dropped a 6-4 decision to Cleveland SC in an epic encounter in Hamtramck, Mich. on July 19, 2019.
Manfut did not figure in the scoring, but it was a confrontation he never will forget.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “I remember Rochester going up against those two goals quickly right in the beginning. It kind of shocked us because we never really were in that place. We were kind of always in the lead, always dominated the matches and they punched us in the mouth at the very beginning.
“We were a little shellshocked. I got to be honest, but I give kudos to my Cleveland guys. I love all my Cleveland guys. They are born and raised here, grew up with everyone who plays on a team. We battled back as a unit, and unlucky for Rochester that they’re playing against us that year because we had a goal set out to make it to what we did what we did in 2016 was won a national championship. We had that mindset again.
“That was one of the craziest games I’ve been a part of. Luckily for us, we took care of business and went on to beat Detroit the next day as well. That was that was an unbelievable game and that’s something I don’t think I’ll forget.”
AFC Cleveland won 2016 NPSL championship – the 5-4, 140-lb. Manfut scored the game-winning goal in the final – but the team was thrown out of the league after the 2017 season because it was not in good financial standing with the league. So, Cleveland SC was created, and the club joined the league for 2018.
“So, after [going] down, 2-0, it took us a long time. We actually ended up tying it back in the very last minutes of the game, but that was one of the craziest games I’ve been a part of, and in the moment. Luckily for us in Cleveland, we took care of business and went on to beat Detroit the next day as well. But no that was that was an unbelievable game and that’s something I don’t think I’ll forget.”
Cleveland lost to eventual champion Miami FC in the national semifinals.
As it turns out, the Lancers and Cleveland open their NPSL season at Aquinas Institute in Rochester, N.Y. on Sunday, May 16 at 5 p.m.
“I’m excited,” Manfut said. “I’m actually here in Cleveland right now, I’m going to see some of my friends from the team this week and not talk too much trash but I’m excited to play against them. It’s all love for them. I have nothing bad to say about them. They’re a great organization. We grew up together, we always competed against each other youth levels. Now we got to do it a little bit more on the adult side, so I’m excited to play against them and hopefully hang out with them after and have a couple of drinks with them.”
Here is a related story:
EPIC ENCOUNTER (2019 repost): 10 goals, 120 minutes, 11 yellow cards, 2 lost leads, but a 6-4 playoff defeat for exhausted Lancers