Doug Miller on Sunday’s game vs. Syracuse: “It’s no different. it’s still just a game for us.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester Lancers play their last outdoor home game ever on Sunday, but head coach Doug Miller isn’t getting sentimental.
The only thing on his mind entering the 5 p.m. contest against Syracuse FC is a W, as in a win.
“It’s no different. it’s still just a game for us,” he said. “We haven’t had success that we wanted this season. We’ve painted a broad stroke about what we’re trying to accomplish, and we’ve got to get back to thin lines, taking one game at a time and trying to get three points.”
The fifth-place Lancers (1-4-1, 4 points) will try to get back on track when they host sixth-place Syracuse FC (0-2-2, 2) in a NPSL Rust Belt Conference Division match, after the Lady Lancers meet Syracuse DA at Charles A. Schiano Sr. Field at Aquinas Institute at 2 p.m. Rochester is coming off a 5-2 home loss to Erie Commodores FC last Sunday, which eliminated the team from playoff contention. The top two teams in the conference will reach the postseason.
“We struggled from the get-go not having a true No. 9,” Miller said. “In this league, you need a player who can score 10 goals. We don’t have a No. 9 who can do that. We started with a big pool of players, and we’ve tried different combinations, different systems, to try and get more players forward. Losing some key players from two years ago that had a lot of creativity and brought a lot of intrinsic motivation to the team was missing.”
Actually, the Lancers do have a natural No. 9, but he is a bit too old to play regularly. That would be Miller, who turned 52 on May 5. During his prime, Miller filled the net indoors and outdoors, for the Lancers and the Rochester Rhinos, among other teams.
Last year Miller played two matches for the Lancers in the Major Arena Soccer League and tallied three times. That included two goals in the indoors side lone goal of the season.
“I would do OK as a No. 9,” he said. “I don’t have young legs, but being on the field, is a presence that will help the team with a little more confidence and organization in regard to it. Chirping from the sideline and giving instructions is one thing chirping and giving instructions in the midst of it as a better option for guys to be accountable.”
His involvement with the Lancers isn’t over. He will continue the Rochester Lancers Jr. Academy Club at the Glacier Ridge Sports Park in Spencerport, N.Y. and will return as coach of the Lancers’ indoor team in the MASL later this year. The Dome in Henrietta, N.Y., which has been a venue for New York State to give vaccinations must be available for the Lancers to play.
“Our youth program is really strong,” Miller said. “It’s a pathway for kids to play for our program. And then there’ll be other options for them to play when they’re in college and come back. We’re anchored here in Rochester, with our facility and our culture and our environment. We’ve grown soccer tremendously over the past 15 years.
Miller has coached the indoor and outdoor Lancers. He has a 19-13-8 regular season mark with the NPSL side and a 25-35 indoor record during the regular season. Under Miller, the Lancers were 8-4 in M2 during the 2018-19 season, taking third place in the playoffs. It was the club’s first trophy since winning the 1970 North American Soccer League championship. In the MASL, Rochester is 17-31 under Miller, including a 16-10 finish in 2014-15. The Lancers used primarily a local-based, youthful roster during 1-21 campaign in 2019-20.
Come this fall, Miller’s will concentrate on the great indoors.
“That’s what our focus is going to be,” Miller said of the indoor team. “Outdoor soccer hasn’t been prevalent since probably 2005-06-07 in the Rochester community. It’s challenging with everybody so busy in the summertime with youth camps, tournaments and such. So, the Lancers’ focus is going to be as well as my focus – the indoor game, which is really a passion of mine. I started my professional career 30 years ago with the Baltimore Blast. Preparations everything. We prepare as if we’re going to have a facility to play in and players to compete.”
In 2019, Miller was named the first head coach of the Bryant and Stratton College-Rochester men’s soccer team for the 2020 fall season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team’s season was cancelled. Since then, things have changed for Miller.
“COVID hit last March. That pretty much changed the whole landscape of college soccer in the area,” he said. “My focus is on my youth program, my facility.”
His facility is the Glacier Ridge Sports Park.
Miller said that there has been no contact with Flower City Union, the National Independent Soccer Association team that will take over the Lancers’ men’s and women’s teams in 2022. Lancers owner Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo Thursday sold the teams to the new club.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” Miller said. “If that’s something that they’re interested in, I would certainly listen to the opportunities available. For me, my focus is on my facility, my youth program, providing that environment for kids to become their very best on and off the field.”
And for Doug Miller, it’s first things first, as in trying to get a W on Sunday.