ROCHESTER, N.Y. – For the first time in 1,036 days, a Rochester Lancers indoor team will take to the field in a competitive match on Friday night.
That’s when the Lancers 2 side will take on the Muskegon Risers in their Major League Soccer League 2 season-opener in Muskegon, Mich. at 7 p.m. ET. The game is scheduled to be streamed online.
“I’m very excited about that,” head coach Jake Schindler said. “I think we’ve got the talent to compete. It’s great to have professional indoor soccer back in our hometown. I really hope this provides an opportunity for players to get out of college and have a pathway to a pro team somewhere.”
The Lancers haven’t been able to field a team due to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down many professional sports leagues in 2020 and problems trying to find a facility to house the team. It has been difficult trying to obtain dates at the Dome Arena, the club’s last home venue.
The last time a Rochester indoor team competed was in a 9-7 home win over the Kansas City Comets in a Major Arena Soccer League on March 7, 2020, almost three years ago.
Schindler hopes Lancers 2, which also will play the Risers on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, will be competitive in the team’s opening two matches.
There could be a learning curve.
“Since we haven’t had a team for two years, it’s a lot of player development right now,” he said. “We’re painting in broad strokes. I think once we get past this first weekend, we’re really starting to be able to refine some of the details.
“This is a thinking man’s game. You have to be aware of what you’re doing at any given time. This isn’t outdoor soccer where there’s easily a five-second stretch where the ball is on the other side of the field and you’re deciding what run you need to make. We’re trying to make decisions within an instant.”
Lancers 2 will have several familiar faces.
That includes Schindler, 35, who earned MASL all-star honors while playing with Utica City FC in the MASL, will suit up. A member of the Lancers Wall of Fame as an active player, the one-time West Irondequoit High School and Roberts Wesleyan College standout forged a reputation as rugged, hard-working defender-midfielder on both sides of the ball in the indoor and outdoor games.
This is the Rochester, N.Y. native’s first coaching gig and Schindler is ready to share his playing experience with a new generation.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “The coaching staff is really involved in helping out. I’m enjoying it because I’m getting to play again. I never want to stop playing. It’s been a great opportunity for me to put 11 years’ worth of knowledge back onto the field and into some friends and new teammates.”
Other former Lancers include goalkeeper Dan Maddock, midfielder Dan Reger, midfielder-forwards August Finn and Frankie Ciliberto, forwards Alex Harling and Andriy Demydiv, plus Alex Vega, Matt D’Amico and Mitchel Brickman. Former Syracuse Silver Knights and Utica City FC player Darren Toby also has joined the squad.
Several newcomers have impressed Schindler, including midfielder-forward Taner Bay and midfielder Jonathan Cohen, who completed his senior season at RIT last fall.
Schindler said that Bay has “good technical skills. He can really strike a ball. Jonathan Cohen who’s a strong left-footed technical player. He can really pick a pass and he keeps really tight control of the ball which is great for indoor soccer. I’m really excited to see what those two newcomers bring in this first week.”
The Lancers’ coaching staff includes “BoomBoom” Martinez, Joey Tavernese, John Berardicurti and Marc Mandell.
Tavernese, a former Lancer and a current member of Utica City FC, will have a unique indoor soccer perspective this season as he will continue to play with his MASL team.
“He’s going to be at all the games where he doesn’t have a conflict with Utica,” Schindler said. “He’s also been out to all the practices, making sure that we’ve got four eyes because it’s hard for one person to try to coach so many people in all these little details. It’s great that me and Joey can kind of split up the field into two sections.
“I’ve known him and played with him for 10 years in a row. I think there was only one year and those last 10 years where we’ve been actually didn’t play a game together. I played against them that year, so it’s been quite a journey with him.”
The Risers already have played five matches and are 1-4 in the Northern Division. Schindler has scouted Muskegon via streaming.
“I’ve been able to catch parts of all five of their games, and I’ve watched two of their games, front to back,” he said. “The level of play in our conference is really high. So, if you come into a game unprepared, you’re going to be left wanting right from the get-go.
“They played a couple a couple different ways, depending if they’re home or on the road. We’ve got to really concentrate on their home matches from an evaluation standpoint. They definitely got some technical players. They scored some great goals from near the yellow line. They’re finishing has been really strong from a distance. We’ve got to be prepared to close them down early and often and try and when the ball is high up the field this weekend to prevent them from getting opportunities.
After opening weekend, Lancers 2 won’t play again in almost a month, when they visit Iowa for back-to-back games against the Iowa Raptors on Feb. 4 and the Iowa Demon on Feb. 5.
Rochester won’t play a home game until it hosts the Demon Hawks at Total Sports Experience in East Rochester, N.Y. on back-to-back nights on Feb. 24-25.
“We’ve got about seven weeks training underneath our belt,” Schindler said. “So, this is going to be the litmus test to see what we have learned what do we need to work on. To be able to take the next three or four weeks after this first stretch of games to really shore up that we’re doing is going to be really important.
“If you really want to be a competitive team, you need to be at least a .500 team on the road and you need to win all your home games. That’s going to be the minimum standard to be competing for the conference championship.”
Schindler’s goals this season?
“Make sure that we win the North and be competing for a championship game,” he said. “I’d take nothing less than to be playing in the championship game this year.”
That’s a pretty tall order for any new team, but given Schindler’s success in the beautiful game, it would not be smart to bet against him or Lancers 2.