Alex Harling has become an impact player for the Lancers. (Photo courtesy of the Rochester Lancers)
Four games into his third indoor soccer season, Alex Harling is starting to come into his own.
The Rochester Lancers defender looks more comfortable and confident on the carpet and has become an impact player for the Major Arena Soccer League 2 team.
Entering this weekend’s home matches against the Iowa Demon Hawks, Harling has recorded four points in as many games on the strength of two goals and two assists. Moreover, he has become an impact player on defense.
“Alex is a natural athlete and he’s developed his indoor soccer skills and IQ greatly over the past few years,” head coach Jake Schindler said. “He started to develop a good base, working with [former head coach] Doug Miller. And even though there hasn’t been a team in Rochester, playing at the highest level [the past three years], he plays more soccer than anyone I know.
“He’s been able to take all the lessons that he’s had and keep applying them, even when there hasn’t been a team around. He’s become a little bit sharper and what he’s doing on the field. I think this is going to be another breakout weekend for him. Alex really wants to push himself going forward and see what he can do to help create some goalscoring chances for us. We’re going to try and free up his role on the team to see what sort of impact he can have on the other side of the field as well.”
That would be against the Demon Hawks at Total Sports Experience in East Rochester, N.Y. on Friday and Saturday at 7:45 p.m.
For most newcomers to the indoor game, it takes anywhere from 40-50 games to become accustomed to the great indoors. Harling, a former Rush-Henrietta High School standout, is slightly ahead of that pace with about 30 matches under his belt.
“It takes a couple of years of playing indoor soccer to really learn the movements and the tendencies and things like that,” Harling said. “I’ve definitely started to get more comfortable as far as the speed of the game. I’m just trying to keep improving, man. It helps that we played M1 [Major Arena Soccer League)] a couple years ago and then now we’re playing M2. It’s a little slower, a little less frantic.”
Schindler has had a profound effect on Harling’s career – soccer and his day job. Several years ago, the Lancers coach hired him as a technician at Idex Health & Science. Schindler was his boss for a few months before he became an engineer with the company.
And now he is Harling’s boss again in soccer.
“All I can say is that Jake has been a great role model for me on and off the field,” he said.
Schindler attended Roberts Wesleyan as well.
“I was running a manufacturing department at the time, and we were looking to fill some roles,” he said. “So I reached out to him after seeing him at a soccer game over the summer and asked if he’d be interested. He had the skill set, the desire to try something new. It’s been a pleasure working with him. I consider him a friend, co-worker. He was at my wedding. I get a lot of time with Alex. We talk a lot. It’s a special relationship we’ve got.”
Name the sport and the 6-foot, 190-lb. Harling probably played it growing up in the Rochester suburbs. He played baseball, basketball, football, tennis cross country, lacrosse and soccer.
“Soccer, I just I fell in love with I think partially due to my athletic abilities,” he said. soccer came natural to me.
“It was either soccer or football, and football was just a different mentality. You’ve got to be aggressive and hit people. I guess at a younger age, I wasn’t really hitting people, but I still had the athleticism to run around them.”
After earning All-Monroe County and Section V select team honors, Harling decided to attend Roberts Wesleyan College as he was recruited by Mark Fish.
“I didn’t really have any plans to play in college [during] my junior year of high school,” he said. “Then my senior year I thought maybe okay, I could probably play in college somewhere and then I got recruited to go to Roberts and then I was I was fully in.”
Harling admitted that he hadn’t thought about playing professionally or after college until then.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be possible,” he said. “I don’t want to assume anything. Once I was in college and I was fully engulfed in it, I wanted to play. I wanted to play for the [Rochester] Rhinos, I wanted to play. whatever I could; possibly go overseas. That was kind of my goal – to be a professional soccer player.”
He joined the Lancers outdoor squad for three National Premier Soccer League season from 2017-19, before playing indoors for the team during the 2018-19 M2 campaign and the 2019-20 M1 season.
Indoors, Harling has experienced both ends of the spectrum in success and some struggling.
The Lancers finished third in the playoffs during the 2018-19 M2 season.
“The third-place trophy was huge,” Harling said. “I felt like it was a first-place trophy.
“We had a lot of guys that were coming in from out of town, showing up just for the games. It was it was definitely an adjustment period for us. It was good that we could put it all together. Obviously, we didn’t get the exact result we wanted. But we got to go to California, play in the playoffs and have a chance to win a championship.”
Rochester moved up to M1 for the 2019-20 season, but it was a struggle as the team won only one game.
Still, that season produced some memories for Harling.
“Playing at Utica City FCs, the first game that we played, I remember it was sold out,” he said. “Their fans are going crazy. I’m like, ‘Oh man, I don’t think I’ve played in front of this many people in my life.’ They came out scored early against us and they got the loud horns for the from hockey games.
“It was some of those memories I’ll definitely never forget. Being able to play in Milwaukee also seemed like it was sold out, playing on the black turf. Got to play against Baltimore, with the legends that they have on their team, playing on a little basketball court type field that it seemed like.”
Harling would love to give M1 a try again. Perhaps the Lancers would try it if a larger arena is available in Rochester.
“I’m still holding on to hope that we can eventually work our way back to M1 while I still have a couple years left to play,” he said.
The Lancers have gotten off to a strong start this season, posting a 3-1 record with all their four games on the road. Just as important as the wins was the fact the team got an opportunity to bond.
Harling said that the Lancers season was “coming together nicely. Having a two away trips, kind of brought us together. Just traveling with the guys, the flights, the bus rides, hotels, all that stuff kind of brings you together. I think that’s helpful.”
In a 12-game season, every game is precious. Every game is a must-win situation. No one has to remind Harling about that.
“It’s huge,” he said. “We have goals as far as winning our home games, going into the postseason. It’s huge. This this first weekend, we’re looking to get two wins. So that’s the expectation. That’s the goal.”
Finishing third four years ago was whet Harling’s appetite for a return appearance in the league’s final four.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s definitely caused us to set the bar high. We have we have high expectations, but we also have the personnel that sets the bar high as well.”