The Lancers need to beat the Iowa Raptors twice on Friday and Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the Lancers)
EAST ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Entering their final two games of the Major Arena Soccer League 2 season, the Rochester Lancers face a must-win situation to book a spot in the playoffs, not once, but twice.
They need to be victorious against the Iowa Raptors in two games this weekend. The Lancers host their North Division rivals on Friday and Saturday night. Both games are at the Rochester Regional Health Total Sports Experience and kick off at 7:45 p.m.
“The only thing I can really say is we control our own destiny,” Lancers head coach Jake Schindler said. “So, win and we’re in. That’s the only thing that I’m going to be concerned about is winning two games and maintaining a 100 percent home record.”
The division winner will book a spot in the M2 Championship Weekend in Mesquite, Texas on March 31-April 1.
The Lancers will be ready.
“This is a mature group,” Schindler said. “So even though some of them might be new to the indoor game, they all know what it means to be playing in the playoffs.
“That’s essentially all that is happening here, that the playoffs have started a week earlier for us. We’re going to take it accordingly. I think that the game plan is already in place. It’s just about executing it.”
Both teams enter the weekend with 20 points. Rochester (7-3-0) needs to win both matches in regulation while Iowa (6-2-2) will advance if wins one game in regulation. If there are overtime matches, there could be several ways both sides can advance.
Reaching the final four would be an accomplishment for the Lancers, who returned to the great indoors after a three-year layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They last played in the MASL in March 2000.
Schindler said that winning “interests me because it’s how you get to the championship game.
“At the end of the day, not reaching the final part to me would be a disappointment. I want to be playing for the championship.”
Rochester finished third at the M2 playoffs in 2019.
The Lancers enter the weekend on their first losing streak of the season, after dropping a pair of matches in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They lost to the Raptors, 7-4, last Saturday, which was followed by an 8-2 defeat to the Iowa Demon Hawks on Sunday.
The team was without several vital players due to injury, sickness or commitments to an MASL team. The missing included veterans Joey Tavernese and Darren Toby, Matt D’Amico, who suffered an injury last week, Eduardo Figueroa, who recorded a hat-trick against Muskegon, Vadim Cojocov and Domenico Vitale.
“I’m optimistic that I’m going be near my full-strength roster,” Schindler said. “When you’re playing at home you might have a larger pool to select from. Some of our guys do play up and down [from M2 to M1]. So, it will make it easier for guys to be available.”
The Lancers enter Friday’s game at a perfect 4-0-0 at home and 3-3-0 on the road. Conversely, the Raptors are 2-2-0 on the road and 4-0-2 at home.
Playing at home certainly has its advantages. You’re not traveling. You get to sleep in your own bed. And, you know the venue you play on much better than the opposition.
No one has to remind Schindler about that at TSE.
“We’ve got very firm boards, so the ball bounces differently compared to the Iowa arena,” he said. “It’s understanding the angles, understanding how quick the ball is going to be coming off the board. We have a softer turf, so it’s a bit slower than some of the other fields. And, we operate with a really low ceiling. So, just knowing these little nuances and being able to play there really does make a difference at the end of the day, because there was even an adjustment period for us the first weekend. But we’ve actually been able to get some training on the field now, which we weren’t able to beforehand. So, I expect us to be very prepared for this upcoming weekend.”