Writer’s note: the guys involved with Valiant 33 have always been about local soccer. Back during the first Rhinos’ hiatus, a group of us would go to any live soccer event we could possibly go to without having the cops called on us (apologies again to that u12 team). It’s always been about the basics: camaraderie, supporting our city, and cutting it up on a weekend before we go back to our real lives. While a common complaint we hear is always about “quality of play”, or “they play at a high school?”, there’s a certain vibe you can only get from meeting up in the parking lot with some Little Caesars, a 30 rack of Genny red-eye, and blasting early 00’s pop hits from blown-out Altima speakers.
When the Lancers left the Dome Arena and moved to the smaller venue of TSE, fans (and even staff and players) were left wondering what the gameday experience would look like. Using the tagline of “the Unique Boutique”, Soccer Sam’s panache could be seen all over the location as soon as we walked in- small giveaways, his now infamous music during the games, and halftime shows with mascot duels. Regardless of how one may feel about this approach, it works for indoor. Fans leave feeling as though they’ve been to an event and not just 12 guys kicking a ball around on a weekend night. Not to mention the pinball arcade and pizza joint right next door, and a nice dark field perfect for slamming some sneaky half time beers. Local soccer can be fun if you let it be.
The indoor Rochester Lancers came back to MASL2 this season after a-to put it nicely- challenging stint in the MASL top division. With a new influx of Roc City Boom players sprinkled in amongst some Lancer veterans, a new head coach in Jake Schindler, and an experienced assistant staff led by Marc Mandell, the boys tore off to an impressive start with massive road wins against Muskegon and both Iowa teams.
The following 4 games would be all wins at home in front of a small but loyal crowd of season ticket holders. The stage was set for a raucous final home stand on March 24th and 25th to slip into the playoffs and get fans some more Lancer-branded knick-knacks:
The home match on Friday was a must-win with an 8-3 record, but despite taking an early 1-0 lead in the 1st quarter on a definitely-not-a-foul solo effort by defender Alex Harling, the Rochester Lancers officially fell out of the MASL2 playoff picture with their 5-4 loss to the Raptors (who, by the way, have one of the worst logos in the league. The claws are backward, and it makes no sense anatomically that the Raptor would be coming out of the badge in that way. Have they never watched the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park? Raptor hands work just like human hands).
The following night, branded as a gioco di biscotti, found the Raptors facing a 14-5 extinction event featuring a meteor barrage of backheels, chips, and long-range golazos all to the soundtrack of “The American Dream” Marc Sotile’s biting Eeyor-esque commentary. The night was capped with a Hall of Fame induction ceremony and a lot of children on sugar highs running around.
The bright spot amid missing the playoffs is the increased synergy between two local teams: the previous metaphorical wall between the Lancers and Roc City Boom seems to have crumbled and the winning record is a happy symptom. Assistant Coach Marc Mandell said, “I think it was easier for the Boom guys that transitioned to playing indoor soccer because they are all very technical and high IQ players as well as very athletic. A lot of athletic players think it’s easy, but they tend to lack the soccer IQ on what to do in certain situations and when to use the boards. They all had positive attitudes and a winning mentality that was contagious and refreshing”.
Notable standouts who crossed the armistice line include:
Joe “Big” Balls
Taner “Cheddar Bay Biscuits” Bay
Alex “I Met Him at a Party Once” Harling
Tamas Nagy and Luca Dodge are also slated to join for the upcoming 2023 season.
Here’s to hoping that relationship continues.