By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
The wake-up call will come early Saturday morning for James Lepetit.
His native France begins play in the World Cup at 6 a.m. EDT with a Group C match against Australia.
On Tuesday, he’ll get to sleep in. The other team he’s rooting for, Senegal, doesn’t play its opening Group H match against Poland until 8 a.m.
Pick a team, one team, you say? Actually, Lepetit is allowed to cheer for both. The Rochester Lancers goalkeeper was born and raised in Angers, France, but his mother is from Senegal. Thus his dual allegiance.
“France has the best chance (to win the World Cup), but Senegal has a chance too,” Lepetit said.
The best part: The only time they can play each other is in the championship game on July 15.
He’s hoping his current team, the Rochester Lancers, is still playing then, too. The 20-year-old Lepetit has helped revive their National Premier Soccer League playoff hopes with a stretch of solid play.
He took over the starting role at Syracuse on June 6 and posted a 2-1 victory. On Tuesday, he posted his first shutout as the Lancers won 2-0 at Fort Pitt. Then on Friday night he was again the starter in a 1-1 tie against Cleveland SC.
“This is a new league for me, a new atmosphere,” said Lepetit, who will play soccer at Barton Community College in Great Bend, Kan., in the fall.
Will Banahene started the first three games but the Lancers were winless (0-2-1). He certainly wasn’t the reason for the losses, but the status quo made no sense to coach Doug Miller when the team headed to Syracuse for the June 6 game.
“When you don’t win, you change something,” Miller said. “James was training well and he gave us a spark.”
Miller had liked what he had seen during training, and he’s like what he has seen in games.
“He’s very composed on the ball so he’s good on his feet,” Miller said. “He also commands the box well. He just has a presence about him.”
The relationship between goalkeepers in soccer, just as with goalies in hockey, is always a little different than that of other players. Only one can play, so there is always competition. But they also train side by side and share ideas and tips.
Lepetit is new to the Lancers this year. Banahene, a graduate of Brighton High School and Buffalo State, is the incumbent starter.
“I like Will and I think he likes me,” Lepetit said. “We work together.
“I have a chance to play now and I always try to keep my place. I might play next time or maybe it’s Will. I just try to keep my place.”
As for the World Cup, he has found American soccer fans to be quite passionate. Futbal is the world’s game, yet here is Lepetit, living in a city where the Buffalo Bills, New York Yankees and Buffalo Sabres are front and center.
“Soccer is not their first sport,” he said, “but a lot of people know the game.”
Lancers 1, Cleveland SC 1
Playing at home supposedly is an advantage. The Lancers have yet to take advantage, however.
Despite first-half domination, the Lancers managed to score just once and, having weather the storm, Cleveland tied the match in the 74th minute and Rochester settled for the 1-1 Friday night draw on the pitch of Charlie Schiano Sr. Field at Marina Auto Stadium.
The Lancers, coming off a pair of road wins, are 2-2-2, but only 0-1-2 in downtown Rochester.
Churchville’s Lukas Fernandes converted a Rafael Godoi cross to the goal mouth in the 12th minute and the Lancers had an instant lead. That turned out to be their only goal.
“We should have been up 3-0 in the first 40 minutes; the game should have been over,” Lancers coach Doug Miller said.
Cleveland’s Chris Cvecko tied the score in the 74th minute, cutting in from the right side as the ball was sent deep into the box and he blasted a shot high into the left side of the goal.
The Lancers will look to end the home jinx on Sunday when they host Syracuse FC at 5 p.m. The Lancers were 2-1 winners at Syracuse on June 6.
Tickets are $10 (kids under 5 are free). And since it’s Father’s Day, dads also get in free.
The Lady Lancers, in first place in their UWS division, kick off Sunday’s doubleheader at 2 p.m. against New Jersey Copa FC.