By Paul Gotham
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Doug Miller wanted Austin Gerber to put his recent struggles behind him. The Rochester Lancers forward listened to his coach’s advice. Gerber entered Saturday’s season finale in the 68thminute of what was then a scoreless match. Ten minutes later, he had the game winner on a strike from the 18-yard box to beat Fort Pitt Regiment goalkeeper Scott Rissler.
“It’s nice to finally finish one especially in front of the home crowd in the last game,” Gerber said after the 1-nil victory on Charlie Schiano, Sr. Field at Marina Auto Stadium. “It’s awesome.” Alex Harling started the play with a take away at midfield. The Lancers outside back then fed Glenn Holmes who in turn led Gerber.
“When a guy’s running at you and he’s got two options,” Harling explained. “I tried to force him one way. If he goes that way, I just intercept it. It worked out. I was able to find Glen and led to counterattack.”
Harling’s disruption of Fort Pitt’s buildup gave the Lancers numbers to attack. “The game is all about numerical advantage,” Miller explained. “When you can create that and overload one side, then you can have success. If you release the ball and drive forward that’s what we did.”
Gerber also took advantage of teammate Will Stone’s presence along the left wing. After putting pressure on Fort Pitt throughout the first half, Stone drew added attention from the opposition.
“He was playing so great today he created a lot of space for the rest of us,” Gerber said of his teammate. “I felt the pressure from the defender, and Will was running along the left side. He made a nice decoy. I was able to shake him to the left and then I was able to turn to my right and I had daylight.” Starting along the left side of the 18-yard box, Gerber tucked his shot inside the far post.
“I’m proud of him because as a striker when you’re not in form and you’re not confident, you get frustrated,” Miller stated. “He created one earlier and then got that second one and finished it. It was great to see.”
That Gerber was in the game wasn’t always a sure thing. “He’s been coming off the bench, and he’s been struggling in practice a bit. As I told him right before he went in, I said ‘go be a hero.’ He did just that.”
In a match where the Lancers outshot Fort Pitt, 17-16, Regiment keeper Rissler made 12 saves. Gerber’s marker seemed like a matter of time. “We created so many chances, but it’s good to see one and the result that we grinder through,” Miller noted. I thought they created one or two good chances, but we had probably seven or eight. Will hit the post, hit the crossbar. Lukas (Fernandes) had one go through his legs at six yards out.” William Banahene made eight saves for the clean sheet – Rochester’s third of the season.
“No one knows he was struggling with an ankle injury,” Miller said. “He was probably at about 70 percent. That’s why he didn’t punt the ball and any time. He made two or three good saves. That’s where his success was last year. We’re really proud of how he stepped up like he did.” Rochester closed the season 6-3-3 and in third just outside of a playoff spot. “I think we were the best team in the division. Consistently we showed it. We didn’t show up for one Buffalo game and one Cleveland game. We grinded and we grinded. We had players step up when they needed to.”