BACK HOME: After a season in Utica, Schindler is excited about returning to the Lancers

Jake Schindler is back with the Rochester Lancers and he couldn't be happier.

The veteran midfielder was one of 21 players signed by the club Sunday for the 2020-21 Major Arena Soccer League season.

The former West Irondequoit High School standout was the marquee signing of the Lancers, given his reputation as an all-star performer, a hard-worker and a popular player with the fans.

"I'm excited. I wanted to come back because Rochester is my hometown," Schindler said. "Sam [owner Salvatore 'SoccerSam' Fantauzzo] and Doug [Miller, head coach] are very good friends of mine. They have mentored me and helped me at pretty much every turn since I started playing nine years ago. To be part of what they're working is always special to me."

Schindler played for Utica City FC last year and earned second-team all-star honors as one of the top players in the league.

Another reason why Schindler wanted to stay close to home? On Sept. 3, his wife Laura gave birth to their first child, daughter Blakely Rae (7 lbs., 10 oz.).

Not surprisingly, Miller welcomed Schindler to his old club with open arms. Schindler's experience and versatility will bring much the Lancers.

"He's a complete player and we're blessed to have him coming back to Rochester," Miller said.

"Depending on the situation, he can fit into any area of the game," Miller said. "When you have that many games and the experience, he can slow it down, he can be that voice on the field, put your foot on the ball and slow the game down when it happens.

"He reads the game really well. He's going to help a lot of the second-year and third-year players in Rochester that have athleticism, that have a bit of technical capacity. Now, he's really going to start to give them confidence that when you're playing with confidence, you're playing above your level. It helps everyone. It raises the level of all of the players."

Measuring Schindler's presence is immeasurable.

"He is a mentor to these younger guys," Miller said. "He's now 32, and he's got a ton of games under his belt with experience. He's been in the playoffs. He was playing for one of the best teams in the league year in Utica. He's really going to increase the accountability of individual players as well."

Even though he was a frenemy last year, Schindler received a nice reception from Rochester fans whenever he wore the Utica uniform at the Dome Arena.

"Playing and being part of Rochester definitely helps that." he said. "I've made lots of relationships over the years. It definitely carried over, regardless of who I've been playing for. When I was in Syracuse and there wasn't a team in Rochester, we'd have fans making the hour-and-a-half trek to watch some of the guys who had moved over there. I appreciated their support. Just because I was on the other side of the field, it was nice to see some recognizable faces when I came to the Dome Arena."

Using primarily area-born players and one-time Lancers with indoor experience, the team struggled through last season. Yet, Schindler was looking forward to his latest challenge.

"I think they started an exciting project," Schindler said. "It really started two years ago when they came back in the MASL2, where they showed they could be successful. It was just going to take a bit of time. Last year was a great learning experience for a lot of their players. They definitely had some players that showed they deserved to be playing at this level. At this point, it's finding the right mix of players between the local guys they had last year and continuing to extend the Lancers' horizon to out of state players, potentially out of country players, or veterans to just kind of challenge those local players to continue their growth.

"This year we're not going to step in and be considered an elite team. We're going to be a challenging team, for sure. I like to frustrate people, so it will be a good challenge for me and the guys."