By: Michael Lewis

There is little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic turned everyone's world upside down in 2020.

That included the Rochester Lancers as well.

Despite shelving three of their teams for most of the year, the Lancers found ways to make some news – on and off the field.

Here are 10 of the most intriguing Lancers of 2020:

1. The first time for everything

The 2019-20 Major Arena Soccer League season was a steep learning curve for a young Lancers team, which had most of its players from the Rochester area. Since it can take from 20 to 25 games to learn the intricacies of the indoor game, it was a rough start for some players. Most importantly, the team showed marked improvement as the season wore on. By March, the Lancers were a team to be reckoned with. The Lancers gave retiring co-captain Gary Boughton the proper send off by winning their first game of the season on March 7. Led by two goals apiece from head coach Doug Miller and Jeremy Ortiz, the Lancers recorded a 9-7 victory over the Kansas City Comets at the Dome Arena. Matt D’Amico, Bryan Wolanski, Tim Crawford, Andriy Demydiv and Boughton, a Buffalo, N.Y. native retired at the end of this season, also scored in Rochester’s (1-21) final home game of the season.

2. These stars come out at night

Two Lancers were honored prior to the 2021 season as head coach Doug Miller and midfielder Jeremy Ortiz participated in the first MASL all-star game in Independence, Mo. Miller, who took the opening kickoff, became the oldest participant in a soccer all-star game. It was Miller's first indoor all-star appearance since the National Professional Soccer League encounter 1999 extravaganza in Edmonton, Canada in 1999. Ortiz played in his first all-star affair. "Jeremy's a great player," Miller said. "He's paid his dues, a long time back to the Philadelphia KIXX, where he first met Leo Gibson, the coach of the East. “It's well deserved for him. He was a big part of our team last year."

3. Old man river

Like that song, Doug Miller keeps rolling along. Miller announced his retirement from soccer years ago, but he has come back a few times to help the Lancers, indoors and out, in recent years. Putting on the blue and gold shirt two more times during the 2019-20 MASL season, the Rochester head coach did not disappoint. His most memorable game was that 9-7 win over Kansas City, scoring twice. At 51, Miller became the oldest American to perform in an all-star at the MASL extravaganza on Dec. 5.

4. The captain returns

After spending last season with Utica City FC, Jake Schindler returned home to the Lancers by signing for the 2021 season. The team captain has become one of the leading MASL players as he was named as a defender as second team MASL all-star team selection. The one-time West Irondequoit High School standout has proven to be handful on both sides of the ball, finishing with 10 goals nine assists playing for Utica City FC last season. “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.”

5. The rise of Rozzano

Despite being an inexperienced indoor player, Anthony Rozzano learned quickly. So quickly that he was named one of three finalists for MASL rookie of the year honors. Rozzano also was one of three Lancers who were named honorable mention selections on the All-MASL rookie team along with defender Diego Mayanga and midfielder Rafa Godoi. A Webster Schroeder High School graduate, Rozzano led the team in scoring, finishing with nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points He was assessed 32 penalty minutes and blocked 20 shots.

6. The pride and joy of Buffalo, N.Y.

Nicknamed “the Pride and Joy of Buffalo, N.Y.,” Gary Boughton hung up his competitive boots after the season. The 31-year-old Boughton had played with the club since the 2011-12 Major Indoor Soccer League season. He contributed 45 goals in 82 games during that span, including six goals and four assists in 15 matches last season. When asked about his most memorable moment as a Lancers, Boughton replied, “You hear your name get called out to run out of the tunnel onto the field and that moment is special every single time. That never gets old. You hear your name and the fans cheering and supporting. The collective of that moment would be my favorite.” Miller remembered when Boughton joined the squad almost a decade ago. “He was really young back nine years ago,” he said. “Now he’s one of the old guys on the team and a veteran that continues to sharpen his craft. But now more importantly, giving it back coaching in the college world. And he’s a character guy and character soccer player.”

7. All together now

In what was probably a first in American sports, the Lancers announced the signings of 21 players on one day. And they did it in an innovative way via television commercials on Sunday, Sept. 13, the 50th anniversary of the team winning the 1970 North American Soccer League championship. In honor of that team’s achievement, the Lancers will wear replica jerseys of that squad during the MASL season. They also will wear 1981 Rochester Flash and 1996 Rochester Rhinos jerseys during the season. The game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off to raise money and awareness for Rochester based charities.

The signees included goalkeeper Marcelo Moreira, Brian Wilkin and John Ciavaglia, defenders Tim Crawford, Jeremy Loncao, Jake Reed, Anthony Rozano, Jake Schindler, Zikret Osmic, midfielders Frankie Ciliberto, Matt D’Amico, Andriy Demydiv, Rafa Godoi, Jeremy Ortiz and Dan Reger and forwards Michael Cunningham, Austin Gerber, Alex Harling, Darryl Potter, Boomer Steigleman and David Wright.

“Once you have 20, 25 games under your belt, you start to improve,” Miller said. "Getting all the players firing on all the same cylinders and understanding how we’re going to play, I think we’re going to have successful year, especially if we sprinkle in a few veteran players who can score goals and help organize a little bit better from experience.”

8. Hitting the Wall

The Lancers celebrated their indoor history at the Dome Arena on Jan. 31 by inducting 20 individuals — players and staff members — into the first class of their Wall of Fame at halftime of their game against the Baltimore Blast. The honorees included: Team staff: John Berardicurti, Gary Boughton, Tim Crawford, Dave DiPasquale, Elliot Fauske, Sean Hantes, Kyle Manscuk, Doug Miller, Jeremy Ortiz, Marc Sotile. Game day staff: Andrew Battisti, Jeff Calkins, Joe Giuliano, Lyndsay Houghton, Kayla Klark Kent, Ashley Maria King, Michael Lewis, Kari Miller, Rocky Perrotta, Jill Rizzo. “I am honored to recognize 20 key friends that have helped the Lancers since 2011,” said Lancers owner Salvatore “SoccerSam" Fantauzzo, who was surprised by King, who inducted him into the Wall of Fame.

9. Two seasons fall to the wayside

While the indoor season was shut down late in the campaign, COVID-19 had the first and last words on the outdoor seasons. The Lancers' National Premier Soccer League team and the Lady Lancers, who compete in United Women's Soccer, could not play because their respective leagues cancelled their seasons due to the pandemic. They plan to return to the great outdoors in late spring 2021.

10. They'll be back in 2021

And speaking about returning, the Lancers plan to make an official announcement about their 2021 MASL season schedule within the coming weeks as the final details are being ironed out. Keep posted by checking out for the official announcement.