January 28, 2024
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Many outdoor soccer players competing in indoor soccer might need two years to transition and get comfortable.
Given what he has accomplished in his first two matches with the Rochester Lancers, it might have taken Ali Alomari two minutes.
Now, that might be an exaggeration, but the 21-year-old rookie has made quite an impression in his first two games with the Rochester Lancers.
He has scored five goals in his first two matches in the Major Arena Soccer League 2, including a hat-trick in an 11-4 road win over United Elite Krajisnik FC in Utica, N.Y. last Sunday.
There is a good reason why Alomari has started the season with a splash. He played futsal with his friends while growing up in Yemen before he emigrated to the United States.
"We always played against each other in small areas in the street," he said. "I always was dribbling and playing in tight spaces."
M2, which has boards, is different from futsal, but Alomari has adapted quite well.
"Joining the Lancers and playing indoors, it's kind of different than when I was growing up,” he said, before praising Jake [Schindler], general manager Marc Mandell, assistant coach Rey “Boom Boom” Martinez and former Lancers and current equipment manager John Berardicurti.
"I like the team. I like how I'm fitting in," he said on the Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show on Monday night.
Alomari and the first-place Lancers (2-0, six points) will return to the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica to play second-place Krajisnik (2-3, six) for the second week in a row, on Sunday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. He wouldn’t be surprised to see a slightly different team.
"I really think that next game they're going have a couple of the M1 players to against us," he said about Utica City FC, which is the team's Major Arena Soccer League affiliate. "It should be a good game. We're looking forward to it."
Last Sunday, Krajisnik FC surprised the Lancers by scoring off a counterattack only 36 seconds after kickoff. But the visitors responded quite well, equalizing on defender Alex Harling's goal less than two minutes later. It was the first of three consecutive goals as Rochester took control of the match.
"We did concede ... but that didn't change our mindset," Alomari said. "It didn't change the goal [of the team]. We just stayed together. We kept our heads. We played together and when you do that the things will come good results."
Alomari tallied a unique goal that lifted Rochester into a 6-2 advantage at 7:01 of the second period. Joe Balls played his teammate the ball on the left side. As goalkeeper Robert Sams came out of the net, Alomari knocked the ball off the boards, essentially passing to himself in the left corner, before depositing the ball into the goal.
"It wasn't really a trick," he said. "I was already in the back post. I knew that he was going to come out. He was so close. There's no way I can shoot it because he was so close. So, I had to play it off the wall. It played in my favor, and it landed right in front of me. I was happy it worked out because it's something I’m not used to in this game. I'm having fun."
It's been quite a fun year for Alomari. He signed with Flower City Union on Aug. 1, just in time for the team's Cinderella run to the National Independent Soccer Association championship. He played in four regular season matches as a substitute.
"It was a great experience," he said. "It was a good team. They went through a lot of stuff together. They worked hard, and we won the NISA championship."
When he was nine, Alomari and his family emigrated to the United States. He grew up in Lackawanna, N.Y. and played for a Yemen soccer club. "We have a big Yemen community, and we have a big soccer community there," he said.
Alomari became a standout at Lackawanna High School, being named the 2019 Western New York boys high school player of the team and earning first team honors for two seasons before attending Niagara University.
Last year he received an opportunity to play for the Yemen men’s national team. The 5-11 Alomari made his international debut in the 85th minute of a 2-0 loss to Saudi Arabia in a group stage match of the Asian Gulf Cup of Nations tournament in Basra, Iraq on Jan. 6, 2023, and came on in the 83rd minute of a 5-0 defeat to the hosts six days later.
"That was a great experience," he said.
After playing their opening three matches on the road, the Lancers will make their season home debut against Atletico Orlando at the Total Sports Experience in East Rochester, N.Y. on Friday, Feb. 2and Saturday, Feb. 3. Both matches kick off at 7:45 p.m.
"We're looking to have a good crowd," Alomari said. "It's part of the game. It's what makes the game fun. It's the thing that makes us play harder and play for the fans. It'd be nice if everybody came out and supported the Lancers because we have a good team. It'll be a great atmosphere."
Those two contests will start a slate of six consecutive home matches.
After a three-week break, the Lancers will return to the great indoors, welcoming Baltimore Arsenal on Feb. 23-24, Atletico Orlando on March 8-9, and Krajisnik FC on March 22-23. Rochester also has one final away game at Baltimore on March 16.
For more information about the team, visitwww.RochesterLancers.com.