June 12, 2021
By Michael Lewis
His first start as a Rochester Lancer did not exactly go according to plan.
The rookie defender had just endured a difficult game in a 23-10 loss to the Milwaukee Wave, allowing his man to score goals on Jan. 16, 2012.
Schindler admitted he did not remember who he had to cover but it was a good bet it was probably either Marco Terminesi (nine points on three 2-point goals and one 3-point score) or Ian Bennett (seven points on two 2-point goals and a 3-pointer).
"I was just way over my head playing against the veterans on an established team like Milwaukee," he said.
The 24-year-old Irondequoit, N.Y. native expected the worst.
"I figured it was an honor to put on the jersey and I probably never going to put it on ever again after that game," he said in a recent interview. "I felt pretty lucky that they invited me back for practice the next day after that performance."
Lancers head coach Doug Miller was Schindler's teammate at the time and witnessed what transpired.
"He should have been fired," he said. "But I'm glad that he wasn't because he's grown into a very, very good player who can play pretty much all over all over the board, whether it's outdoor or indoor."
Since then, Schindler has gone beyond being a Lancers fixture, becoming an icon of the Rochester soccer scene. He has put on the blue and gold Lancers’ jersey 127 times over nine seasons for the club's indoor and outdoor teams as he has moved up the list of all-time Lancers' men appearances. That includes the original Lancers and when team owner Salvatore "SoccerSam" Fantauzzo resurrected the team in 2011.
Entering Sunday's 5 p.m. home game against the Pittsburgh Hotspurs at Charles A. Schiano Sr. Field at Aquinas Institute in Rochester, N.Y. Schindler has played 127 regular season games, good for a third-place tie with Francisco Escos on the team's all-time playing list. Charlie Mitchell, a former team captain who performed in at least 152 games (his full total of games could not be determined from the 1969 season) in nine seasons for the original Lancers (American Soccer League and North American Soccer League) is the all-time leader. Jim Pollihan, another former captain, is second at 130 regular season matches, and the club's all-time leader in NASL regular season appearances. Frank Odoi is fifth (124) and Mike Stojanovic sixth).
It has been quite a Lancers career for Schindler, who has played five indoor seasons (MISL, Major Arena Soccer League and M2) and four outdoor campaigns (National Premier Soccer League).
"I always hoped to have a long career, and this would be something you know I can support myself and my family someday," he said. "I have been able to have the longevity of the career and being able to play in my hometown has allowed me to use it to supplement my lifestyle. The Lancers have always done extremely accommodating about what I do outside of soccer. So, I'm very grateful for that. This has always been the goals since I was a little kid playing soccer in my front yard. I hope it was going to happen. There were probably times in my life where I didn't think it was going to happen, but I never put away the soccer ball. I love the game too much so. It was awesome that this opportunity these past 10 years have happened."
This year's Rochester Lancers. Jake Schindler is standing in the upper right corner. (Photo courtesy of the Lancers)
A student of the game
It certainly didn't happen by accident.
A graduate of West Irondequoit High School and Roberts Wesleyan College, the 5-11, 205-lb. Schindler turned into a quick study of both versions of the beautiful game.
"Playing with the Lancers that first two years, Billy [Andracki] and Jim Hesch [both head coaches] definitely had us watching lots of film, more films than I've ever watched before," he said. "So that definitely helped me. I'm trying to watch what the other teams are doing, know what's their position. Are they in front, are they in back? Are they waiting for the ball to be played and before they're making the move? I'm also watching the target, trying to pick up their habits during the game. Are they going to the right foot? Are they going to try and roll you to the board side? So definitely watching a lot of indoor soccer helps you pick up the game quicker, but it's not watching for enjoyment, I'm watching for specific facets of the game to try and learn what's going on."
Miller saw Schindler's dedication as a teammate and now as a head coach.
"He's a student of the game," he said. "He's a really smart person is going to have high soccer IQ. When he plays the back, you know he can handle. You know the best strikers, if you put them in the midfield. He slows the game down finds themselves in between the lines that you know you can create space for himself, and even as a target, you know, whether it's indoor or outdoor he could adapt and play that position. So, he's grown immensely as a player and as a person. He's now a dad. I think it's one of the biggest accomplishments you can ever have in your life. And he's embracing that his wife and I think he's going to be able to make a lot of great memories.
And there has been plenty to learn off the pitch as well. Two vital lessons: you can rebound from defeats and the sky can be the limit, limited only by yourself.
"I definitely learned that ... eventually you're going to hit rock bottom, but there's, there's never a ceiling," he said. "You set your own ceiling. As hard as you're willing to work is as far as you'll go. I didn't always know how hard I was willing to work. I would go for a run around the block, or I'd go play with my friends. Playing that first year, really taught me that there's so much more to just going out and doing something. You have to go out and do it correctly. That's going to be the difference between where you're setting your own ceiling.
"So, if I go out, and I've worked till I can't breathe, is that better than the guy next to me? Every time I go out and do technical work, am I actually concentrating not doing the technical work properly? Am I just not satisfied with kicking the ball back in the right direction? Am I taking it to the right players but am I giving it to the goalie's hands? I set my own ceiling."
When the Lancers shut down for several years, Schindler continued to pursue his career with the Syracuse Silver Knights for three MISL seasons.
Doubling his pleasure
Regardless of what transpires the rest of his career, Schindler's legacy is secure in Rochester and indoor soccer history.
He pulled off a rare double during the 2018-19 indoor soccer seasons, starring for two teams. Schindler earned M2 first team honors (15 goals and 12 assists in 13 games) while helping the Lancers to a third-place finish in the national playoffs. He also was a standout for Utica City, securing MASL second team all-star accolades (five goals, six assists in 16 matches).
Not many athletes in any sport can claim they captured all-star honors in two leagues competing at the same time.
"I loved every minute of it," he said. "I would rather play more soccer than less soccer. Everything just worked out. ... I'm very jealous of my MISL days when they got to play [three] games on a weekend. My body, my mind, is better with the more I'm playing than the less time. Any opportunity I have to get in between the boards or the white lines, that's a good day for me. Just the way that a year worked out with the Lancers in M2 and Utica in M1. the. I came in and filled a role for them. It was an awesome experience."
His wife, Laura, who was his fiancée at the time, played a big role in helping Schindler make sure his life was organized between his day job and night/weekend duties on the field.
"Anytime you've stepped onto the soccer field, you're leaving important family time," he said. "That's the balancing act. I'm learning about that over the past year, especially being a new father, I choose to go play soccer, that's time I don't get to spend with my wife and child. I need to make sure that I'm balancing my own mental health and getting out and playing soccer."
Miller, who at 51 has suited up for the indoor Lancers during the 2019-20 season and scored key goals, understood the importance of playing a lot. He gave Schindler the green light to pursue both teams.
Fortunately for Schindler, Utica was a 135-mile trip down the New York Thruway and not a plane ride away.
"Back in the day 20 years ago we used to have 48 games," Miller said. "We played back-to-back-to-back games. That part is nothing impressive. The impressive part for me is balancing work life and being so successful at his job, and managing so many people, being a husband being a father, and playing soccer at that level. People don't realize how difficult that is where you're going from thing to thing to thing, whether that's your job which is his real work. Being a husband, being a father, and then going and playing soccer and doing at a very, very high level. That to me is what's impressive."
A hat-trick of assists on three free kicks in an indoor game is pretty rare. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
A unique and memorable hat-trick
When asked about his most memorable matches, "I don't consider myself ever memorable," Schindler quipped.
Schindler said that he had two, and both were indoor games.
The first was when U.S. women's national team legend and Rochester native Abby Wambach returned as a celebrity captain for a match Feb. 23, 2013. A crowd of 10,000-plus watch the Lancers registered a 9-8 win over the Milwaukee Wave at the Blue Cross Arena. Wambach spoke at halftime.
"It was one of the most exciting games I've played in and the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of," he said. "I still get goosebumps thinking about that moment."
On March 9, 2019, the Lancers pulled off one of the most unusual hat-tricks in indoor soccer history to win their regular-season finale Saturday night. For the third time in the fourth quarter and beyond, Jake Schindler’s free kick started a scoring sequence and Michael Cunningham finished it. The most important combination came with 9:35 remaining in overtime as Cunningham struck to lift Rochester to an 8-7 comeback win over the Muskegon Risers.
"I got the hat-trick of assists just rolling the ball three feet to Michael," Schindler said. "That was also a pretty great memory. That sent us to the playoffs where we got to play in a wild Chicago environment and then eventually make it out to California. That whole experience was also another pretty special time as a Lancer."
The Lancers (1-2-1, 4 points), in fourth place in the Rust Belt Conference Division of the National Premier Soccer League, return home Sunday in a vital game against third-place Pittsburgh (2-1-0, 6). They have a chance to even their record. The Lady Lancers host the Lancaster Inferno in United Women's Soccer action in the 2 p.m. opener.
"We've got a lot of new faces," Schindler said. "It's taking a little bit of time for us to pick up the system that we're going to be playing. It might be a tough year for us. And that's okay. Not every year is going to be the best year, but this is not a team that's going to give up. We've got too much pride for that. Regardless of what the result is at the end of the day, I expect us to walk off the field, completely dead because we gave everything that we had to try and get a result out of this. I expect that for myself, and I expect that for my teammates."
Regardless of what transpires the rest of the 10-game regular season, Schindler is optimistic for the future.
"One of the things that I really like about it this year is we finally have guys coming up through the Rochester Lancers Academy, which I think is an awesome aspect of playing for the actual Rochester Lancers," he said. "To see 18-19-year-old guys that are pulling on the jersey now, after they've been with the club, the youth club for three or four years I think is a pretty special instance. That's one thing I'm really excited about because some of these players, they're not just getting the opportunity because they play for the youth Lancers. Some of these guys are quality players. I'm very excited to see how they continue to grow with the club."
Almost a decade ago, Schindler just wanted to get past those early games, especially that difficult one against the Wave.
Now, in many ways he has become the voice of the team, as team captain, and someone who can put things into proper perspective.
Except for Charlie Mitchell, no other Lancer during the 54-year history of the team has played in more seasons with the club.
Asked what it meant to be a Lancer, Schindler replied, "It means everything to me, and this community has a great soccer fan base. It's kind of spread out with whoever one support for them, for there to be a club that's been around for 10 years, consistently, whether it's indoor or outdoor. You know, I think that's great. I meet new people know about the Lancers, used to watch the Lancers. When they first started watching the Lancers when they were five-years-old, and now they're 16-year-olds vying for the Rochester Lancers Academy. It's awesome. You know you go to a restaurant in Webster and there's Rochester Lancers banner up in the rafters. It's very cool to see how integrated into the community around the Lancers have become.
"I like meeting all the people, watching the kids grow up to stay fans or just become great soccer players themselves. I hope they can stick around and just watch, generation after generation, to be able to pull on the blue and jersey."
The replica jersey all Lancers teams are wearing this season.
It's all about the jersey
As for those pulling on those jerseys, Schindler doesn't take any of them for granted, including the ones from earlier in his career.
"I still get to wake up and Look at the jerseys ... around my house," he said. "Playing for 10 years plus playing with the Lancers," he said. "I find myself quite lucky that Billy [Andracki] trusted me to go out and grow from those experiences because there's definitely some other rough games that first year that, for sure.
"I think I have a jersey for every team I played for except this year for Florida Tropics. So that was the one jersey that eluded me. I have at least one jersey from every year. Some of the seasons I even have more, Sometimes, there is the jersey raffle, or a jersey didn't get auctioned off when they thought it would be auctioned off. I’ve got quite the collection for memories to look through.
"I can tell who sponsored us that year which year the jersey was from. You get to think about the players that were on the team that year and the friendships that you made; even sometimes you're only spending six months, with some of these players. But I had always looked them up if I was in their town or shoot them a message you always have that bond."
Born on Dec. 23, 1987, the 33-year-old Schindler doesn't have any plans to hang up his jersey quite yet.
He figured he has at least two years remaining, indoors and out while he continues with his day job at Idex Health and Science in Rochester.
"I don't think I've got Doug Miller years in me," he said of his seemingly ageless head coach. "I've got time left. The legs are still good. The recoveries are all right. I would like to play until my daughter could come out [Blakely] and actually enjoy a game and maybe have a memory from it. A couple more years for sure."