February 23, 2023
For the first time in almost three years, the Rochester Lancers indoor team will play a home game on Friday night.
The Lancers will take the Total Sports Experience field in East Rochester, N.Y. to meet the Iowa Demon Hawks in a Major Indoor Soccer League 2 match at 7:45 p.m.
If you're counting, it has been 1,084 days since the Lancers played at home, or since defeating the Kansas City Comets, 9-7, in an MASL match, on March 7, 2000.
Several days later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports, including the MASL.
On Friday night, it will be lights, camera and action again for the Lancers in the first of two games at TSE this weekend, after playing their first four contests on the road. The two teams will tussle again on Saturday at 7:45 p.m.
"It's good not to be in a hotel or on an airplane," Lancers player-head coach Jake Schindler said. "Home cooked meals, family and friends reaching out. Feels really good to be home."
After playing their two most recent seasons at the Dome Arena, the Lancers will call TSE home. It is a smaller venue, but the atmosphere could be rocking and much more intimate.
"We've got some rookie players," Schindler said. "I think they're going to be in for a very exciting game. It's going to be 400-500 people, but it's going to be loud and they're going to be right on top of you. It's going to be a new experience for some of the guys and it's going to be a little bit of an adjustment for us, too."
The Lancers enter the match with a 3-1 record and eight points, good for third place in the North Division, behind the first-place Demon Hawks (6-1-1, 18) and Iowa Raptors (4-1-2, 14). Rochester has played only four matches of its 12-game regular season scheduled, so the host side has some catching up to do.
Translated: The Lancers need to win out at home if they want to qualify for the playoffs. They will host six matches this season. The three division winners will book a spot, as will the best second-place finisher.
In a short season, every match is a must-win game.
"I've been preaching the same message all year," Schindler said. "We've got to win all of our home games. I don't think we're going to have a shot at the playoffs if we can't win all of our home games. So I look at every game in Rochester as a must-win game and that's what we're preparing for. The guys have come out, and had some really intense training sessions, trying to replicate that game speed. So I think they understand that or understand the importance of what's happening as well."
On Feb. 17, Lancers player-assistant coach Joey Tavernese, who also was a member of Utica City, was traded by that MASL club to the Florida Tropics. While Tavernese's new club is a plane ride away rather than a straight drive on the New York State Thruway, the veteran forward isn't expected to miss games or training sessions.
"It actually does not have a big impact," Schindler said. "Joey's still at every training session, coaching, so he was able to work out an agreement with Florida. He'll be available to help with coaching, and he's still going to be playing in a few games for us. We'll definitely see Joey this weekend, suiting up for us. In the future, he might even just have a strictly coaching role during some games, depending on how Florida and our schedules conflict."
For example, the Lancers play at home on Friday and Saturday and the Tropics host the Tacoma Stars on Sunday afternoon. So, it is possible for Tavernese to fly to Lakeland, Fla. for the game. For the Lancers next doubleheader weekend on March 10-11, the Tropics will play at Utica on Sunday, March 12. Taverensemight not be able to play for Rochester's matches in Iowa on March 18-19 because Utica has games on those days. For the Lancers' last homestand on March 24-25, Utica hosts Utica on Sunday, March 26.
"Joey's a guy I've known for 10 years," Schindler said. "Even if he couldn't be at practice, I'd be calling him or texting him or bugging him some way. He's really made a sacrifice, first when he was playing with Utica and now playing with Florida to make sure that he's committed to helping Rochester. I'm very appreciative of that and I know the players are also learning a lot from him as well."
Tavernese certainly has taught the M2 opposition a thing or two as well. He recorded a hat-trick in the Lancers' 6-3 season-opening win over the Muskegon Risers on Jan. 6.
While the Lancers' 3-1 start on the road must be encouraging, Schindler would like to see the team make better starts in games.
"We have a little bit of an issue with how we start games," he said. "We started a little bit flat-footed sometimes. It almost takes us the whole first quarter to get into the game. That's one thing we've really been focusing on."
Schindler, on the other hand, has liked the squad's resiliency on overcoming deficits. Rochester has battled back from two-goal deficits several times.
"From a strength standpoint, I don't think this team really gets rattled," he said. "It doesn't matter how far down we are in the score column. There's a belief within this team that we're going to right our ship and we're going to get the snowball rolling in the right direction for us, so that the game is going to be competitive and up with us on top.
"I think the guys have a belief in themselves that they're prepared for the game and no matter how it starts, by the end of the fourth quarter, they're going to be on top."