FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Lancers' Ortiz savors his all-star selection

Jeremy Ortiz definitely fits the definition of good things come to someone who waits.

For the first time of his long indoor soccer career, the Rochester Lancers midfielder will compete in an all-star game. He and Lancers head coach Doug Miller will represent the team at the Major Arena Soccer League all-star game in Kansas City, Mo. Saturday, Dec. 5.

"I'm appreciative of the selection," the 34-year-old Ortiz said. "I've been playing for quite a while. This is first time I've ever gotten an all-star selection. I'm just looking forward to being part of the game playing with some top players, against friends I haven't talked to in a while and making new friends over there, and hopefully winning, winning for the east side and representing the Rochester Lancers."

Most all-star games are mid-season affairs. This one will be the unofficial kickoff to the MASL season. A league schedule usually has been released. Given the complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things can be very fluid in 2020.

Players might not necessarily be in mid-season form, but their desire to win for their respective teams - its Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference - will be enough to make the match interesting, Ortiz said.

"It's definitely going to be a competitive game," he said. "A lot of these guys are chomping at the bit trying to play. Last season the season ended early, so there were no playoffs, no championship, unfortunately. Hopefully, there will be a full season. Guys who were selected to go to the all-star game, they want to go out and play the right way.

"All these guys that play in the league are competitive by nature. I'm the same way, too. I'm looking to go to Kansas City and compete and win. I'm used to playing indoor soccer on the east side. We really don't go out to the west side much, three times maybe here and there. For the most part I'm used to playing all the east coast teams and the central teams. I believe we have a very strong east side team."

The veteran midfielder has kept in shape since the pandemic hit in the spring by giving clinics to groups and teams and private sessions to players.

"I've been trying to do as much indoor training as I can," he said. "I've been able to get out to the field more. Usually after the sessions I will do an hour or two workout, some runs, whether it's outdoor or indoor. I'll look to work on my game overall and do the things I'm used to doing. I feel like I'm pretty prepared to play in an all-star game at the beginning of the season. I am trying to do as much as I can until then."

Ortiz, who became his indoor career with the Philadelphia KIXX and Baltimore Blast, has played five indoor seasons for the Lancers since the team was revived for the 2011-12 Major Indoor Soccer League campaign. A member of the Lancers’ Indoor Hall of Fame, Ortiz has scored 63 goals and added 40 assists in 100 games, helping Rochester reach the playoffs three times.

In 2019-20, Ortiz scored nine goals and assisted on six others while commuting to Rochester from Philadelphia.

Like just about every player, Ortiz is itching to get back for season No. six. The start of the season can't come soon enough. The Lancers season likely will kick off in early 2021 as the league sorts out various rules and protocols due to the pandemic.

"I'm looking forward to the season very much," Ortiz said.

Especially after the way the team finished the 2019-20 campaign. Stocked with a team of mostly first-year indoor players, Rochester struggled early on before finding its form the last month of the season. The Lancers defeated the Kansas City Comets, 9-7, on March 7 to secure their lone win.

"We had a rookie team basically, 15 rookies who had never played before," Ortiz said. "The rookies, they're basically getting their first 15 to 20 games where you have to just understand the indoor game. That's how it always is with any player that has joined an indoor league. That's your learning curve. Towards the end of the year, that's when they started to put the pieces together to understand how the game went.

"The first 15 games wasn't obviously the way we would like but those last five games or so, that's when the team started to click. That's when I started to feel better as far as like okay now these guys are finally understanding it and finally, they clicked vs. Kansas City."

The Lancers will be an improved team this year, Ortiz said.

"Now that they have this experience in 15 to 20 games and bringing in some veterans, Jake Schindler and Boomer Steigelman, and goalkeeper, Matt Perella, I think we're going to be a team that is going to be able to least being challenging and be able to compete and battle and not get blown out by 10, 15 goals. We're going to keep games close.

"If we get another veteran or two, we'll see. I really think that we can be that team that could be able to compete more against the top teams. I'm not saying we'll win a championship. I'm saying we're going to be a lot more competitive than we were last season."