ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Joe Giuliano's passion for soccer and the Rochester Lancers began when he was growing up while following the original Rochester Lancers.
"It has always been a passion of mine," he said. "I started calling imaginary games when I was 9 or 10-years-old. Remember the cassette recorders when we had to hit play and record at the same time? My mother still has those cassettes at her house. I was home sick from school or on an ordinary day, I would lock the door. I'd get the NASL Kick magazine and get the roster of both teams that had played in Rochester and I'd call an imaginary game. I wasn't very good, but it was a lot of fun."
Oh, Giuliano got good, very good at announcing. So good that he has become the voice of modern Rochester soccer, having called Rochester Rhinos games on TV, was the original indoor Lancers radio host and currently does play-by-play of the team's home games in the Major Arena Soccer League and the outdoor teams -- men and Lady Lancers -- in the National Premier Soccer League and United Women's Soccer, respectively.
Prior to the Lancers' game against the Baltimore Blast at the Dome Arena on Friday, Jan. 31, Giuliano will be honored as one of the 20 inductees in the inaugural class of the Lancers Wall of Fame.
When he discovered he was one of the inductees, Giuliano admitted he was "totally shocked."
"I woke up New Year's Day and had a text from Soccer Sam," Giuliano said, referring to club owner Salvatore "SoccerSam" Fantauzzo. "He said, 'Check your Facebook page' and surprise, surprise, it was there. Usually I'm the one doing the inductions along with Andrew Battisti, and now we're on the other side of things. It feels good, really good."
Giuliano, 51, whose day job is as a physical education teacher at Franklin High School in Rochester, got his start on Soccer is a Kick in the Grass, the longest running soccer show in the country. He helped Fantauzzo launch the SoccerSam Radio show several months later and became co-host of the SoccerSam TV Show. Giuliano also worked several Rhinos games on the Empire Sports Network, including Major League Soccer matches. He traveled with the original indoor Lancers, hosting games on radio, home and away.
Giuliano remembered when he got an opportunity to work his first TV game in May 1996.
"I started with SoccerSam, just doing soccer news updates," he said. "Friday night Sam called me, 'The broadcasters are stuck in a storm and the game was on Sports Channel New York.' He said can you fill in tonight?' I had barely done anything, a little bit of radio, some TV in college. I said, sure. Then one game led to two, two led to three. Before you knew it, I was the rhinos' color commentator and it kind of took off from there. I was a little lucky but very opportunistic."
Needless to say, Giuliano has a ton of soccer memories, Lancers and Rhinos.
His most memorable one?
Easy. When the Lancers won their first playoff series, against the host Syracuse Silver Knights during the 2011-12 season. Rochester prevailed in the 15-minute mini-game that the visitors won on a three-point goal, 3-2.
"There was a goal that never touched the net, but barely crossed the line," Giuliano said. "Yakiel Perez was just standing outside the Syracuse penalty area and the goalkeeper kicked the ball off the face of Perez and it went in just enough over the goal line. The judge called it a goal. With that goal in overtime, SoccerSam and I were up in the booth, which was an overhang on top of the field crying. We had tears in our eyes because we were going to Baltimore [in the next round of] the playoffs. I don't think I was as emotional on a call as i was that night. I wish I had tape of it. We were like two little school age boys just crying, hugging, screaming. It was chaos, but what a great memory!"
Off the field, the Lancers wound up stranded in Chicago because of airplane problems in January 2014. Their flight from Kansas City to Chicago was delayed and their connection at O'Hare Airport was canceled because the gas lines at the airport were frozen.
"It was brutal," Giuliano said. "I was able to get out the next morning because I'm a school teacher. I had to get back to work. The whole team got stuck in Chicago for the week, then played in Milwaukee the following weekend where I flew back out. They were there the full week in Chicago, the Embassy Suites downtown."
When he arrived in Rochester, Giuliano had one more task -- send the team's luggage and equipment back to O'Hare Airport in Chicago -- because it had been sent to Western New York.
"The luggage seemed miles long, just packed, stacked, layered out all over the place," he said. "It was unbelievable. Never had seen anything like it. I was lucky to get back to work, teach till Friday, get back on the plane, and head out to Milwaukee. It was crazy."