Dayton Dutch Lions will travel to Sahlen’s Stadium to face off against the Rhinos for their last regular season meeting on Saturday. In the time since these two teams last met on May 26, a 2-2- draw in Ohio, Rochester and Dayton have had identical records:2 wins, 3 losses, 2 ties. Rochester needs this game to solidify their position at the top of the standings before a difficult road trip next week. Dayton needs to steal a result in Rochester to gather momentum for a playoff push.
It may be inaccurate to call Dayton Dutch Lions a resurgent soccer club because, despite their abysmal record, they haven’t really been as down and out as many observers thought. They’ve only lost 2 games by more than a one goal margin this season. One could easily say that the team has been in every game this year and was only blown out once (4-0 loss away to Harrisburg). They’ve recently beaten a strong Wilmington side 4-0 at home so Dayton could finally have righted the ship.
“The biggest thing that has changed since the Rhinos and Dutch Lions last met is that the Dutch Lions have gained some confidence. We upset the Columbus Crew in route to a quarter-final appearance in the USOC. We are 2-1-0 since the midpoint of the season. There have been signs of individual talent all season, but now the team is learning how to play together as a team. Chemistry is finally developing.
We’re getting much better distribution from midfield, especially from Joel DeLass. Both forwards, Gibson Bardsley and Eli Garner, are real threats to score and aren’t shy about taking shots (Bardsley leads the league in this category). Akeem Priestly, who has scored two goals in the last two matches, provides creativity off the bench. The defense is anchored by Nixon Dias and Mettin Copier, two solid centerbacks from Holland. Matt Williams is a stud in the net. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him playing in a higher league in the near future.
The Dutch Lions will be looking to continue the run they’ve started in the second half of the season. Several of the players are talking about making the playoffs, but they’re going to need victories on the road against good teams to get there. Additionally, this is the final time that these teams will meet in the regular season this year, and Dayton will be looking to even the season series at 1-2-1. Rochester’s victory over Dayton on April 28 resulted from a goal on a questionable non-call from the referee. The draw on May 26 ended with a Rochester goal very late in injury time. The Lions will be hungry for a win at Sahlen’s Stadium.”
Despite a thorough defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal on June 26, Dayton may finally have found the winning combination on the field. It may not appear much at face value, but Dayton’s victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday (while the Rhinos dismantled Antigua) lifted the Dutch Lions from the league’s basement and potentially within reach of the playoffs.
The Dutch Lions have trotted out mostly the same starting XI all season and have stayed true to their 4-3-3 philosophy. Saturday’s lineup will look a lot like this:
GK: Matt Williams
D: Mettin Copier, Nixon Dias, Gregory Preciado, Shane Smith
M: Joel DeLass, Kyle Knotek, Mikael McNamara
F: Gibson Bardsley, Eli Garner, Gerrit Jan Bartels
Reserves: M Bret Jones, Eric Kissinger, Toric Robinson; D Lord Taylor; F Akeem Priestly, Daniel Holowaty; GK Corey Whisenhunt.
The following Dayton players have gotten on the scoresheet this season:
Thomas “Eli” Garner: 3 goals, 2 assists, 15 shots
Gibson Bardsley: 3 goals, 1 assist, 35 shots
Akeem Priestley: 2 goals, 15 shots
Mettin Copier: 2 goals
Joel DeLass: 1 goal, 1 assist
Gerrit Jan Bartels: 3 assists, tied for 5th in league
Eric Kissinger: 1 goal
Kyle Knotek, Mikael McNamara, Shane Smith: 1 assist each
For the Rhinos, you don’t get a much easier week than the bottom two teams in the league at home. And that’s good news for the team because next week Rochester has to travel to both fourth placed Wilmington on Thursday and league leading Orlando on Saturday. Wednesday night the Rhinos felt the relief of a big win in a fairly open game. During halftime of their game against Pittsburgh, Dutch Lions head coach Ivar van Dinteren “told the guys to open up the game,” and that’s how they found success with their 4-3-3 formation. If Dayton’s match mimics the back and forth nature from Wednesday, Rochester could get punished. Dayton’s forward three have shown dynamism in bursts this season and certainly will not be afraid to pepper shots on Kristian Nicht. I can’t promise 4 goals from the home team, but the game should be thoroughly entertaining from two teams that can get numbers forward.