Coming off back-to-back 1-0 losses, Lansing United will play a pair of crucial road matches this weekend against FC Buffalo and AFC Cleveland.
“It’s a massive weekend on the road, not only the points, but the opponents,” head coach/GM Eric Rudland said. “They’re basically right behind us in the table.”
With the top four teams in the Midwest Region making the playoffs, United currently sits in third place with 17 points. Buffalo is one point back in fourth, while Cleveland is three points back in fifth with a game in hand on both teams.
Buffalo will be the first stop on the road trip Friday night. It will be the first matchup between the two clubs this season in club history, but the team is not an unknown for Rudland.
“The Buffalo guys, I’ve coached four of them at the combine, who were really good players,” Rudland said. “I expect them to give us a great match.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
United will have a day off Saturday before returning to action with a 2 p.m. kickoff against Cleveland on Sunday.
The Hoops lone meeting against Cleveland came at home last summer when the two clubs played to a 2-2 draw.
Making the trip for United will be a core group of players that have been regulars in the starting lineup this season, but the bench will feature some new looks.
“We have a ton of changes,” Rudland said. “I’m excited to give some other guys an opportunity to play. I think they deserve it. They’ve worked hard in training and it will be a good environment to show us what they can do in the first team.”
Two of those changes will bring a veteran presence to the roster, as player/coach Boyzzz Khumalo and Julian Myers will be making the trip. Both players have had a limited role compared to last season as Myers has appeared in just four matches and Khumalo is yet to play this year.
“Hopefully the younger guys can learn from those guys,” Rudland said. “They’re emotional leaders and I think they’ll bring that veteran personality to the group when on the road playing in tough environments. We’ll lean on those guys from a psychological standpoint to help the players around them.”
Despite the recent poor results and the roster changes, Rudland seemed confident as the team wrapped up training this week.
“You put all the variables into consideration and it’s a tell tale weekend for where we finish in the league,” Rudland said. “Preparation has been good and hopefully the guys are up for it.”