Lansing United returns to the East Lansing Soccer Complex for its NPSL home opener Sunday night after taking four points on the road to begin the regular season.
And after kicking off the NPSL season away from home for the first time in club history, the team is eager to put on a show for the United faithful.
“I’m really excited for it,” said midfielder Andrew Hill, who will play in his third home opener with United. “I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the new players experience it. It’s a magical occasion.”
United (1-0-1) will play host to the Michigan Stars, a team they’ve had considerable success against in the past but also one that has started the season with draws against Detroit City FC and Grand Rapids FC.
Head coach Nate Miller said Sunday night’s match will be all the more important because it’s a chance for his team to establish an attractive style of play in front of the home crowd.
“We’re excited to see all of the Lansing United supporters out there,” Miller said. “We want to set a marker down for how we’re going to play this season.”
United midfielder Brad Centala visited the ELSC as a member of the Stars last season and said it was a match that everyone on his former team looked forward to.
“When I came here with the Stars last year there were a lot of fans,” he said. “I’m pretty pumped. After starting off the season with two away games, it’ll be nice to come home in front of them.”
Heading into Sunday night both the coaching staff and players feel that team chemistry is on the rise after a week of practices with a full squad. Intense sessions mixed with laughs and fun competition have helped unify the team – something Miller believes is key during the long NPSL season.
“Soccer is supposed to be fun,” he said. “I think players play better when they’re having fun. It’s a lot of work to make sure that you’re always on that edge of fun and improvement along with hard work. We know Sunday is going to be a lot of fun.”
As the team’s chemistry lifts, Miller is hoping its quality in the final third does as well. United is the only team in the Great Lakes West to not concede a goal, but has only two goals on 29 shot attempts, 12 of which have been on net. An encouraging sign is that Lansing forced Kalamazoo FC keeper Elijah Michaels to make saves on half of its 16 shots, leading Miller to believe that improvement in the technical, finishing aspect of the game is necessary.
On the other end of the field, United’s goalkeeping duo of Jimmy Hague and Johannes Sterobo has looked phenomenal, making seven total saves last weekend while directing a brand new back line.
In the midfield, Danny Brandt stood out in his United debut against Kalamazoo, tallying four shots on goal, including one that was just tipped over the bar in the first half. Stevenson Storm is just one attempt on net away from already moving into the top 10 all-time in career shots, while players such as Michael Caccavo, Grant Stoneman and Lukas Muszong have impressed early on.
United is 4-1-0 all-time against the Stars, but history goes out the window at kickoff, especially against a team with a revamped roster and a new head coach in Saginaw Valley’s Andy Wagstaff. Above all else, though, it’s a priority for Miller and his team to start the home slate on a positive note.
“I’m looking forward to the Lansing community seeing how we play,” Miller said. “The excitement is there and after the two road games, we’re ready for it.”
GAME DAY NOTES
• Tickets for Sunday’s match are still available – fans can purchase them at the gate or online at the Lansing United website.
• Gates open at the East Lansing Soccer Complex at 4 p.m. Parking is free and is located just outside the ELSC grounds.
• Fans can enjoy food from Hungry Howie’s and purchase United merchandise underneath the East Lansing Soccer Complex pavilion.
• Fans can stick around after the match for an autograph session with their favorite Lansing United players near the locker rooms.