Catching Up With the Dayton Dutch Lions: An Interview With Ownership
It’s been approximately 5 months since fans of the Dayton Dutch Lions heard the final whistle of the 2012 USL Pro campaign. With the 2013 season set to begin in a couple more months, I took the opportunity to check in with Mike Mossel, part of the Dutch Lions ownership group. He reflected on some of the successes from 2012 and looked ahead to the future of the club.
Looking Back at 2012
The 2012 season was really a tale of two seasons for the Dutch Lions. The team failed to earn a single victory in the first half of the season. There were a lot of new faces in the starting XI, and the players seemed to struggle adjusting to one another and the Dutch soccer philosophy. Some wondered if Antigua Barracuda and the Dutch Lions were going to race to the bottom of the USL Pro table.
“We have made a very good transition last year during the season,” is how an understated Mossel described the remarkable metamorphosis that his team underwent in the second half of last season. Dayton notched 4 victories and 5 draws over the last 12 matches as it started to capitalize on scoring chances. When the USL Pro season ended Dayton found itself above both Antigua and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, finishing in 9th place.
The highlight of the 2012 was the club’s performance in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Dayton’s amazing run to the quarter-finals included a surprising victory over the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Sporting KC proved too much to handle in the quarters, but the squad from Dayton appreciated the electric atmosphere at Livestrong. Mossel remarked, “Beating the Crew at their stadium and playing in Kansas in the quarterfinals for 14.000 people was huge for our fans.” Huge indeed.
One aspect of the 2012 season that seemed to frustrate the owner was the unbalanced schedule:
“We had to play number 2, Rochester, 4 times and only got to play the worst team, Antigua, once. Not really fair but guess that’s US soccer.”
The schedule for the upcoming season has yet to be released by the league office, so it’s too soon to tell if bitterness about an unbalanced schedule will be assuaged. Mossel indicates that the schedule should be finalized and made public in the next couple of weeks.
Looking Ahead to 2013 and Beyond
Can the Dutch Lions build on the success they tasted late last season? The discussion with the owner doesn’t build a lot of confidence, but Dayton supporters should be cautiously optimistic. When asked about the roster, Mossel responded, “I think about 8 to 10 are returning, with the majority of the back line.” This means that there will be a lot of turnover in the roster again this year. If players with the right skill sets join the team, perhaps the growing pains of last season can be avoided.
There has been a lot of buzz this off-season regarding a rumored merger between USL Pro and MLS reserves. I asked Mr. Mossel if he could elaborate on this rumor and its potential impact on the team and the league. This was how he responded:
“I think it’s a good thing for us. Ideally, this could mean us playing the Crew, Chicago Fire, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Rochester in a group in one division. Possibly add two more. But, a lot of local games that will cut cost considerably and also bring out more fans. The only doubt I have is the fan base. Not sure how much promotion they, MLS teams, put into their second teams, but could be you are playing for only a few fans. Although, some teams will make the games a double-header, making it very interesting. We just have to wait and see, I guess.”
“In the league the feedback is mixed, though. We have created a good and stable image over the past two years, and with the MLS we don’t know exactly what the impact will be. I believe the MLS will also bring the league credibility and exposure.”
This response gives some insight into how a merger might be structured. It also shines a light on how this merger is being received in some parts of USL Pro.
Stadium in Plans for Dutch Lions?
The completion of Highmark Stadium for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds has grabbed the attention of the league and caused fans in Dayton to wonder if the Dutch Lions will ever take up permanent residence in a soccer-specific stadium. Over the past three years the Dutch Lions have played the majority of their home games at Miami Valley South Stadium in Bellbrook. The high school football field has a playable surface, but the stadium lacks an atmosphere. Supporters sitting far from the pitch in metal bleachers cannot forget they’re at a high school football field while staring at hash marks and end zones. Let us not forget that alcoholic beverages cannot be served on high school grounds.
The 2012 season saw the inclusion of Careflight Field in Springboro and Miami Valley Hospital Stadium Beavercreek in the home schedule. It’s assumed that this idea was conceived with the intention of introducing the team to a larger audience, which is commendable. The attendance at the alternate locations was on par with Miami Valley South Stadium, but moving the team from one high school field to another cannot be the solution. First, they are still high school football stadiums. Second, constant shuffling of home venues can be confusing for even the most ardent supporters. When asked about where the Dutch Lions would play in 2013, Mossel responded, “[The Dutch Lions] are going back to only one venue for sure, we should announce the location in the next 2-3 weeks.”
The Dayton Dutch Lions have an undisclosed venue secured for 2013, but they need a permanent home. Mossel indicated that the team is making progress on a deal for a stadium, but he was cautious about divulging details while the negotiating progress is ongoing. This is potentially fantastic news for soccer fans in the Miami Valley and, perhaps, across USL Pro. Supporters are still left to wonder about the location of the stadium, but the fact that a deal is in the works says something about the stability of the club.