Dayton Dutch Lions players who have dreamed of playing in the English Premier League will get a taste of the world’s most famous soccer league at 7 tonight in an international friendly at Piqua’s Wertz Stadium.
The Dutch Lions play Wigan FC, the defending FA Cup champions who were relegated from the Premier League to the second division, the Football League Championship, after last season. Even the Lions who rarely see playing time will get action tonight.
“Every player on the squad is going to see the field,” coach Patrick Bal said Monday. “We’ve got to take care of our bodies. We had a game (Sunday) and two games this weekend. The league is absolutely more important than this friendly. We don’t want to lose very big, but if I had to choose what game to lose, we’ll lose (Tuesday) and not this weekend.”
The Lions (7-4-6) are tied for fifth with 27 points with Charleston and Tampa Bay in the United Soccer League Pro division. They tied Orlando 3-3 on Sunday at Beavercreek High School with a goal in the 89th minute by Brandon Swartzendruber.
Orlando (11-2-5) leads the USL with 38 points.
“I wasn’t really happy with the first half,” Bal said. “There was not a lot of energy, and we got completely dominated by Orlando. In the second half, even playing a man down, the guys came out strong and fought back. These guys don’t quit. They never give up. We had a hard-fought tie against one of the better teams in the league. I’m very positive if we can play this way with this energy and attitude, we’re going to get plenty of points and we’re going to reach our goal, which is the playoffs.”
The Lions finish the week with games Friday at Charleston (7-5-6) and Saturday at Charlotte (8-2-8), which is tied for third place with 32 points.
This is the second preseason exhibition for Wigan. It beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 on Saturday in front of a crowd of 8,893 at Crew Stadium with goals by James McCarthy and Marc-Antoine Fortune.
Wigan opens the 2013 season Aug. 3 against Barnsley. This is Wigan’s first season in the Football League Championship. It played in the top division, the Premier League, from 2005-13 until going 9-20-9 last season.
The three lowest-ranked teams in the Premier League are sent down after each season, while the top three teams from the lower division move up.