Transforming 40-plus players – of varying experience levels and ages – into one team can be more than a challenge.
“It’s a monumental task,” Dayton Dynamo coach Dave Wall said. “Add into the equation the cultural differences you encounter when you have American, African, South American and European players.”
That diverse team, however, has a unifying goal – winning.
“What I do is create an environment in which they can win games – help create a winning mentality,” Wall said.
The Dynamo hope to translate that winning mentality into the first win of the season as the National Premier Soccer League team plays its home opener Friday at 7 p.m. at Welcome Stadium against division foe Lansing United. The Dynamo dropped a 2-1 decision at AFC Ann Arbor on Saturday in the NPSL season opener for both teams.
The previous incarnation of the Dynamo played indoor soccer in Dayton from 1988-1995 before the National Professional Soccer League franchise moved and became the Cincinnati Silverbacks.
Wall is looking for immediate offensive output from forwards Marc Hansson, Kristian Montoya and Alex Vandersluijs. Hansson – originally from Sweden – posted the Dynamo’s first goal in the 46th minute of the season opener in Ann Arbor.
Among the young players to watch this season are Northern Kentucky University graduate Christian Johnson and Wright State University freshman Eric Hutton. The Raiders midfielder started all 21 matches for Wright State and earned a spot on the Horizon League All-Freshman Team.
There is also plenty of experience in the lineup. Wall will look for leadership from a core group of veteran players including midfielders Damion Blackburn and Bret Jones and defenders Sam Miller and James Thomas. Jones, a Xenia native, and Miller both played professionally for the USL Division 2 Cincinnati Kings. Thomas and Blackburn have both played key roles for the Cincinnati Saints in recent years. Blackburn, from Beavercreek, is the Saints all-time leading goal scorer.
“There is definitely ability with the players we have,” Wall said. “It’s bringing them together for a three-month season that’s most challenging.”
“The style of play is very exciting – it’s an attacking style of play,” Wall said. “It’s fun to watch.”
The fun isn’t limited to what happens on the field as the fans also supply plenty of excitement. From smoke bombs to booming drums, spirited fans have become a mainstay in the largest national soccer league in the U.S. Soccer development pyramid – with more than 80 teams nationwide.
“Fans are starting to travel now at this level,” Wall said. “Teams like Detroit might bring as many as 700 fans.”
Dayton competes in the Western Conference of the Great Lakes division against Lansing United, Detroit City FC, Kalamazoo FC, AFC Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids FC, and the Michigan Stars. The Dynamo host Detroit City FC on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We know it takes time for people to come out and rally around a club,” Wall said. “But these are exciting times for Dayton. If we can bring it all together, we can put Dayton on the map nationally, that’s the goal.”
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