Five Takeaways: Jeremy Sampson Hosting “Staudt on Sports”
December 28, 2018
Jeremy Sampson (Vice President/GM of Lansing Ignite) has been a fill in host for “Staudt on Sports” on 730AM the past few days. On December 27th, he decided to devote the show mostly to soccer talk. He also had Head Coach Nate Miller, Senior Vice President of USL League One Steven Short, and Ignite Midfielder Xavier Gomez on the program. With three hours of radio, there were plenty of interesting pieces of info for those of us hungry for more Ignite news. Below are my five main takeaways from the program. If you want to listen to the program in full, you can find it here.
1. Interesting Player Reveal Hint And Roster Insights
In my last article I found out from Head Coach Nate Miller that the Ignite have actually signed 12 players so far, though only 3 have been announced. Since then, there haven’t been any new reveals, but Nate did give some hints for one of the players he had signed. During his interview with Jeremy, Nate mentioned that he had signed one player who is 18 years old, and who has been a youth national league player. He was making the point that he isn’t bringing anyone in purely for development. He is only signing players that can make an impact, and this young player is someone who he thinks can do that.
Later in the show, we got some more roster news, as Jeremy went into details about what the USL League One roster rules will look like this year, something I haven’t been able to find any details on before this. He said that the maximum number of roster spots for a team will be 30, which he also said no team is going to be even close to. Each team can also have up to 5 “academy spots”, something that will more apply to teams that have MLS connections. Jeremy didn’t reveal any specific number that Ignite was going for in terms of players, but as Nate has said before, there will likely be some signings pretty close to the season starting as the market develops and value emerges.
Jeremy also revealed that each team gets 7 “international spots”, that they can use on foreign players (for those unfamiliar, the vast majority of your roster in any league has to be domestic to promote growth within the country). Being the intrepid (amateur) investigative journalism that I am, I called into the program to ask for some more details on Ignite’s plans there. Jeremy revealed that they already have 6 of their 7 international spots used. The plan is to wait on using the seventh spot to see how the market develops. Jeremy sounds open to selling the spot if there is a good enough offer, but they could end up using it on someone if strong enough talent and value becomes available as well.
If it seems surprising that the Ignite have already been able to sign 6 international players, it actually makes a lot of sense. As I also addressed in my last article, the domestic market is going to be clearing up much more once the MLS Combine and Draft happen early next year.
2. Assistant Coaches Revealed
While the Ignite had announced Nate Miller as head coach, they still hadn’t announced any of his assistants. Obviously, they were hired, and it was probably the first thing Nate did when he got the job. Now, we finally know who they are. During Jeremy’s interview with Nate, they got wild and just revealed every name without a fancy social media reveal. I imagine new communication director Aaron Cranford was cringing as this took place, but all the better for us!
The first assistant will be Joel DeLass, who was the head coach at Northwest Nazarene University. He also has pro playing experience in the USL. Nate noted that DeLass is actually from the Lansing area, so this will be a return home for him.
Tim Daniels will also be coming along, Nate described Tim as his “right hand man” at Spring Arbor and Lansing United, so that is obviously someone Nate has a lot of comfort and trust with.
The Goalkeeper coach will be Wael Zenga. He has an impressive playing history in Egypt, and Nate says he has an interesting life story. Sounds like a nice tease for whenever we do a “Meet The Team” segment with him.
We will hopefully be reaching out to all of them once the team formally announces their signings!
3. USL League One’s Growth Plan
With Senior VP of USL League One Steven Short on, it was only natural that the conversation turned to USL League One as a whole. While Jeremy and Steven broached several subjects, like how USL chose Lansing as one of the inaugural season teams, I found myself most interested in discussion of the league’s future. It is very clear that the league wants to expand well beyond the 10 teams in place right now, and they want it to happen pretty soon. I won’t be surprised if the league has over 20 teams in 5 years based on the growth of USL Championship, and based on what Steven was saying.
The best news for Lansing fans is that Steven talked about scouting out locations in Northern Indiana and Northwest Ohio when they were looking for cities for the launch of this league. Steven mentioned that they want there to be pockets of teams that are all within a few hours of each other. If USL League One is eyeing teams in Toledo, South Bend or Fort Wayne, that would be excellent news for anyone who wants to travel to away games. Those are also all cities that do not currently have any USL footprint, so it seems like they would be great fits. Obviously, nothing is confirmed or concrete, but in my opinion, those could very well be USL League One cities in the not so distant future.
4. Xavier Gomez Talks About The Importance Of Supporter Groups
Jeremy also had the first ever Ignite signing, Midfielder Xavier Gomez on the program. They talked about the way Xavier plays the game, his history with the game, and the excitement and disappointment of his short run with Minnesota United. If you are interested in Xavier, you can also read our interview with him done a few weeks ago.
My ears naturally perked up when Jeremy asked about Xavier’s history with supporter groups. Xavier gave a very clear endorsement of how important they can be to a team that is having a bad game, or that isn’t at 100% mentally or physically. He talked about how supporters groups are really another player on the team as well. It was great motivation and inspiration to do everything we can to fill up our section and make an impact this year.
5. Players Report Date Revealed
So far, player signing articles by the team have all said that the team will be reporting in February 2019, with no exact date. On the program, Jeremy put a real start date on things, saying that players will report on February 18th. While there will be several checkpoint dates as we lead up to the season that will get us excited, that will easily be one of the biggest before opening day. Hopefully the Ignite are able to set up some sort of open practice soon after to keep the hype going.