Analysis: How The Lansing Ignite Roster Is Coming Together

They have the stadium, they have the schedule, and they have the coach, but there has been something suspiciously missing from the Lansing Ignite as they close in on 2019… the actual players.

As of Christmas weekend, Ignite only had announced three player signings, all of them midfielders. Meanwhile, clubs like Tormenta FC already have 14 players announced. Madison Forward already have eight announced. I’ve heard multiple people express worry that the Ignite might be falling behind, with the season a little over three months away, and practices beginning in two months.

But according to Head Coach Nate Miller, there is no need for concern. The Ignite may have only announced three player signings thus far, but that does not mean that they have only signed three players. “What is announced so far and what we have signed are two very different things,” said Miller to me via e-mail. “We have 3 announced but 12 signed. We are a bit ahead of schedule from where I thought we would be at, so I am very comfortable with where we are at.”

Miller also made sure to preach patience, as he will have to wait to see what opportunities arise as the offseason continues. The Ignite will be in USL League One, which is part of the third division as sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation. There are two divisions above League One, The USL Championship, and MLS. There are still plenty of players who will hope to get either drafted or signed by one of those leagues before they consider an offer from a League One team. “We are going to be patient right now as the combine, the draft, and some other events transpire and wait for some value in the market,” said Miller.

(Photo Credit: USA Today/SB Nation)

The MLS Combine takes place from January 3rd through January 9th. The MLS SuperDraft is January 11th. After those events occur, more of the dominoes should fall, and more rosters in both USL Championship and USL League One should start to fill out. Even then, Miller says he likely won’t have every single player signed, and that shouldn’t be a cause for concern. “By preseason in February we will have almost everything in place, but I am keeping some positions available so we can be flexible with late value and opportunities.”

While fans have been antsy for more player signings, opinions have been very positive for the first three that have actually been announced. The Ignite have been able to sign Xavier Gomez, Christian Silva, and Rafa Mentzingen so far. Gomez was a 2nd round draft pick in the MLS SuperDraft earlier this year. Silva has a wealth of professional playing experience, and Lansing fans have personally seen Mentzingen’s ability to score goals.

When I asked Miller how he had been able to find players from across the nation like that (remember, The Ignite are not a MLS team, they don’t have multiple scouts all over the nation like a MLS team), he credited his background to this point. Miller has had his hands in multiple levels of soccer, and it is paying off for him. “The process of scouting, identifying, screening, and signing players is an extremely varied and thorough one. Coaching in the PDL, being involved in the USL scouting network, college soccer, and having numerous professional contacts makes for a wide scope from which I begin.”

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From there, Miller’s biggest focus is finding someone who will fit his system. “Certainly coming in I had a strong idea of specific players I wanted to lock down, but more then that its looking for specific player profiles that fit my game model.” This is extremely important, as Miller has a clear vision on how he wants this team to play. In a previous interview with him, and in interviews with other players, it has been continuously stated that the plan is to play with an aggressive press and dominate possession.

There is only one way to make absolute sure that someone fits, and that is to watch full games. That may seem obvious, but it isn’t always easy at this level of professional soccer. Guys coming out of college in particular may not have much game film out there. Many of these athletes post highlight videos on Youtube, and that is all that can really be found by your average fan. “My biggest thing is that I don’t sign anyone based on highlights. You get so much of that and I really do the due diligence to drill down to know the person first, then watch multiple full games either in person or on InStat”, said Miller. InStat is a scouting platform that professionals like Miller can use to find more full games and stats. This was the platform that Miller used to find film for Xavier Gomez, who doesn’t have any full games on Youtube (that I could find at least). He was also able to watch Gomez in person a few times. For any interested fans, you can find some game film of Christian Silva at Jacksonville Armada from last year, and Rafa Mentzingen film from Detroit City FC on Youtube.

As a declining Green Bay Packers QB once said, for now, we are just going to have to R-E-L-A-X. Coach Miller has it covered.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While I had to take an opportunity to poke fun at the Forward Madison FC’s favorite QB, I just realized I am a Lions fan and that probably wasn’t wise.

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