Friday, June 15, 2012
As the Netherlands looks for glory at Euro 2012, two of its former citizens are doing all they can to ensure that at least one orange team will raise a trophy this year. Under the leadership of Co-Owner/Advisor Erik Tammer and Head Coach/Technical Director Ivar van Dinteren, USL PRO’s Dayton Dutch Lions have reached the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time and are eager to go further.
The Dutch Lions’ journey (and it has been exactly that: all three of their cup games have been away from home) began against the Chicago Fire PDL. It was their third game in five days, but the Lions were able to corral some extra energy in a hard-fought match. After the Fire tied the score at 1-1 in the 90th minute, seemingly ensuring extra time, Daniel Holowaty won it with the last kick of the match. Van Dinteren conceded that the Fire were one of the best PDL teams, but he knew Dayton’s next opponent would present an even bigger challenge.
Proclaimed the “Battle of Ohio,” it was the Dutch Lions versus the Columbus Crew of MLS. Things didn’t look to be going well after Olman Vargas put the Crew ahead from the penalty spot in the 64th minute, but Gerrit-Jan Bartels and Gibson Bardsley shocked Crew Stadium with two late goals (both assisted by the hero against the Fire, Holowaty) and amazingly knocked the MLS side out by a final score of 2-1.
Van Dinteren was obviously pleased with what he saw.
“The Columbus Crew game, that was for all the people here in Dayton, and I think also in Columbus, it was a very important game,” he said. “I think we did very well. To be honest, Columbus Crew is a better team, but what do we always say? Anything is possible in soccer. Of course, everyone was happy. For the club, this is a big thing.”
Meanwhile, Tammer called those type of upsets “inherent” to cup games.
“The highest ranked teams like the MLS teams are always expected to reach the next round,” Tammer said. “Their opponents can only win, because no one expects them to win.”
Van Dinteren was more quizzical in explaining why the upsets occur.
“To be honest, I have no clue,” he said. “I think maybe they underestimate, maybe, the lower clubs? That can be a possibility? The other side is the difference between the USL and MLS isn’t that big.”
The third game in Dayton’s cup run, against the PDL’s Michigan Bucks, was not a performance to write home about but the team “fought like lions” and showed character to win 2-1 in overtime.
“Our last game versus the Michigan Bucks, we knew it would be a tough game,” van Dinteren said. “Most of the time, the luckiest wins [when a game goes to overtime], and we were the lucky ones, but also I think [it was] deserved.”
Now, the Dayton players are looking forward to their next Cup game versus Sporting KC, set for 7:30 p.m. CT on June 26 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City. Van Dinteren says they will be going for it.
“What is our goal? To win the cup,” he said. “I know that it’s going to be a really hard, hard job, but we will go for it.
"What I expect is a little bit the same as against Columbus Crew, that that they will try to force an early goal. They’re going to press us, I think, but to be honest I’m going to play the same game I play in the USL or against any other club. We’re going to play 4-3-3, we’re going to try to force something, we’re going to press them. I’m not going to change anything.”
Van Dinteren said continuity on and off the field is key for the Lions.
“Last year, we had two players from the year before and all new players; this time I kept seven players,” he said. “Next year I want to keep 14 players at least so they are all used to the system and the club.
“To be honest, I had 17 new players [this season] and only had 20 days preseason. I train different, so for me it’s really important that I get 14, 15 players back next year and that they are used to playing the game I want. And that takes time. You cannot change something within a year. It is impossible.”
Despite the cup success, however, Dayton is currently at the bottom of the USL PRO table, but van Dinteren is confident the squad will turn things around soon.
“We have no wins at all, but if you see the games -- like [June 2] when we played against Charleston Battery -- we outplayed them the first half,” he said. “It could be 3-0, and it stays 0-0. And then we made one mistake in the back, and it’s 1-0 for them. So, I’m very satisfied with the way we play, only that’s it’s about results and our results are not there -- we need to win. To be honest, this is our second year in the league and I have a plan, within three years to be one of the top teams in USL PRO. And I think we are on our way to accomplishing that.”
As co-owner, Tammer understands the need to give his coach time, and is always looking to the future.
“[The Dutch Lions] are important, but our main focus is the youth program,” he said. “The youth is the future! We are busy with setting up a scouting system throughout the U.S. at the moment. Young players with an easy natural first touch and who understand the tactical aspects of the soccer game at an early age -- they have a good chance to become a very good soccer player.”