soccer made in st. louis

SETTING UP AN AMBUSH: NEW FRANCHISE TACKLES TEAM-BUILDING 101 (PART 2)

Daryl Doran (center) coaches the new St. Louis Ambush, whose ownership group includes Andrew Haines (right) and Glen Goldstein.

He stayed in soccer as a youth coach and a sometime player, most recently on an over-40 team that competed in the Show-Me Games in July. His reward for playing was a torn tendon and broken bone in his heel, requiring a boot he wore for about six weeks.


The team is taking shape following the first of two open tryouts earlier this month. From a field of 140 players, the Ambush signed Mike Mesle, Patrick McSheehy and Corey Adamson last week. Mesle and McSheehy are St. Louisans. Mesle played for the MISL’s Wichita Wings last season. Adamson is from Clearwater, Fla. But the

biggest signing announced last week was that of St. Louisan Jeff DiMaria as player-assistant coach. DiMaria, 36, played for the second Steamers for five seasons.


With four players signed and at least 16 more to be added, Doran will watch candidates carefully at a second open tryout Sept. 7-8. About 40 players from the first tryout have been invited back. Doran hopes to emerge from that tryout with most of his roster, which will be completed with a few veteran players. Plans are to keep about 20 players, including two goalkeepers, plus perhaps a half-dozen reserves. Training camp begins in October.


The league schedule has not been announced, but the Ambush know they will begin on the road on a date to be determined. Their home opener will be Friday night, Nov. 22, and their second home match will be the next night.


Most, perhaps all, of the players will be part-timers who will have to juggle another job around five practices a week during camp, and training along with home and away games during the regular season.


Three elements factor into the roster Doran is building: speed, goalkeeper foot skills, and executing free kicks.


“The indoor game is a lot faster than what I was used to when I played, so we’re looking for young guys with good speed,” Doran said. “Keepers have to be good with their feet, especially because teams are pressuring all the time. Free kicks are great opportunities to score goals, and we were always one of the top three in the league (with earlier St. Louis indoor teams) on free kicks. We have to be good defending against them as well as taking them.”


While Doran builds the team, the front office is busy building a ticket base. Without a schedule for single-game sales, the team has focused on season tickets. The goal is to sell 1,000 season tickets.


Fan support is important in more ways than keeping the Ambush in business. The MISL is part of the United Soccer Leagues, which operates the third (USL Pro) and fourth (Premier Development League) divisions of men’s outdoor soccer in the United States. Tony Glavin, owner of the St. Louis Lions in the PDL, owns the USL rights for an outdoor professional team in St. Louis.


It should be noted that USL Pro has a working relationship with first-division Major League Soccer. Four USL Pro franchises served as development teams for MLS clubs in 2013, and MLS wants to increase that to 10 next season. Connecting all the dots, a well-supported indoor team might be a step to a USL Pro outdoor team on the long path to an eventual MLS franchise in St. Louis. 


“The Ambush is a good opportunity to show the MLS that St. Louis can support a team,” Haines said. “St. Louis has had great crowds for the two international matches here this summer (with total ticket sales topping102,000), but the question is, can St. Louis support a season-long operation? I’m not saying that our success is critical to St. Louis getting an MLS franchise, but it can help.”