Former University of Dayton men’s soccer standouts Randy Dennis and Jeff Popella are happy to stay in Dayton a little longer than expected after graduation a few weeks ago. Both are playing for Dayton’s newest professional sports team, the Dayton Dutch Lions. “It’s great to be out here with all the guys playing soccer, but I still miss home,” said Randy Dennis, whose family resides in Texas. Dennis was a key member of the Dayton Flyers defense last season, as he played in all 20 games and helped lead them to 14-5-1 record and a regular season Atlantic 10 title.
The Dutch Lions play in the fourth tier of United States soccer, the Premier Development League, and look to win the league title in their first season of play. The team consists of many Dutch players, most of whom have played professionally for top teams in the Netherlands, and many younger American players from various universities and clubs around the United States.
The team, along with guidance from coach Sonny Silooy, looks to combine the precision play of Dutch soccer, with the physical play of US soccer. “Team unity is very important to us as we play different styles of soccer, said Popella. “There is the language difference (Dutch and English) and also trying to blend our styles of play together, so we all need to work especially hard on the team mentality.”
Priding themselves on youth development, the Dutch Lions consider their team the “Gateway to professional soccer” and strive to develop talent with players as young as four. Try-outs for the Dutch Lions Academy begin on June 1 for boys, and June 2 for girls at the Miami Valley South Stadium at 6:30 p.m. For more information on the academy, check out their web site.
The team plays their home games at the Miami Valley South stadium at Bellbrook High School. “The Dutch guys are used to soccer-only fields, so some of them don’t like the lines on the grass from football games,” said Popella. Even with this being the first season of soccer for the team, they have already developed a sizable fan base called the Orange Legion that supports them at every home game.
A few players from the Dayton area are on the Dutch Lions roster, including Popella and midfielder Eric Kissinger. Kissinger attended The Miami Valley School for high school and played D – III soccer at Haverford College. Kissinger looks to experience a successful season with the Dutch Lions as he only enjoyed 12 wins in his four years at Haverford. Popella attended Carroll High School before playing soccer for UD, where he scored seven goals in 11 games for the Flyers, as well as converting two penalty kicks.