The Dutch Lions are making soccer history in Cincinnati and Dayton this weekend.
The Cincinnati Dutch Lions are playing their first-ever PDL game and hosting the “Crossbar Challenge” with world football superstar Ruud Gullit. Their counterparts in Dayton are christening a new stadium and will also have Gullit in attendance for a weekend of events. It is an exciting time to be a Dutch Lion fan.
We found it fitting to feature DDL captain and veteran midfielder Joel DeLass for this week’s edition of the Lions’ Den. DeLass represents the best the Dutch Lions have to offer both on and off the field. He is a role model, a great player, and an even better person. Most importantly he is a fan favorite for all of those that follow the club.
1. What is different about the Dayton Dutch Lions this season?
There was a decent amount of turnover from last years team to this years. With all the new faces in training (including the Crew players) it is taking us more time to learn each others’ habits and how each person wants to play.
2. How big is it for the club to have Ruud Gullit coming to visit next weekend? Where would you rank him among the all-time greats?
It’s a huge honor for the club and community to host an all-time great like Ruud Gullit. It’s not often that players of his caliber come through the Dayton/Cincinnati area and it should be a real treat for soccer fans in the area. I think it’s hard to compare players across different generations because the game changes so much, but he’s definitely a player that was head and shoulders above the rest in his era and an inspiration for future generations.
3. What has been your impression of the season so far?
I think this season has been a bit of an anomaly. We haven’t played well in some games and we’ve found ways to get results and we’ve played decent in other games and lost. We’ve definitely got a lot to improve on, but there’s been more and more signs of how we want to play lately. It’s just a matter of making those signs a regularity and playing to our potential for the entirety of the game.
4. How does it feel to take on the role of captain again this season?
It’s an honor to once again be captain of the Dayton Dutch Lions. It’s a role that’s not taken lightly and I hope that I can be a leader for this team on the field and the organization off of it.
5. What has your partnership with the Columbus Crew brought to the organization both on and off the field?
I think the biggest impact the partnership with the Crew has brought to the organization is an increase in competition within the squad. They obviously bring a lot more depth to the squad, making it difficult on the coaching staff to select the lineups each week. Hopefully as the season goes on we will continue to gel as a squad and the results will follow.
6. When did you first dream of being a professional soccer player? When did you realize it was a reality?
I think every kid who starts out playing sports as a child has the dream of being a professional player. It never really seemed like reality until after my junior year of college. I went to a small D-III school, but joined a summer team with mostly D-I players who were on their way to signing professional contracts and realized I wasn’t too far away from their abilities. I knew I was going to have to work incredibly hard to close the gap between myself and them, but that summer was the first time I decided I was going to try and make it as a professional.
7. What are your long-term goals for your career?
I don’t think I’ve ever set long-term goals for my career. I set goals for each season and strive to achieve those and then once that season is over I decide what next year will look like and set new goals. I’m a very goal oriented person, but I find that when I set goals too far into the future, I can often times get focused on those and forget to live in the present.
My favorite is of course USA! But my realistic pick to win is Brazil. I think there are some European teams who are better squads and typically more favorable picks, but I think the atmosphere the Brazilian fans will bring to each match will inspire their team play at another level.
9. Who was your favorite player growing up? Why?
This is going to make me sound really old, but when I was growing up soccer wasn’t nearly as accessible in America as it is now. My family didn’t have cable and streaming games on the internet wasn’t possible on dialup speeds so I didn’t really watch much soccer as a kid and thus didn’t really have a favorite player. I think the first player I really started to admire when soccer started becoming more accessible was Steven Gerrard. I loved his style of play and the leadership he brought/brings to the squad every single match.
10. What player should be the star of the World Cup?
11. What do you enjoy about the Dutch style of play?
I think anyone who plays a Dutch style will tell you they enjoy it because of the amount of time in possession. Defending is exhausting! It’s a great feeling when you’re on the ball for long spells and in control of the game.
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