In his rookie season with the Kixx, midfielder Tony Donatelli has been getting good-natured ribbing about his beginner's luck.
Last summer, Donatelli was in his first year with the Vancouver Whitecaps when they won the outdoor United Soccer League's First Division title.
Now, the graduate of Germantown Academy and Temple University is one win away from a championship in his first indoor season.
Donatelli and the Kixx will meet the host Detroit Ignition for the Major Indoor Soccer League title today at the Compuware Sports Arena in Plymouth, Mich. The 4 p.m. game will be televised on Versus.
"It's funny, because we won the championship my rookie year in the outdoor league and I have gotten a lot of flak here from the guys, many who have never been to a championship game," Donatelli said, laughing.
Donatelli, who will turn 23 in June, was one of only three Kixx players to compete in all 30 regular-season games. He was tied for third on the team with 17 goals and had nine assists.
Donatelli didn't think his scoring output would reach that level in his first season.
"Maybe the numbers are a little higher than I thought, but I felt I would be able to contribute," he said.
"He has definitely surprised me," Kixx player-coach Don D'Ambra said. "Tony doesn't play like a rookie with the ball."
The Kixx are in their 11th season, and Donatelli was a fan long before he began playing for the team.
The rookie, who is from Glenside, Montgomery County, went to Kixx games when he was a youngster. Then, while attending Temple, he worked out with the team for a few years during the school's winter breaks.
"Playing here has pretty much been a dream come true," he said. "To be able to play here and have a chance to win a championship in my first season is all I could ask for."
Donatelli, the Philadelphia Soccer Seven's player of the year in 2005, is best at breaking down defenders.
"He can take people on one-on-one, which is very valuable in our league," D'Ambra said. "Tony is reliable defensively and he is a complete player who has made the most of the opportunities he has received."
After today's game, Donatelli won't be taking a break. He will return immediately to the Whitecaps, who have started their season.
He hopes to pick up where he left off in Vancouver. Last year, Donatelli scored two goals in the regular season but added three in four postseason games.
But any thoughts of the outdoor game will wait until today's championship is decided.
"You can't take this winning for granted," Donatelli said. "I will cherish being in this game."
Notes. Detroit, an expansion club, was 18-12 in the regular season and earned the top seed, while the Kixx were 17-13 and seeded third. . . . The teams split their six meetings, with two games decided in overtime and three others by no more than two points. "I think the best two teams are in the finals," Detroit coach Mark Pulisic said. . . . The player who has given the Kixx the most trouble has been forward Carlos Farias, who scored eight goals and added one assist in the six regular-season games. . . . D'Ambra and Dino Delevski each had four goals and two assists against Detroit. . . . Forward Jamar Beasley led the Ignition with 40 regular-season goals. "They are a great transition team," said D'Ambra, who led the Kixx with 32 goals in the regular season. "We have to get five behind the ball and make them play through us."