Left back has been a trouble spot for the Rhinos all season. Jack Traynor and Mike Zaher have been lacking fitness lately so Danny Earls is filling in at left defense. This pushes Quavas Kirk into the midfield and promotes Lucas Fernandez to starting right back.
The team has until July 20th to make roster moves before the league freeze date. Jesse Myers decided to move for rookie left back Chris Estridge.
According to the team press release from Wednesday July 11:
The Rochester Rhinos have agreed to terms with Chris
Estridge, and he is traveling with the team this weekend. Estridge is a rookie left back from Indiana University who had three goals and five assists coming out of the back. He was an NSCAA All-American as a senior with the Hoosiers last fall. He was invited to the 2012 MLS Combine, and was rated as the top left back in the draft. He was selected by the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the second round before he was traded to Real Salt Lake in April.
“We’re happy to have been able to add Chris to the mix this season.” said Myers. “He’s athletic and has a lot of pace which is important in this league. He was a good collegiate player who needs to get some professional matches to continue to develop. Jack (Traynor) and (Michael) Zaher have both missed games with injuries, and Chris can help give us some depth this weekend.”
On January 12, 2012 the Vancouver Whitecaps drafted Estridge with the second pick of the second round (21st pick overall) of the MLS SuperDraft. By many accounts Estridge was one of the top-rated outside fullbacks in the 2012 draft class. His versatility set him apart from other mid-level talent seeking an MLS club. Every team likes to have left fullbacks and left footed players, but the salary cap demands that MLS teams have players who can play multiple positions. Estridge fit all those boxes; he was a natural left sided fullback who could play equally as well on the right and could fill into the midfield if needed.
Vancouver released Estridge on February 17 and he began training with Real Salt Lake a short time later. The fullback made his first reserve league appearance for the Utah club on March 20. He went on to make two more reserve league appearances before RSL decided to sign him. As compensation, the team had to send a 2013 conditional draft pick to Vancouver.
After signing with RSL on Wednesday April 11, Estridge played two more games in the reserve league (playing alongside Rochester native Jordan Allen) and sat on the bench for 14 MLS games until July 7.
Before college, Estridge was a standout player in high school. His pre-college career accolades include 2007 Indianapolis Star Player of the Year, a member of the Indianapolis Star Super Team, First-Team All-State and Hendricks County Player of the Year in 2007, adidas ESP All-Star, member of Indiana All-State team from 2004-07, four Hendricks County championship titles with Brownsburg High School, and four straight years as a scholar athlete. He also played three seasons of club soccer during his high school years with the Carmel Cosmos.
Estridge struggled for minutes in his first two collegiate seasons playing at Wake Forest. After transferring to Indiana University, Estridge developed quickly into a star defender at the college level. He also played well for the Chicago Fire PDL team in the summer of 2011.
In 2008, Estridge made 7 appearances as a forward in his freshman year. As a sophomore, Estridge made 19 appearances with 8 shots and 2 goals. He played in multiple rounds of the NCAA tournament and played alongside current professionals Austin da Luz (New York Red Bulls, Carolina Railhawks), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Corben Bone (Chicago Fire), and Zack Schilawski (New England Revolution, Carolina Railhawks).
Estridge transferred to Indiana University for his junior year and the homecoming immediately yielded more playing time. Playing in both midfield and defense, he appeared in all 20 games and started 18 of them with 21 shots (7 on goal) and 1 assist. During his junior season he successfully transitioned to left back.
After a summer playing with Chicago Fire Premier Development Team, Estridge had a career year in his senior season in 2011. The defender started all 22 games with 3 goals, 5 assists and 29 shots (9 on goal). Some of the personal awards Estridge earned in his senior year are adidas/IU Credit Union Classic All-Tournament team, Mike Berticelli Memorial all-tournament team and was honored as tournament Defensive MVP, unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection, NSCAA All-American (first team), first-team NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region, and was a top performer at the 2012 adidas Major League Soccer Player Combine.
While at Indiana University, Estridge played in the back line with 19th overall 2012 draft pick Tommy Meyer who has made a handful of appearances for the Los Angeles Galaxy this season.
By all accounts, Estridge is a talented and promising left back who can fill in at a number of other positions. When he signed for Real Salt Lake, the MLS club offered the defender a four year contract. A well-run club like RSL would not offer a four year deal after a month of training with the team to someone they didn’t think was worth it.
The Rhinos signed a player who has the ability to jump into the squad immediately and at a problematic position for the team. Estridge’s left foot makes him a dangerous option as an overlapping run going forward. On paper this is a fantastic deal for Rochester but we will have to see how the rookie left back adjusts to his team and to USL-Pro.