Rhinos Wait Until the Second Half Against Syracuse University

The Rochester Rhinos started about as strong a team as head coach Jesse Myers could line up.  Despite 7 players in the starting lineup returning from last season, the team couldn’t get the offense organized during the first half against Syracuse University.  Not to worry, though, as the Rhinos rallied with a couple of two-goal bursts to sink 4 past the Central New York college.

Grading the Rhinos’ Starters:
Between the pipes, second-year German goalkeeper Kristian Nicht provided leadership from the back.  Throughout the game you could hear Nicht calmly dishing out advice and reminders to his defense in addition to looking sharp when he was called into action.

Troy Roberts looked like Troy Roberts on Friday afternoon.  What can I say about Roberts that we don’t already know?  He looks fully fit and ready to carry the Rhinos into another successful season.

Unfortunately George Kyriazis seemed to struggle once or twice against Syracuse.  The Orange’s number 10, Tony Asante, fooled the Greek veteran on a couple of occasions and won a dangerous free kick outside the area off him.  Kyriazis didn’t have his best day at the office and was subbed off at halftime.

Lucas Fernandez began last year behind Quavas Kirk in the pecking order, but with the former u-17 US international gone, Fernandez started on Friday.  The Argentine right back was active throughout the first half but was often not on the same page as the players around him or he tried to do too much going forward instead of passing the ball on. Continue reading

2012 USL-Pro Mid-Season Best XI

Halfway through the 2012 USL-PRO season we have seen some great players ply their trade in the American third division.  Here is my best starting XI from the first half of the season.

Forwards:
Dennis Chin has 8 goals from 24 shots in 17 games this season, which earns him joint-top place in the goal-scoring charts at this point in the season.  The Orlando City hitman has the size to be a target at 6’3″ but also the quickness to turn defenders or run in behind.

On loan from the New York Red Bulls, Corey Hertzog has taking the league by storm scoring 7 goals and adding 2 assists in 9 games so far for Wilmington Hammerheads.  That makes for an average of 1 point every 46.75 minutes, just about one half of play.  His speed makes him viable in several set ups but his passing prowess and creativity means I want him to have the ball at his foot more as a deep-lying forward.

Midfielders:
J.C. Banks has been making the case for league MVP and was a big part of stopping Rochester Rhinos‘ 8 game skid in the beginning of the summer.  Banks has scored 4 goals while notching up a league high 8 assists.  He’ll line up on the right side of midfield but could switch to the left with the same effectiveness.

Kevin Molino has played across the midfield in his career but always with an attacking mindset.  Against Sporting Kansas City, Molino excelled and even managed to score a header in the hard-fought U.S. Open Cup loss.  In league play, the Trinidadian has 6 assists, 3 goals, and 18 shots for Orlando City.

Jason Pelletier is a USL veteran currently playing in his fifth season with the Harrisburg City Islanders.  Pelletier has 4 assists and 14 shots from midfield so far this year and can give you 90 solid minutes every game.

If you’re looking for a hard-nosed defensive midfielder who’s not afraid of a tackle, it’s hard to look past Shintaro Harada of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.  Harada’s workrate through the first 15 games of the season has been unparalleled and in the games I’ve seen him play over the years, not once has the 31 year old Japan-native ever given up on a play.

Defenders:
You can call it a hometown bias, but my first selection has to be central defender Troy Roberts.  Roberts leads the lead in minutes played and is the backbone of a Rochester Rhinos‘ defense that has only conceded 14 goals so far this season.  The former L.A. Galaxy player has been a force in this league earning Second Team honors in 2011 and Best XI honors in 2010.

Dayton Dutch LionsMettin Copier is a prototypical central defender.  At 6’3″ the Dutchman has the size to compete in the air, evidenced by his two headed goals this season.  Also at just 23 years of age Copier has shown improvement so far this year despite his team’s poor record.

Colin Falvey has found success wherever he goes in U.S. soccer.  He won titles with Wilmington in 2009 and Charleston in 2010.  The Ireland-native can play in the middle or on the right and has seen 1350 minutes of action this season for Charleston Battery.

Though he has played in midfield before, Luke Boden plays as a left back for Orlando City this season.  The 23 year old Englishman was part of the club’s Championship winning team in 2011 and has featured in every minute of the season for Orlando in 2012.

Goalkeeper:
Both Rochester’s German goalkeeper Kristian Nicht and Charleston’s Andrew Dykstra are tremendous players.  However only one of them can be named to the mid-season starting XI.  Let’s compare the stats, then… On goals against, Dykstra beats out Nicht (7 GA in 13 games to Nicht’s 11 GA in 15 games).  They are tied for shutouts at 7 a piece.  Nicht has made 20 more saves than Dykstra (62 to 42).  Nicht edges Dykstra in wins, 9 to 8 (although he’s played two more games) but Dykstra prevails in Goals Against Average 0.538 to 0.733.

It is with a heavy heart that I have to award the mid-season starting goalkeeper spot to Andrew Dykstra of Charleston Battery.

Reserves: First and foremost, Kristian Nicht would make quite the formidable back-up goalkeeper.  The German shot-stopper hit the ground running by collecting 6 straight shut-outs to start the 2012 USL-Pro season.

22 year old center back Shane Johnson has performed above expectations in his rookie year with Richmond Kickers.  The Virginia native played every minute of Richmond first 8 games of the season and has even picked up a goal so far this season.

Rochester’s Danny Earls has the ability to play as a left back, central midfielder, and right midfielder but his natural position is on the left wing.  Earls has 2 goals, 3 assists, and 19 shots in 2012 since re-joining the Rhinos from MLS side Colorado Rapids

Charleston Battery has a tremendous midfield duo in Jose Cuevas and Nicholas Patterson.  This tandem has been a big reason for Charleston’s success in 2012.  Cuevas  has registered 8 goals and 3 assists while Patterson has amassed 8 goals and 2 assists.

Bright Dike has impressive numbers too, 6 goals in 9 games for L.A. Blues on loan from Portland, and can hold up the ball well as a target forward.

Antigua’s Peter Byers has proven his ability in recent months.  Byers has notched 3 goals and 3 assists in league play for Antigua Barracuda FC but also scored a goal against the United States in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying in June.

Do you disagree with any of these picks?  Who would you select in their place?  Sound off in the comments.

Rhinos Squeak by Dayton to Finish Their Road Trip A Perfect 3-0

The Rhinos took advantage of a defensive blunder by the Dayton Dutch Lions to steal three points in a drab and dreary USL-Pro match on Saturday night.  Neither team really deserved to win this match, but J.C. Banks was on hand to capitalize on a truly dreadful back pass debacle.

The Rhinos started Kristian Nicht in goal; Quavas Kirk, George Kyriazis, Troy Roberts, and Jack Traynor in the back; Danny Earls on the right, J.C. Banks out left, Drew Cost and Tyler Rosenlund in the middle; with Tam McManus playing behind Graciano Brito.

The Dayton Dutch Lions ran out the same lineup they used in their previous two league matches. Matthew Williams; Gregory Preciado, Nixon Dias, Mettin Copier, and Shane Smith; Joel DeLass, Mikael McNamara, and Kyle Knotek; Gibson Bardsley, Gerrit-Jan Bartels, and Akeem Priestley.

In the first half, the Rhinos seemed to struggle with the advanced wing-play from Dayton’s wide forwards Gibson Bardsley and Akeem Priestley.  Rochester seemed content to sit back, soak up pressure and exploit counter attacks.  However, no counter attacks were forthcoming and the Dutch Lions could not put together a final ball.  In fact, both teams were spraying sloppy passes and slicing shots well wide of the goal in the first 45 minutes.  The referee’s whistle came as a relief for the spectators much more so than for the players of either side. Continue reading

Rhinos Find a Way Past the L.A. Blues Again

The Rhinos went into Titan Stadium at Cal State Fullerton hoping to take a point away from the L.A. Blues.  Instead of settling for a draw, the team exploded out of the half time break and notched two quick goals in the first 11 minutes of the second half.  Despite defending heavily, Rochester remained dangerous on counter attacks and continued to press for a third goal when they had possession.  This victory moves the team to 2-0 on the early season, which Jeff DiVeronica revealed on Twitter is the first time the Rhinos have accomplished this feat since 2006.  Not only that, but the Rhinos picked up 6 points on the road from one of the pre-season favorites in USL-Pro.

The Los Angeles play-by-play analyst Marc Serber (@SoccerSerber) was fantastic throughout the match.  But onto the actual game..

The Rhinos lined up in the same 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 with Tam McManus playing in the hole.  Kristian Nicht started behind a back line of Jack Traynor, Troy Roberts, George Kyriazis, and Quavas Kirk.  J.C. Banks and Danny Earls again started on the wings, while Tyler Rosenlund and Drew Cost combined in the center of midfield.  Graciano Brito was the lone man up top.

Kirk was determined to be fit after coming off with a knock late in the first match, but the 32 old year Greek central defender replaced the injured Tyler Bellamy for his first league start as a Rhino.

Los Angeles started in the same formation they played last week, a 4-5-1 that transitions to a 4-3-3.  Starting from the goalkeeper, the Blues’ starters were: Jose Miranda; Sunyhung Cho, Carlos Borja, Ebrima Jatta, Bryan Burke; Erlys Garcia, Irving Garcia, Ricky Waddell; George Davis IV, Brian Farber, and Matt Fondy. Continue reading

Rhinos Top Binghamton University 4-0 in Preseason as More Trialists Feature

Tam McManus, seen here celebrating a goal for Dunfermline Athletic, got on the score sheet for Rochester in the 6th minute

Rochester Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers started a full strength side against the Binghamton University Bearcats on Saturday morning at Sahlen’s Stadium.  Kristian Nicht started between the pipes and did well to maintain his concentration during the shut-out.  The back four looked like the starting contingent going forward.  Jack Traynor started on the left while Quavas Kirk played on the right.  Troy Roberts partnered Tyler Bellamy in the center of defense as he did much of last season.  The midfield showed some very promising attacking potential for 2012.  J.C. Banks started on the left wing, trialist Danny Earls played on the right flank, while Drew Cost and Tyler Rosenlund played centrally.  Having two highly capable wingers proved a plus for Rochester as they were able to attack from either side.  Tam McManus played as a withdrawn forward with Graciano Brito as the point man of the attack.

The formation could have been a traditional 4-4-2, or a 4-2-3-1 with advanced wingers, but the team most likely operated as a 4-4-1-1.  Scottish forward Tam McManus is the self-proclaimed “number 10″ for the Rhinos and likes to pop into spaces and exchange quick passes.The first half was largely the Danny Earls show and I fully expect his effort to be rewarded with a contract.  The Irish trialist had two assists to set up Tam McManus and J.C. Banks in the opening quarter of an hour. Continue reading

Rochester Rhinos: Preseason Preview

One week from today, on March 18, the Rochester (formerly Raging) Rhinos officially kick off their preseason when they take on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Peters Township High School in Pittsburgh.  The Rhinos then host five games at Sahlen’s Stadium against 4 colleges and the Montreal Impact u21 side.  The team looks solid in 10 positions on the field to me, and the team is only one of two signings away from the most attractive team to play in Rochester in ten or so years.

The goalkeeping situation got a whole lot more convincing with the addition of Kristian Nicht.  Nicht, 29, will likely be the starter for the Rhinos while 22 year old rookie Brandon Miller will deputize and look to excel in the newly formatted U.S. Open Cup.  Only the Los Angeles Blues boast a goalkeeper with close to the same pedigree and international club experience as Nicht, in Mexican veteran Oscar Duatt.

Below is a rundown of the rest of the roster and my confidence in each position. Continue reading