At the end of the 2011 season, after that disastrous playoff debacle, the Rhinos back office began the contract negotiations and tinkering with the squad. After signing forward Isaac Kissi to a one year contract, the club picked up extension options on Andrew Hoxie (forward), Tyler Bellamy (defender), and rookie midfielders Drew Cost, Michael Tanke and mah boy J.C. Banks on October 11.
At that time, the players whose options were declined were midfielders: Tony Donatelli, Alfonso Motagalvan, Max Ferdinand, Anthony Hamilton, Frank Alesci, Brad Stisser, Kenold Versailles; defenders: Connor Tobin, TJ Gore, Will Trainor, Rich Costanzo, Troy Roberts; goalkeepers: Joe Marino, Ryan Kenny. I think the team would be better without Donatelli but Motagalvan will be missed as a playmaker out of midfield. Troy Roberts is a huge figure for the club and Rich Costanzo was very dangerous attacking from the left back position. In a state of limbo, neither picked up nor declined but still have an extension option for the club are right back Quavas Kirk and winger/forward Kendall Jagdeosingh. Goalkeeper Neal Kitson and team MVP Tyler Rosenlund, whose contracts expired, were free agents.
The biggest news in the offseason was that Rhinos head coach Bob Lilley decided not to return for another year. After serving out his contract with a relative degree of success, but disappointing in the playoffs, Lilley decided not to accept the offer from the club due to family and personal reasons. During the press conference announcement on September 15, Lilley said “If I was coaching next year, it’d be in Rochester,” which really sums up the class of this USL hall of fame quality coach. Team president, Pat Ercoli was quoted at the same press conference, “We’ll have to see who else is out there and I don’t want to rush into it because there may be candidates from MLS or other leagues.”
While it is now naive to think that MLS-quality players will choose to play in Rochester anymore, it is not so strange to think that an assistant or first team coach from an MLS club would enjoy the idea of being the head guy at a lower level team. However, after a few weeks of searching, the club announced on October 12 that they had reached an agreement with Jesse Myers to be the team’s new head coach for 2012. Myers had been the assistant coach at USL team Richmond Kickers since 1997, where he was the tactical mind behind the Virginia’s club success. He also comes to the table with a giant rolodex of contacts in the realm of American soccer. When you are a part of a stable (and staple) organization in soccer for that long, you acquire friends and acquaintances in college coaches, agents, scouts, USL teams, MLS clubs and development academies. I’m personally very excited for another injection of quality youth players in 2012, similar to the likes of J.C. Banks this season.
On October 25, the club announced that they had reached an agreement with Troy Roberts to re-sign in Rochester. In a team press statement, Jesse Myers was quoted as saying, “The re-signing of Troy Roberts has been a priority for me since I was named the head coach. Roberts has been an important part of the team for the past two years. He is a leader in the back and a key piece of the puzzle that we can build around.” Everyone in Rochester breathed a sigh of relief at this announcement and this meanings that Roberts he will partner Tyler Bellamy in the center of defense again.
If the Roberts deal was big, the deal with Neal Kitson was enormous. On November 3, the team announced that they had signed a contract with the goalkeeper who has 16 shutouts in two seasons with the club. Despite interest and ambition to move on from the small Rochester pond, Kitson agreed to return to the Rhinos and may play indoor this winter on loan with the Lancers along side Andrew Hoxie.