The Rhinos have lost two and gained two since my last update. Club management has clearly set about to address the biggest problem area in the squad from 2011, but have they also opened up new wounds?
First thing is first: Neal Kitson is gone. Rhinos management has tried to play down the importance of his departure, but Kitson will be missed in 2012. Head coach Jesse Myers said, “Losing Neal is definitely a bump in the road this off-season. At the same time, it’s been my experience that quality goalkeeping is usually available due to the nature of the position.” “We knew this was a possibility, so I’ve talked to all the goalkeeper coaches I know in MLS, including (D.C. United’s and ex-Rhinos star) Pat Onstad, so I’m sure I can get someone of the same quality, or better. This leaves us with about 150 choices with all the goalies in this country. This will not be difficult,” Myers said to Jeff DiVeronica. While there may be an abundance of goalkeepers in the US, Kitson was slotted to be the lynch-pin of a rock solid Rhinos defense this season. Now eyes turn to new signing Brandon Miller to determine whether he’ll be the starter or the backup for between the sticks for Rochester this summer.
Also notable is the departure of Alfonso Motagalvan to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL. I found his style very entertaining and always enjoyed watching Motagalvan play (and of course hearing his name when the starting XI is announced at Sahlen’s Stadium). For me, Motagalvan was the deep lying playmaker that the team needed when we were attacking in a 4-2-3-1 formation. But he wasn’t just adept at finding a pass, he also possessed quite the ability to make a surprise tackle and break up the opposition’s play. I think Motagalvan was the engine of the Rhinos’ counterattack last season and I will miss his tenacious play. The Rhinos had the chance to re-sign the central midfielder, but an agreement couldn’t be reached (or maybe wasn’t offered for some reason) and the 25 year old California native decided to swap the sunny beaches of southern Florida for the blustery conditions of western New York.
Best of luck to both former Rhinos and I hope to see them back in Rochester sometime in the future.
Now, on to the acquisitions!
If I asked you what the biggest problem the Rhinos had in 2011, what would you say? Perhaps that we didn’t have a working strike partnership. Maybe that we didn’t have a classic selfish center forward (in the mold of Ibrahimovic, only without the samurai look and ninja kicks). Whatever the specific fault you found, clearly the Rhinos had trouble sticking the ball in the back of the net.
We had fantastic goalkeeping, a solid defense, and a productive midfield both centrally and out on the wings. Head coach Jesse Myers must have also noticed the conspicuous black hole in our corps of attackers and set about adding depth to Rochester’s strikers. In late December, the Rhinos added former MLS bench-warmer Conor Chinn but the club’s two latest signings further illustrate the stress the management is placing on the forward position.
On February 2, the club announced the signing of former FC New York player Graciano Brito. Brito was a once-heralded college stand-out who went undrafted in by MLS clubs in 2009. After a year in Portugal’s third division, Brito signed with newly formed club FC New York last year before that team imploded. In a quote that emphasizes the parameters and requirements of USL-Pro, Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers said, “Graciano has shown that he has the potential to be a very productive player in this league. It is important for Graciano to stay healthy. I expect him to fulfill the potential that he has always shown.”
Just four days later, the team made a bigger addition to the pool of strikers for the 2012 season. On February 6 the Rhinos announced the signing of Scottish attacker Tam McManus. McManus is a veteran of the Scottish leagues and has experience at the highest levels in his native country with Hibernian, while also playing a season with the Colorado Rapids of MLS. The 30 year old striker doesn’t add much height to the front line (standing only 5 foot 7 inches) but does bring the positioning awareness built up over nearly 15 years of experience.
“There are many reasons that we brought Tam to the club.” Jesse Myers said. “Obviously he has proven his ability over the years. Just as importantly he’s a proven leader with a background that most of our players have never experienced. In talking with Tam he is excited to be returning to play in the States. At thirty-one [once the season starts] I still believe that he has a few good years left.” It may just be the over-enthusiastic fanboy in me, but I can picture McManus encapsulating the role of a certain diminutive poacher of Rhinos folklore while playing off a traditional target man center forward like Isaac Kissi or Andrew Hoxie.
The Rhinos roster now contains three competent strikers (Kissi, Hoxie, McManus) and two rotation attackers (Chinn, Brito), along with two strong wide players (Banks, Rosenlund) and two decent central midfielders (Cost, Tanke), backed up by five solid defensive candidates (Bellamy, Roberts, Traynor, Zaher, Kirk) and a promising rookie goalkeeper (Miller). Club management will be sorting through combine notes and holding tryouts to fill the remaining roster depth while coach Jesse Myers flips through his personal Rolodex of player contacts in search of the winning combination for the 2012 season in Rochester.
Who else is ready for the stampede?