Rhinos Sign Zamudio and Defeat Colgate

Gustavo Zamudio, with or without flowing locks, has just signed for the Rochester Rhinos

The Rhinos added Chilean central midfielder Gustavo Zamudio on Tuesday.  He adds a Latin American playmaking spark to the Rhinos midfield and I think he could be the “diamond in the rough” signing for the team this season.  The Rhinos midfield already includes tremendous talent out wide with J.C. Banks, a very versatile and talented Tyler Rosenlund, and a great partner who can martial the midfield in either Drew Cost and Michael Tanke.

“The first thing that impresses you about Gustavo is his technical ability. He’s very good on the ball,” Rhinos head coach Myers said. “After watching him play for a while you end up realizing how well he reads the game and how well he passes the ball. I inherited a hard working central midfield from Bob [Lilley], and I think Zamudio will complement that group very nicely with his technical flair and ability to get everyone involved.”

On Friday, the Rhinos played their third preseason match at home against Colgate University.  The game recap comes from the Rhinos’ press release on their website:

Continue reading

Yosmel de Armas and the Problem of Cuban Player Defections

Yosmel de Armas competing against Honduras in the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament

At some point between the Cuban u23 team’s game against Honduras on Saturday and when the team loaded onto the bus from the hotel for the match against Canada on Monday, Yosmel de Armas fled the team hotel.

The 22 year old defender who played for La Habana back in Cuba is the latest in an extensive series of athletes who defect during tournaments in the United States.  A majority of these cases are baseball players, boxers, and soccer players.

“The player that’s not here today is feeling very sick. He left yesterday in practice. He injured his ankle, so he was in the hotel. Something else happened. He doesn’t really know,” a translator said for Cuba coach Raul Triana Gonzalez about de Armas being listed as “Not present” for the match against Canada. Continue reading

The 2012 U.S. Open Cup Is Here

2012 marks the 99th edition of the U.S. Open Cup and thanks to a formatting change, it also marks the first time every professional soccer team in the country will participate.  The 2012 format includes 32 professional teams: the 16 U.S.-based Major League Soccer clubs, 6 U.S.-based North American Soccer League clubs, the 10 U.S.-based United Soccer Leagues-Pro clubs; and 32 amateur teams: 16 from the Premier Development League, 6.5 from the National Premier Soccer League, 9 teams from United States Adult Soccer Association, and .5 teams from US Club Soccer (one team from NPSL will face off against the USCS representative in a one game play-in match).

The 2011 U.S. Open Cup only included only 40 teams; 8 from MLS, 11 from USL-Pro, 9 from PDL, 4 from NPSL, and 8 from USASA.  This means that more teams are entering the tournament from every division this year.  NASL teams were disallowed from the 2011 cup partially because of late sanctioning and partially for political reasons.  Fortunately, for the sake of competition and integrity, all domestic-based professional teams are participating this season. Continue reading

Our Neighbor to the South: What American Soccer Can Learn from Mexico

If we take a closer look at soccer in the United States and soccer in Mexico, we can see that we’re more like Mexico than we often realize.

We both have big market teams that don’t perform as well as the better organized clubs in smaller cities.  Look at the stagnation of Club America (Mexico City, population of 20,000,000 in 2010) since 2006 and the recent successes of Monarcas Morelia (population of 806,000) in Mexico.  In the United States compare the eternal profligacy of the New York Red Bulls (nearly 18,900,000 in 2010) with the cup-winning and Concacaf Champions League final-reaching Real Salt Lake (1,125,000).

We both have shady businessmen who own multiple teams, even though that is against FIFA’s wishes.  At one time the Anschutz Entertainment Group owned six teams in MLS; having sold the Colorado Rapids, the MetroStars, D.C. United, and the Chicago Fire, AEG still owns the Los Angeles Galaxy and are partial owners of the Houston Dynamo.  Likewise, the Hunt Sports Group owned three teams, but after selling Kansas City Wizards, now only owns the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas.  In Mexico, the two major ownership groups are both television media companies.  TV Azteca owns both Monarcas Morelia and Jaguares de Chiapas.  Televisa owns Club America, San Luis F.C. and (former Primera Division team; now Liga de Ascenso team) Club Necaxa.

We both have longer distances to travel for matches than most countries.  A 2000 mile flight separates Atlante FC from Club Tijuana.  Similarly, nearly 2600 miles separates the New England Revolution from the Los Angeles Galaxy in the United States.  In contrast, the longest distance in England, that between the Northeast teams, Newcastle and Sunderland, to the London clubs is around 250 miles.

However there are important differences with regard to promotion and relegation, youth structure, and sports culture.  There are many things that the American soccer world can learn from it’s southern neighbor. 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

United States Olympic Qualifying, A Class Above Cuba

Joe Corona celebrates a first half goal against Cuba with the team

Claudio Reyna joined Caleb Porter on the bench for the United States’ opening match in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament and they both liked what they saw.  Porter lined the team up in his 4-3-3 with Hamid in goal; Sarkodie, Kitchen, Opara, and Valentin in front of him; Jeffrey playing the defensive role in a midfield triangle with Corona and Diskerud; and then a forward line of Adu, Agudelo, and Shea.  The tournament allows a full bench, meaning the rest of the squad was available as substitutes: Terrence Boyd, Teal Bunbury, Joe Gyau, Sean Johnson, Amobi Okugo, Michael Stephens, Tony Taylor,  Jorge Villafana, and Sheanon Williams.

The US was in control of the game from the outset, dictating play and probing for holes in Cuba‘s defense.  That hole came in the 11th minute when Joe Corona opened the scoring.  Freddy Adu put a served a free kick into the box and Juan Agudelo rose to challenge but Cuba’s keeper (Odisnel Cooper) came out to punch.  The ball fell to Corona in the box, who took it off his check and neatly side footed into the back of the net. Continue reading

2012 Olympic Qualifying Roster

On March 20, u23 head coach Caleb Porter named his final roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament.  That roster is mostly the same as the one released on March 12.  On March 13, Porter added Tony Taylor to replace the injured Dilly Duka.  FK Molde recalled American speedster Josh Gatt due to a number of injuries at the club.  Because Olympic qualifying is not an official tournament during a FIFA window, clubs don’t have to release their players and do so on a voluntary basis.  Gatt was listed as a right back in the squad so replacement options considered by supporters included 20 year old Club Tijuana defender Greg Garza and 22 year old Philadelphia Union defender Sheanon Williams.  In the end it was Williams who got the call and he joins the other 19 Americans in Nashville.

18 year old Birmingham City defender Will Packwood was also mentioned, but Jurgen Klinsmann has spoken out discouraging players skipping ahead in their development (Packwood would be available for the next Olympic cycle).  Royal-Dominique Fennell is a 22 year old with Stuttgart who has been called up in the past and is starting to blend into the first team at his German club.  There had also been a few calls for Houston Dyanamo academy player and Duke University defender Sebastien Ibeagha, but the 19 year old does not have enough quality experience to add anything to the team.

The roster as it stands now:

GK, 2- Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)

D, 6- Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union)

M, 6- Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Gent, on loan from Stabæk), Michael Stephens (Los Angeles Galaxy), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz)

F, 6- Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Tony Taylor (Estoril Praia)

The squad now includes 14 MLS players, including all goalkeepers and defenders.  In the last month the u23 team has gone 4-0 which includes wins against FC Dallas (2-1), NASL side San Antonio Scorpions (3-0), the Mexican u23 team (2-0), and on Sunday a 3-0 result against the Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL.  Mexico is a likely match-up in the semifinals if both teams make it out of their respective groups.

The United States begins group play on Thursday night at 8PM against Cuba.  This is followed by a match against Canada at 6PM on Saturday.  The final match of the group stage is against El Salvador on Monday night at 8PM.  All of the U.S. games will take place in Nashville Tennessee and will be shown on Telemundo-2 and Universal Sports Network, as well as streamed on concacaf.com.

If the U.S. gets results against its group opponents, it will likely face either Mexico or Honduras in a semifinal matchup.  Both semifinal winners will advance to the Olympic Tournament in London during the summer.  In London, the full u23 team (Jozy Altidore, Timmy Chandler and Danny Williams) can be joined by 3 overage players which may include Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan or Michael Bradley.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.