Trying to Accept the Rhinos 3-0 Defeat to Philadelphia

In the process of coping and accepting Rochester Rhinos’ 3-0 loss to Philadelphia in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night, I need to blame something.  At first I couldn’t believe what I was watching; the early goal off a corner, the weather, the mistouches and poor passes.  Then I was angry, very angry about everything, especially the fact that the city of Philadelphia exists.  Then my girlfriend heard me pleading and justifying that the Rhinos were after all just a division 3 team playing away to an MLS side, what more could I ask for than a solid effort?  After that she had to put up with me moping around the house for a few hours.  Before I can fully accept what happened last night, I need to get something off my chest first.  I want to blame USL scheduling.

I am of the opinion that the determining factors in the Rochester Rhinos match against the Philadelphia Union were the respective scheduling of each team prior to the game and the belief of the Union players that this competition was the only thing worth left fighting for since MLS play-off qualification is a far-cry given their current position.  The Rhinos couldn’t do anything about the mentality of their opponents going into the match, but they should have been able to re-schedule one or both of their matches the weekend before they traveled to PPL Park.

I mentioned a month ago that scheduling could trip the team up and Devo posted on Friday about the league’s crazy scheduling.  First let’s thoroughly establish that playing without rest exposes players to more injuries and can decrease performance.  Dr David Geier is a sports medicine blogger, head team physician for Charleston Battery and all around great dude.  He posted this article last month about injuries from a lack of rest.

In the article, Geier cites a study from The American Journal of Sports Medicine that “found an injury rate of 25.6 injuries per 1000 hours of exposure in the group of players who played two matches per week compared to 4.1 injuries per 1000 hours of exposure in the group who had six days or more between matches.”  What is also important, Geier writes is that “In addition to what looked like a six-fold increase in injuries overall, injuries to the thigh, knee, and ankle all seemed to increase notably in the group who played more than one match per week.”  The more common injuries to occur from overplaying are not freak accidents like broken legs or dislocated shoulders, but rather the niggling knee, ankle, and muscle injuries that plague a player for a prolonged period of the season.

In 140 characters, Rochester forward Tam McManus described to me his performance in the game with the following, “I literally couldn’t lift my legs tonight we were really up for the match but were physically and mentally drained. Extremely tired.”  I noted, as well as the people I was watching the game with, other viewers on Twitter and the U.S. Open Cup live blog, that the Rochester players continued pressing even late in the second half.  Geier wrote in his post, “Interestingly, match-related physical performance, which was measured by determining total distance, high-intensity distance, sprint distance, and the number of sprints, did not significantly decrease.”  What is not included in that determination is the effect of fatigue and sprinting while fatigued on a player’s touch on the ball.  Effort and hustle were clearly not missing from the Rhinos’ performance against Philadelphia; what was however, was the delicate touch and control of the ball that only comes when a player’s legs are light and fit.

At the end of his post, Geier hits the nail on the head with regard to what is forcing the issue in spite of the performance and health of players.  He writes, “Unfortunately, team budgets, travel arrangements, and other factors might make playing only one game per week difficult for professional sports teams.”  While playing two games a week may be unavoidable, allowing a situation in which a team plays four games in one week is blatant irresponsibility by USL-Pro.

Now, how much of the loss on Tuesday night can be attributed to heavy legs?  Both of the top two teams in the USL-Pro standings (Rochester and Orlando) were defeated in the U.S. Open Cup third round after having to play two games the weekend before and four games in a week.  The Rochester Rhinos were the clear favorite to upset their MLS opponents.  Going into the match they were a defensively solid team in second place in USL-Pro and Philadelphia were the second worst team in MLS.  Orlando were sitting pretty at the top of the USL-Pro standings going into their match against Sporting Kansas City, who had won once in their previous 5 games and only scored 17 goals in their 12 games this season for an average of 1.4 per match.

A betting man would have picked one or both of these USL high-fliers to defeat their MLS opponent on Tuesday night.  I want to believe that both of these teams suffered negatively due to playing two matches the weekend before their cup matches.  How much truth is there to that belief?  Let’s take a look at their schedules.

USLPRO Fri May 18 7:35 PM ET Dayton 1-1 Rochester Sahlen’s Stadium
USOC Tue May 22 7:35 PM ET Brooklyn 0-3 Rochester Sahlen’s Stadium
USLPRO Fri May 25 6:00 PM ET Rochester 0-1 Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
USLPRO Sat May 26 7:30 PM ET Rochester 2-2 Dayton Miami Valley South Stadium
USOC Tue May 29 7:30 PM ET Rochester 0-3 Philadelphia PPL Park
June 2012
USLPRO Sat Jun 2 7:05 PM ET Richmond at Rochester Sahlen’s Stadium

Rochester had a league game 4 days before the 2nd round of the U.S. Open Cup, which the team won easily.  They then had 2 games, both on the road, on back-to-back nights in the weekend before the 3rd round of the cup.  They were rather overrun by a struggling Union side on Tuesday.  If they had managed to win on Tuesday, the Rhinos would have faced a league game on Saturday before a potential 4th round match up next week.

USLPRO Sun May 13 7:00 PM ET Orlando 2-1 Antigua Sir Vivian Richards Stadium
USOC Tue May 22 7:30 PM ET K.C. Athletics 0-7 Orlando Seminole Soccer Complex
USLPRO Thu May 24 7:30 PM ET Los Angeles 1-1 Orlando Florida Citrus Bowl
USLPRO Sat May 26 7:30 PM ET Charlotte 1-2 Orlando Florida Citrus Bowl
USOC Tue May 29 7:30 PM ET Orlando 2-3 Kansas City LIVESTRONG Sporting Park
June 2012
USLPRO Sat Jun 2 7:30 PM ET Orlando at Wilmington Legion Stadium

Orlando’s last league game before the 2nd round of the U.S. Open Cup was over a week before, giving them more than proper rest and preparation.  The team then dispatched of their amateur challenges by a hefty seven goal scoreline.  Then the City Lions played two games with one day rest between them during the weekend before the 3rd round of the cup.  In their cup match, Orlando battled back hard, but were still cast aside by Sporting Kansas City of MLS.  If they had won, they would also face a game at the weekend before the 4th round of the cup.

USLPRO Sat May 12 7:30 PM ET Rochester 1-0 Charleston Blackbaud Stadium
USOC Tue May 22 7:30 PM ET Reading 1-2 Charleston Blackbaud Stadium
USLPRO Sat May 26 7:30 PM ET Los Angeles 0-1 Charleston Blackbaud Stadium
USOC Tue May 29 7:30 PM ET NY Red Bulls 3-0 Charleston Blackbaud Stadium
USLPRO Thu May 31 7:00 PM ET Charleston at Pittsburgh Chartiers Valley High School
June 2012
USLPRO Sat Jun 2 8:00 PM ET Charleston at Dayton Miami Valley South Stadium

Did fatigue also affect third place Charleston Battery?  They didn’t have a game during the week leading up to the 2nd round of the U.S. Open Cup, which they won 2-1.  Charleston then hosted Los Angeles in the league 3 days before they welcomed New York Red Bulls on Tuesday in the 3rd round of the cup.  They have 2 games in the week between the 3rd round and a potential 4th round.

The rest of the teams’ schedules are below for comparison or just for fun.  The point I tried to show is that the two teams that were expected to get results against MLS opponents were shackled by the league itself.  The dates for the cup games were decided sometime between early November 2011 and early January 2012, the USL-Pro scheduling sessions took place Sunday December 18 during the USL Annual General Meeting.  This means that USL either knowingly scheduled 2 matches before their teams faced MLS sides, or they ignored the buzz surrounding the reformatting of the U.S. Open Cup and made their schedule no with regard for the cup competition.  USL President Tim Holt currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Committee and told L.E. Eisenmenger last November, “The Open Cup has always been a fantastic showcase for USL PRO and PDL because it gives them the opportunity to play on an equal competitive platform.”

because it gives them the opportunity to play on an equal competitive platform.

How equal can the platform be when Rochester has to play two back-to-back road games the weekend before while Philadelphia has one game the whole week prior to the cup match, a larger roster, and salaries paid by the league?

 

 

 

 

USLPRO Wed May 16 7:00 PM ET Pittsburgh 0-0 Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
USLPRO Sat May 19 6:00 PM ET Dayton 0-4 Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
USOC Tue May 22 7:00 PM ET Long Island 0-2 Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
USLPRO Fri May 25 6:00 PM ET Rochester 0-1 Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
USOC Tue May 29 7:00 PM ET New England  3-3
3-4 pk
Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
June 2012
USLPRO Fri Jun 1 7:00 PM ET Richmond at Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex

Two games week before 2nd round. Game 4 days before 3rd round. Game Fri after.

USLPRO Fri May 18 7:00 PM ET Richmond 1-1 Pittsburgh Chartiers Valley High School
USOC Tue May 22 7:30 PM ET Richmond 4-0 Aegean Hawks Maryland SoccerPlex
USLPRO Sat May 26 7:00 PM ET Wilmington 1-3 Richmond City Stadium
USOC Tue May 29 7:00 PM ET D.C. United 2-1 aet Richmond Richmond City Stadium
June 2012
USLPRO Fri Jun 1 7:00 PM ET Richmond at Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
USLPRO Sat Jun 2 7:05 PM ET Richmond at Rochester Sahlen’s Stadium

Game 4 days before 2nd round. Game 3 days before 3rd round. 2 games weekend after.

USLPRO Sat May 19 7:30 PM ET Charlotte 1-1 Wilmington Legion Stadium
USOC Tue May 22 10:00 PM ET Charlotte 1-0 El Paso Patriot Stadium
USLPRO Sat May 26 7:30 PM ET Charlotte 1-2 Orlando Florida Citrus Bowl
USOC Tue May 29 8:30 PM ET Charlotte 2-0 FC Dallas FC Dallas Stadium
June 2012
USLPRO Sat Jun 9 7:00 PM ET Charlotte at Richmond City Stadium

Game 3 days before 2nd round. Game 3 days before 3rd round. No game weekend after.

USLPRO Fri May 18 7:35 PM ET Dayton 1-1 Rochester Sahlen’s Stadium
USLPRO Sat May 19 6:00 PM ET Dayton 0-4 Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
USOC Tue May 22 7:00 PM ET Dayton 2-1 Fire Toyota Park Practice Field
USLPRO Sat May 26 7:30 PM ET Rochester 2-2 Dayton Miami Valley South Stadium
USOC Tue May 29 7:30 PM ET Dayton 2-1 Columbus Columbus Crew Stadium
June 2012
USLPRO Sat Jun 2 8:00 PM ET Charleston at Dayton Miami Valley South Stadium

2 games weekend before 2nd round. Game 3 days before 3rd round. Game Sat after.

Wilmington, Pittsburgh, L.A. all lost 2nd round games

USLPRO Sat May 19 7:30 PM ET Charlotte 1-1 Wilmington Legion Stadium
USOC Tue May 22 7:00 PM ET Cal FC 4-0 Wilmington Legion Stadium
USLPRO Sat May 26 7:00 PM ET Wilmington 1-3 Richmond City Stadium
June 2012
USLPRO Sat Jun 2 7:30 PM ET Orlando at Wilmington Legion Stadium

Game 3 days before 2nd round.  Game 3 days before potential 3rd round. Game Sat after.

USLPRO Wed May 16 7:00 PM ET Pittsburgh 0-0 Harrisburg Skyline Sports Complex
USLPRO Fri May 18 7:00 PM ET Richmond 1-1 Pittsburgh Chartiers Valley High School
USOC Tue May 22 7:00 PM ET Michigan 1-0 Pittsburgh Chartiers Valley High School
USLPRO Thu May 31 7:00 PM ET Charleston at Pittsburgh Chartiers Valley High School
June 2012
USLPRO Sat Jun 9 8:00 PM ET Pittsburgh at Dayton Careflight Field

2 games week before 2nd round. No games before potential 3rd round. Game Thur after and then the following weekend.

USLPRO Sat May 12 7:00 PM ET Los Angeles 3-0 Pittsburgh Chartiers Valley High School
USOC Tue May 22 8:00 PM ET Ventura County 3-1 Los Angeles Sherbeck Field
USLPRO Thu May 24 7:30 PM ET Los Angeles 1-1 Orlando Florida Citrus Bowl
USLPRO Sat May 26 7:30 PM ET Los Angeles 0-1 Charleston Blackbaud Stadium
June 2012
USLPRO Fri Jun 15 10:30 PM ET Dayton at Los Angeles Cal State Fullerton Titan Stadium

No game week before 2nd round. 2 games before potential 3rd round. No games for 2 weekends after.

3 thoughts on “Trying to Accept the Rhinos 3-0 Defeat to Philadelphia

  1. You should maybe do some research. Plenty of other teams that won were in the same if not worse scheduling situations.

    Minnesota, the Dutch Lions, and the Charlotte Eagles all played 2 away games in 3 days. Two of those teams did it two weeks in a row, and one will have to do it for a third. The Battery were in a similar situation.

    You can’t blame USL-Pro. They set their schedule literally months before the USOC match dates were announced. I guess you could blame the USSF, but then what else would be new? It is clear, as it has always been clear, that this tournament is run on a shoestring budget.

    • No teams were in worse scheduling situations than the Rhinos going into the cup game. Every team in USL has to play two nights in a row or two games in three nights several times in the season, but Orlando and Rochester were the only teams who had two games in the weekend (counting Thursday) before the third round of the cup.

      NASL teams play a weekend match then sometimes on a Tuesday or a Wednesday or a Thursday, so that’s not true. When a team has a game on a Tuesday, they play the Saturday before. When a team has a game pm Thursday, they play the Sunday after.

      The dates for the cup were decided in January which is not “literally months” after the USL AGM in December.” Even though the draw was not made until roughly a month ago, the dates were known far in advance. Tim Holt was an active and crucial participant of any discussions about the reforms made to the cup for 2012. He would have known two weeks before Josh Hakala about the dates of the first several rounds, and yet did nothing to anticipate fixture congestion during the cup.

      Thanks for reading and engaging me in a discussion, and for sort of apologizing for being sort of abrasive up there.

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