Rhinos added Vancouver Whitecaps draft pick Chris Estridge to the squad ahead of this road trip. The left back will travel with the team to Wilmington and Orlando this week to gain experience with the guys. I don’t think he’ll start against the Hammerheads but head coach Jesse Myers will look to blend the Indiana University alumnus into the starting XI soon.
First year Rhino Kendell McFayden will want to carry on the form that earned him USL-Pro Player of the Week last week. The forward and his teammates will look to continue the recent trend of scoring early; the team has scored in the first three minutes of their previous two games.
Wilmington is tied for the best home record in the league at 6-0-2. The Hammerheads have been able to turn Legion Stadium into a fortress in no small part thanks to their fans. This makes it even more important for the Rhinos to test Wilmington’s defense early.
Chukwudi Chijindu and Steven Perry both returned from injury against Richmond this past Saturday as late game substitutes. Defender Gareth Evans and Tyler Lassiter both missed Saturday’s match to fully recover from niggling injuries. Evans should be fit for the game on Thursday, but maybe not the starting XI. Lassiter seems unlikely to play this week. Forward Andriy Budnyy also sat out the Richmond game but Cody Arnoux took his place in the starting lineup. Budnyy could make an appearance on Thursday but Chijindu and Perry will be closer to 100% and will be able to play a larger role in the game against Rochester.
Since Wilmington earned a late draw during a rainy night in Sahlen’s Stadium last night, the Hammerheads have extended Corey Hertzog’s loan from New York Red Bulls, signed 24 year old forward Cody Arnoux from Real Salt Lake, and former UNC-Charlotte defender Charles Rodriguez.
Wilmington head coach David Irving will be well aware of the attacking threat of the Rhinos and may elect to play five defenders in the back. If Evans is fit for the match, the starting XI will look like this:
GK: Alex Horwath
Defenders: Gareth Evans, Troy Cole, Yahaya Musa, Tom Parratt, Dylan Riley
Midfielders: Mark Briggs, Paul Nicholson, Bryce Taylor
Forwards: Corey Hertzog, Cody Arnoux
The Hammerheads trail Rochester by six points with a game in hand. If Rochester can get a result in Wilmington, they will solidify their tenuous hold on the automatic semifinal playoff berth that comes with second place. This road trip is gut-check time for the Rhinos as they play fourth place Wilmington and first place Orlando in three days.