Match Preview: Rhinos Host Los Angeles Blues

The Rhinos have four games left to play this season against teams with four very different records.  On Friday the Los Angeles Blues (8th place, 7-8-2) come to visit Sahlen’s Stadium, before Orlando City (1st place, 14-1-4), Charleston Battery (3rd place, 11-7-0) and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (10th place, 3-12-5) travel to Rochester in the next few weeks.

Los Angeles welcomed Rochester to Titan Stadium twice this season back in April and you may remember the Rhinos coming away with two wins.  Tyler Rosenlund earned Rochester a 1-0 victory a week before Hoxie and Banks served up a 2-0 win.

Not counting an odd two game series against Antigua Barracuda FC played in Florida, the Blues have a 2-4-1 record away from home.  Their only other road wins came against Dayton and Pittsburgh (two of the three worst teams in the league) in early May.

Los Angeles has undoubtedly missed Bright Dike, their star striker who was recalled by the Portland Timbers.  While Dike was on loan, he scored 6 goals and set up 2 others, which means he finished or assisted 8 of the team’s 11 goals during his stay in Los Angeles between May 8 and July 10.

Other leading scorers for the Blues are Matt Fondy (3 goals and 3 assists), who is tied for 15th in the league with 9 points, Bryan Burke (3 goals and 2 assists), and Allan Russell (2 goals and 2 assists).

Charlie Naimo, the head coach of the Los Angeles Blues, has used a staggering 26 players in the last 5 games.  In contrast, the Rhinos have played just 20 different players despite dealing with several injuries to the starting XI.

Naimo has spoken at some length about wanting to play his team in a dymanic 4-3-3, but circumstances may push his hand in another direction.  Against stronger teams this season, the Blues have not hesitated to play in a 4-4-2 to remain more organized in defense.  Given that the Rhinos are sitting in second place and lead L.A. in the season series 2-0, the Blues won’t be reckless against Rochester.

Projected Roster 4-4-2:
GK- Amir Abedzadeh
D- Erlys Garcia
D- Cory Miller or Joshua Suggs
D- Andrew Jean-Baptiste (on loan from Portland)
D- Matheau Hall
M- Carlos Borja
M- Allan Russell
M- Israel Sesay
M- Brian Farber
F- Bryan Burke
F- Matt Fondy or Max Griffin (on loan from Orlando)

J.C. Banks and Troy Roberts did not train on Thursday and could miss the game on Friday night.  The team has struggled with J.C. Banks but it would be better for Banks to sit against Los Angeles in order to be fully fit against Charleston and Orlando.  With the other injured players finally fit, Chris Estridge or Danny Earls could play left wing while Quavas Kirk and Conor Chinn could share the minutes on the right side.  Lucas Fernández has raised his level of play recently but Tyler Bellamy will need to step up his game for the back four against the Blues.

Karo Okiomah has been training with the team for the last week.  The big forward from Texas has also been participating in team related activities like visiting Camp Good Days.  Okiomah could see his first minutes with the Rhinos against Los Angeles.  Meanwhile the Blues need to get a result to stay in the fight for the 6th and final playoff spot.  Friday night’s game could see both teams going for points and I can see a wide open game favoring the Rhinos on the scoresheet.

Let’s go Rhinos

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