If the Rochester Rhinos can defeat a stuttering Charleston Battery at home on Saturday night, they can ensure postseason soccer for another year in Western New York.
Rochester has won 4 (and tied one) of their last 5 games against teams not named Orlando City, whereas Charleston hasn’t won a game since July 14. Overall this season, the Battery are 11-10-1 but recently they have been in free-fall form, mustering just 4 points from their last 9 games for a record of 1-7-1. Despite winning 4 times on the road before June 3, Charleston has only managed one win away from home in nearly nine weeks.
A win against Charleston would put the Rhinos into the playoffs with one game remaining and would be a large step toward shoring up second place. The second place team in the 2012 USL-Pro regular season earns a first round playoff bye which translates into an extra week of rest before the semifinals.
Next week the Rhinos host the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in their regular season finale. The two teams tied in Pittsburgh earlier this year and Rochester beat the ‘Hounds 2-0 at Sahlen’s Stadium last month. Getting four points from the two remaining games, a win and a tie, would ensure the Rhinos remain in second place (though Harrisburg could match the Rhinos on points if they win all three of their games left).
Despite a slump in recent weeks, Charleston Battery is still a very dangerous team. Nicki Paterson has 10 goals and 2 assists in 22 games from the midfield. That haul of 22 points is good enough to put Paterson second in goals and points for the season behind Dennis Chin of Orlando City. Fellow midfielder Jose “Chiva” Cuevas has registered 7 goals and 3 assists for a total of 17 points on the season.
Former Rhinos’ midfielder Tony Donatelli has played the sixth most minutes for the Charleston Battery this year. I grimaced almost every time Donatelli stepped on the field for Rochester last year. He was a slow, lazy and uninspired player in right midfield which was even more apparent playing alongside a dynamic J.C. Banks. Donatelli has a goal and three assists in 18 appearances for Charleston this year, but he may find that extra bit of motivation against his former team that was so lacking last year.
Because J.C. Banks received a red card against Orlando he will be suspended for the game against Charleston. Tam McManus and Tyler Rosenlund each received a yellow card in last week’s game and they will also have to serve a one game ban due to yellow card accumulation. This leaves the Rhinos without three starters when the Charleston Battery come to visit. Head coach Jesse Myers has a selection headache for this match but he’s had a week to figure out which players will take the field and in which formation.
Though it is not the only chance to shore up second place, defeating Charleston is the team’s best bet. Three points against the Battery would give the Rhinos 41 points on the season and a safe seating to look down on the rest of the teams battling for playoff spots. Charleston will still be a dangerous team but their recent form suggests a funk that will be hard for their players to break. It will be a hard-fought game, but I think the Rhinos will pull through with a one goal victory.