On Tuesday, March 26, both the Rochester Rhinos and New England Revolution announced the loan of four players to the USL-Pro side. The four players loaned to the Rhinos for the 2013 season are Tyler Polak, Gabe Latigue, Matt Horth, and Bilal Duckett. Below I’ll introduce those players and then examine where these transactions place the Rhinos.
Tyler Polak is a former US youth international who started all four matches for the Stars and Stripes in the 2009 u-17 World Cup in Nigeria. Polak left college after only two years and the Revs drafted him early in the second round as a Generation Adidas player (an initiative for rising underclassmen). At just 20 years of age, Polak is the youngest player on the Rhinos squad heading into the 2013 season. The young left back certainly comes to the team with some great international experience but his age likely means he’ll have a learning curve before lining up in the physical USL-Pro.
Gabe Latigue is a midfielder from Elon University who the Revs selected in the 2013 Supplemental Draft. The Revs blog over at SBNation (The Bent Musket) had this to say about Latigue when the team signed him on March 1:
After entering camp in competition with six other unsigned rookies, Latigue managed to distinguish himself from the pack with his speed, ball skills, and drive to succeed. He also played well in preseason, where his set-piece talents were most on display.
Matt Horth is a 23 year old forward who spent the last two seasons playing with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League. Despite the team holding a quite abysmal record Horth was a consistent goal scorer, notching 18 goals in 49 games (better than one every three). Horth is a proven forward in the second division who will definitely improve the Rhinos strike rate in 2013.
Bilal Duckett is the fourth player loaned from the Revs for the upcoming season. If that name seems somewhat familiar to you, you may remember he played for the Harrisburg City Islanders last year and put in strong performances against the Rhinos. After impressing the Revs enough during trials to earn a contract, apparently Duckett is seen as a reserve player or a project for the future. As he showed last season in USL-Pro, Duckett can play across the back four and could see minutes at any position in defense.
Each of these four players should fit in well with the pace and skill of the Rhinos. Polak is a promising young defender, Latigue is a hard-working midfielder, Horth has proven himself at a comparable (if not higher) level as a goal-scorer, and Duckett excelled in this league last year on a weaker team. Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers personally evaluated the fringe players on the Revs and negotiated which of the players made available by Jay Heaps would work in Rochester.
I’m not arguing that all of these players should start for the Rhinos from Day 1, but I would say that the Rhinos got four players of equal or greater skill to what Myers could find as free agents. Oh yeah, and these players are free for Rochester.
This is the first in a series of evaluations of the Rhinos loan affiliation partnership with the Revs I will do this season. At this point (granted, before they have even played a pre-season match with the team), the deal seems to be working in the Rhinos favor. I have confidence in the abilities that these four players bring to Rochester and they should free up resources for the team to pursue other capable players. If the Rhinos weren’t already at the top of most preseason projections, the team certainly is now.