Doherty Soccer is an independent site that covers the Rochester Rhinos and US Soccer. The following article is one half of a two part article on the strengths, weaknesses, players to watch and storylines for tonight's game. For the rest, visit Doherty Soccer.
The team is very strong in defense. When the team has played their first choice back four, they've only given up one goal in the league (at Harrisburg on Friday), four goals against total in nine games. Kristian Nicht sat out the last two league games in preparation for tonight's match so rookie goalkeeper Brandon Miller made his debut for Rochester. Nicht has made 33 saves in the seven matches he's played so
far this season and the former Bundesliga keeper has hit the ground running after transitioning to North American soccer this season.
Scottish veteran Tam McManus has been the attacking playmaker for the Rhinos so far this season. While he only has one goal and one assist in the team's 9 games in USL-Pro, these stats are misleading. McManus has excelled as the withdrawn striker / attacking midfielder in a 4-4-1-1 formation. He consistently drops deep to receive the ball and can play the way he faces or can turn with the ball before spreading the play out wide. Tam's work-rate is unparalleled on the team and his persistent harrying of the opposition defense has been a rallying point for Rhinos deep in the second half of games. Add these physical qualities to the intangible importance of his spirit, and McManus has grown into the focal point of Rochester's attack.
That may not be much of a compliment, however, as the Rhinos have only scored 10 goals in 9 games. Only twice have the team scored more than one goal in a game, against an early season restructuring Los Angeles Blue and the ever-struggling Dayton Dutch Lions. The team seems to be lacking an effective target man who can also put away chances in the box. In the last three games, against Brooklyn Italians, Harrisburg City Islanders, and Dayton Dutch Lions, the team has created numerous chances on balls played in from the wings but Rochester's strikers couldn't manage to find the back of the net.
Players to watch:
Second year professional J.C. Banks and former Colorado Rapids player Danny Earls have been lighting up the USL-Pro. The pair of wingers has scored or assisted on nearly half of the team's goals, Banks has two goals and three assists, while Earls has one and one. Earls is a naturally left footed player but can use his right and Banks is a right-footed winger who can also be effective with his left. This allows head
coach Jesse Myers to employ the pair as traditional wingers playing service into the box or as inverted wingers cutting in from wide to shoot on their preferred respective foot without changing the lineup.
The Rochester Rhinos takes the U.S. Open Cup as seriously as any other organization in the country, including the three-peat champion Seattle Sounders. The club remains the only team outside the MLS to win the competition since the inception of the league in 1996. This victory hearkens back to the time when the Rhinos had a serious claim at being the best team in the country outside of MLS and they even proved themselves better than a few MLS sides in their day.