Before we talk about why Bethlehem and Toronto (and a few other teams) are playing some neutral site regular season games this year, here’s a backstory in how we got here.
The Rochester Rhinos were a longstanding American soccer institution that has been in the United Soccer League since 1996. They’re in the ilk of a Tampa Bay Rowdies or even the New York Cosmos in terms of name recognition, at least to people who wax poetic about the old days or who value the Old Guard of this country’s soccer landscape. Unfortunately, however, the Rhinos have had some trouble in recent years and were unable to find enough funds to continue operations as a club for the 2018 season. That being said, the word on the street was that various games would be played at their stadium with Toronto FC II acting as the home team for a series of matches. Pittsburgh gets to be the maiden voyage on May 5th, followed by Indy Eleven on June 16th, and Nashville SC on July 28th.
Closing out these matches is Bethlehem, who face the Junior Reds on August 16th. This is a waste of everyone’s time. I’m not going to this game. Not that I would’ve gone if it were in Toronto but the moving of the game isn’t going to entice fans from either fanbase to go. I can’t imagine the people in Rochester who weren’t exactly packing in Capelli Sports Stadium last year for their own team are going to fill it up for two out of town sides. I can’t imagine Brendan Burke or Jason Bent are incredibly happy about having to use up a road trip to play a game that late in the season. I also wouldn’t be super optimistic about the pitch itself. The good thing on the quality of field front is the city of Rochester itself owns the stadium which at least means we shouldn’t have a rumble in the jungle kind of vibe going on.
Speaking of which, the city isn’t too thrilled with the Rhinos ownership now, threatening to kick the team out of the stadium. Democrat and Chronicle has a nice run down of that whole ordeal here, but these games sort of feel like a way to subvert that clause in the lease.
Anyway, maybe Steel can finally pick up a win in Rochester now?