Record: 0-0 (you don’t say)
Results Last Year: 0-2-1 (Monsoon result still in question)
We are finally here; the season opener is tomorrow night and I know everybody is itching to get down to the Highmark and kick this season off right with a win over last year’s champions. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on with those boys from Rochester.
First, a trip back to 2015 and the meetings between the two teams; To say there were some contentious moments in the three clashes with Rochester in 2015 would be quite the understatement. Last year saw the Hounds go 0-2-1 against Rochester, with games at the beginning, middle and end of the season. The 2-1 loss to Rochester at Highmark killed the momentum from the raucous home opener and saw a truly bizarre referee decision from our favorite group of officials. Rob Vincent was cleared out on the far touchline and began a little handbags with the Rochester player. While this was going on the two were spoken to by the official, normal stuff. Though the ref let play continue and Rochester went down the field and scored the game winner not too shortly after the Hounds had just equalized. Most who saw the incident say they’ve never seen anything like it. Then of course was the monsoon in Rochester in June, a 1-0 loss and another questionable referee decision. A late penalty for Rochester saw them take all three points on a night where really the points deserved to be shared really with the playing conditions. A late season 1-1 draw at the Highmark saw the Hounds gain a valuable point in their playoff push, on the new year we go.
In the ever changing world of the USL it is hard to find consistency on the field and off it as well and that is no different for the defending league champions. Our large unicorn friends in upstate New York have gone through a lot of changes since they beat Los Dos (Galaxy II) up at Sahlen Stadium last fall and hoist the USL trophy.
Before we talk about the new look Rhinos on the field, let’s talk about some changes to the club as a whole. There is an old saying that you can’t polish a turd and I think the Rhinos proved that fact with the unveiling of their new logo. Now, we as Hounds fan can gripe about our badge all we want, but I think we can all agree that the old Rhinos logo was worse than our Hounds head, and that takes a lot. I’ll give it to them, they tried their best on improving it, but really with a Rhino your options are kind of limited. It’s really more of a modern take on the old Rhino and hats off to them for trying.
Back to that night in June in Rochester real quick- you’ll never forget the conditions and the absolute bog of a pitch that both teams played on. The artificial surface was so waterlogged that it stopped a late Kevin Kerr chance that would’ve sent the Hounds home with 3 points and send us in to hysterics in the near corner away end. So about that turf, well it has since been replaced with new field turf, not grass. Not sure if that would’ve helped last year, but it’s nice to see teams improving their grounds.
The Championship offseason did not start that great for the Rhino’s with ownership in question for a couple weeks, when the USL and the city of Rochester terminated the lease agreement with the Clark family. For those two weeks the Rhinos had no owner and some thought the future of the club was in doubt. Rochester natives David and Wendy Dworkin stepped in and purchased the team and have signed a ten year lease with the city and are beginning the afore mentioned stadium renovations in addition to the new turf. The two are part owners of the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. Again, good news, no one wants to see a fellow club fail, except maybe Harrisburg.
Now to see who is going to be playing in those green and gold kits when the Rhinos come to town on Saturday. There have been some key departures, especially for a team that is built on defense and depended on that defense so strongly in last years’ title campaign. Gone are starting GK Brandon Miller, center back Grant van de Casteele and left back Onua Obasi. Though, the Rhinos still have Bob Lilley at coach and their rock on the backline in big greek defender and our favorite Vasilios Apostoloplous, both will bring stability to a team with a roster still in flux. The Rhinos will again look to play a solid defensive game and hit teams on the counter. They will count on Steven Fortes dos Santos for the majority of their offense who found the net for the Rhinos eight times last year.
On now to what I think my favorite thing about writing this piece will be, getting to know the other teams supporters and what they are all about. The Rhinos have two supporter groups that sit in different sections of their home stadium, but it does appear that there is no hostility between the groups I spoke with one of the groups, The Oak Street Brigade, who appear to be more a family friendly and may have some loose affiliation with the club, which I could not confirm. They will be bringing about 15-20 supporters to Highmark and also there will be 10 away fans from the Flower City Stampede. The FC Stampede appear to be more similar to the Army and were formed before the beginning of the 2015 season. Both groups appear to use pyro, drums and flags, so lets hope for no green smoke on Saturday. As for the supporters outlook on their team, they feel as long as Lilley is the coach, they have faith in what he will do. The Oak Street Brigade said they had a great increase in membership and are looking to gain more members this year.
Preview Pod is linked, enjoy if you have a free 20 minutes, I had some issues listening on my Macbook, but should be good. Let me know if you guys have any problems.
Well there it is, roll on tomorrow and come on you Hounds!