Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has a famous saying "Just Win, Baby!". Well, the Rochester Rhinos might be uttering that line after their first encounter with the Toronto Lynx. The Rhinos were able to escape Centennial Stadium with a 2-0 win, but I doubt their heads will be getting too big after the match.
Coach Calloway went with the same starting lineup that produced the Rhinos' 3-0 season opening win in Miami as Scott Vallow started in goal, Frankie SanFilippo was once again starting at right back after missing the Rhinos' last match, Nate Craft, Kenney Bertz, and Scott Palguta rounded out the defense, T-Bone Bonseu, USL 1st Division Player of the Week John Ball, Juninho DaSilva, and Johnny Menyongar were in the midfield, and Matthew Delicate and ex-Lynx forward Charles Gbeke started up top.
The Rhinos were able to get on the board rather early as Matthew Delicate scored his first goal as a Rhino in the 15th minute. The play sounded like a beauty as Frankie SanFilippo got up the right flank, whipped a cross into the box, and Delicate was able to beat former Rhino goalkeeper Theo Zagar with a diving header that went just inside the far post.
The good news wouldn't last for very long. In the 23rd minute, rookie defender Kenney Bertz was booked and then 12 minutes later he was subbed out for Jason Perry. Post-match reports were that Bertz was feeling a little light headed and asked to be taken out. It's unknown at this point whether it was just an illness that caused the issues for the young center back or whether there was a head injury that may have caused him to have to ask out of the match.
And then, just before the end of the first half, another incident took place. Lynx forward Matthew Palleschi decided to go hard after Juninho DaSilva. That caused Rhinos back up goalkeeper Patrick Hannigan to jump off of the bench and go after Palleschi. In the end, both Palleschi and Hannigan were shown red cards and ejected from the match. [Note: If the Rhinos need a backup keeper for the road trip to Seattle, I'm sure I could get a couple of days off on short notice]
The second half was a little less explosive than the first. Playing a man down, Toronto seemed to be trying to just get the match over with. Thankfully, they didn't seem to be getting into "Hack a Rhino" mode. But, perhaps the Rhinos' inability to run up the score on them had something to do with it.
In the 62nd minute, Matthew Delicate gave way to Aaran Lines. Then, in the 66th minute, John Ball netted his 3rd goal of the season. Johnny Menyongar played a little give and go with Charles Gbeke. Menyongar then drew the defense to himself before playing the ball to Ball who put away the chance into the upper corner of the Lynx net.
Greg Howes and Connolly Edozien entered the match in the 81st minute for Charles Gbeke and Juninho and that was about it.
- This is the second time in Scott Vallow's career with the Rhinos that he has gotten three shutouts in a row. The defense is playing a lot better than I ever expected it would given the losses of Schweitzer and Rivas and the insertion of two USL 1st Division rookies (Craft and Bertz) to the starting defense.
- John Ball is in a 5 way tie for the USL 1st Division lead amongst goal scorers with 3 goals. If anyone was worried about who would pick up some of the scoring slack with the departure of Kirk Wilson, I think we have our answer.
- Matthew Delicate's diving header is the type of play that the Rhinos have been missing for a long time. And it was the type of play that the team was hoping to bring back with the signing of Delicate and Gbeke. Hopefully the Rhinos can keep getting quality service into the box and the big boys keep finishing.
- The Kenney Bertz illness or injury is a bit of a concern. Although, with Jason Perry and Kevin Taylor providing quality depth behind the rookie from Maryland, it shouldn't be that big of a concern. But, Bertz has not looked like a rookie and I doubt anyone wants to mess with what has been a formula for success so far this season.
- Rey Martinez did not make the trip again as he is waiting for all of his paperwork to get sorted out by the team and the league. The issue is supposed to be cleared up this week and Martinez is expected to either make the trip to Seattle or perhaps join the team mid-trip in Portland. While it hasn't been a major issue to this point, Martinez's pace and offensive spark off the bench is something that the team will likely need as they play 3 matches in 6 days and end the western road trip against the 1st place Vancouver Whitecaps.
- Another game and another player takes a run at Juninho. Thankfully, Juninho hasn't been injured in either incident. But one does have to wonder how much more the guy can take.
- Patrick Hannigan getting a red card for sticking up for Juninho was both nice to see and worrisome at the same time. You like to see teammates standing up for each other. But, it also puts the team in a bit of a bind if Hannigan has to miss the match in Seattle on Wednesday.
- Some more ugliness from the weekend was the final score of the Rhinos Women's Team's season opener as they lost to the Lady Lynx 7-0 prior to the men's match on Saturday. But, they were able to bounce back with a 2-0 win in Sudbury on Sunday with Rachel Kruze getting the game winning goal.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or SoccerSam.com. Feel free to send any comments or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. James promises to read (but not to respond) to all of them.