This past Saturday not only did Rhinos Head Coach Laurie Calloway and new Rhinos, Rattlers, and PaeTec Park Executive Vice President Matthew Ford come in studio for Kick This!, but they also went out to lunch with some fans, Sam, and myself. I had a great time and I hope that everyone else involved did as well. Even though there was no bowling involved.
Here are some of the highlights of what went down for those that couldn't partake in the fun:
- The Craig Demmin leaving town saga was the #1 topic on the show. Basically, it comes down to the Rhinos being a bit "once bitten, twice shy" given that they paid Craig like a team MVP last season and they got very little in return due to his slow recovery from knee surgery. The team was willing to bring Craig into camp and try and work something out if he was back playing like the Craig Demmin that Rhino fans have come to love over the years, but Craig's agent balked at the idea. Craig offered to rip up his contract if he wasn't in shape, but the Rhinos didn't seem particularly keen on that idea given the type of money that Craig's agent wanted.
I would look for Craig to hook up with either Charleston or Virginia Beach given the clues given by a poster on the Rhinos webboards who claims to be from Craig's offseason hometown. If he is back to his dominant self, I wouldn't be surprised if next offseason the Rhinos tried to bring Craig back. Or, Chris Economides tried to sign him for his team in Cary, NC.
- New Zealand International Midfielder Aaran Lines is a Rhino. Lines made his USL debut last season with the Portland Timbers where he had 1 goal and 1 assist in 23 league matches. Coach Calloway mentioned that Aaran is currently in Germany working on getting his UEFA B coaching license and should be arriving in town later this week.
- It looks like another former Portland midfielder Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar will not be joining the Rhinos. The Rhinos had been talking with the USL 1st Division's reigning assist king earlier in the offseason. Hugo wanted to try and see if he could make an MLS squad, so talks were put on hold. Unfortunately, in the meantime the Rhinos have pretty much maxed out their player budget, so now that Hugo is looking at joining a USL side, his asking price is beyond what the Rhinos can offer at this point.
- Rey "Boom Boom" Martinez has been granted his green card recently. That is a double bonus for the Rhinos as he now will have no issues traveling to Canada and he will no longer count as a foreigner. Somewhere in Chili, Soccer Slick is smiling.
- Back up goalkeeper Adam Bartlett also has his UEFA B coaching license and has been given a coaching job with Newcastle United. And despite having a "real job" now, he still wants to pursue playing and should be arriving in Rochester this Friday. Check back here for a coming "Getting to Know Adam Bartlett" article. Coach Calloway also had less reservations than I did about using a foreigner spot on a back up goalkeeper as he feels that a back up keeper can become your number 1 6 matches into a season. I don't agree with the thinking, but I respect the man's opinion and I'll be rooting for Adam to do well.
- I asked Coach Calloway about the defensive midfield spot now that Rene Rivas has retired. Coach mentioned that T-Bone Bonseu, Greg Howes, and Penfield native and Rhinos rookie Josh Bolton are all guys that he could see filling that role this season. Coach Calloway also brought up New England Revolution 2005 rookie sensation Michael Parkhurst as a guy to look at when contemplating whether playing a rookie is a bad thing by default.
- The club had a potential candidate for the open women's head coaching job, along with the goalkeeping coach job with the men's team fall through. Apparently they had a candidate all lined up, but he has had to turn down the offer recently due to his wife being diagnosed with cancer and his not wanting to relocate from the west coast right now. Also, Rene Rivas has shown some interest in coaching, but his visa is an issue. He is in the country on a playing visa and that means that he can only work in the US as a soccer player and not as a coach. Until that is cleared up, don't look for Rene to be coaching in Rochester or Miami apparently.
- Both Coach Calloway and Matthew Ford are very excited about bringing the Junior Rhinos into the fold. They are looking at developing a European type academy system. They have dropped the word Junior from the Junior Rhinos and every team within the club will be Rhinos whether they are the men's team, the women's team, or youth teams. The Rhinos have seen the success that MLS has had with selling good young players to foreign clubs and they feel like that is something that they should try and develop.
- After the announcement of the naming of the women's team as the Rhinos, the USL asked Matthew Ford if they were going to change the name or logo of the team. Matthew's response was that they "weren't as "Raging" as they used to be", but that they were really busy getting ready for this season and getting PaeTec Park up and running. So, don't expect a change for 2006. But, don't be surprised if the club has a slightly different name and a new logo for 2007.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's, 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.