May 19, 2008
For once, the weather cooperated and despite gloomy forecasts leading up to Saturday's home opener, the weather was relatively nice.
Now if only the Rhinos had been able to score a couple goals and sent the home fans away happy.
The interesting thing will be how much slack both the on-field and off-field products get moving forward.
It's obvious that with one goal for and no wins through six games, the team is struggling mightily to start the season. The positive highlights from Saturday were near misses such as Mauricio Salles' bicycle kick in the first half, Atiba Charles' header early in the second half, and Chad Severs' little flick late in the match.
A coaching change late in the offseason, sizeable roster turnover, a short pre-season, and a brutal early travel schedule are all conspiring against Darren Tilley and his team.
One big surprise on Saturday was the fact that Hamed Diallo was left off the 18 man roster for the opener. Diallo has struggled mightily to start the season and it will be interesting to see if this wake up call works or not.
For my money, the problem with the Rhinos remains the play of the two central midfielders. Tiger Fitzpatrick and Ze Roberto did not control the tempo of the match, especially in the second half. Salles was not getting the ball at his feet, where he needs it and too many balls were played to Matthew Delicate that would have been better suited for Diallo or Evan Milward.
You can point the finger for the loss at the defense for the blown off side trap that lead to the breakaway for Randi Patterson and Scott Vallow for hesitating off his line leading to the chip for the goal. But, even if they had gotten a clean sheet, they still would have gotten out of there with only a single point for their effort.
The Rhinos are only 4 points behind Montreal for the final playoff spot, but the offense needs to start clicking to make the team more marketable.
That leads us to how the off the field stuff went.
As expected, it was a mixed bag. From hiccups with the trams (too long and one section needed to be removed) to concessions (one stand was shut down by the fire marshal for only having one extingusher), there were things that need to be worked.
But, there were a lot of changes that worked. I know my two boys gave a thumbs up to the inflatable behind section 124, I liked the really professional looking Mass merchandise that was on sale in the tent next to the stage, the stage with live music both before the game and with Bo Bice's appearance at halftime and after the game was great, I heard a lot of nice things about the new concessions, and the PA being lower and the music being less frequent should help bring things to more of a balance between what we've had in the past and having nothing during the run of play.
The biggest concern for some was the announced attendance of 7138. Especially with the Rhinos talking about how only a few thousand seats remained, people are wondering if there is a credibility issue with the new ownership given what happened with the previous ownership group.
Rob Clark explained where he came up with his projected attendance number in a post over at the Rhinos Zone. Basically, they really overestimated how many Pro Pass members would be at the opener.
The key now is to learn from what happened before and during Saturday's game and improve things for the June 1st match versus Portland.
News & Notes:
- Is this the inspiration for the new logo?
- DC United is having some of the same struggles on the field as the Rhinos so far this season. A lack of toughness is one issue with DC that has head coach Tom Soehn perhaps looking over his shoulder as Bruce Arena is saying that he wouldn't mind a return to an MLS sideline......
- With recent news about BC Place getting a facelift for the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver, Don Garber is saying that Vancouver remains on MLS' expansion radar.
- Bruce Arena is saying that the USMNT will have no problems qualifying for the next World Cup and Jamie Trecker is saying that the upcoming USMNT friendlies against England, Spain, and Argentina are just what the team needs. Personally, I think these friendlies pale in comparison to the Copa America which US Soccer made a decision to not fully embrace last summer. I don't put a whole lot of weight in meaningless matches, which most international friendlies are. But, in the Copa America, there was something on the line and that is why I felt that it was a big missed opportunity for US Soccer.
- Here is a stunner, the Miami Herald has a story on some of the Cuban defectors.
- Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o appear to be headed out of Barcelona. I's going to be a very interesting off season at the Camp Nou.
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.