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Devo's Direct Kicks

Rhinos Soccer.com

Last night the Rhinos were able to escape the USL 1st Division basement thanks to solid play all around and Johnny Menyongar and Matthew Delicate providing enough offense to gain the club's first win in 2008.

It was a night of firsts as not only did Darren Tilley earn his first victory as a professional head coach, but the team was able to take the lead for the first time this season, they scored multiple goals in a game for the first time this season, and they scored in the first half for the first time this season.

Portland was coming off a less than impressive 1-0 win in Montreal on Friday night and they were without the services of goalkeeper Ray Burse who had been called up to FC Dallas. But, the Rhinos were able to do what they had struggled to do much of the season in that the Rhinos midfield did very well in controlling play and providing quality service and the Rhinos made their opponents pay for mistakes. Delicate's goal was a perfect example of this as a Timbers defender was in position to intercept Johnny Menyongar's pass, but didn't. Delicate was then able to turn that miscue into a goal. 

The Rhinos struggled to defend set pieces, with Scott Palguta (knee), Atiba Charles (hip), and T-Bone Bonseu (national team duty) again out of the lineup, the Rhinos had issues when Portland pushed their bigger players into the box to get on the end of free kicks and corners.

Justin Thompson's 78th minute goal for Portland came off a scrambly play in the box when the Timbers were awarded a free kick dangerously close to the Rhinos penalty area. And Portland did have a few other chances, including a first half goal that was called back.

But in the end, Delicate's little flick to a wide open Menyongar and Johnny's nice left footed finish in the 80th minute gave the Rhinos the win and sent the 5100 or so fans that braved the cold home happy.

Hopefully now this team can take the momentum of back to back results and build on it when Miami FC comes to town this weekend.

GBUThe Good:

- The team got a win!

- Delicate and Menyongar had the chemistry going last night. 

- Tiger Fitzpatrick filled in at central defense next to Alfonso Loera and put in a solid effort.

- Leigh Sembaluk saw action in his second game of the season when he entered at left back for Nate Craft to start the second half. Sembaluk broke up a couple of Portland chances and looked solid in extended action.

- The midfield of Menyongar, Salles, Ze Roberto, Kreamalmayer, and Guppy all put in a solid night's work. Given more training and game time to gel, I can see this group continuing to get better. And that will be a very good thing for the Rhinos.

- Not only did he score a goal and set up another, but Matthew Delicate put in a lot of work as the lone striker up top for the Rhinos.

The Bad:

- Johnny Menyongar limping off with an ankle injury was not what this team wanted to see. The defense has been bitten by the injury bug and you have to hope that Menyongar's knock is something that feels better over the next couple of days.

- The Rhinos were exposed defensively on set pieces. One would hope that getting players like Palguta, Bonseu, and Charles back will help in that regard.

- I doubt the Rhinos will be thrilled with an attendance number of 5123. The good thing is that the club is announcing numbers that are believable as it did look like a smaller crowd than on opening night. Now that the team has won a game and looked pretty good doing it, hopefully the weather will cooperate moving forward and they can get consistent crowds in the 8000+ per game area.

The Ugly:

- The debate over the Stampede showering the Timbers when taking corner kicks over by Section 101 was about the only ugliness last night. With the Timbers appearing to whine about it and Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi speaking out against the practice by Toronto FC fans, it will be interesting to see if the USL tries to crack down on the practice at PAETEC Park.

Personally, I love anything that gives the Rhinos a homefield advantage.

News & Notes:

- If you have Time Warner cable and want to see the replay of last evening's game, it will be on at 10pm tonight on TWSN.

- In MLS action over the weekend, the Houston Dynamo were able to get a clean sheet versus the Red Bulls even though Pat Onstad was called up to the Canadian National team. 

- Steven Goff has his latest The Good, The Bad, and the Coyote Ugly up.

- After reading this, all I can say is that I love my Dish!

- It looks like Jonathon Spector may be out of the Olympics thanks to surgery to repair a torn labrum.

- Landon Donovan, along with Spector, is out of this week's game versus Spain.

- I wonder if Sam is nervous with news that the MISL has disbanded and that the NJ Ironmen may not come back when the owners reorganize.

- SBI.net asks the question of what should the Chicago Fire give up to land Brian McBride? If I'm Toront, I'm pressing for a good young attacking player like Chad Barrett or Chris Rolfe. If I'm Chicago, I'm trying to give up a draft pick or two or an older player with a shorter shelf life than Barrett or Rolfe, like say Andy Herron.

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 news@soccersam.com. James promises to read (but not to respond) to all of them.