So with Saturday night's 2-0 victory over the Montreal Impact, the Rhinos enter the post-season on a big positive. Plus, they avoid both a trip north of the border and a dreaded East Coast - West Coast trip.
What the Rhinos do get is a first round match up against the Atlanta Silverbacks, a team that the Rhinos lost both matchups against this season. The Silverbacks won 2-0 in Rochester on June 29th on a late first half goal from Dan Antoniuk and they salted the victory away with a 90th minute goal from John Queeley.
The rematch in Atlanta was even worse as the Rhinos lost 4-1 down south. That match was the second to last appearance that Nuno Santos has made in a Rhinos uniform.
The good news heading into the match up for the Rhinos is the fact that the team is a lot healthier than when the Rhinos played Atlanta in the regular season. In the road loss, the Rhinos started players like Santos, Scheufele, Shirley-Black, and Kramer. Those four players were all left off of the Rhinos 18 man roster on Saturday night versus Montreal.
Add in the addition of Alfonso Lorea and the fact that Vallow, Bertz, and Craft are back in the lineup, and the team that the Rhinos take into this weekend's playoffs is vastly improved over the squad that faced the Silverbacks in the regular season.
The downside is the fact that the Silverbacks have the type of big, physical forward (Daniel Antoniuk) that has given the Rhinos fits lately. Antoniuk led the USL 1st Division in scoring during the regular season with 7 goals and a league leading 9 assists. Former Rhino David Hayes also had 7 goals for Atlanta this season, four of which were from the penalty spot.
The other first round matchups are as follows:
1) Seattle vs 8) Carolina
2) Portland vs 7) Vancouver - The second leg of this series will be the FSC Game of the Week at 8pm ET on Sunday from Portland
3) Montreal vs 6) Puerto Rico
US falls 4-2 to Brazil
There were mixed reviews following Brazil's 4-2 win over the US yesterday in Chicago.
Personally, it was about what I expected as the US is obviously a step or two behind Brazil. And just as you could expect, there were good things and bad things coming out of the match.
- Getting on the board first. Boca's goal was far from a thing of beauty, but it was nice to see the US strike first.
- Dempsey tying the game at two was another big goal by a guy that has things rolling right now.
- The US did not shy away from Brazil and wasn't star struck despite having two young guys in key central midfield roles.
- Waldo said enough about the job the referee did for everyone.
- Gooch's bad luck continued with the own goal after Howard made a nice save on Kaka.
- The US lacked a little game savvy on when to go hard after a ball. Ronaldinho's free kick goal and the PK in stoppage time were both off of ill conceived tackles by the US.
The interesting thing will be how Coach Bob Bradley uses this match, along with the Sweden game and the Copa America to make the team stronger in the long run.
And you have to love Tim Howard's heart for shaking off a dislocated digit to finish the match in the US goal.
The US starts World Cup play tomorrow morning
Don't forget to set your alarm tonight as the US opens up the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup against North Korea at 5am tomorrow. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
There will be a ton of interesting storylines this time around from Kristine Lilly's presumed alst shot at a World Cup title to the new blood on the roster to whether the fate of the new women's pro league that is supposed to start up in 2009 is on the line.
Thankfully, the US has a strong squad that is once again amongst the favorites heading into the tournament despite playing in the "Group of Death".
Now it's time to lace up the boots and bring home another piece of hardware!
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.