The Rochester Raging Rhinos closed out the 2006 preseason with a 3-0 win over Syracuse University at MCC today. Head Coach Laurie Calloway must have worked the team hard after the 1-0 loss last Saturday to SUNY Binghamton as the team looked a lot sharper than they had in the previous two Rochester area preseason matches versus the Toronto Lynx and Hartwick College.

In what might have been a preview of the starting eleven versus Miami next Friday night, Scott Vallow started in goal, Nate Craft and Frankie SanFilippo were the starting outside backs with Scott Palguta and Kenney Bertz playing together in central defense. Tenywa "T-Bone" Bonseu got the start in the defensive midfield giving the Rhinos plenty of size amongst the three central defensive players. Johnny Menyongar and John Ball played out on the wings with Ball spending most of the first half wide left and Menyongar out to the right. Juninho DaSilva got the start in the attacking central midfield role and sparked the Rhinos attack. And up top, the Rhinos went with their two big horses in Matthew Delicate and Charles Gbeke.

Menyongar, Juninho, and Ball worked well together and allowed the Rhinos to control play through the midfield more than in previous matches. And it didn't take long for the trio to get the Rhinos on the scoreboard. In the second minute Menyongar controlled the ball through the midfield and hit Ball in stride, putting him in alone against the SU keeper. Ball was able to dribble around the keeper and calmly slot the ball home for an early 1-0 Rhinos advantage.

The Rhinos controlled play for most of the remaining 43 minutes of the opening stanza. Charles Gbeke had more than his fair share of scoring chances throughout the first half. Gbeke was able to get three quality chances on frame, but was thwarted twice by a diving SU keeper. Gbeke also had a good look go just wide off his head, as well as having a goal called back due to an offside call.

But, Gbeke wasn't the only Rhino forward that had trouble finishing in the first half. Matthew Delicate had a diving header go wide of the right post. And Matthew's reaction told the story, as he was just as surprised that he was unable to put the chance away as anyone else.

Rhinos captain, Scott Vallow, was only called upon to make one save in the first half. But, Scott did need to be his usual acrobatic self to keep the Orange off the board and allow the Rhinos to take the 1-0 lead into the locker room at half time.

At the start of the second half, the Rhinos made two subs with Connolly Edozien coming on for Delicate and Rey Martinez coming on for John Ball. Johnny Menyongar gave way to Aaran Lines in the 53rd minute as well.

With these subs, the Rhinos chemistry was altered slightly and it wasn't for the better. Syracuse wasn't getting really good chances, but they were getting a little more control than they had through most of the first half. The Rhinos started to take control of the match once they got more fresh legs into the match with Gbeke leaving in the 68th minute and Mike Ambersley, Bonseu and Juninho leaving in the 69th minute with Neil Dombrowski and Danny Kramer taking over in the central midfield, and then Chad Severs coming on for Nate Craft in the 74th minute. The final substitution also led to a little lineup juggling as Aaran Lines replaced Craft at left back, Ambersley replaced Lines at left outside midfield, and Severs replaced Ambersley up top next to Edozien.

In the 75th minute Danny Kramer combined with Rey Martinez on a nice little give and go in the SU 16 yard box that ended with Kramer blasting a left footed shot into the far upper corner of the SU net. That was the rookie from Duke's 3rd preseason goal and took him out of a tie with Matthew Delicate for the team lead.

But, Kramer wasn't done there. In the 88th minute Kramer cleaned up a little garbage in the SU penalty area. Chad Severs worked hard to get a head on a ball that was floated deep into the SU box and Kramer found just enough time and space to neatly put away the volley. It wasn't the prettiest goal, but it was a nice finish in a game where other Rhinos had issues with putting away their own chances.

All in all, the Rhinos took care of business and should have a little bit of confidence as they head south to take on Miami FC in what likely will be Romario's debut match with the USL 1st Division expansion side.


- John Ball, Johnny Menyongar, and Juninho really looked good together in the midfield. All three were skillful on the ball, made some smart runs into space, and really controlled play for pretty much the entire first half.

- Frankie SanFilippo anchored a Rhinos defense that only had one bad breakdown in the first half and nothing all that bad in the second half. Frankie's hustle and speed seems to have been joined by some improved play with the ball. Hopefully it isn't just the level of the opponents that have made Frankie look even better than he was last year.

- Danny Kramer's ability to finish plays would appear to have solidified a roster spot and increased the chances for playing time for the rookie out of Duke. Danny has had more than his fair share of botched passes and mistouches this preseason. But, he has been very accurate when he's had the ball at his feet and a look at goal in the opponent's 16 yard box. And for me at least, that is a vital skill for a player that is looking to solidify a spot as a guy that the Coach wants to bring in off the bench.


Bags Bags:

- I have to give a bag to Charles Gbeke for a couple of reasons. First, he has to finish at least one or two of the chances that he got today. Perhaps it's a confidence issue right now and he just needs one to go in and the floodgates will open, but he's starting to look like the ghost of Rhino forwards past right about now with his utter lack of finishing ability. Second, I really didn't like the way he was whining and pointing fingers at others. I know he's a forward and that's what a lot of forwards do. But, until the guy starts finishing the chances he is getting, I don't think he's earned the right to point fingers.

- The DJ at the match has to get a bag for a variety of reasons. First, if this is supposed to be a "Kids Day" game, then why were they playing a Jermaine Dupree song during warm ups that had more than a few unedited N-bombs and scores of "edited"words that left little to the imagination? Then I had to be subjected to MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This"? Hopefully someone steals his CD collection out of his IROC sometime before June 3rd.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or Feel free to send any comments or complaints to James promises to read (but not to respond) to all of them.