Scott Vallow's return to the Rhinos lineup went about as well as one could have hoped for with a pair of shutout wins over the weekend against the Carolina RailHawks and the Puerto Rico Islanders.
The six point weekend puts the Rhinos in third place in the USL 1st Division standings. Although, with Montreal and Atlanta holding games in hand over the Rhinos, Rochester is currently fifth in the league on a points per game basis.
The good news is that the Rhinos have an eight point cushion over Miami FC. Miami is currently in ninth place in the league and would be the team that would keep the Rhinos from advancing to the post-season. Miami's last four games include a two game road trip to Puerto Rico and home games versus Portland and Charleston. So, it's not likely that Miami will be making a huge run down the stretch.
If the Rhinos can win two of their four remaining matches, that will mathematically eliminate the chance that they'll miss the playoffs.
Now it's time for a little "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" from this weekend's games:
- Scott Vallow tying and passing Billy Andracki for #1 in club history when it comes to regular season wins by a goalkeeper. It's obvious that the record meant a lot to Vallow and hopefully he's able to add a lot more wins to his total of 56 and counting.
- Getting through the weekend relatively healthy was huge. Jason Perry didn't play on Sunday, but he was on the 18 man roster, so perhaps it was more a tactical move. Newcomer Jamie Holmes' hamstring injury was the only notable injury. And with Matthew Delicate having a doctor's appointment today to get the wires removed from his broken jaw, that competition may make that hamstring feel better in a hurry.
- The Rhinos finished enough chances to get results. It wasn't always pretty, but the Rhinos were able to score a goal in each of the four halves of soccer that they played on the weekend. And they'll need to continue that sort of play down the stretch and into the playoffs. And Chad Severs hustle goal versus Puerto Rico should be on the team's highlight reel for the rest of the season.
- Ending the team's record dry spell for shutouts should release some pressure that the defense must have been feeling. Whether it was the goalkeeping situation or the injury situation, or just plain poor play, it doesn't matter any more. The team now has a new streak to work on and hopefully they can keep it going for a while.
- The Rhinos were outshot 29-14 on the weekend. And while only 10 of those shots were on frame, that is still a pretty wide margin. Hopefully that is something that will change as the Rhinos continue to get a little bit healthier down the stretch.
- Alfonso Lorea was once again unavailable due to issue with regards to getting international clearance from the Mexican federation. First it was Delicate, Diallo, and Martinez not being able to travel to Canada and now this.
- It's unfortunate that the weather last evening was less than ideal. Coming off of Friday's nights great atmosphere for Vallow's first game back, it would have been nice to build some momentum. But, it was obvious that the storm that made it to PAETEC Park just in time for the match kept some people away.
- Josh Bolton taking only 13 minutes to collect two yellow cards against Puerto Rico quite possibly could cost the Rochester native his spot down the stretch. With Kenney Bertz and Lorea poised to enter the lineup, T-Bone Bonseu could be pushed back into the defensive midfield mix with Kevin Burns. I love to root for local players in a Rhinos lineup. But, Bolton is making it tough right now.
- The referees this weekend made me wish that the lady that worked the Rhinos game a few weeks ago was on permanent assignment for all Rhinos home games until she retires.
News & Notes:
- DC United defender Bobby Boswell had a take on ESPN's coverage of David Beckham and it's getting play on more blogs than just his own. Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post is all over it as well. It is disappointing that they aren't using the Beckham-hype for anything more than hyping Beckham. But, that's about what I expected. I especially didn't like that SportsCenter didn't point out the best anti-Beckham banner to date. DC's Screaming Eagles had a big banner that read "We sign better than your wife". That beats the often repeated "Bench it like Beckham" for my money.
- The NJ Ironmen are expected to announce tomorrow that they've signed Tony Meola according to Big Apple Soccer.com.
- Apparently the USMNT friendly against Mexico at Azteca has fallen through. But, Steven Goff says the make up friendly is a good one: vs Brazil at Soldier Field in Chicago. That would be a good debate: What's tougher, a match in Azteca vs Mexico's A-Squad or a match on home soil versus Brazil's A-Squad?
- Abby Wambach scored two more goals for the USWNT on Sunday as the US defeated New Zealand 6-1. Wambach now has 77 goals in 95 appearances for the USWNT. That places her fifth on the all-time list trailing the four members of the 100 goal club in Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers, and Tiffeny Milbrett.
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.