The 2007 Rhinos home opener versus the defending USL 1st Division Champion Vancouver Whitecaps has come and gone and I'm going to recap the match with a little The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Only this time there are going to be two editions of GBU: One for the game on the field and another for what's going on off the field.
On the field
- Chase Harrison looked pretty good in his Rhinos debut. It was only Chase's second start at the USL 1st Division level and while he looked a little nervous at times, he didn't let the early goal rattle him.
- The team not getting down after giving up the early goal and letting that, along with the Scott Vallow injury, get them down.
- For the third game in a row, the Rhinos were able to convert on a set piece. What had been a thorn in the side of the club for a while has been a strength through the first three games of the season.
- The defense was solid. Going up against Vancouver, you are going to expect some breakdowns. Only conceding one goal versus the Whitecaps with two new starting defenders and a new starting keeper was a solid effort. Bertz and Palguta were especially solid in the central part of defense.
- I hate to give it up to the Whitecaps, but Martin Nash did a great job looking off Chris Aloisi to create space for his pass to Joey Gjersten in the 9th minute. Nash looked at the player making the outside run, Aloisi turn ed to take that player, Nash slipped a nice through ball to Gjersten and Joey had enough time to coolly slot the ball home before Aloisi or Bertz could get there.
- The Rhinos midfield still needs an upgrade. Kevin Novak was the only new starting midfielder between 2006 and 2007 and it showed. Lines and Menyongar had their moments. But, all in all, there wasn't a lot of solid play in the Rhinos midfield.
- With Hamed Diallo and Rey Martinez starting up top, the Rhinos had no aerial presence up top to start the match. While Matthew Delicate has many shortcomings, that was one area where his appearance in the second haf was immediately noticable.
- Rey Martinez taking an ill-advise shot when Kevin Novak was all alone in the box. Whitecaps goalkeeper Tony Caig noticed that Novak was wide open and ripped into his defense despite all that came of teh play was a goal kick.
- Having to play Chad Severs at left outside midfield and Danny Kramer at right back. Chad Severs is a right footed forward and looked lost as a late sub at left outside mid. And while Kramer looked less out of place, he wasn't anywhere near as comfortable at right back as Aloisi and Novak had been earlier in the match.
- Fox Soccer Channel's butchering of names and how to say them throughout the match. I taped the game in the event that there were any controversial calls, or not calls. And what did I see at the start of the match? Hamed Diallo's last name spelled Ciallo in the starting lineup, Chad Severs last name spelled Sebers, Richard Goddard listed as Vancouver's starting goalkeeper, neither back up keeper listed as an available sub, and then hearing Chris Aloisi's last name getting butchered all night long. They need to send that crew over to USLLive.com for a while.
Off the field
- I liked the new banners for the Rhinos and Rattlers that faced out onto Broad Street. They looked really nice and spruced up the stadium a lot. Now they need one of those for the back of the scoreboard.
- All the additional little food stands throughout the stadium were a very nice touch. While I'm on a diet and was unable to partake of the additional fare, it did appear to me that there were a lot mroe options than last season which should help address some of the complaints fans had last season.
- The open area under the scoreboard where the tents used to be and the little club type area behind the endzone bleachers where Nic and the Nice Guys performed created a couple little gathering areas before the game that many fans seemed to be taking advantage of.
- Giving back to the Virginia Tech community with the jersey auction was a class move by the organization and it was clear that it made Virginia Tech grad Chase Harrison feel good about playing here.
- Being able to go out onto the field and meet the players was one of the coolest things ever. The team needs to think up of more things like this to really get the players and fans to connect.
- There were still some food quality issues at the opener. Just before kick off my boys wanted a pretzel and there were only a few in the cases in the stands near our seats in section 123. The gentleman that was serving us was obviously unhappy that the only pretzels available weren't warm all the way through. It wasn't an issue for my boys as they'd complain if it were too hot, but I could see another customer not being all too happy with the quality of the pretzel. But, I do have to give a thumb's up to the server. He wanted to give us a quality product and it was clear that he was not happy that he couldn't.
- While there were plenty of complaints about the PA being too loud last season, I couldn't hear the announcements for the goals and subs easily and that was annoying. The lack of a surround sound system at the stadium makes it difficult to allow everyone in the stadium to hear the PA without the people closest too it being blasted with insane levels of noise.
- Knowing that the nice looking Virginia Tech jerseys will be replaced by those hideously ugl home kits.
- The "announced crowd" was over 9100 fans. However, I would be surprised if over 6000 fans were actually at the game. And to make matters worse, there were rumors flying around the stadium that the paid attendance was less than a third of what the announced attendance was. With Miami FC getting less than 1000 fans to their matches and the Carolina RailHawks getting smaller and smaller crowds each game, there is an alarming attendance trend throughout the USL this season.
- Not only was the crowd small, but it was docile as well. The guys at the top of Section 123 tried to get the old standard ROCHESTER.........RHINOS chant going and there was hardly a response on many occasions. As much as I hate to say it, that made me miss Frontier Field for a minute.
- Seeing the pain in Scott Vallow's eyes as he was introduced prior to the game. When Scott looked up to the scoreboard while he was being introduced, you could almost see his mind coming to grips with the fact that he wasn't going to be playing for a while. To see that happen to the captain and face of the franchise, along with such a quality individual, almost brought me to tears. Hopefully the surgery and rehab goes better than anyone expects and Scott is back where he belongs by early to mid-August at the latest.
All in all, it was the result I expected, even before I heard the news that Vallow was on the shelf. But, the continuing trend of declining attendance should be sounding off serious alarms at the Rhinos offices. It's scary to say, but PAETEC Park, the stadium that was supposed to lift the Rhinos to great heights, may be the anchor that takes this proud franchise down.
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.