The Rhinos took on Hartwick College in their fifth preseason game last night at Roberts Wesleyan College. At the end of the game the scoreboard said that the Rhinos had won 3-0, but their search for offensive chemistry was still ongoing.
With players such as Scott Vallow, Frankie SanFilippo, Johnny Menyongar, and Chad Severs getting the night off, John Ball not playing due to his just getting in town after his indoor season with the California Cougars, and Jordan Chirico sitting this one out as he awaits season ending knee surgery to repair a torn ACL, the Rhinos once again had a starting lineup that had people looking for a lineup sheet.
After sitting out Saturday's match versus Toronto, Patrick Hannigan was the starting goalkeeper versus Hartwick. Scott Palguta shifted to the left back position, Kenney Bertz and Jason Perry teamed up in central defense, and newcomer Ricky Lewis (he started 16 matches with the Colorado Rapids in 2005) started at right back. In the midfield the Rhinos went with more of a flat four with Aaran Lines playing wide left, Neil Dombrowski and Josh Bolton playing in the central midfield, and Mychal Turpin playing on the right wing. And starting up top were Charles Gbeke and #30 Mike Ambersley.
It didn't take long for the Rhinos to get a lead. Aaran Lines showed his class with a nice 15 yard blast off of a flick from Charles Gbeke in the 3rd minute. Gbeke was strong in the air for much of the first half. Although, it is hard to get too excited as Mike Ambersley, who is generously listed at 5'8", was winning more than his fair share of balls in the air as well.
Only eight minutes later, Gbeke thought that he had scored a goal of his own. Off a corner taken by Mychal Turpin, Gbeke got a header on frame towards the far post. Hartwick's far post defender headed the ball up, into the crossbar, then it appeared to dent the side netting before the defender cleared the ball right to Neil Dombrowski who made no mistake about putting the ball away for certain. Gbeke was claiming the goal for his own, but much to his dismay, the "official" scoresheet gave the goal to the rookie out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The rest of the half was rather choppy. The Rhinos had a few good chances, the most notable was Mychal Turpin's shot late in the first half that looked like it may have gone in, but neither side scored for the remainder of the half. Hartwick's best chance came when Scott Palguta was beaten to the outside and Patrick Hannigan had to come out and clean things up. And that didn't end nicely for Hannigan as he took a knee to the face and he was concerned about damage to a potential modeling career during halftime.
All in all, the Rhinos looked like men against boys in the first half. Perry, Bertz, Palguta, and Gbeke all used their size and strength to dominate Hartwick. And Mike Ambersley played with a dogged determination that a player of his stature will need to survive at this level.
Once again the Rhinos came out with a new eleven to start the second half. When the Rhinos came out for the second half, Richard Goddard was the goalkeeper. Nate Craft was at left back, T-Bone Bonseu and Kevin Taylor were in central defense, and Jefferson Dargout was at right back for the second 45 minutes. Gediminas Butrimavicius was at left outside mid, Jonathon Bolanos and Danny Kramer were in the central midfield, and Rey Martinez was at right outside midfield to start the second half. And up top was the duo of Connolly Edozien and Juninho DaSilva.
Once again the Rhinos got on the board quickly. About four minutes in to the second half, Rey Martinez whipped a nice cross in from the right wing that Connolly Edozien was able to slot way with his left leg to put the Rhinos up 3-0. The Martinez-Edozien connection missed hooking up on a carbon copy goal only minutes later. Unfortunately, Edozien missed this fine cross by Martinez by mere inches. Edozien also had a nice look at goal in the 54th minute, but his shot was wide of the far post by a couple of yards. With some more luck, Edozien could have had a hat trick in the first 9 minutes of the second half.
Edozien also had a fourth solid opportunity later in the half. But, rather than attempting to chip the keeper, Edozien overhandled the ball, he was shut down, and nothing really came of the play.
The Rhinos had a bit of a scare midway through the second half when Juninho DaSilva took a knock to his right ankle and was down on the turf and then limping around for a few minutes. It looked for a moment like Neil Dombrowski might have to re-enter the game. But, Juninho carried on, although he didn't look as sharp as he had previously.
Like in the first half, there were long stretches of ragged play in the second half. There were a few defensive breakdowns where Hartwick players were allowed to dribble through the Rhinos defense and into the penalty area. Richard Goddard was his usual daring self on more than a few occasions, but Hartwick was unable to finish any of the chances that they were allowed to create.
In the second half, the Rhinos showed a little more skill and a loss less brute force than they did in the first half. And that was almost entirely due to the differences in personnel. Rey Martinez had some nice service into the box, Bolanos and Juninho showed flashes of the chemistry that they had last year, and Nate Craft showed more confidence on the ball. But, how much of that was due to the level of the competition? That is a question that won't start to be answered for at least another three and half weeks when the Rhinos head to Miami to open up their USL 1st Division season versus Miami FC.
The Rhinos have two more games left on their preseason schedule. This Saturday they will take on SUNY Binghamton at SUNY Cortland starting at 3pm. And the preseason finale will be held at MCC on Friday, April 28th at 4pm versus Syracuse University.
- Aaran Lines looked like the best player on the field for the early part of the first half.
- Charles Gbeke was strong in the air and had a couple of good looks at goal. Although, his finishing touch was lacking.
- The Martinez-Edozien connection was nice to see to start the second half.
- The first bag goes to whomever whacked Juninho and scared me half to death.
- The entire Rhinos team for the two or three Lone Ranger runs through the entire team that they gave up in the second half. They made some college kids look like Thierry Henry tearing through Real Madrid in the Champion's League.
- A local pharmacist is going to have to stick a ton of Nexium in a bag for Coach Calloway if Richard Goddard plays in a match that counts. He is an exciting goalkeeper for the fans to watch, but he has to give his coach fits with his daring style of play where he charges off his line first and asks questions later.
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.