October 2, 2007
The Seattle Sounders may have played their last game in the USL on Saturday night when they defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks 4-0 in the USL 1st Division Final.
Former Rhino Greg Howes scored Seattle's first and final goals en route to be named the game's MVP. And after the match, Howes hinted that he may not ride off into the sunset after all. There were a lot of rumors heading into last year's title game that Howes would retire from the outdoor game if the Rhinos had won and he had earned an elusive outdoor championship.
So, now it appears that Howes, the Sounders, and even Portland Timbers fans are left to ponder where they go from here.
Will the Sounders take the 2008 season off and prepare for a 2009 MLS debut?
Will Greg Howes play outdoors in 2008 whether he can play close to his hometown of Tacoma or not?
And ultimately, if Seattle moves to MLS, will that have a big impact on the Portland Timbers and perhaps the Vancouver Whitecaps?
Where do US Soccer and Hope Solo go from here?
Now that the US Women's National Team has returned from China with a third place finish, the Greg Ryan Deathwatch is officially on.
Most people are assuming that the coach with only one loss on his resume should not be retained by US Soccer due to how the team has developed (or is that regressed) under his watch despite getting result after result up until the point that it mattered most.
And on the other side of that coin is the question about what is Hope Solo's future with the US Women's National Team? Even if Greg Ryan is let go, how much damage did Solo's comments following the loss to Brazil hurt her ability to be a member of the team as many believe she broke an unwritten code by unintentially blasting Brianna Scurry in her attack of Greg Ryan's decision to bench her in the Semifinals?
One would expect that in a nation where people that have done far worse things than merely letting loose to the media have been given second chances, that Solo would once again be given a shot to retake her rightful spot in the US's starting XI.
But, everyone knows how much politics can affect a person's standing in the world of sports.
Personally, I think that every game that Solo is left out of for the US squad that it is merely compounding the original mistake that Greg Ryan made when he benched her. Solo is far and away the best goalkeeper the US has right now. And the US doesn't have a big enough talent advantage over the new top tier in women's soccer to be able to play people of lesser talent due to a grudge.
Where do the Rhinos go from here?
We know that at least twelve members of the 2007 Rhinos team will be back in 2008.
Goalkeeper Scott Vallow, Defenders Scott Palguta, Kenney Bertz, T-Bone Bonseu, Chris Aloisi, and Kevin Novak, Midfielders John Ball and Johnny Menyongar, and forwards Matthew Delicate and Hamed Diallo are all under contract for next season. Also, super sub Rey "Boom Boom" Martinez has agreed to a new two year deal.
Beyond that, the Rhinos are hoping to get late addition Alfonso Loera under contract. His situation is unique as the Mexican defender/midfielder wants to be back, but some of his family has yet to be allowed into the US and that is throwing a bit of a wrench in the works, it appears.
Forward/midfielder Mike Ambersley has been offered a new contract and defender/midfielder Nate Craft is expected back.
The team is letting veteran midfielder Aaran Lines walk, back up goalkeeper Chase Harrison is opting to look around and see if he can find a starting job elsewhere, young defensive midfielders Kevin Burns and Josh Bolton appear to be contemplating whether they want to get "real jobs" or continue playing soccer for now, and you can expect that Nuno Santos won't be back in 2008.
The team is also hoping to add an "impact" forward and midfielder to the mix. Personally, I'd love to see the Rhinos move to a 4-3-3 set up if they are truly looking to open up and add even more offense.
Up top, you could go with Delicate as the target forward with Diallo and Menyongar running off of him.
In the midfield, the Rhinos need a new left sided player, along with a new central attacking midfielder to run the show. John Ball could once again man the right side of the midfield.
On defense, the Rhinos could go with Palguta at left back, Loera and Bertz in the middle, and Aloisi at right back.
Off the bench you would have Martinez as the attacking forward/right sided midfield sub, Craft as the left midfield or defender sub, and Novak could be a defensive minded right midfield and right back sub. Add another forward off the bench, perhaps a big target guy to spell Delicate, and you have a nice, managable roster where everyone knows their role.
Now finding two starting midfielders will be a challenge. Especially when the Carolina RailHawks off season shopping list is looking very similiar to the Rhinos.
But, winning titles doesn't come easy.
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.