February 23, 2006
Goalkeepers: Out: Dusty Hudock (Charleston) - In: Adam Bartlett
The Rhinos have my choice for 2005 Rhinos MVP Scott Vallow returning and young English goalkeeper Adam Bartlett under contract. Like last season, you would expect Vallow to get the bulk of the workload again in 2006. About the only thing that might change here is if the Rhinos want a more experienced back up keeper, they could opt to loan Bartlett to a USL 2nd Division squad and sign someone with more pro experience.
Roberts Wesleyan grad Richard Goddard, who backed up ex-Rhino Theo Zagar last season in Toronto, is looking for a job and has contacted the Rhinos. If Goddard has Canadian citizenship and wouldn't count as a foreigner, I would expect the Rhinos to look at bringing him in as a back up goalkeeper in 2006.
Defenders: Out: Bill Sedgewick, Craig Demmin, and Scott Schweitzer (retired) In: Ezra Prendergast
The Rhinos currently have 1 veteran defenders (Tenywa "T-Bone" Bonseu) and 4 young defenders (Jason Perry, Scott Palguta, Frankie Sanfillippo, and Kevin Taylor) under contract.
T-Bone Bonseu's inability to hook on with a European club to try and earn some more money could work to the Rhinos benefit if they are unable to re-sign Craig Demmin. Bonseu is no Craig Demmin, but he is a big, physical center back with some skills. Plus, hopefully he will have fewer concentration issues with his wife unlikely to be about to deliver twins this season. Jason Perry has a ton of athletic ability, but his soccer skills and feel for the game leave a lot to be desired.
Scott Palguta was in and out of the lineup last season as a rookie out of Cornell. Palguta is a physical presence at left back, but his speed, or lack thereof, was exploited by more than a few speedy forwards last season. Hopefully Scott was at Doug Miller's speed mini camp earlier this week.
Frankie SanFilippo was my favorite new Rhino last season. Frankie was a tireless worker at right back and was able to run up and down the flank all day long. He also showed good timing on his numerous slide tackles. The one knock against Frankie could be that he does tend to get a little out of position and thus has to rely too much sometimes on his slide tackling ability to recover.
Kevin Taylor was a developmental player that the Rhinos added late in the season from the PDL's Michigan Bucks. Last season he was named the PDL's Defender of the Year. And he didn't look out of place in the few minutes he saw on the pitch for the Rhinos. But, he is young and inexperienced and that could be an issue for this team.
The Rhinos also expect Syracuse University grad Ezra Prendergast, the team's 2nd round pick in the USL 1st Division collegiate draft, to come to training camp to try and earn a spot on the roster. Prendergast was selected in the MLS Supplemental Draft by the Chicago Fire and has been in Chicago's preseason camp. But, he doesn't believe that Chicago will keep him, so he has already inquired about a spot in Rhinos camp. He should add another big, young body to the mix in camp.
To me, the key right now is getting Craig Demmin re-signed, especially given the recent retirement of Scott Schweitzer. There appears to be some friction between the long time Rhino defender and current team management. Some of it may be due to the fact that Demmin barely got on the field last season after rehabbing offseason knee surgery. It was the first major injury of Demmin's career and the team might be afraid to take a risk on the former T&T international.
Personally, I don't see the team having any other good options at this point with the defense being so young outside of Schweitzer and Bonseu. Plus, having Craig Demmin back will not hurt the club's attempts to sell tickets for the inaugural season at PaeTec Park. And, bringing Demmin back would likely make Schweitzer a happier and better player, as well.
Midfielders: Out: Kirk Wilson (Montreal), Rene Rivas (retirement), Lenin Steenkamp, Shawn Tsakiris, and Stoain Mladenov In: Aaran Lines, Jordan Chirico, Josh Bolton, and Danny Kramer
The Rhinos midfield will be going over a major face lift this offseason. Some of it was planned with the defections of Wilson, Steenkamp, Tsakiris, and Mladenov after Coach Calloway's initial campaign. Obviously certain players didn't fit in with what Calloway wanted to do and Calloway rubbed certain players the wrong way.
The big, and somewhat unexpected, loss has to be Rene Rivas at the defensive midfield position. Not only was Rivas a lynchpin in the midfield, he was also the person that Coach Calloway looked to when trying to get his message across to the large portion of Spanish speaking players on the roster. Rivas' loss will be huge.
And right now, the Rhinos could be leaning towards giving the job to Greg Howes. Personally, I think that Howes is a forward and shouldn't be used in a defensive midfield position. The Rhinos should have enough time and money to go out and get a quality defensive midfielder to replace Rivas and allow Howes to play his natural forward position.
The Rhinos do have a solid group of returning midfielders. Juninho was a fun player to watch at left outside mid when he was healthy. Unfortunately he was battling a few injuries after he came to the Rhinos from the Puerto Rico Islanders last season. Jonathan Bolanos is a question mark in the attacking central midfield spot as he signed with a Swedish club after the Rhinos season. But, there are reports that Bolanos wasn't enjoying his time there and that he could return to the Rhinos for 2006.
At right outside midfield the Rhinos return the duo of John Ball and Rey "Boom Boom" Martinez. Ball is a high energy, high skilled guy that plays with an edge. Martinez brings speed and an offensive flair to the game. Both players should be big contributors to the Rhinos attack this season.
New Zealand International Aaran Lines comes tothe Rhinos after making his USL debut last season with the Portland Timbers. Lines is a left sided player who could see time both at left outside midfield and at left back.
The Rhinos have also have 3 rookies that will be fighting for roster spots amongst the midfield. Livonia native and former Indiana University defensive midfielder Jordan Chirico may have seen his chances at playing time increase vastly with the retirement of Rene Rivas. Penfield native and Williams College grad Josh Bolton comes to the Rhinos after back to back Conference Player of the Year winning seasons in college. And Duke's Danny Kramer is a player that was invited to the MLS Combine and was surprisingly not selected in either the MLS SuperDraft or the MLS Supplemental Draft. Kramer could be a real wild card in camp.
Also of note is the fact that the Rhinos are in talks with former Portland Timbers midfielder Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar. Hugo was a 1st team USL 1st Division selection in 2005 after leading the league with 12 assists. In 2004, he was named to the 2nd All-League Team after leading the league with 10 assists. Alcaraz-Cuellar has played mostly on the wing and is known for his quality service into the box either off of dead ball situations or during the run of play. He could be a very exciting addition to the 2006 Rhinos if they can make a deal happen.
Forwards: Out: Mauro Carabajal, Doug Miller (retirement), and Mike Tranchilla - In: Matthew Delicate, Charles Gbeke, Johnny Menyongar, Chad Severs, and Jason Sousa
Once again, the Rhinos have over gone a major overhaul at the forward position. All time leading scorer Doug Miller retired, Mauro Carabajal won't be returning due to visa issues, and both Greg Howes and Jonathon Bolanos look to be moved to the midfield.
In comes long time A-League/USL 1st Division might mite Johnny Menyongar from the Minnesota Thunder. The speedy Liberian International will hopefully replace the speed that the team lost with Miller's retirement.
The team also added two big target forwards in Matthew Delicate and Charles Gbeke. The Rhinos have lacked a big target forward that can consistently win balls in the air and put balls in the back of the net. With the additions of Delicate and Gbeke, the Rhinos should expect that their goal scoring production from the forward position will improve in 2006. Especially if they can get Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar signed to serve balls into the box for Delicate and Gbeke to go get.
If Greg Howes is played up top, he would add another scoring threat to the mix. Although he lacks game breaking speed, Howes did have once of the best goals per minutes played ratios on the Rhinos in 2005.
The Rhinos have also added a couple of rookie forwards to the mix. Chad Severs was a USL 2nd Division 2nd team selection playing for the Harrisburg City Islanders in 2005. Severs was also named the USL 2nd Division rookie of the year after scoring 13 goals and adding 5 assists. He finished the season strong scoring 12 goals and adding all 5 assists in the last 15 games of the season.
The Rhinos also drafted Plattsburgh State forward Jason Sousa with their own pick in the 1st round of the USL 1st Division Collegiate draft after he had a strong showing at the team's collegiate combine.
Current Roster (Likely foreigners in bold and rookies in italics):
GK (2) : Scott Vallow and Adam Bartlett
Def (6) : Tenywa "T-Bone" Bonseu, Scott Palguta, Jason Perry, Frankie SanFilippo, Kevin Taylor, and Ezra Prendergast
MF (8) : Aaran Lines, Jonathon Bolanos, Rey Martinez, Juninho, John Ball, Greg Howes, Jordan Chirico, Josh Bolton, and Danny Kramer
F (5) : Matthew Delicate, Charles Gbeke, Johnny Menyongar, Chad Severs, and Jason Sousa
Coach Calloway has mentioned that he hopes to have a roster of 24 to 26 players with 4 or 5 young, developmental guys which would come from the 7 rookies and Kevin Taylor
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's, 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.