No fans like to see their team lose 3-0.
Fortunately for Rhinos fans on Saturday night, the live stream of the match was so poor that many could not actually see their team capitulate on the road. The stream set up by VSI Tampa Bay FC was choppy and froze often, which, along with the team's performance, caused more than a few Rochester fans to turn away in frustration. (The problems were the result of VSI Tampa Bay's technical staff and should not be taken as representative of all USL-Pro teams, so don't turn away from the streams entirely).
Saturday night's season opener for the Rhinos, the first of five straight road games, did not go according to plan. Head coach Jesse Myers didn't really know what to expect from first-year franchise VSI Tampa Bay FC, but he did know the team had quality player,s like former Rhino Tony Donatelli, and five other players with extensive second or third division experience: midfielders J.T. Noone and Shawn Chin, goalkeeper Alex Horwath, and defenders Kyle Hoffer and Josh Rife. Even with those names, few people expected VSI to steamroll the Rhinos.
The Rhinos started 2012 Goalkeeper of the year Kristian Nicht in net with 2012 Defender of the Year Troy Roberts and Greek veteran George Kyriazis as central defense partners. Revolution loanees Bilal Duckett and Tyler Polak started on the right and left sides of defense respectively. Tyler Rosenlund and Lance Rozeboom started in the center of midfield, while former Colorado Rapids winger Danny Earls and Revolution draft pick Gabe Latigue manned the flanks. Former Rev Blake Brettschneider partnered Matt Luzunaris up top.
In three games this season against USL-Pro and MLS Reserve opposition, Tampa Bay was 1-2-0. The team had only scored two goals coming into their home opener against the Rhinos. Perhaps the Rhinos underestimated VSI, but the first half was fairly even in terms of the run of play as both teams sized up the other. The first goal came when rookie forward Karamba Janneh headed past a diving Kristian Nicht in first half stoppage time. One has to wonder how 5'7" Janneh beat 6'0" Roberts and 6'2" Kyriazis to the ball inside the area.
Shortly after the restart, Tampa Bay doubled their lead over the Rhinos. Tampa Bay came out for the second half the stronger team and capitalized as Douglas dos Santos nailed a shot across the face of goal from the right side of the box. Rochester's defense and midfield failed to properly close down dos Santos and the former Ocala Stampede player had enough time to set up his shot. The strike found the top left corner of the net and Rochester goalkeeper Kristian Nicht could only watch the ball fly past him. Nicht's night got worse before the final whistle as he was beaten by former Wilmington Hammerheads striker Andriy Budnyy in the 74th minute.
Jesse Myers tried to turn the tide in favor of his team by making two substitutions after dos Santos's wonderstrike. He brought on Scottish veteran forward Tam McManus to replace former Orlando City striker Luzunaris and swapped speedy forward Kendell McFayden for left back Tyler Polak. These changes were too little too late as the match had already been decided.
This is definitely a shocking start to the 2013 season for Rhinos fans. Last year the team didn't play attractive soccer to begin the season but they got 6 straight wins on the road without conceding a single goal. After the hype leading up to first kick, many fans expected the same type of performance this year.
The Rhinos season opening 3-0 loss at VSI Tampa Bay FC was a wake-up call. Even when trying to play a more direct style, the Rochester club did not find success against the first-year team. Jesse Myers has a lot of talent in his squad but needs to figure out how to put the pieces together this year.