Defender Kyriazis Struggled for Pace against Charlotte, Richmond

Rochester Rhinos

Veteran Greek central defender George Kyriazis failed to deal with the speed of his opponents, and head coach Jesse Myers failed to make the proper adjustments as last weekend's opponents exploited that weakness to devastating effect.

First of all let's start with my favorite new Rhino of 2013. The few things Rhinos fans may have learned about rookie Gabe Latigue immediately after the Revs announced he would join the team on loan came from MLS's scouting report.

a quick player who has bursts of speed to get around defenders on the wing ... also has experience on set pieces ... a good crosser of the ball in traffic ...

Since becoming a (temporary) Rhino, Latigue has been the primary free kick taker. Last year the team was pretty useless on set pieces, so a player with free kick prowess was an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, Latigue hasn't been able to showcase his talent because almost all of the team's set pieces have been far outside shooting range. As such, the kicks must be taken indirect. As Revs fans might know, quality service doesn't produce goals if no one gets on the end of the ball.

Last season I loved Georgios "George" Kyriazis because his experience allowed him to be a calming presence for his teammates. For large stretches of the season, Kyriazis had to look on from the bench or the stands as he tried to recover from persistent injuries. However, when he was healthy enough to play, he did so with poise and brilliant distribution. What he may have lacked in athleticism, Kyriazis made up for with the positioning and knowledge of the game that can only come from years of quality experience.

Unfortunately for Kyriazis, and consequently for the team, his sharpness has not been present so far this year. The big Greek central defender has not been able to cope with the pace of the Rhinos' opposition in the team's four games in 2013. His struggles with balls over the top against Charlotte foreshadowed the events of the following night. Kyriazis was brutally exposed by the quality of passing from Richmond and the pace of Joseph Ngwenya, who he took down from behind in the area for a red card and penalty.

Troy Roberts is a great leader from the back and has been recognized the last three years as a stand-out defender (USSF D2 Best XI in 2010, 2011 USL-Pro All-League Second Team, 2012 USL-Pro All-League First Team). Acknowledging all of these personal accolades, Roberts does not have the same quickness he once possessed. Pairing Roberts and Kyriazis as the first choice central defenders makes the Rhinos very vulnerable to quick forwards. If you don't know much about USL-Pro, you should know that all teams revert to balls over the top to quick forwards.

What is frustrating to me (and I'm sure to other Rhinos fans, as well) is that the team has the players to overcome this lack of athleticism in central defense. Tyler Bellamy is a quick young center back who has been with the team since 2010. One of the exciting aspects of Revs loanee Bilal Duckett play is his ability to fill in across the back line. Partnering an experienced veteran with a younger more dynamic player provides both calm positioning and protection from quick breaks.

The players on the Rhinos are professionals and should conduct themselves as such by giving their all and adjusting to in-game situations. That said, the ultimate blame for a 0-3-1 opening record has to fall on head coach Jesse Myers.

Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers remarked to Democrat and Chronicle sportswriter Jeff DiVeronica following the opening weekend that the USL-Pro schedule is crap by giving the team two consecutive weekends of back-to-back matches. I wholeheartedly agree, and have written about poor scheduling from USL on a number of occasions. However, unlike Myers, I didn't get a vote in the matter.

Both the coach and Rochester's team president Pat Ercoli had to approve this schedule at the Annual General Meeting. How can Myers vote for this schedule and then use it as an excuse for not preparing his team? Even if he wasn't paying attention at the AGM, he's known since January, when the schedule was released to the public, that the Rhinos would have a tough schedule to start the season. Instead of starting team training earlier, or setting up more difficult preseason matches, Myers has chosen to skirt responsibility and complain about the league's schedule after the fact.

Maybe Myers - and the team as a whole - can impress me as the season progresses. Up to this point, the coach failed to prepare his team for the start of the season and has not managed well during or between games. With the four players coming over from the Revolution, the Rhinos have the quality depth to compete no matter what the schedule looks like. The team is much more able to shift players around through squad rotation than they were last season; however, Myers has not done this to any positive effect.

He'll need to start if this team has any hope of a title in 2013.

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