Addressing Tyler Rosenlund's Role on the Rochester Rhinos

USA TODAY Sports

With the Rhinos struggling to right the ship and recover their 2013 USL-Pro season, the role of central midfielder Tyler Rosenlund needs to be re-evaluated if the team is going to succeed.

Despite the leagues themselves often being in a state of flux (such as the announcement that both USL-Pro and NASL are looking to expand into Oklahoma City), there are several constants in lower-level soccer in the US, like a lack of tactical depth or in-game adjustments.

One of the largest stumbling blocks for the Rochester Rhinos, for the past three seasons and across two different head coaches, is what to do with Tyler Rosenlund.

This may seem like an odd thing to say given Rosenlund's offensive output of two goals in Rochester's recent 5-game home stand. However, is the occasional goal worth the several negative impacts Rosenlund has on the team during the run of play?

I wrote after last weekend's match against Phoenix FC:

Lance "Sunshine" Rozeboom was manning the defensive role in midfield; the anchor in front of the back four. According to the team sheet, McManus slid back into a midfield role in order to generate passing and creativity going forward. Both of these slight changes were attempts to mask the ineptitude of Tyler Rosenlund

Last year this issue was the most prominent problem for a side that still found ways to win matches and finish the regular season in second place. 2012 central midfielder Drew Cost, playing alongside Rosenlund, regularly dropped deep to receive the ball from Rochester's defense and play as a withdrawn playmaker from the midfield.

However the Rhinos don’t have a player who fills the role of a defensive-minded ball-winner, instead Rochester has Tyler Rosenlund, a decent attacking central midfielder. Rosenlund was a Canadian youth international and got a few games in MLS for Toronto FC. In 2011, he was named team MVP by the fans, so clearly Rosenlund isn’t a poor player but he just doesn’t fit into the squad with McManus in the lineup. When the team played a 4-5-1 last season (2011) with a hard tackling anchor-man guarding the space in front of the back four and Alfonso Motagalvan playing smart balls in from deep, Rosenlund was freed to get forward whenever possible. However, similar to the well publicized problems of the English national team a few years ago, the Rhinos now have two players who like to occupy the same space on the field.

Rosenlund likes to get forward from the midfield; McManus likes to drop deep from a forward position. This creates a situation where the two players often get in each other’s way and the opposition defense can very easily mark the both of them. In England’s set up, Rooney likes to drop back to receive the ball while both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard both like to step up from midfield and each one of three of them loves to have the ball at his foot. The same thing happens in which the space is congested and opposition can mark these players out of the game and then England couldn't figure out why they can’t attack through the middle.

Following a very poor showing against Harrisburg in 2012, I wrote:

There is plenty of blame to go around for the performance against Harrisburg. I think the first name on that list, however, should be head coach Jesse Myers. Tam McManus (5'7″) is a man of many talents, but he doesn't fit the bill for an imposing target forward. Most teams in this league have a big man up top like Bright Dike (6'1″) at Los Angeles, Darryl Roberts (6'1″) in Charlotte, and Dennis Chin (6'3″) for defending champion Orlando. If McManus is playing as a lone striker, the midfield has to provide constant service into him; that did not happen on Saturday. Tyler Rosenlund was given a lot of responsibility in a 4-5-1 to bridge the gap between the midfield and McManus, but I thought he floundered his duty woefully.

Rosenlund has not impressed me in any of the matches I've attended or watched online this season. Despite this, Myers continues to pick the Canadian for the starting XI. Rosenlund has played 1292 minutes across all 15 games this season, second only to Troy Roberts. From what I can guess (based on my extensive experience playing Football Manager), Jesse Myers wanted Earls to receive the ball from defense and knock it around, Tanke to hassle the opposition and win the ball, and for Rosenlund to be the extra guy making runs into the area when the team charged forward. It quickly became apparent that the players were not realizing this gameplan on the field but Myers did not change anything. Tanke fulfilled his role as best he could but Earls looked uncomfortable in the middle of the field and Rosenlund disappeared for large portions of the game.

Rosenlund's inability to fill the role of either a ball-winner or a playmaker forced coach Myers to play others out of position in 2012 to the overall detriment of the team. Myers moved Danny Earls from his favored left flank into central midfield because of his passing accuracy to make up for Rosenlund, but this move left gaps down the outside.

Tyler Rosenlund’s only consistent characteristics this season have been to misplace simple passes and bundle easy traps. Having the first touch of a rhinoceros doesn’t necessarily mean Rosenlund should start games for the Rochester Rhinos. Rosenlund can’t pass, trap, tackle, or score. He offers nothing to the team except as a scapegoat for my criticism. It boggles the mind that our coaching staff hasn’t been able to figure out a winning midfield combination. In the five months since the players first started playing together for the 2012 season, Jesse Myers hasn’t yet realized that he needs one player who can pass well and one player who can tackle well in his midfield.

Tyler Rosenlund is not a bad player, but he doesn’t fit in this system. If the team wants to stick with McManus (his workrate and experience should make this a no brainer), then Rosenlund needs to get dropped to the bench. When the game drags on in the second half, Rosenlund would be a great sub for McManus to turn the shape a bit more defensive with three central midfielders.

In recent games, Lance Rozeboom has found himself with the ball at his foot in the attacking third. While it is important for all players on the field to be able to hit a decent shot if the opportunity arises, it would be a mistake to rely on the defensive midfielder to pull the trigger around the area. "Sunshine" Rozeboom is a fantastic ball-winner for the Rhinos and the team shouldn't be asking him to take over Rosenlund's role as well.

When Rosenlund receives the ball during an attacking sequence, he often steps on the ball, spins around in a circle, or just passes it backwards; sometimes he does all three. Doing this kills all forward momentum the team has and sabotages attempted Rochester counter attacks. What good is an attacking midfielder who doesn't like to attack? Rosenlund has not shown an ability to consistently thread accurate passes, control the ball well in tight spaces, take on defenders, or shoot from farther than 6 yards.

Having Rosenlund on the field may pay off for one attack every other game, but what about the other 179 minutes? Surely any player who possesses all the characteristics Rosie sorely lacks would also be able to score the goals he has this season while also contributing to the attack for the rest of the match.

If multiple head coaches have played two other central players around Rosenlund to take care of both the regular defensive and offensive responsibilities, just what does he have to do to lose his place in the starting lineup?

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