Rochester Rhinos made its first player acquisition announcement of the 2014 pre-season. The team's press release declared the addition of a "trio of USL-Pro veterans," which no is less than fans could have expected from the Rhinos. Rochester brings back midfielder Tyler Rosenlund while adding defender Kyle Hoffer and goalkeeper Alex Horwath.
Tyler Rosenlund has been with the club since 2010 and was initially signed by current head coach Bob Lilley during his first stint in Rochester. The former Canadian youth international, who scored a goal for Toronto FC in 2008, played more minutes in the 2013 season than any of his teammates with 2133 minutes across 25 of the team's 26 matches. While Rosenlund has shown glimpses of quality, like his memorable goal against Antigua in June of last year and a deft passing sequence with J.C. Banks that resulted in a well struck volleyed-goal, the majority of his play over the past few seasons has left me underwhelmed.
Kyle Hoffer is a central defender with 3 years of professional experience after graduating from St John's University in 2011. Rochester will be Hoffer's fourth USL-Pro club in as many years, though, after 20 or more appearances with each of F.C. New York, Charleston Battery, and VSI Tampa Bay FC Flames. Hoffer's previous teams either won a championship with him or folded after the season; hopefully the Rhinos follow the former track instead of the latter.
Alex Horwath is a youngish (26 years old) but well-traveled American goalkeeper. Initially signed by MLS as a reserve pool goalkeeper in 2010, loaned out to both San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders when those teams had rostered goalkeepers unavailable for selection, the New York Red Bulls signed him for the 2011 season. After the Red Bulls waived Horwath at the end of the season, he went on to establish himself as the starter for Wilmington Hammerheads in 2012 and VSI Tampa Bay FC Flames in 2013. Despite his 13 shut-outs over two seasons at this level, Horwath has a challenge to fill the shoes of Rochester's impressive goalkeepers over the years, most recently German Kristian Nicht who signed with Indy Eleven of the North American Soccer League.
These three signings join four players already on the team's roster: midfielders Lance "Sunshine" Rozeboom, local product Mike Reidy, fan-favorite J.C. Banks, and forward Matt Luzunaris, whose recovery from a broken leg has been nothing short of remarkable. Pierre Rudolph Mayard, a former Canadian youth international who signed with the team late last season, was listed on the team's roster page last week but was deleted by the time the Rhinos announced these signings. The team will add between 15 and 20 players to the squad roster between now and the start of the 2014 season, which will probably be in the beginning of April.
Last year I criticized Rochester's late pre-season as a contributing factor to the team's horrendous start in its USL-Pro campaign. Though this announcement comes weeks after other teams made their initial acquisitions, the caliber of players signed would be welcomed on any USL-Pro roster. The team held a local try-out in late December and looks to avoid the same early season troubles that ultimately tanked the Rhinos' 2013 season.