Rochester Rhinos finished the 2014 preseason by running the table on the visiting Montreal Impact U-23s this past Saturday afternoon. Despite some bitter cold weather and piles of snow on the side of the pitch, Rochester brushed Montreal aside to win 3-0 at home in Sahlen's Stadium.
For the second preseason match running, rookie John McCarthy and Revs' loanee Luis Soffner split goalkeeping duties and shared the clean sheet. The two goalkeepers should continue to swap the number one role well into the 2014 season until one player establishes himself.
First year attacking midfielder Minh Vu is certainly making a name for himself ahead of the team's season opener next weekend. The Tucson, Arizona-native scored in the 12th minute against Montreal and had already notched goals against Ottawa Fury and Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Vu's two previous goals this preseason have come in the last five minutes of matches, which should bode well for the team's late surges this season.
2012 Team MVP and starting winger J.C. Banks looks fired up despite missing the beginning of preseason training with his professional indoor team. MISL's Milwaukee Wave lost in the semifinals to eventual champions Missouri Comets on March 10, which prevented Banks from opening training camp with the Rhinos. Banks suffered a torn ACL during the tail-end of the 2012 USL Pro campaign and didn't fully recover until the middle of last season. An assist against Cornell University last weekend and a first half goal, deftly chipped in off the post, against Montreal on Saturday show that Banks is ready to hit the ground running in 2014.
Recent signing and former Houston Dynamo forward Alex Dixon finished off Montreal with an 83rd minute goal. Dixon had the wherewithal to lift the ball over the Impact keeper from a tight angle after driving into the area from the left wing. Among several problems last year, the Rhinos struggled to score. Dixon, starter Colin Rolfe, and versatile attacking midfielders like Vu, Banks, and Frenchman Steve Pinau, appear able and ready to make the difference up front this season.
Former Orlando City midfielder Johnny Mendoza, a preseason trialist, showed well in the second half against Montreal. Mendoza managed to slot the diagonal pass to Dixon for the Rhinos' third goal. He may be added to the squad as a playmaking option ahead of the season opener against his former team. Another trialist, Babacar Diallo, partnered Kyle Hoffner and Patrick Slogic during the match. He probably showed well enough to get a contract this week.
Jossimar Sanchez played the second half of the team's final preseason match as a fullback. Bob Lilley sent out probable starters to play the first half, and while Sanchez was not in that group, we can still expect the Supplemental Draft pick to earn significant minutes as the season gets underway. USL Pro clubs are allowed to use 5 subs during each match and fullbacks are regular targets for substitution.
When Alec Sundly was loaned to the Rhinos, he was seen as the backup to starting defensive central midfielder Lance Rozeboom. Unfortunately both players have acquired minor injuries and are doubts for the season opener next weekend in Orlando. When healthy, Sundly gives Lilley more options to tweak the formation and play a true 4-2-3-1 with midfielders able to recover possession.
Rochester opens its 2014 USL Pro season on the road at defending champions Orlando City this Saturday at 7:30PM. Orlando was the unanimous preseason favorite for its final campaign in USL Pro, but has only collected 2 points from its 2 matches so far despite creating boatloads of chances.
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