Rhinos vs. Sacramento 2014: Match Preview

Friday night marks the first-ever meeting between expansion club Sacramento Republic FC and the Rochester Rhinos. Preki's boys will be on their first road trip to the Eastern time zone and Bob Lilley will try to extend Rochester's undefeated streak.

With Friday night's game in mind, I chatted with Josh Beeman, the Sacramento Republic FC beat writer for Reckless Challenge, about the match-up and the USL Pro expansion club. You can follow Josh on twitter here, read his articles for Stumpytown Footy here, and check out his work on Reckless Challenge here.

The Rhinos are currently on a 7 match unbeaten streak in USL Pro, though they have only won three of those games. Despite not losing since its season opener at Orlando, the team has scored more than one goal only once this season.
Season record: 3-1-4 (W-L-T), 13 points
Last five: W-D-D-D-W

The first year club from Sacramento has played 6 of its 8 matches so far against other teams in California. A trip to Arizona and a home match against Harrisburg both ended in 2-1 losses for the Republic.
Season record: 4-3-1 (W-L-T), 13 points
Last five: W-L-L-W-W

Josh's Sacramento players to watch
Rodrigo Lopez:

Lopez was the Republic's first signing and has been making an impact with the team since the first game. He is a leader on the field and is generally the designated set piece taker. His position on paper is the left wing but he often pinches inside to become a third central midfielder and leave space for Nemanja Vukovic, the left back, to push up. He likes to combine with his teammates and has created many chances for the collection of forwards that have made appearances for Sacramento so far.

Ivan Mirkovic:

A near constant presence in the Republic midfield, Mirkovic is the ball winner for Sacramento. He is constantly moving and harassing the opposition. He anchors the midfield to free up his partner (either Octavio Guzman or George Fochive) to be slightly more offensive-minded. While he does not make highlight reel passes or rack up assists, Mirkovic is an important contributor to the Sacramento midfield.

Jordan Stewart:

Stewart is the highest scoring player on the Republic, with 3 goals and 2 assists to his name. He has scored all of his goals from far outside the penalty area, including two great chips from distance. After another chip from distance against LA Galaxy II this past weekend, it is likely that his record from long distance will begin to factor into the game plans of the Republic's opponents.

Predrag Radosavljević, who? Preki
Preki is one of only two coaches in USL Pro who has experience as a head coach in MLS. Preki was head coach of Chivas USA and Toronto FC after his playing career and LA Galaxy II's Curt Onalfo was a head coach at Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United before joining the LA Galaxy as an assistant coach to the senior team. Orlando City's Adrian Heath has served short term stints in charge of Burnley, Sheffield United, and Coventry City.

Here's what Josh had to say about the legend that is Preki:

Preki has been trying to have his team play a patient, possession oriented style of play. This is easier said than done however, since the field at Hughes Stadium [Sac Republic's home field] is small and restricts the space for the Republic to use. The team is also fairly young, with many players playing their first year as professionals. That inexperience has led to some costly mistakes that have lost Sacramento points this season. In the last few games however, Preki has been able to get his team to be more patient and more disciplined. That new found discipline will be tested this weekend in their first trip east to play Rochester and Dayton.

The Rhinos face Sacramento on Friday before the visitors travel to face Dayton on Sunday. With the second game in mind, Preki may choose to rest some players. If this was professional baseball, the manager might play his worst starting pitcher against the Rhinos and bank on a win against the struggling Dutch Lions later in the weekend. This "win-some, lose-some" attitude doesn't seem to fit Preki and especially so considering that Rochester and Sacramento are currently tied for fourth place in USL Pro.

Bob Lilley will play his first choice back four with a holding midfielder in front of them. Sacramento did not play particularly well when Harrisburg swung first at Hughes Stadium so assuming that Rochester can take the game to a jet-lagged Republic FC, the visitors won't be able to dig their way back into the match.

Though the accuracy on the shot or the final pass has not quite been there, the Rhinos have shown some considerable bite in the opening minutes of matches this season. Don't tune in late because there could be some highlights at the beginning of Friday night's match.

Rochester hosts Sacramento Republic FC from Sahlen's Stadium at 7:35PM.

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