Rochester holds an impressive record of 15-0-1 against amateur sides in the U.S. Open Cup. Even though the Rhinos just gave up their 7 match unbeaten run in USL Pro play with a frustrating 1-0 loss at home to Sacramento Republic FC, head coach Bob Lilley should instill the mentality to go at Reading and maintain the all-time undefeated streak against amateur clubs in America's oldest soccer competition.
After a stumble in USL Pro play on Friday night, the Rochester Rhinos are set to host Reading United AC of USL's Premier Development League (PDL). The de facto fourth division club is mostly college-aged players but a staggering track record suggests a bevvy of future professionals on the visiting squad.
One such player is Reading's starting goalkeeper (2 of 3 league matches and 1 cup game), Alex Bono. Bono has 18 clean sheets in two seasons at Syracuse University and played against Rochester in spring scrimmages as part of the Rhinos' preseason the past two years.
The young goalkeeper, one of the highest rated in the country, grew up in Baldwinsville, just northwest of Syracuse and less than an hour and a half from the field at Sahlen's Stadium. While in high school, Bono excelled with Empire United (now Revolution Empire after a nifty arrangement with the Revs) and drew national attention for his performances in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
John McCarthy and Patrick Slogic, a defender with the Rhinos, both played with Reading United AC in 2013 as did Bono and forward Stephen Baker who tweeted out last month that he was on his way to Rochester (more on that below)...
Reading United AC was also the 2013 summer home of New England Revolution's Steve Neumann, in addition to Columbus Crew draft pick Ben Sweat, Seattle Sounders draft pick on loan with the NY Cosmos James Ockford, Generation adidas signing and Sounders draft pick Damion Lowe, Philadelphia Union draft pick on loan at Harrisburg City Islanders Pedro Ribeiro, Colorado Rapids draft pick now with Charlotte Eagles Tolani Ibikunle, and Chicago Fire draft pick now with Arizona United SC Kadeem Dacres.
That's 4 of the 19 picks in the first round and 3 additional picks in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft alone. This club is definitely doing something right. Fully expect a handful of guys on this Reading side to be future professionals, if not first round draft picks and successful MLS players.
Stephen Baker is a forward from Penn State. The Fairport, N.Y. native graduated from McQuaid-Jesuit and played 4 years as a Nittany Lion. Baker played for the Jr. Rhinos and then Empire United in the USSDA before college. The 6'0" forward had 22 goals and 9 assists through 63 games (52 starts) at the collegiate level.
Excited for the opportunity to start the next chapter of my life by heading home to play w/ the Rochester Rhinos. Can't wait to get started!— Stephen Baker (@stephen_baker10) May 20, 2014
A random other fact that I discovered last night: former Cuban youth international who left the team during the Pre-Olympic tournament in the spring of 2012 (you know, the one with Caleb Porter and so many USMNT fan tears). At the time I wrote this piece about de Armas and the ongoing trend of what are sometimes dubbed "defections" in the restricted vocabulary with which Americans discuss Cuban issues.
After spending the summer of 2013 with the Laredo Heat (also in PDL), where he played 13 matches, de Armas apparently played the first half of Reading United AC's season opener, a 2-2 draw at Jersey Express. Yosmel de Armas was listed on the team sheet as "Yosmul DeArmas" but his picture on the PDL site is, in fact, the young Cuban fullback but he is not on the team's roster page on either the club's site or the league's site. But hey, back to the action...
A key player for Reading moving forward is University of Virginia and former Union academy player Darius Madison. Madison scored a goal and assisted three others as Reading won 5-2 over Greater Binghamton FC Thunder (NPSL) in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup. Madison also leads the team in scoring in PDL, racking up braces against NJ LUSO and Baltimore Bohemians. Goalkeeper Bono is credited with the assist on Madison's second goal against LUSO.
Madison also played on Reading in 2013 and will be familiar with Rochester's John McCarthy. Since Soffner played on Friday night against Sacramento, it is possible McCarthy will be rotated in to face his old side in the cup. Though Bob Lilley has found his first choice defense, he told me after this past Friday's match to expect some squad rotation with another league contest against Richmond on Friday night.
Whichever players Lilley selects for Tuesday night's Third Round cup game, they will be eager to take control of the midfield early and vanquish the memory of the team's loss to Sacramento Republic FC.
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