The Rochester Rhinos seemed to enjoy the soaring temperatures of higher 30s while dispatching the University at Buffalo Sunday on the campus of Roberts Wesleyan College.
Rochester's lineup was heavy with trialists again as Bob Lilley and his coaching staff continue to evaluate players.
GK: Adam Grinwis
D (right to left): Justin Willis, Sean Totsch, Vassilis, Delmiro
M (right to left): Johnny Mendoza, Tyler Arnone, Christian Silva, Laurent Lanteri
F: Duba, Christian Volesky
Nine Players on Trial in Rochester
Rochester's season hasn't started yet, but they're in camp, and there are a number of unsigned trialists among the ranks.
Grinwis was solid in goal for the first half and communicated well with his defense. There was a bit of contention between center-backs Vassilis and Totsch, who announced via social media that he had signed with the Rhinos at the beginning of last month.
Delmiro is a very large player for a left back and looks to go forward just as Onua Obasi, who is still with Baltimore Blast of the Major Arena Soccer League, did last year. On the other side of defense trialist Justin Willis coped well with the pace of the cold turf surface and reacted well to verbal cues from Mendoza.
Mendoza was the engine of Rochester's midfield much as he was last year. The Rhinos picked up an option for the Colombian-born attacking midfielder in December. While Arnone was projected as a defensive midfielder at the MLS level, he was more of an architect through the middle in Sunday's preseason game.
Arnone's eye forward left defensive responsibilities to Christian Silva, who handled them capably. The left midfielder is a new trialist Laurent Lanteri, whose recent arrival meant that the team hadn't yet assigned him a number for training and he was the only player who braved the cold without a long-sleeve top.
Up top Cabo Verdean forward Duba struck an impressive figure as an effective target man. Playing in line with the last defender Christian Volesky was a troublesome poacher but still linked up well with the midfield through passes on the ground.
Mendoza set up the team's first goal with a well-struck cross just before the half hour mark. Volesky headed home from inside the area to open the scoring for the Rhinos.
Duba put on a show for the team's second goal in the 41st minute. The big man received a ball to his feet in the channel on the right side and stood up Buffalo defender David Enstrom before unleashing an explosion of speed. Duba took the ball between Enstrom and another UB player with a Cryuff-turn, took a touch to set himself, and curled a left-footed shot to the far post. University at Buffalo goalkeeper Waleed Cassis got a touch on the ball but couldn't stop the shot that was destined for the inside-netting.
Rochester took a two-goal lead into halftime and Bob Lilley made several changes at the break.
GK: Scott Basalaj
D (r to l): Mattheau Hall, Shawn Malone, Pat McMahon, Delmiro
M (r to l): Mendoza (Marcos Ugarte), Mike Garzi, Alex Dixon, Lanteri (Will Walker)
F: Stavros Tsoulakos, Asani Samuels
Mattheau Hall took up duties at right back after Justin Willis pulled up with a muscle cramp at the end of the first half. Hall defended without incident and seamlessly supported the attack up the right flank. Delmiro continued his strong play but struggled to develop chemistry with the midfielders in front of him in the second half.
Pat McMahon played right back for the Rhinos in 2014 but slotted inside to partner trialist Shawn Malone. The two snuffed out Buffalo's attack and had to recover urgently a number of times as there was little defensive help from midfield.
Within ten minutes of the second half kick-off, Mendoza and Lanteri made way for Ugarte and Walker. Ugarte immediately made an impact by cutting in from the left side and driving forward before setting up Stavros for a shot from 18 yards out.
Walker was a strong support player, hugging the sideline going forward and filling in well defensively. Ugarte, in contrast, pinched in to allow Delmiro to surge forward on the overlap and frequently took on defenders while running inside.
Returning players Garzi and Dixon partnered in the center of midfield and, unsurprisingly, Garzi looked more comfortable than the natural forward. Dixon got caught out of position a few times but his teammates covered well and prevented any serious danger.
The forward partnership in the second half was something of a mess for Rochester. Stavros Tsoulakos was outstanding as a target forward who played quick passes to teammates after receiving balls to his chest, his head, his feet, and on the run both in the air and on the ground. As strong as Stavros showed, Asani Samuels was frustratingly absent.
Though Samuels was a constant attacking threat on Friday night, against the University at Buffalo he seemed a step behind the play and never pick up his game in the proper gear. Bob Lilley yelled a couple times to his forward players to sort out which players should be pressing in specific areas of the field when Buffalo had the ball.
One instance of successful pressuring by a forward saw the Rhinos put the game to bed. Stavros won the ball from Enstrom just outside the 18-yard-box, dribbled past UB's second-half goalkeeper Cameron Hogg, and tapped his shot in to give Rochester a 3-0 lead.
The goalkeeper in the second half, Scott Basalaj, twice played poor balls out of the back with his feet but continued to call for the drop from his defenders. On the first occasion, the University at Buffalo left midfielder shot well over the goal but the second time Delmiro cleared a low shot off the goal line.
After the game, Bob Lilley faced the bitter cold winds for a couple of extra minutes to talk to the Bent Musket.
Lilley said that the team would ultimately sign around 10 trialists this preseason but because he is still bringing trialists in he's unsure how many of the guys currently in camp will make the final cut.
He told the Bent Musket that he would have a conversation this coming week with the Revolution in order to nail down which players would come on loan to start the USL season and on which date they would arrive.
In earlier conversations between the two clubs, a few players' names surfaced and the potential for those loans has informed with positions Lilley is looking to fill.
When asked which players were the subjects of previous talks with New England, Bob cracked a wry smile and replied, "I'm not at liberty to give you their names."