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Checking in with the Rhinos before the team's 2016 USL Home Opener

While the playing surface looks ready to host its first USL match of the 2016 season, the Rhinos haven't quite put all the pieces together so far.

New turf installed in time for Rochester's home opener on April 23.
New turf installed in time for Rochester's home opener on April 23.

"It's unrealistic to think they're gonna hit the season in the same stride we were at at the end of last season. It's a new season and we have to go through the process."

Rochester Rhinos head coach Bob Lilley speaks often about the process not only of assembling a group of players but of crafting them into a unique squad. After the team's final preseason game against Syracuse University, Lilley told me about the sometimes frustrating lulls along the way as the fruits of his staff's labor might not be evident for months. He likened peering inside the construction of a team to the idea of seeing how sausage is made.

After Rochester opened the season with three games on the road, Lilley again spoke about the team as a work-in-progress.

"I think we will continue to get better," he told me on Sunday evening. "We had Wal Fall, German center back who was there today but was not eligible to play. Michel Guilavogui is a Guinean who played over in the Cape Verdean league. He's coming in and looks good. Those are two guys who are waiting for clearance from the league. But we're hopeful they'll be eligible for next week. Tony Walls will be coming in on Monday so we're still adding some players into this mix."

"I think the group that's been with us through these first three games have done a decent job. Look, we have been highly competitive the first three games and they've all been on the road. There has been a lot of turnover and as a coach I have to give this group time to create their identity."

Before the team traveled down to New Jersey to face the Red Bulls, they were able to train on the newly installed turf surface at their stadium. Clearly second-year goalkeeper Adam Grinwis was excited about it.

Speaking of preparations for the home opener, supporters' group Flower City Stampede is hosting a season kickoff on Friday night at Exchange Sports Bar in Rochester. If you're local, be sure to stop by for some fun and Rhinos buzz.