ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester Rhinos travel to PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania to play the Philadelphia Union (MLS) in the Third Round of the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, May 29th at 7:30PM. The Rhinos defeated the Brooklyn Italians (NPSL) 3:0 in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup on May 22nd to advance to the Third Round, the first time that Major League Soccer teams will participate in the tournament. The winner of this tie will advance to play the winner of the DC United/Richmond Kickers tie in the Fourth Round of the U.S. open Cup on Tuesday, June 5th.
The Rhinos enter the match with a 7-1-2 record in all competitions and a 5-1-1 record away from Sahlen’s Stadium to start the season. Rochester got off to a historic start with a 6-0-0 record with six consecutive clean sheets, but they are 0-1-2 with three goals for and four goals against in their last three league matches.
“It’s too simple for us to focus on the past week or ten days. The truth is we’ve had a very difficult start to the season.” Rhinos coach Jesse Myers said. “We’ve played seven of our first nine league matches away from home, and during that stretch we’ve had two back-to-back away matches. Now that the U.S. Open Cup has started we’re in a stretch of six matches in fifteen days, and four of those matches are going to be played in a week. Realistically we were hoping to be a top four team at the end of this stretch, and right now we’re in second.”
The Rhinos have been led by second year winger JC Banks (three goals and four assists in all competitions), but he has gotten some help from first year forward Tom McManus lately. McManus has two goals is his last three matches. He opened his scoring account for Rochester with the game winning goal in the second round of the tournament, and came off the bench to rescue a point for the Rhinos with the game tying goal in their 2:2 draw with the Dutch Lions in Dayton on Saturday, May 26th. Myers acquired McManus from Ayr United (Scottish First Division) to bring a veteran presence to his attack. McManus appeared over 100 times for Hibernians in the Scottish Premiership at the beginning of his career, and scored six goals in 20 appearances for the Colorado Rapids (MLS) in 2008.
“There’s no doubt Tam has the pedigree to score goals.” Myers said. “He was the leading scorer for Hibs one season in the SPL and scored goals in the MLS with Colorado. JC has been a constant threat for us this season, but we’re starting to create some chances for some other players now.”
Another new addition for the Rochester Rhinos during the offseason, goalkeeper Kristian Nicht, has been one of the best players in the American lower divisions at the start of the 2012 season. Nicht has a 7-1-1 record in all competitions with six clean sheets, two goals conceded, and a 0.22 goals against average. The 30 year old German spent most of his playing career in the German Bundesliga2 before coming to the United States during the January International Transfer Window. Nicht is supported by MLS veterans Troy Roberts and Quavas Kirk as well as Italian Serie B veteran Georgios Kyriazis in the Rhinos back four.
“We have an experienced group in the back as well as Tyler Rosenlund and Danny Earls, who also played in MLS, in the midfield.” Myers said. “The Union will be a step up in competition for us, but I think our roster has a lot of players with the experience to handle it and give us a chance to be successful.”
One variable in U.S. Open Cup play is how seriously a MLS opponent will take the competition, but Union manager Piotr Nowak insisted last week that he will field a first choice squad on Tuesday night. Philadelphia is off to a slow start this season with a 2-7-2 record and a 1-3-1 mark at PPL Park. They have scored eight goals and conceded 14 in their first 11 matches of the 2012 MLS season.
Philadelphia joined Major League Soccer in 2010 and have a nucleus of young talent that is the foundation for their young club. The Union are led by play making midfielder Freddy Adu. The 22 year old has one goal and one assist in seven matches this season. Leading scorer Gabriel Gomez (four goals) left the Union’s last match, a 1:0 loss to Toronto FC, with an injury, but Philadelphia has plenty of attacking options remaining. Colombian veteran Lionard Pajoy scored a brace in a 3:2 loss to the Red Bulls two weeks ago, and Danny Mwanga, the number one overall selection in the 2010 MLS Draft, comes off the bench to provide an offensive spark or plays next to Pajoy as a second striker. Michael Farfan, a second year midfielder, looks to set up his teammates with scoring chances.
Defensively rookie Raymon Gaddis has secured a spot as a starting outside back, and 20 year old former Maryland standout Mark MacMath has had a promising start in goal. However, both MacMath and back up Chase Harrison missed the match in Toronto due to injury so third string keeper Chris Konopka got the start.
“We really can’t control the team that the Union puts on the field on Tuesday night.” Myers said. “This is a big opportunity for us to showcase our team and show what we can do. Now it’s about going out and executing in Philly.”
The Rhinos return to Sahlen’s Stadium to play the Richmond Kickers on Saturday, June 2nd at 7PM. Tickets for the match with Richmond are on sale now by calling 585.454.KICK, by visiting rhinossoccer.com, or by visiting any of Ticket Master’s retail locations.