Last time out. Montreal (8-3-3, 27 points) had its full complement of ex-Rhinos on the field (Martin Nash, Mauro Biello, Eduardo Sebrango, and Gabriel Gervais), but that dog refused to hunt as Rochester (8-4-2, 26) denied the Impact a third straight win, netting a 2-0 victory at Frontier on a lovely Saturday night. Montreal's loss, which was its first in seven matches, was devastating to the Canadian fans who made the long journey to Rochester, forcing them to blubber into each other's pretty sky-blue ensembles like little girls.
After sitting through the national anthems of every country from A to L, Rhinos fans were treated to a splendid 39th-minute free-kick goal from Stoian Mladenov, who must have realized dead balls would be his only opportunity to score until Coach Ercoli returns him to his natural central midfield position. Speaking of central midfield, did anyone else notice how relaxed and in control and, well, good Nash looked for Montreal now that he isn't being forced on to the wing? There must be something to that old adage that says you shouldn't continually pound a square peg into a round hole.
Even with the 1-0 lead, The Score knew --- it just knew --- there would be a last-minute goal, and gnawed off all of its fingernails in anticipation. The Score just wasn't expecting said goal to come from Doug Miller, nor could it believe Miller had that much fuel left in his tank in the 89th minute. Miller now has a goal or a yellow card in 10 of Rochester's 14 league matches. And speaking of colors, The Score couldn't pick out Billy Andracki's black jersey in the sea of dark purple Montreal tops, but heard he stopped two point-blank shots in the second half.
It wasn't all good news, though. Ian Fuller snapped his arm in half 10 minutes into play, and Rochester was outplayed (not dominated, just outplayed) by Montreal for the majority of the evening. Still, the win was a huge confidence boost for the team, which would have been crushed by a nearly unprecedented third loss in a row.
Next up. It's a pair of weekend clashes against the bottom-dweller Lynx (5-6-3, 18) --- Friday at Frontier and Sunday in Toronto. The Rhinos boast a 10-0-2 league record against the Lynx at Frontier, and a significantly less impressive 4-4-6 mark in Toronto. Peter Pinizzotto's side has scored just 12 times in 14 matches this year, but it has also allowed only 16 (Theo Zagar has more shutouts than Andracki). Toronto's top scorer is Ali Ngon (3+2=8)
June was tough because of the number of matches, but July might be worse because of the quality of the competition (read: No showdowns against Syracuse or Pittsburgh). After the weekend doubleheader against Toronto, the Rhinos will face Charleston (10-2-2, 32) twice, Richmond (8-3-4, 27) twice, Virginia Beach (6-2-5, 20) once, and have a third-round US Open Cup match thrown in for kicks.
Where have you gone, Andy Restrepo? Richmond swept a pair from Virginia Beach, and Greg "Thunderfoot" Simmonds scored one in each match, including the game winner on Saturday. The last time Carlos Parra scored for Atlanta was the first time the team won in 2003. He tallied again this weekend, and Atlanta managed to topple the hapless Charlotte Eagles. And Rene "Father Time" Rivas had the S-Dogs' lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Charleston. Rivas also earned his second yellow card in as many starts.
On Sunday evening, Aleksey Korol had the GWG in Pittsburgh's 2-0 road win in Cincinnati, and John Ball had an assist in Milwaukee's 4-0 destruction of Indiana.
MLS update. Another week, another pair of goals from the seemingly unstoppable tandem of Ante Razov and Rhinos 2003 draft pick Damiani Ralph. Pat Onstad led San Jose to yet another 0-0 draw, as that team continues to enjoy the best record in MLS. The Score's fantasy team cracked the Top 700, despite forgetting to unload the injured Steve Jolley until his value plummeted.
--- Jon Popick
For The Score's detailed weekly updates on the Rhinos and the A-League, visit Jon's site, Planet Sick-Boy, at www.sick-boy.com.