Last time out. The Rhinos (15-3-6) hit the road for a pair of matches against two of the weaker teams in the A League. On Friday, they earned their first bonus point of the season with a 3-1 win over Cincinnati (8-0-16). Hamisi Amani-Dove scored twice in that game, and added one the following evening in a nationally televised match against Indiana (5-3-18) that ended in a disappointing 2-2 draw. I use the word "disappointing" because the Blast is a pitiful lot that was recently spanked 5-1 by Pittsburgh and 8-0 by Minnesota. On the plus side, actual forwards are actually scoring actual goals, so it looks as though the striker tandem of Dove and Greg Simmonds is working out nicely.
Next up. This weekend is the second of 2002's home-and-home series against Toronto, which will send the Rhinos up north on Friday only to have them turn right around and host the Lynx on Saturday night at Frontier. Believe it or not, Toronto still has a really good chance of making the playoffs, so the Lynx will be out for blood. Ryan Lucas, a recent pickup from Cincinnati, has scored in three of his four games since joining the Lynx, and the team also recently added forward Ali Ngon (from Pittsburgh via MLS's Miami Fusion) and Canada U-20 star Atiba Hutchinson, who had a trial with Germany's FC Schalke 04 last season.
Unsung hero: Until this weekend, fans have been up in arms over the team's lack of scoring, despite bringing in talented striker after talented striker. Meanwhile, nobody is paying any attention to the Man --- the Mlad Man, that is. Here are a couple of stats that will blow your mind, as well as cause you to start genuflecting on the Altar of Stoian. Over the last two seasons (including playoffs and US Open Cup matches), Rochester is 7-2-6 and averages 1.07 goals per match without Mladenov playing. That very same Rochester team is 26-6-5 with a 1.91 goals/match average when he plays every minute. That means he's generating one goal per game, people. The stats are just as dismal for matches in which Mladenov starts but does not finish (like the May heartbreaker against Milwaukee, in which the Rampage scored the game-winner just minutes after he was subbed out). Bottom line: He's more important to this team than Beckham is to England or ManU.
Maybe he hates them. A lot of folks think Lenin Steenkamp is an "original Rhino," but he isn't. Steenkamp was acquired by Rochester midway through the inaugural 1996 season (he was traded from the then-Atlanta Ruckus to Montreal, and a day later the midfielder was sent to the Rhinos for Gustavos Romanello and Villagra). There must be some hard feelings there because Steenkamp has gone hog-wild against Atlanta since the trade. In the two meetings between Rochester and the Silverbacks in 2002, Steenkamp has four goals. His previous two matches against Atlanta were back in 1996, where he notched a goal and an assist against his former team (the clubs didn't play in 2001, 2000, or 1997, and Steenkamp was injured in 1999 and sat out in 1998).
Speaking of hatred. Before last month's US Open Cup match in Webster, Kansas City Wizard goalkeeper Tony Meola had never received a red card at any level of play. In the six MLS matches since his club clubbed the Rhinos on that hot summer night, he has had two of them bestowed upon him. The second time was two weekends ago, in a 5-1 loss to Chicago, where teammate Nick Garcia also saw red, and everyone's favorite crybaby/racial-slur accuser Diego Gutierrez was booked with a yellow. (It was his first match back in action after that "potentially career-ending" eye injury suffered here in Rochester).