Last time out.The Score can barely see straight after the Wangling in Webster, and most of the 4,000-plus who were in attendance are likely suffering from a similar rage-induced sight impairment. It's the second year in a row in which the Rhinos have been bounced from the U.S. Open Cup thanks, in part, to some extremely questionable sub selection, but this time around Rochester also had to contend with a very physical (read: rabidly violent) Kansas City team and a head referee with either a personal vendetta or glaucoma.
Fans were left scratching their heads wondering why, when the match was tied and sent to overtime, the Rhinos' most potent scorer (Greg Simmonds) was left on the bench. A similar strategic blunder was perpetrated in last year's Cup loss to Hershey, when former Wildcat Jamel Mitchell was never used, even though Rochester found itself down a goal with 20 minutes to play. The Score doesn't confuse the substitution process with rocket science. When you're winning, add defenders.
Conversely, when you need a goal, inserting offensive subs is the logical choice. Yes, we're blue in the face, but we're going to keep saying it until it starts happening --- at least on a semi-regular basis.
Next up. Only six existing A-League teams have winning records against Rochester (9-2-5, 38 points). The bad news is that each of the Rhinos' next three foes come from that elite pool. First up is Charlotte (7-2-10, 34), who have beaten Rochester in both of the matches in which the two teams have faced off.
Like The Score said back on May 15, the key to beating the Eagles is shutting down forward Dustin Swinehart (last year's number two scorer, who found the back of the net against the Rhinos on May 18 in the Eagles' home win). Canandaigua Academy graduate Andy Guastaferro makes his first Frontier Field appearance for Charlotte.
And yours truly will play in the annual Celebrity Media halftime extravaganza, in which he will either bring pride and glory to City's good name, or employ defibrillation paddles to prevent him from going into the light.
On Friday, a very dangerous Montreal (7-2-5, 31) side returns to Frontier for the finale of this season's four-match series against Rochester. Like most battles between the Impact and the Rhinos, the home team generally wins (Montreal took 1-0 and 2-0 shutouts at the Claude, while Rochester squeaked by with a 1-0 win at home earlier this month).
The Impact have won two straight since that loss in Rochester, and former Rhino Eduardo Sebrango was named the league's Player of the Week, as well. With Montreal clawing its way toward first place, expect this to be one of the most physical battles on this season's regular-season home schedule. But if you can't make it, watch it on television (Empire Sports or Fox Sportsworld).
The home stand extends into Sunday with a rare 3:05 start (The Score can neither confirm nor deny the odd kickoff time has anything to do with Greg the Bunny coming out of hiatus early that evening) against Hampton Roads (5-2-13, 24 points). It'd be easy to look past the Mariners, especially with big road matches against Charleston and Atlanta looming next weekend, but these guys aren't quite the pushovers everyone makes them out to be.
For starters, they nearly beat the MetroStars in Cup action last week, and they thumped the mighty Richmond Kickers this past weekend. Since Rochester beat them 2-0 in June, the Mariners have replaced scoring threats Steve Butcher (to Toronto) and Mark Rowland (to Montreal) with Gary Glasgow (from the nefarious Wizards), Christof Lindemayer (from Cincinnati via Hershey), Gabe Eastman (Cincinnati via Nashville) and Daniel Alvarez (Cincinnati via Colorado).
It's all relative. Portland's Fadi Afash has scored in 10 of the 13 matches in which he has played in 2002. The Syrian striker leads the A-League with 12 goals. As a comparison, the Rhinos have scored 14 goals in their last 13 regular-season games.
The newest Rhino. Rochester signed forward Hamisi Amani-Dove in an attempt to solve their scoring woes. Amani-Dove was recently released from the Dallas Burn when they landed Irish midfielder Ronnie O'Brien. Other recently available players looking for a new home include Jeff Houser (released by Pittsburgh; was the league's fourth-best scorer in 2001) and local boy Aleksey Korol (released by Chicago).
Road trip. Can't get enough of Rochester's bad substitutions at home? Join the Safari for a weekend road trip to Cincinnati and Indiana (August 16-17). For more information, stop by the Safari's table in the concourse during any of this week's matches.
If it makes you feel any better. Kansas City goalkeeper Tony Meola was booted out of the Wizards' weekend match against Los Angeles when he took down the MLS's leading scorer Carlos Ruiz in the area. He was, no doubt, still riled up from the Cup match against the Rhinos. That makes The Score feel just a little bit better.
--- Jon Popick