Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Rhinos on a roll in July
Editor's note: There are three divisions in the United Soccer Leagues: USL-1, USL-2 and the Premier Development League (PDL). USL is not affiliated with Major League Soccer.
The top of the USL-1 standings continues to be crowded, as only five points separate the top five teams, and the difference in the number of games played continues to skew the table. During their regular league game this weekend the Seattle Sounders and Charleston Battery got to size each other up ahead of their U.S. Open Cup semifinal match. With the tight league race and a USL-1 team guaranteed to be in the U.S. Open Cup final, this season looks likely to keep getting hotter. A few take homes:
1. Battery held in check. The Charleston Battery forwards, most notably Randi Patterson, have been running rampant over most of their opposition this season, collectively scoring the second highest number of goals in the USL-1 so far. But the Battery seemed to have met their match Saturday, in their 1-0 loss to a revamped Sounders back line. With veteran defender Taylor Graham back from a hamstring injury, the Sounders back line was looking tighter than ever. The Battery midfield and forwards have some of the most creative moves and accurate shots in the USL-1, but the judgment and timing of Seattle's defense made it look as thought they had them figured out.
2. On a roll. July turned out to be a fantastic month for the Rochester Rhinos, enjoying five wins and no losses in seven games. The Rhinos attack has especially come into great form recently, with veteran midfielder Johnny Menyongar engineering many of the goals. The Liberian international has had three assists in the past four games, and has notched a total of four goals so far this season. The small but powerful midfielder has shown the ability to work well with all the other Rhinos attacking players, and complements forwards Mauricio Salles and Matthew Delicate.
3. Extreme opposites. The Montreal Impact have sure had one of the strangest and most ironic weeks of their franchise. In the same week that saw them win the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, and thereby become the second USL-1 team this year to qualify for the 2008 Champions League, the Impact also occupied last place in the league standings, and lost to Rochester 2-0. Even stranger, the goal scorer of Montreal's last game in the Canadian Championship, Roberto Brown, was ejected from their game against Rochester for an errant elbow. It could be argued that the Impact are now prioritizing the Champions League over the USL-1 league, but if that's the case, they likely won't win many games looking as tired and disconnected as they did on Saturday.
4. Missing ingredient. Montreal midfielder Rocco Placentino is an interesting player. Having plied his trade abroad in Italy for several years, the wily midfielder has picked up some impressive skills. Up front against defenders, Placentino nimbly weaves in and out, showing good ball control and excellent dribbling. When it comes time to shoot, though, it's almost like a different player morphed into Placentino, as his shots are usually hoofed harmlessly over the bar. Against Rochester, Placentino would penetrate the defense with his dribbling several times and then proceed to inexplicably miss. With more accuracy in his shot, Placentino could take his game to an entirely different level.
Anne Ramzy is a freelance sportswriter based near San Francisco. She also is a frequent guest on the weekly soccer podcast on www.theoffside.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.