Rhinos owner Rob Clark left Monday for a USL owner’s meeting in Portland, Ore., to discuss league matters with the USL’s new owners, NuRock Soccer. Clark said this morning much of the discussion has NOT been TOA-related or about the teams who have not committed to the USL First Division for 2010.
“Sweeping reforms in the league,” is how he described the talks, mostly from a business aspect for clubs. On-the-field matters, along with follow-up to what has been discussed the past few days, will be a bigger topic at the USL’s annual meetings in Tampa later this month. “There will be a new board of directors of the USL which will consist approximately five individuals (four team owners and NuRock rep),” Clark said. “We’re all partners, not individuals. We’ve discussed greater transparency among the ownership groups. The player component is one of those. Ticket sales, corporate sponsor sales is another.”
Teams represented in Portland: Rochester, Portland, Tampa Bay, Puerto Rico, FC New York, Cleveland and Austin. Charleston officials couldn’t make it, but “don’t read into that,” Clark said, “they had prior commitments.” There also were four expansion candidates. So, that’s at least an eight-team USL next year but Clark said it could be as many as 14 teams and certainly “the possibility of Montreal and Vancouver staying in the league is not being ruled out.”
SPENCERPORT’S NEW STADIUM: Got my first glimpse at Spencerport High School’s new soccer stadium last night and what a great job they did giving the facility a facelift. It’s certainly some place the Rhinos should look at to have a preseason match next spring if they want to move some out of their own park and have a more intimate atmosphere (instead of so many empty seats). I know area soccer fans appreciate things when they’re done FOR soccer and Spencerport has a truly soccer-specific field, meaning right now there are only soccer lines on the pitch. (Unfortunately, there will be lacrosse lines in the spring because it’s a multi-sport facility).
Even if a preseason match doesn’t happen, the place is worth a look. There will be some high-quality girls games in Spencerport tonight and the boys take over on Thursday and Friday. If you’re an area soccer fan craving some live games and we catch a decent night weather-wise, tickets are $4, parking is free and near the field — come take a look.
I’m sad sectional soccer isn’t at Rhinos Stadium this fall, but right now Section V football has the prime dates and I get that because they’ll draw more fans. The videoboard also was never used for soccer (it is for football), and I thought that was a disservice to the soccer kids. Also at Rhinos Stadium, fans had to pay for parking. Not at Spencerport. We have other area schools with turf fields — and that’s key because this time of year fields get wet and muddy and organizers don’t like to see a slip or wet ball determine a championship — like Aquinas, East Rochester, Irondequoit, etc. … but Spencerport looks to be the jewel.
With the additional bleachers athletic director John Pelin brought in for Section V tournament, seating capacity is about 1,300 and with standing room that could push 1,800. Should be a great atmosphere on Friday for the championship doubleheader.
COACHING SEARCH: Who will the next Rhinos’ coach be? If you saw my article off last week’s press conference announcing Pat Ercoli as the new GM, he made it clear Rochester has found its man but a deal was not done. Ercoli sure looked confident, though. Two names fans are centered on: ex-Rhinos star Scott Schweitzer, who coached Carolina in 2007-08 with a playoff berth in only his rookie season, and former Hershey (1997-2001), Montreal (2002-03) and Vancouver (2005-07) coach Bob Lilley, whose resume as a winner in this A-League/USL culminated with the 2006 title with the Whitecaps (who embarrassed the Rhinos, 3-0, in the ‘06 title game at then-PAETEC Park).
They have very different personalities and coaching styles. Schweitzer is fiery and brash. Lilley is more reserved (but we all saw him get hot, ironically because of Schweitzer’s antics, during a playoff game when Lilley was with Hershey). Who will it be?
Steve Guppy, player/assistant coach with the Rhinos in 2008 under Darren Tilley, is another man fans have speculated about but would he leave being an MLS assistant in Colorado to come back to Rochester?
Will Ercoli choose a former defender who was largely the emotional leader of Rochester’s title teams from 1998-01 or a former rival coach like Lilley, who Ercoli always seemed to get the best of when the matches mattered most (except, of course, the 2001 U.S. Open Cup when Hershey beat the Rhinos at Frontier Field)?