NSC Stars Battle Rochester Rhinos Tonight
When the Rhinos and Stars shake hands before tonight’s 7:05 pm game, there will be familiar faces for both teams. Johnny Menyongar, who spent 4 seasons as a Rhino scoring 28 goals and named MVP of the team 2 of those 4 years, will be suiting up with the Blue and Yellow of the Minnesota Stars.
Along side him will be Warren Ukah who spent the second half of last season with the Rhinos. He made 12 appearances and scored 3 goals which was second-most on the team.
On the other side of center circle will be 2 former members of the Minnesota Thunder: Jonathan Greenfield and Rich Costanzo, who both made the move to Rochester, NY, after spending last season with the Thunder. Greenfield was the glue that held together the Minnesota back line for 3 seasons starting in 2007. He made 71 appearances for the Minnesota Thunder.
Costanzo, a Pittsburgh, PA, native who played for University of Maryland, signed his first pro contract with the Thunder last season after graduating from college. He made 20 appearances and scored 1 goal. That single goal just happened to be against the Rhinos, which he scored with a long range 35-yard blast into the upper 90 of the net.
Darren Spicer, who will not make the trip to Minnesota, was also picked up by the Rhinos this spring after playing with Minnesota in 2007. He played 17 games for the Thunder but scored only 2 goals. Spicer made good runs and worked hard but never seemed to be able to convert that effort into goals for his team. The forward then moved to the Charleston Battery where he played in 53 games in two seasons and scored 6 goals.
The Rhinos roster is mostly revamped from last year. Bob Lilley promised Rhinos owner Rob Clark that he could field a competitive team for much less than what Clark had been paying out the last several years. Clark has been paying off old debt from the former owners of the team he purchased in March of 2008. The front office also underwent changes with GM Matt Ford being replaced by former Rhinos coach Pat Ercoli.
The Rhinos have played well in all three games this season with a 1-1-1 start. They defeated the Aztex on Sunday in Austin 2-1. Previously they tied Miami FC away in their opener 1-1 and lost to Portland 1-0 in front of 15,418 Timbers fans with a controversial 85th minute penalty kick awarded to Portland.
For the Rochester side of things, check out Democrat and Chronicle writer Jeff DiVeronica who is the Rhino’s beat writer. He writes a blog that is 90% Rhinos content and has been covering the team since the 90′s.
Stars head coach Manny Lagos told IMS on Tuesday that the team had their first day off on Sunday since the beginning of the season. He said they have had 2 good days of practice and he expects a more energetic team than what fans may have seen on Saturday evening after a long road trip back from Puerto Rico and only 2 days to recover from a rain soaked field at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium in Bayamón. The Stars coach said he expected to make some lineup changes and a possible formation change for this game but was not willing to disclose specifics.
NASL public relations officer Kartik Krishnaiyer will be in town to meet with the NSC Stars staff today and tomorrow. Krishnaiyer will be taking in the Stars game tonight.
Also in town to observe the game day operations will be a representative of the USSF. US Soccer’s Sunil Gulati had previously stated that they would be setting higher standards for teams this year and this representative will surely be reporting back to the USSF with the findings. Word around the league is that other clubs are impressed with the fine job the NSC has done to date with such a short time line.
Stars announce three new signings.
Japanese central midfielder Kentaro Takada signed last week and was available as a substitute in Saturday night’s win, although he didn’t play. Takada, age 27, played for the Rochester Thunder of the Premier Development League in 2009. He has also played in his native Japan’s J-League. Takada has been twittering that he has currently flown back to Japan for his visa. Confirmation of this was requested from the NSC on Tuesday but was still not confirmed when this post was published.
The team has also announced the signing of Leland Wright, subject to league approval. The Eugene, Ore., native was a midfielder and forward in college. He played one season at the University of San Diego before transferring to the University of Portland, where he played from 2006 to 2008. Wright has been training with the Stars since they opened preseason camp, spending time in preseason as both a wing midfielder and an outside back.
The Stars have also signed Thomas Granum, a 20-year-old Norwegian defender, subject to league approval. Granum will not arrive in Minnesota for several weeks while he seeks approval for a work visa. Granum played professionally in 2008 for Norwegian first division club Strømsgodset IF. He took 2009 off to attend school but came back to Strømsgodset before the 2010 Norwegian season.