In prior posts, I’ve talked about the plight of the Rochester Rhinos soccer team, so I won’t do that here. However, I will highly recommend an excellent piece by Empire of Soccer on The Rise and Fall of the Rochester Rhinos. Very well done. I’m back in Upstate New York for an extended weekend with the family and last Saturday went to check out USL action as the Rhinos took on Charlotte at a muggy Sahlen’s Stadium. I would say there were about 3,000 on hand for the game, which is still decent for the third division, but the crowd looks small in the 13,768 seat stadium. It was good to see more die-hard supporters on hand as the Oak Street Brigade had about 30 people to stand, chant, sing and cheer all game. There’s also the Flower City Stampede at the other end, but with maybe 8 of that group and competing songs, it’s definitely for the best if they just headed over to Section 101 and join the Brigade. The crowd did the “Rochester”…”Rhinos” chant and they got on the refs during this game. It’s a good game atmosphere, I just wish the team would stop making it so minor-league Americana. There’s music played during each throw-in/corner kick, there’s t-shirt tosses, mascots, cheerleaders. This is soccer people! While I know the Rhinos have one of the best crowds/overall atmosphere’s in the USL, it’s so hard for me to judge it fairly when I’ve been to countless games in the 90s where the place was wild. As for the match, the first half was lackluster, while the Rhinos were the much better team in the second half. They pushed Charlotte and had a few chances (including a disallowed goal), but in the end, the final was a disappointing 0-0 draw.
Sahlen’s Stadium has a great design that is intimate and the upper-deck on the north side of the stadium features an awesome overhead view to go along with the city skyline in the background. However, the main issue with the stadium is the lack of care. The scoreboard is an embarrassing eyesore with handfuls of missing and distorted panels. Meanwhile, the concourses and walkways have so much blank space. Nowhere is there acknowledgment of the team’s four championships in their early years. Or even a mention of the old Lancers back in the NASL. Rochester native Abby Wambach just gets the walkway named after her and nothing else on the city’s biggest stars. Only small plaques for the team’s hall of fame sit on one wall. There could be so much done to liven up the place. For the game, we parked at the parking lot near Frontier Field, where the Red Wings were playing. That walk from Frontier to Sahlen’s is not long, but the change in scenery and overall feel is drastic as one goes from the enjoyable success of nearly 20 year old Frontier to a great pitch, but flawed stadium at Sahlen’s that is marked with sadness by what could have been.