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Three questions about the Rochester Rhinos with The Bent Musket's Brendan Doherty

Find out a little more about RBNY's USOC opponent.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls kick off their 2016 US Open Cup campaign with tonight's game against the Rochester Rhinos. The Bent Musket's Brendan Doherty kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about the reigning USL champions.

Rochester trampled USL last season. What was the secret to that success?

The Rochester Rhinos, especially under head coach Bob Lilley, are known for their stingy defense. The team conceded only 16 goals in 28 USL regular season games through 2015. The Rhinos were able to finish the campaign with a 17-1-10 record, going undefeated and never trailing at home until the championship game, due to a team-focused defensive strategy. Lilley drills his players to pressure and win possession whether they are a starting forward or a reserve full back, which allowed the coaching staff to rotate the squad without seeing any drop-off in performance or results.

What is different this year, and how is it working out?

Off the bat, last year’s eye-catching record hasn’t held up. The Rhinos have already lost three games on the road and, while still undefeated at home, the team has two disappointing draws in the prior two league games in Rochester. The team feels younger than last year’s squad (it is) but the talent is there for a strong showing come the end of the USL season.

What strengths or players should RBNY be wary of in this game?

Anyone who has followed RBNY II closely will probably be familiar with Rochester’s big man up top, Steevan Humberto Fortes "Duba" dos Santos. The forward from Cape Verde scored a goal of the year candidate against the Baby Bulls last season, earned a red card for a defender in the playoffs, and was shown a red card himself when the teams met earlier this year. Dos Santos has really strong chemistry with playmaker Kenardo Forbes.

Forbes is a deceptively quick-footed Jamaican midfielder who has racked up assists, especially to Duba, over the past year and a half. Another returning attacker from the 2015 season, Christian Volesky, has a knack for both tapping home poacher’s chances and chipping goalkeepers from about 18 yards.

If the midfield can get sorted out, which will depend a lot on the performance of ball-winner Mike Garzi, the Rhinos have options in attack that can hurt New York during the run of play. If not, rookie center back Joe Farrell has shown an impressive goal-scoring touch, notching 4 goals in USL on set pieces and late in games so far this season.

Other words because I talk too much:

The Rhinos are among the toughest opponents for MLS teams in the U.S. Open Cup historically. Aside from the 1999 silverware-winning run, during which Rochester beat 4 MLS team, the Rhinos hold an overall record of 8-14-5 against MLS opponents. At home the team is 7-6-2 against MLS sides and beat the RBNY franchise (then the MetroStars) 3-1 on August 3, 2005 in their only previous meeting.

Obviously the Copa break in the MLS schedule helps the Red Bulls but Bob Lilley and the Rhinos players appreciate the high regard Rochester soccer fans hold for the U.S. Open Cup.

Predicted lineup:

Predicted score:

A score prediction is tough because I’m a fan of both teams (thanks to MSG broadcasting games up here way back when) but I will say the game goes to extra time.

Once A Metro's answers to Brendan's questions are over at The Bent Musket.

Thanks, Brendan. Give Mr. Doherty a follow on Twitter - if for nothing else, a more balanced and coherent account of what is happening on the field than you'll find over at Once A Metro's handle if things turn against RBNY. He's @DohertySoccer.