Rhinos release Rougier, Hall
Jeff DiVeronica (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)
In their continuing yet slow effort to trim their player payroll, the Rochester Rhinos cut two more players Tuesday, releasing Anthony Rougier and defender Ryan Hall.
Hall, 24, a defender who played for new coach Laurie Calloway the past two seasons in Syracuse, joined the team late, arriving only two weeks ago because he was finishing the indoor season with Cleveland. His departure wasn't surprising, but Rougier's was.
The former Trinidad and Tobago national teamer started six of eight matches, starting at forward and then shifting to central defense for the last match to fill in for injured Scott Schweitzer. But Rougier, who turns 34 next month, was hurt by his age and status as a foreign player.
USL First Division soccer teams can use only five foreign players in a match, and the Rhinos had eight. Midfielder Pato Aguilera (Bolivia) hopes to secure a green card, which would mean he doesn't count as a foreigner, by the end of this month, meaning Rochester could be down to six.
"With back-to-back games and injuries, six is manageable," Rhinos general manager Chris Economides said.
The other foreigners are Rene Rivas and Mauro Carabajal (both Argentina), Rey Angel Martinez (Cuba), Jonny Steele (Northern Ireland), Jonathan Bolanos (Costa Rica) and Lenin Steenkamp (South Africa).
The team is reluctant to part with young midfielders Martinez (age 23) and Steele (19), who could be key players for years, and Bolanos and Carabajal clicked together at forward in Friday's 3-1 win over Portland. Rivas also arrived late from indoor, but the Rhinos (3-4-1) are 2-0-1 since the veteran defensive midfielder became a starter.
"He's the conductor of the orchestra with the Latin boys, and they're playing good music right now," Calloway said.
That left Steenkamp, who hasn't played in the past three matches, and Rougier. The organization seems to be showing loyalty to Steenkamp, 35, the only player in team history to have suited up in each of its 10 seasons. Steenkamp started the first three matches this year, then came off the bench the next two. He hasn't played in the past three.
"I thought Rougier helped us big-time in both Montreal matches. It was a difficult decision," Calloway said. "It's a voice we won't have back there."
With Schweitzer out because of a calf injury and veteran Craig Demmin still out after off-season knee surgery, Calloway needs another central defender for Friday's home match with Toronto (0-7-4). He can choose between Jason Perry and Tenywa Bonseu while leaving veteran Bill Sedgewick and youngsters Scott Palguta and Frankie Sanfilippo on the outside.
Rochester's roster is down to 23 players with the addition of forward Greg Howes, whose deal is expected to be done soon. Economides couldn't rule out more roster reductions but said "for right now I just want these (players) to have some peace of mind.