ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Four minutes added to the end of the Rochester Rhinos’ last home game of the United Soccer Leagues Pro Division season had almost expired when Kendell McFayden embarked on a final charge to break the scoreless tie.
McFayden earned a free kick 25 yards from the visiting Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ goal that much-traveled forward Tam McManus stood over, evaluating the options from a central position with a six-man defensive shield lined up.
“I saw the goalkeeper showing me his left side and I knew if I got the ball up over the wall I’d score,” McManus told The Soccer Observer shortly after last Friday’s game.
The 32-year-old Scot took three strides toward the ball, wrapped the inside of his right foot around it and arched it perfectly into Hunter Gilstrap’s bottom-left corner off the inside of the post. It was the final kick as referee David Mon immediately whistled for full-time, sparing McManus a caution for the heinous crime of exuberantly swirling his jersey above his head in celebration.
“As soon as it left my foot, I knew,” said McManus after sealing the struggling Rhinos’ fifth victory of an abysmal campaign. It was the former Hibernian forward’s team-leading fifth goal of the year and could be his last at Sahlen’s Stadium.
Rochester will realistically end the 13-team USL regular-season no higher than 11th after this weekend’s back-to-back trip to Phoenix F.C. and the Los Angeles Blues. Former head coach Jesse Myers, who brought McManus to Upstate New York last year, was relieved of his duties eight games into the season with club president Pat Ercoli taking over in a caretaker capacity.
“A new coach might come in and want his own players,” McManus said. “He might want younger players.
“I think I’ve had a better season this year in terms of goals and assists than in my first year, so I’ll just have to wait and see.”
Putting the ball in the net has been difficult for Rochester these past two seasons. A second-place finish behind Orlando City in 2012, founded on a tight defense, masked a disjointed front line that scored 27 goals in 24 league games. Seven of the Rhinos’ 12 wins came by a single goal.
Seven fewer goals scored in the same number of games this season underlines that the club’s revamped attack still has not connected, and a breachable back line has seen too many games, particularly at home, ending tied.
“Maybe it’s our style of play,” McManus said. “We like to sit in and counter-attack and we don’t get enough players forward.”
McManus will briefly return to Scotland at the conclusion of the Rhinos’ season before traveling to Greece in September to marry his fiancée, Mhairi Cairnduff. He intends to take a month or two off from soccer before trying to find a short-term arrangement in Scotland until the New Year.
“Then I’ll try to see if there’s something back over here for me,” said the former Colorado Rapids player.
“Rochester is a great city. My fiancée and I love it and we’ve met a lot of friends here, but I don’t know if it will be here or elsewhere.”
With that, the popular Glaswegian turned to sign autographs and pose for photos with home fans that were allowed to enter the Sahlen’s Stadium playing field at full-time.
“I’m glad to send you away with a win,” McManus told an elderly woman offering her game program to be signed.
He was referring to his team’s result. If it also proves to be McManus’ swansong, a 25-yard game-winner with the last kick will be long remembered by the locals that witnessed it.
June 2, 2013 — USL Rust Belt Rivals Moving In Different Directions
June 2, 2013 — Ex-Red Bulls Duo Fires Pittsburgh Past Rochester
June 22, 2012 — Nomad McManus Adds Nous To Rochester
June 19, 2012 — Riverhounds And Rhinos Share Spoils On Subpar Surface