by RYAN BRISTER
Sunil Gulati and Ivan Gazidis, two of the most powerful men in American soccer, are in Rochester, New York, home of the second-tier Raging Rhinos. They’re sitting in an unfinished suite at the newly-built PaeTec Park. Behind them, fans are filling in for a match against the New England Revolution. 9,503 people will attend this game, the second-largest crowd for any U.S. Open Cup match in 2006.
Gulati, president of the USSF, and Gazidis, Major League Soccer’s deputy commissioner, begin by praising the venue they’re sitting in. At the time, it is one of the few soccer-specific stadiums in the United States. Along with Jeff DiVeronica, the Rhinos beat writer for the Democrat and Chronicle, they reminisce fondly about old Open Cup matches.
DiVeronica then asks “the question everyone in this town wants to know.” It is not, at this time, an outlandish question. He asks them “do you think this city, this ownership group, deserves a shot to have an MLS team?”
Less than two years later, the Rhinos were in crisis. They were without an owner. The city of Rochester took control over their stadium. The most important question was no longer about MLS, but whether the team would even play in the upcoming USL season.
What went wrong in Rochester?