7. USL-1: Runner-up Rochester kicks off season on road

The USL-1 season begins this weekend when perennial contender Rochester heads south to face Puerto Rico on Friday and Miami FC on Sunday.

The Rhinos finished second to Vancouver in 2006 and have added reinforcements during the offseason. Ivorian striker Hamed Diallo spent more than a decade in France, excelling in the Second Division with Laval, Le Havre, Amiens and Angers. Also signed were defenders Kevin Novak, who started 25 matches last season for MLS's Real Salt Lake, and Chris Aloisi, who played 10 games in three seasons with San Jose, Los Angeles and Houston.

Goalie Scott Vallow, who led the USL-1 in goals-against average (0.83) last season, signed a two-year contract extension, and Kenney Bertz, who was a second-team all-league pick as a rookie, was signed through 2008.

"Last season we were surprised to be a bit ahead of schedule in making the final," said Rhinos coach Laurie Calloway. "But this season our goal is to win it all."

Puerto Rico made the playoffs in its second season, while Miami FC finished a point ahead of the Islanders in fifth place.

The Islanders return Chilean Mauricio Segovia, one of the USL-1's top defenders, and Canadian striker Alen Marcina, who scored 13 goals in 2006 in his USL-1 debut after stints in Greece, Iceland, Denmark and Germany. Puerto Rico pulled one of the coups of the offseason when it enticed SMU star Jay Needham to sign instead of joining MLS's D.C. United.

Brazilian great Romario won't return to Miami FC, but Zinho, also a member of Brazil's 1994 World Cup championship team, is back with Miami. Young Jamaican Sean Fraser has been playing on loan to Brazilian club Boavista in the 2007 Carioca state championship. Miami has also brought in three young Brazilians  -- Julio Cesar, Douglas and Cristiano -- from its affiliate club Desportivo Brasil.
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