The starting line up, left to right was: Kristian Nicht in goal; Danny Earls, Troy Roberts, George Kyriazis, Bilal Duckett; Ross LaBaeux, Lance Rozeboom, Tyler Rosenlund, Mike Reidy; Tam McManus, Matt Horth.
In the early going, the Rhinos were outplayed but they didn't capitulate. Rochester didn't bunker down to allow Orlando to dictate the game as they were looking for outlet passes and trying to string together passing sequences of their own. Orlando took the game to Rochester in the first 20 minutes, but the Rhinos didn't look stretched or uncomfortable.
Lance Rozeboom was again a force in defensive midfield. The former D.C. United man is a natural ball-winner but was also tasked with distributing the ball out of the back because his central midfield partner was absent for large stretches of the game. Tyler Rosenlund was particularly ineffective against Orlando and was regularly unable to maintain possession or continue the play upfield. Matt Horth had to repeatedly track back to receive the ball and once had to regain possession inside the Rhinos' half.
Mike Reidy was the most active player for the Rhinos in this game. Multiple times he received the ball on the right flank and cut inside near the to of the area. Duckett either provided the pass to Reidy or made an overlapping down into the channel to draw defenders and open up the lane inside for Reidy. The Rochester native's efforts resulted in a few shots and a couple quality passes into the box, but the Rhinos couldn't break through Orlando's defense.
The team was consistently looking to pass laterally and backwards in order to retain possession of the ball. While this is not a poor gameplan, rarely did anyone on the Rhinos take the initiative to drive the team forward. Notably towards the end of the first half McManus made a darting run from a central position to the right flank to receive the ball. He played a short drop to Reidy expecting to be played in over the top or for someone to show in the middle of the field. However, Reidy played the ball back to Duckett who in return played another drop pass and whatever momentum McManus had generated died out.
Yet again the defining moment of a Rhinos' game this season was a referee's decision. Unlike previous games in Richmond and Harrisburg, the Rhinos were not the team on the receiving end of a red card.
Having already been warned and booked for physical challenges by referee Chris Penso in the 25th minute, Jean Alexandre committed a dumb foul in the middle of the field. After losing out of possession to Rochester's Ross LaBaeux, Alexandre tried to pull LaBaeux back and ended up grabbing at his face. Orlando may have felt hard done by given the timing of the dismissal in the 38th minute, just 13 minutes after his first booking, but the foul would have been a clear-cut yellow card had he not already been carrying one.
Just as last week in Wilmington, the Rhinos' luck looked to have changed for the good.
In the last 7 minutes of the first half, the Rhinos put together a strong period of sustained pressure. The first good chance came from a quick passing sequence between Horth and Reidy but the ball fell to Rosenlund in the box and the former Canadian youth international didn't have the attacking instinct to get a shot off from inside the box. Crosses rained into the area from both sides and Orlando goalkeeper Gallardo had intermittent success punching the ball clear. Rochester could not punish Orlando before the half time whistle, even with the flurry of chances and corner kicks late on.
After the dismissal, Orlando brought on defensive midfielder Christian Duke to replace forward Long Tan and looked to be content with playing out a 0-0 draw. The Rhinos were much more active to start the second half than they were to start the first and looked to carry on their pressure.
Rochester's first chance of the second half came on a low cross from the left side. The ball came to McManus who hit his hard shot too close to Gallardo. Just after the hour mark, the ball comes to Rosenlund at the top of the box after being carried down the right side. Instead of taking the shot or laying the ball off to someone else, Rosenlund cuts one way before cutting back and ultimately losing the ball to the Orlando defense.
In the 66th minute Kendell McFayden comes on for Matt Horth up top. McFayden is a great player with blistering speed and a decent shot to match. That said, he doesn't have the same skillset as a classic center forward. After coming on, McFayden had a number of aerial chances in the area but couldn't direct the ball towards goal.
Soon after J.C. Banks replaced the struggling Rosenlund and took to the right flank while Reidy came to the left side and LaBaeux shifted central. Even with quicker players on the field, the Rhinos were painfully slow switching the play across the field and even slower trying to build through the middle. Throughout the second half the team lacked any sense of urgency or initiative.
When Orlando started introducing their regular starters the match really opened up late. Orlando had a series of chances from a dangerous cross that Nicht misread and botched his attempted punch. Kyriazis saved a shot off the line before Rochester's defense clogged the lane for Orlando's #2 and Nicht finally smothered the ball and covered up. On the other end of the field, Mike Reidy did well to find J.C. Banks at the top of the box. Banks took a heavy first touch that drew him away from goal before he fired his shot wide of the far post.
The last switch for the Rhinos came when head coach Jesse Myers sent in Tyler Polak for Ross LaBaeux. Polak went to left back and Danny Earls occupied a central midfield role. Not long after he came on the field, Polak was involved in the only goal of the game.
2012 first all-league winger Kevin Molino struck an inswinging cross from the left side of the field. Nicht stayed on his line and Polak failed to properly track Erik Ustruck's run from right midfield into the box. Polak could not challenge Ustruck in the air and the Orlando midfielder easily nodded his header past Nicht. After the goal Polak reacted as though he knew his inability to follow Ustruck into the area cost his team the game; Nicht did as well. Nicht exploded into an expletive-laden tirade after conceding, something Rhinos' fan got a glimpse of last year but could see a lot more of this season.
For the last five minutes of regulation and five minutes of stoppage time the Rhinos were panicked. After 45 minutes of lackadaisical and slow, patient play the team wreaked of desperation. The team looked more like youth soccer players all chasing after the ball like swarming bumblebees than professionals with a strategy. From the fans' perspective, this loss hurts more than any others because by any account Rochester should have won this game.
Instead of making a 52 minute (plus stoppage time) man-advantage pay, the Rhinos were undone by a club with a plan. Several people were calling for Jesse Myers's head after the game and team owner Rob Clark heard them. On Sunday afternoon the team announced that it had relieved Jesse Myers of his role with the Rhinos. Team president and former coach Pat Ercoli will take over as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.