Both Tyler Rosenlund and Levi Houapeu blundered golden opportunities to put Rochester ahead in the first half. These spurned tap-ins allowed Sacramento to control more of the game in the second half. A frenetic pace and high work rate were present throughout the match but nearly all 90 minutes were characterized by physical play and crunching tackles.
Bob Lilley is a straight shooter, after the game he laid out pretty clearly that, "The team didn't deserve to win tonight, we didn't show enough out there." While Lilley was obviously agrieved at the missed chances from the first half, he was also particularly frustrated with the lack of grit and his team's inability to match Sacramento's physicality.
Here are those painfully missed opportunities from the first 45 minutes.
JC Banks receives a pass from Pat McMahon into the channel and does well to get his cross off to the far post. Minh Vu pops up on the far side to nod the ball back across the face of goal and into the path of Tyler Rosenlund. Rosie has the whole goal in front of him but mis-hits his shot attempt under pressure from Sacramento's Harrison Delbridge.
Rochester's other quality chance is the only time a long ball was somewhat effective for them and even that was because of some dogged pressuring by Minh Vu.
Vu did well to win the ball off of Michael Daly and played a tantalizing square ball into the space ahead of Levi Houapeu. Unfortunately Houapeu did not time his run in sync with the weight of Vu's pass and the Rhinos failed to score another beautiful chance.
JC Banks went down injured after a challenge by Sacramento's George Fochive in the middle of the second half and much of the crowd held its breath as he appeared to hold his knee. Banks told me after the game that he has been struggling to play through a long-term shoulder injury that has flared up in recent weeks.
"I need surgery on it. It's been bothering me for over two years, since preseason 2012," Banks told me. "Because it was kinda wet out tonight I fell on it. During the Orlando game it happened twice, falling on that shoulder. It pops when I fall or it just slips out if I just twist it the wrong way." Hopefully this ongoing injury doesn't hold JC back during an impressive resurgent season.
On the theme of the night, Banks laid it out pretty straightforward, "I think we got beat up." Perhaps surprising for a team coached by Preki who has been speaking about possession and attractive soccer, Sacramento was not afraid to get stuck in or throw their weight around on the field. "They're a really tough team and they're really physical," Banks said, "And the ref let it go, too. The whole game there were hard challenges."
Banks echoed a lot of coach Lilley's sentiments about the team's efforts on the night. "I think we had better chances than they did but they had the ball more. We've just gotta put those chances away and that's the difference."
Talking to Luis Soffner after the match, I was struck by his calm demeanor. His nonchalance could be coming to terms with his role behind John McCarthy in the pecking order at the moment or it could be a sign of cool confidence in his own ability. 7 of the 8 goals that the Rhinos have conceded were scored against Soffner. There are a number of factors to consider to properly analyze that figure, but the numbers certainly don't cast the Revolution loanee in a flattering light.
Tony Walls had a lot to say about the hunger missing from his team's performance and the lack of a will to win Friday night's game. He told me that the Rhinos got pushed around from the start of the game and we never able to get solidly back onto the front foot. He credited his versatile playing history, both in the outdoor and indoor game, with the strong showing he displayed as a left sided forward in the closing minutes of the game. Walls, who has found a home in central defense this season, cut inside on his defender on the left flank a number of times before sending dangerous crosses into the box towards Colin Rolfe and the other forwards during 5 minutes of second half stoppage time.
Physicality was the topic on the tip of everyone's tongue at the end of the game. Banks joked that the team could use a few more copies of Lance Rozeboom to beat up on the other team and win the ball back. Sacramento's aggressiveness, Walls noted that the visiting team won a majority of second balls around the field, allowed Republic FC to push the Rhinos right out of midfield. Since Rochester could not maintain a presence, let alone possession, in midfield the team was forced to play hopeful long balls over the top that Sacramento's central defenders easily won over Rochester's forwards.
Sacramento's goal came off a throw in from the near side that the Rhinos conceded after a series of poor back passes.
After two Sacramento substitutions, the visitors took their throw in to recently introduced Dakota Collins. When Rochester appeared to win the ball back Rodrigo Lopez swept in from the right wing to pick up a loose ball and play Thomas Stewart into the box. Stewart cut back, turned on a dime, and fired his shot into the near post with Soffner glued to his line.
This loss breaks Rochester unbeaten streak in USL Pro at 7 games. The Rhinos are now 3-2-4 (W-L-T) on the season and have been leapfrogged by Sacramento and Wilmington in the standings.
Rochester next plays on Tuesday night against Reading United AC at home in U.S. Open Cup action. The Third Round match up kicks off from Sahlen's Stadium at 7:35 but there will not be a livestream for this game. The Rhinos return to USL Pro play on Friday night when they host Richmond. Bob Lilley was not thrilled with the scheduling, sandwiching the cup match between two important league games, but the team should be able to rotate players against the Pennsylvania-based PDL club.