In the first of back-to-back matches this weekend, the Rhinos took on the Kickers at City Stadium in Richmond, VA. Rochester took its 2-match win streak on the road to face a Richmond side that demolished Dayton 5-1 last week in Ohio.
In this match Rochester not only had to worry about beating a difficult Richmond team on the road, but also about managing fitness levels ahead of tomorrow night's match in Wilmington, NC. That's right, USL Pro continues to not only play 2 matches in a weekend but to play matches on back-to-back nights; and yes, that is awful.
Subs: John McCarthy, Onua Obasi, Alex Dixon, Sam Petrone, JC Banks,
Alec Sundly, Johnny Mendoza
Subs: Ryan Taylor, Henry Kalungi, Luke Vercollone, Christiano François, Shay Spitz, Matthew Delicâte, Jason Yeisley
Willis, Shanosky, Kemp, Martin, Jeffrey, and Porter are all on loan from D.C. United. Loanee François was also stayed on the bench for Friday night's match. If you're keeping score at home that's a total of 7 players that D.C. United is paying who could have featured against the Rhinos. Young D.C. Homegrown defender Jalen Robinson didn't make the 18-man squad for the game but is also on loan.
On the other side of things, Luis Soffner got his third start of the season and his first after watching rookie John McCarthy play the full 90 for two games in a row. Y'all may not like the two of them splitting goalkeeping duties, but it's been working well for Rochester so far as both guys are hungry to show well.
Donnie Smith played 30 minutes off the bench last weekend as the Rhinos held off Charleston at Sahlen's Stadium. With a full week of training with the team under his belt, Smith earned a starting place in midfield against Richmond and played the full match.
In the opening ten minutes Rochester set up a formidable wall near the midfield line. The Rhinos were content to allow Richmond to possess the ball and string a few passes together in its own half but as soon as the Kickers crossed midfield, Rozeboom led the charge to regain possession. I'm going to say this a lot over the course of the season, but Lance "Sunshine" Rozeboom is an unstoppable ball-winning force that drives the Rhinos midfield engine.
Just after the half-hour mark, Luis Soffner came up with a huge double save. Jared Jeffrey played a through ball for Collin Martin, whose low shot was saved by Soffner before George Davis IV laid the rebound off to Kyle Porter. Soffner recovered perfectly from the first save in order to block Richmond's follow-up attempt.
Bob Lilley had set his team up conservatively with two ball-winning midfielders but as time passed in the second half, the possibility of a snatch and grab grew in the minds of Rhinos' fans. Instead of merely holding out for a scoreless draw, Rochester had the chance to steal 3 points from Richmond.
While Lilley's first substitution wasn't directly offensive-minded, Alec Sundly replacing a slightly injured Mike Garzi, the New England Revolution midfielder does have significantly more playing time with the Rhinos so far this season. After the 75th minute, Rochester's head coach used his remaining 4 substitutions to break up the momentum of Richmond's play but also to introduce players with game-changing potential.
Almost immediately JC Banks, Alex Dixon, and Johnny Mendoza changed the complexion of the game and allowed Rochester to sustain attacking pressure. The team's final change, Onua Obasi replacing Ayao Sossou who is recovering from injury, played a role in the Rhinos' goal after just a minute on the field.
Obasi intercepted a Richmond pass and played a ball up the channel for Smith. Smith cut inside, saw Dixon running into an open space, and laid the ball off at a great pace to his teammate. Dixon was running across the face of goal but was still able to drill his shot to the near post with his first touch. The ball skid off the playing surface just in front of Richmond goalkeeper Joe Willis and the St. Louis native couldn't get a touch on Dixon's shot.
Perhaps the Rhinos were rather overcome with celebrations but the team conceded the equalizer just 14 seconds after the restart. There is a lot of blame to go around for this late goal but none of it lies with Soffner in net.
Donnie Smith didn't close down the Richmond player on the wings. Rozeboom couldn't connect on the ball played into the box. McMahon wasn't able to block Jason Yeisley's bicycle attempt. Kyle Hoffer didn't get in front of Davis IV's shot. As you can see in the gif below, Soffner was helpless to prevent that rocket of a shot from 4 yards out.
A draw is a fair result as neither team showed enough to deserve the win. Both goals coming at the end of the match as they did will provide both Bob Lilley and Richmond head coach Leigh Cowlishaw plenty to go over during training next week.
You can watch the whole video of Friday night's game on the Richmond Kicker's YouTube channel here.
The Rhinos play again tonight on the road in North Carolina. 7:30PM kick-off against Wilmington Hammerheads FC, for which we'll have a livestream posted so you can watch along with the Bent Musket crew.
Fun fact: Wilimington is Toronto's USL Pro affiliate so the Revs play TFC the same day the two affiliated clubs play.