Rhinos vs. Kickers 2013: Strong Start Falters as Rochester Loses 4-1

Despite an early goal, the Rhinos found themselves two men down in the second half as the Kickers knocked four past Kristian Nicht. The Rhinos dropped to 0-3-1 on the season thus far.

Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers made three changes from the team that tied Charlotte on Friday night. Against the Richmond Kickers, Myers lined up Kristian Nicht in goal and the partnership of Troy Roberts and George Kyriazis in front of him. Bilal Duckett started as right back and usual midfielder Michael Tanke played on the left side of defense. The midfield four remained the same as Lance Rozeboom, Tyler Rosenlund, Gabe Latigue, and Danny Earls all retained their starting spots. Blake Brettschneider partnered former Orlando City forward Matt Luzunaris up top.

Rochester got off to a quick start but seemed to sit back after an early goal. Matt Luzunaris beat Conor Shanosky to a loose ball and had nearly 15 yards of space to make up his mind bearing down on Richmond goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra. Luzunaris relished the 1-v-1 opportunity and scored his first goal as a Rhino and just the team's second tally of the young season.

Gabe Latigue has typically been a somewhat reserved player for the Rhinos so far this season, opting to pass the ball on rather than run or shoot himself. In the 23rd minute, however, the young winger stepped up with a long shot which flew just wide. Luzunaris, buoyed by his early goal, put in his best performance of the season and often showed himself in space across the attacking half.

The Rhinos showed a defensive resolve in the first half similar to the match against Charlotte the night before. In the 28th minute, Richmond had a strong sequence of play but Rochester players matched their counterparts at every step. Rhinos were beating Richmond's forwards to loose ball and made sure to finish their clearances.

An injury to Michael Tanke forced coach Myers into a first half substitution. Myers brought on Kendell McFayden and shifted Danny Earls into defense. The substitution came as Richmond had a flurry of corner kicks at the end of the half but Rochester defended all of them well.

In the dying second of first half stoppage time, Richmond found their equalizer. Richmond's Nate Robinson found space down the left flank before crossing into the area. Mike Callahan collected the cross and slammed his shot past Nicht from close range. The goal proved to be the last kick of the half as the center referee blew the whistle just after.

Two young forwards for Richmond who are on loan from DC United, Michael Seaton (16) and Casey Townsend (23), both missed the game against the Rhinos because they were training with their parent club. Seaton has yet to make an appearance for Richmond but Townsend scored two goals on three shots against Charleston the weekend before. Even though Richmond didn't have Townsend to bag some goal, the Kickers soon had the advantage against Rochester.

George Kyriazis was exposed by the pace of Richmond's forwards, much as he was against Charlotte the night before. Unlike the game against the Eagles, the Greek veteran defender's mistake cost his team on Saturday night. Richmond forward Joseph Ngwenya got in behind Rochester's defense and Kyriazis made a clumsy challenge from behind in the area. Referee Mark Kocilek had no choice but to send off Kyriazis and award a penalty to the Kickers.

Ngwenya stepped up and buried his shot on the right side of the goal. Kristian Nicht could only look on as he dove the other way and Richmond never looked back after gaining the man advantage and the lead. Gabe Latigue was subsequently replaced by Tyler Polak, who slid into defense.

Nate Robinson again found himself with time and space on the ball. He weaved his way into the area after a botched corner routine and crossed to the far post. The ball may have been going in on its own but forward Jason Yeisley made sure the Kickers increased their lead in the 66th minute.

Rochester may not have had much of a chance of coming back in the match, a man down with a two goal deficit, but their night got even worse in the 76th minute.

Central midfielder Tyler Rosenlund received a straight red card for a dangerous challenge in the middle of the field. The referee decided Rosenlund came in over top of the ball with the studs of his cleat showing. The former Canadian youth international definitely deserved a yellow (possibly the pundit's "orange card") but a dismissal may have been harsh.

As a competitive contest, the match was effectively over. With a two-man advantage, Richmond made four changes and kept the ball for most of the remaining time. The Kickers added another goal in the 85th minute from attacking midfielder Stanley Nyazamba. The Rhinos had a chance to pull back a goal just three minutes from time as McFayden got on the end of a long ball in the area. He cut past Dykstra but his heavy touch took him too far wide to turn his shot in.

After the final whistle, coach Myers exchanged subdued pleasantries with Richmond Kickers staff after working as an assistant for the club for 15 years. Despite leading early, the Rhinos were run off the field by the end of the game. This match was the Rhinos' brightest start but finished as their worst defeat of the young season.

Rochester has a startling 0-3-1 record with only two goals so far on the year. Hopefully the team can put the pieces together as they gain match fitness but suspensions to Kyriazis and Rosenlund will hurt the team. The Rhinos' next match is Saturday April 23 in Harrisburg, PA, to face off against the City Islanders. Harrisburg have a pair of 2-1 wins coming into that match-up and will be a tough test for a depleted Rochester side.

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