Rochester Lineup: Kristian Nicht; Bilal Duckett, Georgios "Big George" Kyriazis, Troy Roberts, Danny Earls; JC Banks, Lance Rozeboom, Tyler Rosenlund, Ross LaBauex; Thomas "Tam" McManus, Blake Brettschneider
Phoenix: Sheldon Parkinson; Donny Toia, Cyprian Hedrick, Devon Grousis, Peabo Doue; Netinho, Scott Morrison, Anthony Obodai, Josh Bento, Reid Schmitt; Thomas Ramos
Yet again the Rochester Rhinos failed to show any true impetus to score this season; another 0-0 tie, the third this season, and the 7th time the team has been shutout.
Whiny Introduction Disclaimer:
Last year we all lambasted the team for not scoring enough goals, despite finishing with a 1.13 goals per game average. This year, without the fluke 3-0 home win against VSI Tampa Bay FC (in which the Rhinos looked like a completely different team), the team averages just 0.71 goals per game. I don't need to give you the Shep Messing or Taylor Twellman lesson that a team can't win games if they don't score goals.
The Rhinos now have 10 games left and today are sitting in 10th place (Wilmington can overtake Rochester with a win against NY Red Bulls Reserves), six points behind Pittsburgh in the last playoff spot, who also has a game in hand.
Phoenix FC is not a very good team. They are one of the few teams in USL-Pro with a worse record than Rochester. The Wolves only have two wins, the most recent of which was April 28 at home (the other was March 30 at home against their fellow expansion side from Tampa). Going into Saturday night's match, the Rhinos had taken a respectable 8 points from a possible 12 in the previous 4 matches of thei 5-game home stand, which is very easily their best form of the season.
To make the case clearer that the Rhinos should have dispatched this team, Phoenix played Friday night in Harrisburg. Phoenix flew out to Pennsylvania, played a full 90 that ended in a 2-1 defeat, took an overnight bus up to Western New York and still managed to hold Rochester to a scoreless draw. Phoenix traveled with a shortened bench; they only had five subs instead of seven. Nine of the starters against the Rhinos had played at least 76 minutes the night before, and in Rochester, Phoenix only made one substitute.
There is no reason on paper the Rhinos should have been held scoreless.
I can't make that much clearer, and if I sound bitter it's because this team has every opportunity to do well and simply refuses to perform. At least we didn't lose.
The announcer, when he wasn't busy reminiscing of the good ol' days 7-15 years ago with his former colleague, called the formation a 4-1-4-1. I saw a disorganized 4-4-2. Lance "Sunshine" Rozeboom was manning the defensive role in midfield, what the team apparently called their anchor in front of the back four. According to the team sheet, McManus slid back into a midfield role in order to generate passing and creativity going forward. Both of these slight changes were attempts to mask the ineptitude of Tyler Rosenlund. But I'll have more on that later in the week.
After a back and forth match for most of the opening 20 minutes, the Rhinos found themselves with a decent chance off a corner. Danny Earls took a left footed in-swinging corner from the right side that bounced inside the area. Phoenix goalkeeper Parkinson came off his line but missed the ball completely. Bilal Duckett got his head on the ball but couldn't direct his effort onto the empty net.
To make amends for missing a great opportunity to take the lead, Duckett was active down the right side and made enterprising overlaps several times.
The Rhinos were very easy to defend in the run of play during the first half as the team did not switch the point of attack once. Instead of playing a ball across the field through one of three central midfield players, Rochester seemed content to try to jam a pass down the same wing. This is confounding because both fullbacks have the pace to make up ground on a curling pass into the far channel and they both have decent delivery into the area.
In concert with the high school tactics displayed so far, the Rhinos only chances seemed to come from corner kicks.
J.C. Banks took an in-swinging corner from the left side that Sunshine got on the end of. However, the defensive midfielder had to swoop down in an awkward body position to make contact and the resulting header went wide.
Earls won a corner on an overlapping run down the left side. Banks came over to take the corner short to Earls who played a quick give-and-go with Banks. From just inside the corner of the 18 yard box, Earls delivered a cross that was cleared out to Banks on the endline. Banks cut in down the line and played an inviting ball into the area but Brettschneider sent his header surprisingly high over the bar from 7 or 8 yards with the goalkeeper beaten.
Banks was also active with service into the area during the run of play but with the same result. Andrew Hoxie, who entered the game in the 38th minute for Ross LaBauex, saw his header from Banks's service glance off a defender and out of play.
Though he did so in glimpses in the first half, during the second Rozeboom stepped up as the engine of the team. It was clear that Phoenix was content to sit back and maybe steal a chance on the counterattack. This meant that Sunshine had the ball at his foot in the attacking third more often than perhaps the defensive midfielder was used to. However, Rozeboom rose to the occasion and made several keys passes just outside the Phoenix area.
One such pass played McManus into space for the Scotsman to chip a ball towards Brettschneider at the far post. Parkinson jumped well to make the acrobatic save on the former New England Revolution and D.C. United forward. Rozeboom also had one or two shots late in the game from 20 yards out that weren't far wide.
Tam McManus is the anthropomorphized spirit of Scrappy-Doo, always fighting and buzzing around the field. He's a great guy to have on the team but needs to be utilized in a way that builds on his strengths.
The Wolves had their best chance of the game in the 59th minute. Phoenix forward Thomas Ramos took advantage of Earls pushing up on the play to carry the ball down the right channel. Troy Roberts was caught in two minds whether to stay central or hedge outside to mark the man with the ball. As a result, Ramos had enough time on the wing to play a nearly inch-perfect low cross into the area. Obodai was streaking through the middle and wasn't adequately picked up by Tyler Bellamy, who replaced Big George Kyriazis in the first half. Obodai lunged to redirect the cross onto goal but Kristian Nicht made a huge left handed save to maintain his clean sheet. As Nicht was falling to the ground, Obodai collided with him and landed on his legs. Both players were lying on the ground for some time after the incident and Rochester's trainers rushed onto the field as Nicht was clutching his right leg.
Mike Reidy entered the game for Banks, who is apparently not fully match fit, and Gabe Latigue replaced McManus which shifted the formation to a traditional 4-4-2 with Brettschneider and Hoxie up top.
Gabe immediately made his presence known with a dangerous cross that Hoxie got a head on. Minutes later, Latigue made himself even harder for head coach Pat Ercoli to ignore as he cut inside from the right side after beating his defender and drew a free kick in a promising position. Both Latigue and Earls stood over the 25 yard free kick but Earls took a shot that was easily saved by Parkinson who then fell onto the ball to kill some time off the clock.
Gabe also assumed responsibility for long throws into the area from attacking positions, normally taken by Banks. Towards the end of the game, Latigue was involved in a bit of shoving after Phoenix drew a weak foul against him and tried baiting him into a yellow card to waste more time.
Phoenix players were beginning to look fatigued approaching the end of 180 minutes of soccer in 26 hours.
Soon after, Sunshine found a pocket of space centrally and drove forward to the edge of the 18. With several defenders in front of him he seamlessly dished the ball out wide right to Latigue for a cross that was nodded away at the far post.
Troy Roberts mishit a clearance that should have been routine which allowed Thomas Ramos through on goal in the 81st minute. Before Ramos could get the ball however, Nicht raced off his line and knocked the ball out for a throw. Unfortunately for the big German goalkeeper, he absorbed a collision from Ramos and took his time getting up. Nicht walked around his penalty area gingerly for the next couple of minutes after putting his body on the line for the team.
The last chance of the match came from a half clearance by Phoenix that found Earls out wide on the left side. Earls crossed deep to Reidy just past the far post, who played a brilliant centering pass into the chasm between the goalkeeper and last defender. Kendell McFayden, who came on for Brettschneider in the 80th minute, popped into that space with the goal looming, but skied his potential game-winning shot from about 6 yards away.