The Rhinos played two matches over the weekend and the visiting team in both suffered some setbacks in their travels. On Friday night the LA Blues walked out onto the field at Sahlen's Stadium after enduring a delayed flight, a missed connection, and a less than ideal sleeping situation Thursday night. The following night, the Rhinos bus blew a tire on its way to Pittsburgh to face the Riverhounds.
Last year the LA Blues were not a very competitive team and only managed 1.25 points per game. While their fifth placed position in USL-Pro this year may be a bit misleading, they've played 6 more games than Dayton right now, and it is clear that this Blues side is no pushover. That showed in Rochester on Friday night.
Despite coming out of the locker room for warm ups just 10 minutes before kick-off, the Blues played the first half with much more energy than the home team. While Rochester had a couple chances early, Los Angeles looked more dangerous on the break.
Just as Rochester was starting to string passes together through the midfield and connect in the final third, they went down a goal. A ball was played over the top and Kristian Nicht failed to get his fists to it. The 2012 USL-Pro Goalkeeper of the Year looked nothing like his usual self as Chris Cortez knocked his header past a hapless Nicht in the 40th minute for the lead. Rochester's midfielder Ross LaBauex was off the field receiving treatment on his shoulder at the time of the goal and would be replaced in first half stoppage time.
Revolution loanee Gabe Latigue started a beautiful move for the Rhinos to tie the game. He played a wonderful pass up to Tyler Rosenlund who couldn't have missed with his short pass to Blake Brettschneider. Brettschneider slotted home his shot from near the PK spot and tied the game for Rochester.
And again as the Rhinos were looking to play the ball around with more confidence, another defensive mistake led to a Blues' goal. LA frontman Cortez took a blistering shot that Nicht couldn't handle. The German goalkeeper parried the ball away but no Rochester defenders were quick to the ball. Cortez's shot also seemed to take something out of Nicht as he was slow to recover and get to his feet. Speedy forward George Davis IV streaked into the area unmarked to slam home the rebound and reclaim the lead.
Instead of giving up, a Rhinos side featuring local products Mike Reidy and Josh Faga battled back. In the dying minutes of regulation Faga played a dangerous low cross into the box. Brettschneider's shot was block but the ball fell to Tam McManus. The feisty Scotsman has made a career out of clutch goals inside the area and knotted the game for Rochester in the 88th minute.
With the match's momentum on their side, the Rhinos surged looking for the winner. During a hefty amount of stoppage time Rochester bombarded the LA goal. The Rhinos had no fewer than 6 corners in the final minutes and Reidy struck the underside of the crossbar. While the team's luck certainly hasn't done them any favors this season, the team responded well to their Open Cup embarrassment at the hands of the New England Revolution and the continued absence of 7 injured players.
After Friday night's home game, the team boarded a bus to Pittsburgh to play the Riverhounds on Saturday. Before they arrived, however, they ran into transportation troubles of their own.
Ten miles from our hotel at 3:20 in the morning and one of the tires on the bus just basically exploded #awesome— Mike Reidy (@mreidy14) June 1, 2013
The Rhinos had a short bench on Friday and that problem was further exacerbated by having to play two games on back-to-back nights. Rochester knew they had to be conservative against a spirited Pittsburgh team still celebrating its brand-new stadium, especially after having a very late and rough night. For the first half hour the team played a packed and organized defense, but the game got stretched towards the end of the half.
Once former New York Red Bull striker Jose Angulo got on the scoresheet for Pittsburgh in the 42nd minute, it was going to be a very difficult night for the Rhinos. Angulo pounced on a rebound from midfielder Matthew Dallman's hard shot. Riverhounds' goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap was easily able to deal with everything the tired Rochester players threw at him; one-on-ones, dipping free kicks, dangerous corners.
Pittsburgh doubled their lead in the 63rd minute as fellow former Red Bull forward Jhonny Arteaga who nodded home a header at the far post on service from Angulo. The Riverhounds drew a line under their win with an 88th minute goal from substitute midfielder Ryan Kinne.
Rochester will want to put this weekend behind them as they look ahead to a 5-game home stand starting this Friday against the Montreal Impact Reserves. There was a historic rivalry between Rochester and Montreal during their A-League days and we'll have to see if any of that fire burns in that match.