Rhinos starting lineup:
John McCarthy; Pat McMahon, Tony Walls, Patrick Slogic (81)', Onua Obasi (81'); Mike Garzi, Tyler Rosenlund, Alex Dixon (79'), Johnny Mendoza, Jossimar Sanchez (66'); Colin Rolfe (79')
Despite playing on Friday night and taking a flight to Oklahoma City, the Rhinos came racing out of the gates and nearly opened the scoring in the early minutes.
Alex Dixon run down the left channel and sent a low cross into the box. Onua Obasi realized that he didn't have an angle on goal and let the ball bounce past him. Johnny Mendoza, who has scored goals through sheer determination and the ability to pop into space, arrived near the penalty spot to get on the end of Dixon's service. Mendoza's initial effort was saved well by Energy FC goalkeeper Jon Kempin (who is on loan from Sporting KC) and his follow-up shot bounced clear off the crossbar.
In the fifth minute Mendoza almost forced a goal by pressuring hard on a soft back pass. Kempin was on his toes, though, and was able to clear the danger before Mendoza pounced. The rest of the first half was fairly tame from both sides. Energy FC had seven shots in the first half but only forced McCarthy into making two saves.
Rochester might have taken the lead in the first minute of the second half but the referee spotted a foul in the area. Center referee Brook Weiss called a foul on Sanchez for pushing defender Cyprian Hedrick in the back as the Revolution loanee jostled to get on the end of DIxon's cross from the left wing.
While the foul is not that clear without replays, none of the Rochester players protested the call too vehemently at the time. This would prove to be the only sniff at goal for either team until the dying seconds of the match.
Oklahoma City's attacking midfielder Steven Perry was flirting with the offside line and as his teammates passed the ball through midfield. When Nate Shiffman played Perry through the defense, Tony Walls appeared to keep him onside by a half-step. John McCarthy rushed off his line and Perry threw himself to the ground after knocking the ball wide of the goalkeeper.
According to the old British ex-pat that OKC found to sit in the commentary booth, "That was a joke." The referee seemed to indicate that Perry was running away from goal or that he knocked it out of bounds for a goal kick. The midfielder was falling over before McCarthy challenged him.
Rochester had a fantastic opportunity to win the game in the 91st minute. Club captain Tyler Rosenlund hung a cross up at the far post for JC Banks to attack but the team's leading scorer surprisingly blasted his header over the bar.
The early chance for Mendoza proved to be the best for either side in the whole game. Energy FC's goalkeeper, who was Mendoza's teammate in Orlando last season, had some positive words about Rochester's midfielder. "Johnny's a great player and he had a good little chance there," Kempin told his club's media department after the game. "I was fortunate enough to have the defense around him [to pressure him] and cause him to hit the crossbar."
John McCarthy won his sixth clean sheet of the season and leads USL Pro in that category. The win gives Rochester four points from two games this weekend and puts the team on 24 points after 16 matches with a 6-4-6 record (W-L-T).
The Rhinos flew into Logan International Airport on Monday before taking a bus to Rhode Island. Bob Lilley will have his team train lightly on Monday afternoon and again on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's big match against the New England Revolution in the Fifth Round of the 2014 U.S. Open Cup from Brown University.