The Rhinos' players showed too much respect to Reading United AC on Tuesday night. Throughout most of regulation Rochester's attacking players appeared afraid to dribble at their opposition, electing instead for a bevvy of diagonal crosses and long balls over the top. Minh Vu and JC Banks changed the team's mentality in the second half but neither player was able to affect the scoresheet in the first 90 minutes.
In the 65th minute, Reading's Ignacio Maganto played a through ball from the center of midfield for Nick Surkamp that split centerbacks Babacar Diallo and Tony Walls. Surkamp took two close touches as goalkeeper John McCarthy came off his line to close down the available angle. Seeing McCarthy coming off the line, Surkamp lobbed the ball over the 'keeper and into the right side of the net for Reading's lead in the 66th minute.
Similar to the goal that Rochester conceded in Richmond, the Rhinos drove forward from the kickoff to equalize. In a matter of seconds, Rochester sent the ball to Alex Dixon who burst down the right channel and cut inside up the endline. As Reading's goalkeeper Alex Bono cheated to his near post, Dixon played a ball on the ground to the center of the area. After sprinting up the middle of the field, Johnny Mendoza connected on Dixon's pass with a sliding poke into the far side of the net. Rochester's goal also came in the 66th minute.
Early in extra time, Reading United AC's biggest threat received his second booking of the match. Darius Madison, who led his team with 3 shots (and 6 fouls), was sent off by referee Chris Trottier in the 97th minute after a poor challenge on Tony Walls. Reading did not manage a shot in all of extra time as Rochester was still unable to penetrate as the clock wound up.
Jossimar Sanchez was catching some flak from the other guys in the press box, but overall he had a solid game. Late in the second half of extra time, Sanchez received a ball from goalkeeper John McCarthy and looked up to see Levi Houapeu streaking up the right wing. Despite tired legs, Sanchez was able to send a pass that curled perfectly over Houapeu's shoulder and into the path of the attacking midfielder. This brilliant pass allowed Houapeu to win a free kick on the right side of Reading's 18-yard box, on which Mendoza and Rolfe combined to win the game for Rochester.
Mendoza said after the game that he got a nonverbal cue from Rolfe on the game-winning play. "I was going to place the ball on the ground and we looked at each other and there was no one in the space there [at the near post], so I played it to him then." Rolfe made a near-post run from the middle and got a flick on Mendoza's free kick. "I got eye contact with Johnny who was taking the free kick and just got across and got a piece of it off my leg," Rolfe said of the 119th minute goal.
I wish Tuesday night's game was broadcast so I could post the crazy save John McCarthy managed on Nick Surkamp in the first half. In the visitors best opportunity of the first half, Surkamp beat Rochester's offside trap and took a couple of touches driving forward before launching a heavy shot on goal. McCarthy reacted quickly and dove to his left to make an improvised aerial challenge on a heavy swerving shot in the 12th minute.
Despite registering only 2 saves on the night, McCarthy was active as a passing option for the Rhinos. In the second half, with a forward bearing down him to pressure the ball, McCarthy had the swagger to pull the ball back and fake out Reading's attacker. If that confidence and attitude had worn off on McCarthy's teammates, the Rhinos wouldn't have needed extra time to defeat Reading United AC.
"I'm happy we responded when the goal went to get a goal right back," Bob Lilley said. "It was really good effort from the initial ball to Dixon getting in behind and Johnny sprinting 50-60 yards to get in the box. Once we tied it," Lilley sighed," I think we think we lost the urgency again."
Listening to head coach Bob Lilley after the game, he wanted Colin Rolfe playing the farthest up the field and Tyler Rosenlund operating in the hole behind him. Whether by design or the fault of the players, Rochester's forwards, wingers, and some central midfielders continually interchange positions for minutes at a time. Sometimes this is just a forward making a run into the channel while a wide player overlaps centrally, but on various occasions on Tuesday night the team appeared to be playing several unique lineup permutations.
"We just need to have more urgency," Lilley continued. "I wanted to tell the team that because I'm big on 'how did we play' not 'what was the final result'. Sometimes we win and we play well sometimes we win and we play bad. Today we didn't play to our level, which could have cost us."
Lilley is acutely aware of the scheduling bind in which the Rhinos are currently tangled. After playing against Sacramento Republic FC last Friday night, the Rhinos played 120 minutes against Reading United AC on Tuesday night. With a rest on Wednesday, the team returns to training on Thursday morning before hosting Richmond Kickers on Friday and traveling to Dayton to play the Dutch Lions on Sunday. That's 4 games in 9 days.
"I'm grateful to be moving on," Lilley said in regard to facing D.C. United on June 17. "I hope the 30 minutes extra doesn't impact us further, I mean, honestly there were 3-4 guys at the end that I needed to pull but I was out of subs after a certain point." Coach gestured towards goal-scorer Colin Rolfe who was struggling to keep his legs during extra time but came up with a vital flick in the 119th minute.
Amateur clubs in the Open Cup have been anything but a cake-walk for the Rhinos this year. "Every time you play a PDL team or any team in the Open Cup, it's gonna be a dogfight," Mendoza said after the game. "We were fortunate to win this game."
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