A summer thunderstorm wasn't enough to derail a strong road performance for Rochester though the two-and-a-half hour delay interrupted the team's momentum en route to a second goal. 19 seconds after halftime the Rhinos scored a lightning quick goal (I couldn't resist) and the visitors looked the more likely side to score until the extended break in play.
Bob Lilley has been planning for this week's string of 3 matches in 6 days for a while and as such rotated his squad around for Sunday night's game in Ohio. Only 3 players maintained their starting places in Rochester's squad after Friday night's scoreless draw with Richmond: Pat McMahon, Kyle Hoffer, and Onua Obasi.
Luis Soffner started in goal for the Rhinos looking to vanquish the nightmarish end to the team's previous trip to face Dayton on April 11 in which he conceded a dubious goal in stoppage time. Tony Walls got a rest this weekend after playing 120 minutes on Tuesday and 90 minutes on Friday as Babacar Diallo slotted into central defense next to Hoffer.
McMahon started in his normal right back role and Obasi on the left. Obasi regularly got forward and Jossimar Sanchez took over fullback duties at times. Otherwise Sanchez shared the midfield with Mike Garzi and Johnny Mendoza. Alex Dixon and Levi Houapeu swapped winger roles while Colin Rolfe primarily played as Rochester's center forward.
Dixon has been a consistent threat going forward for the Rhinos this season. The former Houston homegrown forward is always willing to take on a defender and Dayton were more than willing to provide fodder for the Dixon wrecking machine.
Levi Houapeu gets on the end of a lot of service. In a good light, that means the former Philadelphia Union draft pick makes the quality runs to get into attacking spaces and does the legwork to track down balls over the top. In a negative light, however, he didn't have a league goal before this game despite a mountain of chances. Houapeu did manage to score the team's first goal in a 2-1 extra time victory over Western Mass Pioneers in the Second Round of the 2013 U.S. Open Cup.
From the kickoff to start the second half, Dayton played a long ball from the back that Rochester won and played on the ground through the middle. Colin Rolfe received a headed clearance from Kyle Hoffer and laid the ball into the path of Dixon. Dixon charged through a gaping hole in Dayton's defense and drove into the area with a man on his shoulder. Levi Houapeu made a run towards the far post but slowed down to create space between himself and his mark which allowed Dixon to play him a simple square pass.
Houapeu picked his spot in the net and lifted his shot over a helpless Matt Williams for the only goal of the game.
Dayton's moniker is more than an excuse to wear orange jerseys as the coaching staff preaches a possession-based style of play. This Dutch philosophy doesn't always transfer over onto the field and against the Rhinos this season Dayton has seemed more interested in throwing physical challenges than exchanging quick passes (think more Nigel de Jong than Arjen Robben).
The referee let a lot of questionable challenges stand Sunday night, even for the USL Pro level. This roughness benefited the team without the ball, which was more often than not the Dutch Lions. Rochester's forwards put in shifts pressuring the home side's defense and the Rhinos' midfield did well to keep the ball moving. Midfielder Johnny Mendoza put in a solid performance against Dayton and should feature more regularly when the formation permits it.
Mendoza was the man of the match on Tuesday night against Reading United AC and had a cameo appearance on Friday against Richmond. While he wasn't able to replicate his goal and assist, Mendoza was able to push the issue for Rochester on Friday despite only playing 15 minutes. The Colombian-born midfielder popped up again all over the field. In addition to sending dangerous balls into Dayton's penalty area, Mendoza managed to execute to bicycle kick clearance in his own 18-yard box.
When Rochester's Bob Lilley decided to replace Mendoza with central defender Patrick Slogic in the 74th minute, just 6 minutes after the lightning delay, the complexion of the game markedly changed. Lilley appeared to be daring the Dutch Lions to break down his 5-man defense. Slogic slotted into the middle of the back line, next to Hoffer and Diallo, and the five defenders held on through an onslaught of crosses and corners late in the game.
At the final whistle Luis Soffner had earned his first clean sheet of the season and hopefully shook out any flashbacks to April 11th's match. The win improves Rochester's record to 4-2-5 (W-L-T) and keeps them well within the 8-team playoff qualification. Sunday night's win over Dayton puts Rochester in a good position to start the month of June during which the team plays 7 league games and the Fourth Round of the Open Cup.
The Rhinos host still winless Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, June 7 at 7:05PM. Pittsburgh has a -7 goal differential over 5 road games this season and Rochester will have a five days to rest and prepare for the match.