After a traditional Bob Lilley first half (tightly organized with few chances for either team), this game opened up in the second frame and the Rhinos pulled away. Friday night's 2-0 victory was the first for the Rhinos at Sahlen's Stadium since April 27 and ended a 4-match winless streak at home.
The match started well as Rochester controlled most of the proceedings during the first ten minutes. After that point, Dayton grew in stature but was unable to penetrate. The Dutch Lions lined up in defensive 5-4-1 formation with Schoenfeld the lone forward. While Shane Smith frequently bounded up the left wing for Dayton, the visitors were unable to register a single shot on Luis Soffner in the first half.
During that first half Bob Lilley did not enjoy what he saw from Alec Sundly. Sundly drew a booking for dissent in the 13th minute after a handball on Petrone in Dayton's penalty area. After just 33 minutes, Lilley introduced Rosenlund into central midfield.
Lilley told me after the game that he pulled Sundly from the game in the 33rd minute because of his foul trouble. "Sundly had a yellow and when he pulled the guy down, I was worried. Once you make that kind of tactical foul you're in danger, the ref let him off the hook there but anything else like that for the rest of the game could have been his second yellow." Rochester's head coach continued, "I was letting him play after his yellow, but after he committed that borderline tackle I didn't think it was wise to risk it. I mean, we have 5 subs and this is a game we couldn't afford to play shorthanded."
Regarding Sundly's limbo status between clubs as we approach Wednesday night's Open Cup match, Lilley revealed that he had planned on using Sundly for the full game on Friday night. "We only had him for tonight and that's why I wanted him to play a 90 minute night. Rosey was going to only play Sunday and I wouldn't have subbed Sundly out but I wasn't prepared to risk that one tackle where he is just a split-second late."
The second half of the game opened up and the Dutch Lions grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck (cat reference, anyone?). Rosenlund had added an extra body in the penalty area for Rochester at the end of the first half, as the former TFC midfielder likes to make runs into the box, but it took a while for the Rhinos to settle into their game in the second.
Though Shane Smith pushed up on Dayton's left side in the first half, Rochester was unable to capitalize on this until the second half. Just as the visitors were applying heavy pressure on the Rhinos, Kyle Hoffer carried the ball through midfield before playing a ball on the ground for Vu to run onto in the corner.
Vu worked some magic to get Bowlin on his backfoot and served a delectable ball into the box for Levi Houapeu. Levi, the shortest player on the field, didn't have to work to get on the end of a great cross and easily headed home from close range past Dayton goalkeeper Matt Williams in the 54th minute.
Here's the replay that shows just how good Minh Vu's service was:
Levi was very humble of his role in the team's win and seemed happy to contribute in whatever minutes Bob Lilley awarded him. "I just saw Minh with the ball out wide and I made a hard run between their defenders. Minh played a very good ball into the middle of the box and I was very fortunate to be there and thankfully I was able to score."
Once Houapeu notched the breakthrough goal, the Rhinos seemed to go for the jugular. Just two minutes later, Sam Petrone received a dropped pass from Levi in the right corner and cut inside the area before htitting a knucling shot that sailed just wide of the far post.
Luis Soffner played a big role in this game despite not getting credit for many saves on the night (only 2). The goalkeeper on loan from the New England Revolution did especially well coming off his line to retrieve crosses out of the air. He did just that in the 59th minute and helped kickstart a Rhinos' attack that resulted in the team's second goal.
Tyler Rosenlund received a pass and saw Banks driving up the middle just next to him. Rosey laid the ball off to Banks but the talismanic attacker had an awful touch by his standard and the ball seemed to bounce away from him. Luckily Sam Petrone stepped up near the top of the 18-yard box and played a clever pass over the head of Taylor Bowlin for JC to continue his run onto.
As Banks crossed into the penalty area, Dayton defender Matt Wiet dragged him down from behind and stumbled into him in a clumsy and desperate challenge. Though the initial contact began outside of the area, Wiet had rung his arm around JC's neck in order to prevent him from getting on the end of Petrone's pass for a clear penalty.
JC Banks's explanation of the play was pretty coy: "I took a bit of a bad touch but the ball went to Sam and I made a run through and he flicked it over for me. The guy [Wiet] got a hold on me and if you feel contact like that in the box you gotta go down."
Who else but JC Banks stepped up to take the penalty and coolly slotted home to double Rochester's lead.
After the game JC gave me a bit of advice for taking penalties. ""I usually pick a spot but if I can catch him leaning, that helps," Banks said. "I was looking at him [Williams] tonight and I saw him leaning early so I tucked in the other way."
When I asked Banks about the pressure of taking penalties, especially at a point in the game that could either seal Dayton off or give them momentum to reach for the equalizer, he dismissed the question. Instead he did mention a different kind of pressure, "I missed two PKs in college and Tony [Walls] comes at me every time about it." Not only were Banks and Walls teammates at the Milwaukee Wave in the MISL, but also in college at UW Green Bay, and club soccer during high school.
The penalty was JC's second on the season after scoring one at home against Pittsburgh in that 3-2 loss. It was also the fifth league goal for Banks who leads the team in that department.
Levi Houapeu scored his second league goal on Friday and his previous was in Dayton on June 1, the only goal in a 1-0 win for Rochester.
Vu registered his second assist in USL Pro and Luis Soffner earned his second clean sheet of the year. Soffner's first shut-out was also that June 1 game in Dayton.
As the clock wound up, Bob Lilley introduced Patrick Slogic and went for five defenders in the back as he did against D.C. United on Wednesday. In addition to bringing on Tony Walls to play in left/central midfield, Lilley also gave forward Matt Luzunaris his season debut off the bench and his first minutes since suffering a horrific leg break on May 4, 2013 against Harrisburg City Islanders.
Luzunaris was an unused substitute on Wednesday night in the cup match but got a solid 16 minutes of action and looked more fit than anyone else on the field.
The Rhinos fly out on Saturday to Oklahoma City where they will face expansion side OKC Energy FC on Sunday. Kickoff is at 8:00PM EST from Pribil Stadium and you can catch all the action on YouTube.