On a night when the Rochester Rhinos organization honored several of the individuals responsible for winning titles between 1998 and 2002, this current squad showed none of the quality of those teams on either side of the ball.
During halftime of Saturday night's match, the Rhinos recognized former players Tommy Tanner and Scott Schweitzer along with former head coach Pat Ercoli and his assistants Francisco Esos Frank Odoi. All five of these men were instrumental in winning three division titles, three A-League titles, and the famous 1999 U.S. Open Cup title.
Rochester Rhinos starting lineup:
Luis Soffner; Tony Walls, Babacar Diallo, Kyle Hoffer (71'), Patrick Slogic; Alec Sundly, Mike Garzi, Lance "Sunshine" Rozeboom (45'); Minh Vu (70'), Levi Houapeu (83'), Johnny Mendoza (70')
Subs: Brandon Miller, Jossimar Sanchez (71'), Ayao Sossou, Tyler Rosenlund (45'), Sam Petrone (83'), JC Banks (70'), Matt Luzunaris (70')
Bilal Duckett, the most effective of the Revolution players sent on loan to Rochester last season, started at centerback for Charlotte. MLS veterans Wells Thompson and Zak Boggs are started for the Eagles. Thompson played for the Revs from 2007 to 2009 and Boggs was a Revolution draft pick who played in New England from 2010 to 2012.
For Rochester, Luis Soffner got the start and Brandon Miller was the backup on the bench tonight as John McCarthy got the night off. Alec Sundly slotted right into the starting lineup after playing against the Rhinos for the Revs on Wednesday night.
Johnny Mendoza was given a chance to play farther up the field on the right side of a 4-3-3 in an effort to utilize his attacking instincts. Rochester head coach Bob Lilley was onto something with this move as Mendoza was the only player who created chances for the Rhinos until he was subbed out in the 70th minute.
In the first half Mendoza darted across from the right side to receive a ball from Mike Garzi in the left channel. The Colombian-American attacking midfielder took on his defender before cutting back and launching a dangerous cross towards the far post. Levi Houapeu was a step behind the ball and couldn't get a touch on Mendoza's cross in the 38th minute.
Mendoza was also at the center of a Rochester attack just after the restart. Houapeu controlled a long ball from Tony Walls and laid a pass into the right channel for Mendoza. The crafty attacker then drove forward and played low service across the face of goal but none of his teammates could reach the cross
Despite largely playing quality defense this season, the Rhinos conceded an embarrassingly simple goal on Saturday night. Veteran midfielder Wells Thompson curled in a cross from 30 yards out on the right wing and Brazilian forward Guilherme "Gui" Brandao was unmarked inside the area. Brandao dispatched his free header to the far post in the 51st minute even though Luis Soffner got a touch.
Three minutes after going behind, Mendoza created yet another golden opportunity for this team. Walls played a long ball over the top and Mendoza was fouled by former Rhino Bilal Duckett in the area to win a penalty.
Because JC Banks was still on the bench in the 55th minute, Minh Vu stepped up for what was, in truth, a very poor penalty attempt.
Despite being presented with a perfect chance to regain momentum in the match, the Rhinos could not force Charlotte goalkeeper Alec Kann to break a sweat.
By the final whistle it was clear that Rochester did not deserve anything out of this game. Soffner conceded another goal through his hands as he did on Jonathan Top's penalty in Arizona two weeks earlier.
Saturday's match was Rochester's 7th contest in 17 days after 5 league games and 2 Open Cup games since June 11. Even though the squad is deep, Bob Lilley may have overestimated his team's quality by deciding to rest Pat McMahon, Onua Obasi, Colin Rolfe, Alex Dixon, and John McCarthy.
Looking ahead the Rhinos have a full week between each of their four matches in the month of July. Hopefully that will help the team to prevent getting outplayed by inferior teams at home, which is becoming an unwelcome trend this season.