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Rochester 0-1 Wilmington Hammerheads FC: Rhinos Fall in Trap Game

Wilmington played in Rochester on Saturday after playing to a scoreless draw in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Friday night. Despite playing at home and with a full week of rest, the Rhinos lacked the urgency to win.

JC Banks looks to send in service early in the second half of Saturday night's game
JC Banks looks to send in service early in the second half of Saturday night's game
James Kenneth Studio

Donnie Smith got the start along with Alec Sundly and Luis Soffner in his third short loan stint with the Rhinos. Smith was active all game and was one of Rochester's better performers on a largely disappointing night. Despite strong performances from Smith and Soffner, the Rhinos lost 1-0 to a Wilmington team that played on the road on Friday night.

Smith played a majority of the game as a supporting play on the left wing but Rochester head coach Bob Lilley opted to switch him to the right flank for a few brief spells in the game. The Revolution loanee was having trouble getting past Wilmington right back, Troy Cole, to either send in service or come up the endline.

Here is the best example of Smith's shooting against Wilmington:

For the minute after Smith's shot, Rochester held sustained pressure in the offensive end with multiple corner kicks. With the team pushed forward, the Rhinos were vulnerable to the speed of Jordan Hamilton on the break away.

Kyle Hoffer had an opportunity to make a clearance on the play but missed the ball, which allowed Hamilton to ghost in behind him and get his shot off. Soffner does well to get down to his right side to make a difficult save. The ball was too far from his body for a kick save but too close for a diving stop. The awkward placement of the initial shot prevented the Revolution goalkeeper on-loan from challenging on the rebound.

Hoffer was unable to beat Hamilton to the rebound and the 18 year old Toronto FC Homegrown player tapped in the game's only goal in the 77th minute.

Ten minutes earlier, Rochester was exposed on a breakaway but Hoffer recovered against a less speedy Sammy Ochoa.

Instead of addressing the lack of pace or the poor positioning of his backline, head coach Bob Lilley elected to replace Alec Sundly with Mike Garzi and JC Banks with Minh Vu. Neither of these substitutions between clear breakaway chances addressed the underlying failure of Rochester's defense.

After subbing out Hoffer in the 81st minute, Lilley could be seen berating his veteran centerback for allowing Hamilton's goal. For the final 9 minutes of regulation and 5 minutes of stoppage time, Rochester played a back three of Garzi, Diallo, and McMahon while Lilley introduced Luzunaris and Houapeu as offensive options.

Unfortunately for Rochester, none of the chances created in the final push came to fruition. The team coasted through the first half and Lilley's substitutions were reactionary rather than proactive. On the other hand, Wilmington head coach David Irving completely changed the complexion of the game by bringing on Sammy Ochoa in the 57th minute and Jordan Hamilton in the 71st.

Revolution midfielder Donnie Smith was on loan to Rochester for this match against Wilmington. He flew back to New England on Sunday afternoon but he was the most consistent attacking threat for the Rhinos on Saturday night whether he was on the left side or the right.

Regarding the switch from the left wing to the right, Donnie Smith said, "It was tactical because I wasn't getting around on the outside as much. Bob wanted me to cut in a bit and get a couple shots, which I did but the keeper was making some good saves." Referring to Wilmington goalkeeper Quillan Roberts and his strong play against the Rhinos, Smith said, "Give him all the credit."

Smith admitted that there were "very few" positives to take away from this match. "We're at home playing against a team that played last night. It's just really disappointing; the whole team is feeling it right now. We just need to regroup and get ready for next week."

Without distancing himself from the team's poor performance, Smith had a fairly simple prescription for the Rhinos. "We didn't get seconds [second balls] today, that was one of the big things. It's just putting in the work, the hard work. In this league especially, the teams that work hard usually win. [Against Orlando] we've gotta work in that game because that's definitely a talented team."

JC Banks suffered a concussion during an aerial challenge with Wilmington centerback Ashani Fairclough. Banks won the header but Fairclough's forehead collided into the back of JC's head. Rochester's star man stayed down on the turf for a minute to receive treatment but was able to walk off the field under his own power. Banks did a few drills on the sideline before returning to the playing field.

Banks gave me the details of his head injury after the game. "I got hit in the back of the head on that play. I thought I was fine but once I got back out there after a couple minutes I got blurry vision when I looked into the stands. I was fine walking off the field and doing warm ups on the sideline, but running around on the field I got blurry." At that point Banks told the referee and the coaching staff who subbed him for Minh Vu.

When asked if he was undergoing the standard concussion test, Banks nodded (slowly) and revealed that he had suffered a concussion in the game. "I've got to get cleared by a doctor during the week. Hopefully it gets better before next weekend."

Several players were trying to put the match against Wilmington behind them as a visit by league-leading Orlando City SC looms on the horizon. "It's a big game next week, especially after losing tonight," Banks said. "We gotta get some points from them this time. We had them on the ropes last time but we let them get off with the tie. We just gotta show up next week."