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Rochester 0-1 Orange County Blues FC: Rhinos Drop Another Home Game

The Rhinos lacked attacking energy in yet another loss at home to a team outside of a playoff position.

"Disappointing."

That is the word JC Banks used to describe Sunday night's 1-0 loss to Orange County Blues FC. Over here in soccer writer land I couldn't think of a better descriptor. The team was flat in the first half and then disorganized in the second half; copy, paste, submit.

Starting lineup:
John McCarthy; Pat McMahon, Babacar Diallo (76'), Patrick Slogic, Onua Obasi; Alec Sundly (45'), Tony Walls (64'), Johnny Mendoza (45'); Tyler Rosenlund, Levi Houapeu, Colin Rolfe (58')

Subs: Luis Soffner, Kyle Hoffer, Lance Rozeboom (64'), Mike Garzi (58'), Sam Petrone (45'), JC Banks (45'), Matt Luzunaris (76')

OC Blues FC came into Sunday's game on a 6-game losing streak. As Revs fans know a little too well, it is difficult to amass that kind of record in a fairly even league. The Blues also failed to score in the four games before coming to Rochester. Scottish midfielder Allan Russell broke the team's 424-minute scoring drought when he scored a penalty past a diving John McCarthy on Sunday night.

Though the game was ultimately decided by a split second poor decision by Babacar Diallo to slide in on Andrew Hoxie, the Rhinos had ample chances to take control of this contest. While Lilley tried to defend his centerback by suggesting Diallo's foul was outside of the box, the replay shows it was a dangerous challenge and a clear penalty. The referee on the night, Charles Murphy, did however make a confounding decision earlier in the first half.

Central defender Patrick Slogic sent a ball over the top for Colin Rolfe to run onto and the former Houston Dynamo forward appeared to be through on goal. OC Blues defender Fabrice Guatrat realized he couldn't catch Rolfe and decided to clip his heels.

Rolfe was past the defense and Guatrat was the farthest defender back on the play when he fouled Rolfe. Unless the referee somehow knew for sure that Rolfe wouldn't be able to control the long ball or get his shot off, Guatrat should have been sent off for denying a goal scoring opportunity.
Perhaps Murphy was afraid he might have been duped by a dive and didn't want to compound his potential mistake by dismissing the guilty Guatrat.

This isn't to say that the referee decided the match. Rochester had a golden opportunity fall to the head of club captain Tyler Rosenlund from six yards out.
The build-up to this chance shows Rosenlund spray the ball out wide for Levi Houapeu before darting forward to make a far post run. The former Canadian international can read the game well enough to get into promising positions, but what good is he if he can't finish chances as simple as this one?

This chance came in the 36th minute, only five minutes before Russell buried his penalty.

New England fans are no strangers to reckless challenges from Babacar Diallo. The Senegalese centerback was sent off in the dying minutes of the Rhinos' U.S. Open Cup match against the Revs in Rhode Island. Although Diallo has grown into a stalwart for the team in the back, winning everything in the air, he is apparently still prone to mental lapses.

Diallo put in a truly dangerous challenge on Hoxie at the top of the area to concede a penalty and put his opponent at risk of injury.

Onua Obasi coughed up the ball to OC's Stephen Okai, who found Hoxie in tight space. Colin Rolfe may have been Obasi's intended receiver on the play but the throw was a completely unnecessary and unforced giveaway. The Blues created a couple of chances for themselves but Rochester gifted their opponents the opportunity that ultimately won the game.

The second half of the game saw Bob Lilley replace Johnny Mendoza and Alec Sundly with JC Banks and Sam Petrone. Mendoza and Sundly had been the only players to drive forward with the ball at their feet in the first half but Lilley removed them and left Rosenlund on the field. As the coaching staff appeared to be picking substitutes out of a hat, the Rhinos went without a target forward up top for nearly 20 minutes but continued to play long balls to no one.

I applaud Lilley and his staff for their tactical flexibility but when the team is trailing in the second half they have little to no formation or organization. Rochester had more possession in Orange County's half of the field but did next to nothing with the ball. This team simply does not know how to score goals.

JC Banks told me after the game that perhaps the team lacked clarity as they underachieved on the night. "We were fighting for points, they were fighting for points. I wouldn't say they were fighting harder, but they were a little bit more on their game-plan. Once they got the goal it took a little of the pressure off of them. They're a decent team but we didn't play as well as we could have."

Instead of displaying the fiery side that he's known for, head coach Bob Lilley was rather introspective. "We've underachieved a lot this year. We've let a lot of teams off the hook that they have been on poor stretches where we're the ones that have let them off the hook," Lilley said about home games against Pittsburgh and Wilmington.

"Tonight we weren't accountable as a team. It's disappointing but it's kind of become the norm. Games like this are the toughest for us because we don't put the work in every time out. And that falls back on me as the coach."

Lilley was able to joke about the team's inconsistency against poorer teams, "With this group of players maybe this isn't challenging enough for them. They're gonna wait until they have to win the last three games. Maybe that's their strategy, they haven't shared that with me but that may be their strategy."

JC Banks echoed some of that sentiment after the game but with a hopeful outlook. "We're definitely good at making it hard for ourselves, that's what I'd say. We're too inconsistent, but we've still got a little bit of time to pick it up and catch form going into the playoffs. I'd rather have this lull now than when the playoffs come around."

The Rhinos' next game is this Friday, August 15 in Charleston against the Battery, who also host OC Blues FC on Wednesday. Kickoff is at 7:30 from Blackbaud Stadium.