Squad rotation was going to be a major component of any success Bob Lilley managed for the Rochester Rhinos playing two games in three nights. Illustrating that fact brilliantly, Rochester's head coach only started three players against Saint Louis that started on Thursday in Louisville: Grant van de Casteele, Tony Walls, and Marcos Ugarte.
Without trying to rank which game was more important for in the eyes of Lilley's coaching staff, the team did well to manage 4 points from two road games, the second coming less than 48 hours after the first. The players playing in Missouri who didn't start in Kentucky were particularly effective at shaping the game.
In his first start for the Rhinos, Tyler Rudy was solid reading the game and covering the Saint Louis attacks. This defensive work allowed club captain Tony Walls some liberty to feel out his more attacking responsibilities this season. Former Syracuse Silver Knights attacker Kenardo Forbes was a constant threat on the right wing throughout the game. Forbes not only possesses technical skills but also reads the game well and pops up in dangerous places at the right time.
In just the second minute of the match, Duba dropped back into midfield to receive the ball and dish a out out wide to Forbes. The Jamaican winger cut inside and found the run of forward Christian Volesky. Volesky darted into the area and attempted to beat the goalkeeper to the near post but Chicago Fire loanee Alex Kann threw his left hand up to make the save. Despite the beautiful build-up play early in the game, Volesky was unable to add to his goal total for his rookie season.
Yet again this episode showed that Rochester is able to set out on the front foot from kick-off but the team still has trouble finishing the chances that it creates. On two occasions in the first half Forbes had an opportunity to give Rochester the lead but his touch let him down and he headed wide of the frame.
Despite strong periods of dominance, and ending the first half with a 6-1 advantage in shots, there was a moment of panic in the back for the Rhinos. Onua Obasi was tracking a ball aimlessly knocked into the Rochester area and was expecting newly signed goalkeeper Sean Murdoch to come off his line to claim the ball. Murdoch then had to chase a Saint Louis attacker to the endline before scurrying towards his goal and luckily intercepting a weak centering pass.
The same defensive miscommunication almost ruined Rochester's night late in the game when Saint Louis nodded a long ball from Kann into the 18-yard-box. Defender Grant van de Casteele wanted Murdoch to come out and grab the ball out of the air but former Rhino Mike Ambersley sneaked in during the confusion. Fortunately for Rochester, the Saint Louis forward directed the ball wide of the goal.
Attacking central midfielder Jamiel Hardware beat RInghof and Obasi to the endline and was able to cut a pass back towards the penalty spot. Charles Renken got on the end of the cross but somehow knocked his shot well wide of the far post from six yards away from goal in the 61st minute.
Alex Dixon and Kenardo Forbes combined well in the 78th minute before Colin Rolfe through the two centerbacks. Rolfe took the ball off his chest before firing with his right foot from the top of the 18-yard-box. The shot hit the back of the net on the far side past a diving Kann to give the visitors the lead.
After taking the lead, Rochester's defense had a couple frantic attacks and hopeful balls into the box to deal with. Forbes had an opportunity to seal the victory in the dying minutes of the game. Dixon hit a ball to the far post from the right channel and Mendoza was able to redirect the ball into the center. Forbes made the late-run into the box and got on the end of the ball but shot wide of the post.
Despite a comprehensive performance from Rochester on the road two nights after playing in Louisville, referee Cedric Adams did his best to steal the show from the Rhinos. In the second half there were as many as six easily bookable offense that went unpunished in addition to a handful of clear fouls not called by Adams. The following tweet from Rochester Rhinos' superfan Jamie Barclay sums up the general consensus on tonight's officiating performance.
Well, yeah... #FuelTheCrash @RochesterRhinos @DohertySoccer @RocDevo pic.twitter.com/ML9qmzhTmm— Jaime Barclay (@jaimebarclay) April 19, 2015
Without letting Adams's atrocious job overshadow the players' performances, Bob Lilley did a wonderful job managing the most difficult sequence of games in Rochester's 2015 USL schedule. This was the only occasion in which the Rhinos play two games in three days and the win against Saint Louis underlines the team's ability to get results against adversity.
Revolution midfielder-on-loan Tyler Rudy had a notably strong performance in central midfielder while former Jamaican national teamer Kenardo Forbes was involved in every dangerous attacking sequence for the Rhinos. Veteran Scottish goalkeeper Sean Murdoch is the third Rochester player at that position this season and the second to earn a clean sheet.
The team will look to carry its unbeaten form into the home opener Sunday, April 26 at 2PM against New York Red Bulls II.