Fourth-year goalkeeper Brandon Miller, who is in his first season as a regular starter with the Rhinos, continued to impress on Saturday night. While not facing many shots, Miller did come up a couple huge saves including a massive save in the 73rd minute against Edwin Rivas.
I asked Miller how difficult it was to stay focused during and after that hour-long weather delay that interrupted Saturday night's game. "It's always tough to deal with that, just staying in the locker room and trying to stay loose. You try to stay warmed up until you can get out there and get that first touch on the ball, make sure everything is clean. I like to keep talking. That's mainly how I stay focused throughout the game. I just keep talking to my back line."
When asked how he can stay sharp without seeing many shots from the opposition, Miller seemed pleasantly flabbergasted. "That's something I have to get used to, to be honest. Our defense is absolutely shutting down most attacks so like Bob said, he just wants me to make one or two big saves in each game to help keep a shut-out."
I asked Miller specifically about the big save he made on Rivas while the game was still scoreless. "To be honest, I saw him pop through and it kinda reminded me of last week against Montreal. I just wanted to stay up and make myself big so I could hopefully get a touch on it. I was lucky enough because he hit it pretty close to me and I was able to get a touch to push it out wide."
Saturday's win kept Rochester undefeated at the top of the east, along with the Charleston Battery, and was Miller's third full clean sheet of the season (he split a shut-out with Adam Grinwis). I asked Miller how much these statistics and records weigh on his mind. "I'm not gonna sit here and say that I don't think it, but you try not to. I try not to focus on it - honestly I don't like talking about us being undefeated," Miller said.
The goalkeeper continued, "I just want to focus on playing one game at a time and winning each one. We won tonight and now we've got to focus on Wilmington. It's inevitable [thinking about the record] now that we're 6-0-2; we've got something to be proud of and hopefully we can keep that going."
Saturday's game-winner is a newcomer on the Rhinos and hails from the small Atlantic island nation of Cape Verde. Steevan Humberto Fortes "Duba" Dos Santos is a powerful target forward and a natural Portuguese speaker. I spoke with him about his goal and what it meant for the team looking ahead.
"It was a good goal for me and a very important goal for the team," Duba said. "For me, it's great, to score my first goal. At the end of the day it doesn't matter who scores, what's important is getting the three points; that's most important for us."
Duba then described the goal, which you can see above. "It was a good cross from Kenardo [Forbes]. Sometimes we do the same play in training and tonight we were able to put it together out on the field."
I asked Duba if it is difficult for him to only get 20 or so minutes at the end of games, not having a chance to get acclimated to the game. "It's important for me to always try to help the team, it doesn't matter if it's for 10 or 90 minutes. All I can do is go in and do my best for the team," Duba told me. "If I scored today maybe in another game I can start, who knows? The best thing is being able to help the team win games."
The goal-scorer dismissed the suggestion that Rochester was able to grab the late goal because Toronto's Molham Babouli had been sent off. "I don't think we were able to press because of the red card. They got the red card but they still kept the formation completely the same with four in the back and four through midfield. I think the goal happened because of our hard work on the pitch and the fact that we didn't give up."
In the second year of his second stint as Rochester's head coach, Bob Lilley might be accustomed to the weather patterns of Western New York. "I thought we did a really good job when we went out after the weather [delay] to get out on top of them."
"Duba physically is a big man. I don't know if we played great the last 10-15 minutes of the game but I do feel that Duba is a natural finisher - and that's what he's done."
"It was the right moment for him, thankfully he was able to get on it and it was a good ball by Forbes. But a really great header on a wet night with a wet ball to make that solid of contact - you don't see that. That was a big-time header. He earned his paycheck tonight.
"We talked about Toronto and how they're a good team. They've had 6 straight on the road. They're better than their record. They've been a handful for everyone, even Pittsburgh - they were winning 1-0 until they got a red card," Lilley explained. "They've got quality attacking players."
"Toronto deserve credit because I thought the first 15-20 minutes of the second half we still clearly looked on top but they made a few changes and the game became more 50/50. Either team looked like they may break through."
The introduction of forward Edwin Rivas changed the complexion of the game and instantly turned the visitors into a threat on Rochester's goal. "They definitely worked their way in and in the middle of the second half it was anybody's game. Fortunately we found the winner there late."
"I'm happy about that," Lilley said when asked about the team's 6-0-2 record. "We've played with some good ideas and energy but our passing was sloppy. There are areas that we just have to get better in but we're playing with a grit and we've battled for some of these wins. They haven't come easy and it takes a lot of mental fortitude; I think the players are showing that right now."