Rochester started the match on the front foot, as they have so many times this season. Unlike several of those instances, the Rhinos were able to capitalize on early possession in the attacking third. An 8-person contingent of support traveled down from Quebec to support FC Montreal and they were consistently vocal throughout the match.
Neither team registered a shot on goal through the first eight minutes but players the quality of Steevan Humberto Duba dos Santos don't need more than one invitation. Christian Volesky nodded a broken throw-in from Onua Obasi on to midfielder Drew Ruggles. Ruggles picked out the run of Duba from the left side in behind Montreal's central defenders.
Duba held off pressure from Chakib-Nazim Hocine as he bore down on the Montreal net. Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau came off his line to cut down the angle and Duba curled his shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards out. The goal is Duba's third in the team's last four league games. With the goal against FC Montreal Duba moves into second place on the team's scoring charts behind Volesky.
I spoke with Duba after the game. "I saw the goalkeeper come out from the goal and I just wanted to put the ball in the corner. Every time when I'm on the pitch I just try to do my best and help the team win games."
"I'm happy because I scored the goal tonight that gives three points to the team and I'm happy that the team is able to keep winning. Whenever I have a chance, it doesn't matter where I am on the field, I try to put the ball on goal. In the box the play is easier for me [at this point Duba flexed his arms and chest a bit], but I always try to make shots."
The Rhinos played out the remainder of the first half comfortably. The home side generated a few more chances but was unable to force Crépeau to make a save aside from a dribbler by Sean Totsch in the 38th. Rochester's next-best chance in the first half came to Volesky.
In the center of the field, Marcos Ugarte hit a ball out of the air and over the Montreal defense for Volesky to run onto. The rookie forward approached Crépeau's goal but instead of neatly chipping the Montreal goalkeeper, Volesky blasted his shot high and wide of the frame in the 43rd minute.
After a largely quiet but confident performance from Rochester in the first half, the game changed just moments after the second half started. Five seconds into the second half, Jéremy Gagnon-Laparé sent a ball into the right channel for Montreal off the kick-off. Onua Obasi headed the ball upfield and Fabio Morelli came into a challenge with his leg extended. Rochester's left back hit the turf clutching his torso and the referee trotted over to show the Montreal winger a straight red card.
The dismissal seemed harsh at match-speed but replays clearly show that Morelli crashed his studs into Obasi's chest. The winger was tracking the ball coming to him out of the air and perhaps did not see Obasi standing in front of him. Whether intention or not, Morelli made contact with his studs on the chest of an opponent and was deservedly sent off.
The dismissal took the bite out of Montreal's attack until the introduction of attacking playmaker Zakaria Messoudi in the 66th minute. Messoudi simplifies the game for Montreal and his ability to hold the ball under challenges and pick out his teammates is remarkable. He allows his teammates to focus on going forward without worrying about whether he'll lose the ball.
Late game attacking substitutes for Rochester, Asani Samuels, Mike Garzi, and Johnny Mendoza energized the team going forward but failed to produce an insurance goal. Samuels could not replicate his outrageous performance in the Open Cup against Harrisburg as he played in midfield for much of his appearance. A stoppage time injury to Julian Ringhof, who was walking around fine after the game, moved captain Tony Walls into central defender for the final minutes.
During interviews, Obasi showed assembled media the "battlescar" he received from Fabio Morelli's cleat, which was considerable. Obasi then talked about Duba's impact on the team after the game. "Unfortunately I get mistaken for Steevan dos Santos but he brings a lot of size and strength up top; he's a nightmare for opposition defenses."
The skillful left back continued, "When he protects the ball, you can't get through him. He's very crafty on his turns and on his runs. In the game situations, he's always in the right place at the right time and he's scored big goals for us already this season."
After the game, Rochester head coach Bob Lilley talked about the difficult period of games for Rochester and the relief of having a week off from competitive matches. "This stretch has been tough. Tony Walls has been a beast, in the kindest way, to play every minute through this stretch. I've been able to rotate everyone in some way, fashion, shape, form but he's played every minute of every game." Coach Lilley said he was worried after the 120 minutes on Wednesday night against Harrisburg that Walls might pick up an injury tonight.
To manage the current injury crisis, Lilley played some guys in new roles. "Totsch has been playing as an outside back but I think he did a nice job in the mi9ddle with Tony. They were outnumbered, they played four against five in the midfield tonight. To be fair, Sean was very good and the other night we had Julian [Ringhof] in that midfield role."
"Today all we were trying to do was get a win and hopefully not pick up any new injuries," Lilley summed up. The win keeps Rochester on top of the USL Eastern Conference standings and continues a remarkable undefeated start to the 2015 USL campaign.
Duba's third goal in the team's last four games means that he was won seven of the team's last eight points in USL.
The team doesn't play in the league again until June 13 so the players will have a long chance to rest and recover from wear-and-tear style injuries. That game kicks off at 7:05 from Sahlen's Stadium against Louisville City FC.