Rochester came into Saturday afternoon's match against Toronto FC II off the back of what Head Coach Bob Lilley called their "worst performance of the season." Lilley returned several players to the starting lineup including goalkeeper Brandon Miller, right back Pat McMahon, winger Johnny Mendoza, and forwards Kenardo Forbes and Steevan Humberto Fortes "Duba" dos Santos.
On the other side, Toronto FC II was missing half a dozen regular contributors. Joint top scorers, Jordan Hamilton and Molham Babouli were both unavailable for Saturday's game. Hamilton had joined Toronto's MLS squad on their trip to New York to face NYCFC. Babouli is expected to be a threat for Canada's U-22 squad at the Pan-American games. Adam Bouchard, Mauel Aparicio, Raheem Edwards, Chris Mannella, and Kevon Black are also with Canada at the Pan-American games. Goalkeeper Quillan Roberts is with the senior Canadian team competing at the Gold Cup.
To further illustrate Toronto's depleted roster, four of the starts for TFC II were just 17 years old; Liam Fraser, Malik Johnson, Luca Uccello, and Marcus Godinho . Two of the starting defenders, Godinho and Emeka Ononye, had fewer than 100 professional minutes going into the game. Another teenager, Kevin Timachy, made his professional debut against the Rhinos.
Despite the lineup disparity, Rochester didn't capitalize on early chances in the first half. In just the fifth minute, Forbes curled a ball in towards Duba at the top of the Toronto box, but the big man wasn't able to get a clean touch. Fortunately, the ball rolled into the path of a streaking Johnny Mendoza and the second-year winger hit a shot off the post. Mendoza picked up the rebound near the endline but his attempted high cross was plucked out of the air by Toronto's Alex Bono.
Through the first 45 minutes, the Rhinos created chances but couldn't force Bono into making many saves. In the 35th minute, Pat McMahon slipped Mendoza in behind left back Mark-Anthony Kaye and Mendoza cut inside up the line. Mendoza's low centering pass found Julian Ringhof in the area but the defender's goal-bound shot was saved by Fraser.
Late in the first half, while the game was still scoreless, Godinho created a great chance for the home side. Uccello served in a free kick that Brandon Miller came off his line to punch out of danger. Godinho picked up the loose ball and the right back played a long one-two with Uccello, who scooped a ball over the Rochester defense.
Godinho was able to chip the ball over the on-rushing Miller from a tight angle but both Pat McMahon and Ringhof converged on the goal line to clear the ball out. Ringhof was tracking the flight of the ball over his shoulder and didn't see McMahon already on the line. McMahon cleared the ball into Miller's hands as Ringhof extended foot hit him in the face. Though the incident looked serious at the time, McMahon returned to the field after receiving treatment and played out the final few minutes of the half.
Rochester started the second half in much the same way they played the first with strong midfield play but an inability to finish. This profligacy almost punished Rochester in the 53rd minute. Kenardo Forbes played an awful backpass to either a centerback or Miller. Toronto's Edwin Rivas picked up the ball and froze Ringhof with a shoulder dip before firing his shot. Miller easily collected the 18-yard shot but the incident reminded Rochester that there was another team competing in this game.
That shot by Toronto appeared to wake up the visitors and shake any complacency out of their legs. Just three minutes later Rochester's left back Onua Obasi grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck.
Obasi played a pass forward to Forbes, who cut in and saw Mendoza driving to the corner flag in front of him. Mendoza dished the ball off to Obasi who had continued his run through the middle. The skillful former futsal player tripped up centerback Emeka Ononye, playing just his third game for TFC II, with a step-over before finding Duba open in the penalty area.
The assistant referee on the far side deemed Duba onside because of a late step forward by Toronto defender Daniel Fabrizi. Rochester's Cabo Verdean forward took one touch to settle before dispatching his shot to the far post past Alex Bono. The 56th minute goal was Duba's fifth of the USL campaign and gave Rochester the lead.
125 seconds later, Onua Obasi played provider again. The attack-minded left back slid in to pick the ball off of TFC's Liam Fraser before looking up to see Johnny Mendoza in acres of space at the top of the Toronto area. Obasi's pass set up Mendoza perfectly as the Colombian-born midfielder was able to get his body around the ball and coolly slot past Bono to double Rochester's lead.
Fabrizi was again the closest defender to the Rochester goal-scorer. Mark-Anthony Kaye, Toronto's left back, had already begun to get forward before Fraser turned the ball over to Obasi. Mendoza's third goal of the season doubled Rochester's lead and allowed the team played the final half hour of the game containing their hosts.
Rhinos' Head Coach Bob Lilley felt the game was safely under control and decided to substitute out the ever-present Tony Walls with 25 minutes left. Shortly after, Lilley introduced Revolution loanee Timi Mulgrew. Playing on the left wing, where he was effective against Montreal, Mulgrew created chances and took dangerous corner kicks in his limited minutes on Saturday.
Defensive midfielder and fellow Revolution loanee, Tyler Rudy missed the game against Toronto while serving the suspension from his red card on Wednesday night.
The Rhinos are now 11-0-6 and play next at home against Charlotte Independence on July 18. Goalkeeper Brandon Miller extended his statistical lead to 8 clean sheets in USL this season as his goals against average continues approaching zero.