Sunday's line-up featured three changes from the side which lost to VSI Tampa Bay FC the night before. You read that correctly, the Rhinos played games on back-to-back nights. If this strikes you as odd and you want to read more about the scheduling issues of USL-Pro, here's a link to an earlier blog post of mine.
The three changes meant that Revolution loanee Bilal Duckett shifted over to the left side of defense, moving Tyler Polak to the bench and allowing Argentine Lucas Fernandez to start as right back. Veteran central defender George Kyriazis made way for 24 year old Tyler Bellamy to partner Troy Roberts. The midfield remained the same with Lance Rozeboom sitting deeper behind Tyler Rosenlund with Gabe Latigue and Danny Earls manning the wings. Matt Luzunaris started against his former club but Blake Brettschneider was replaced in the starting line up by Tam McManus. Kristian Nicht started in goal again for the Rhinos.
The early going consisted of much of what observers of USL-Pro had expected. Both teams had chances to score, Luzunaris shot at Orlando goalkeeper Jon Kempin while reigning league MVP Kevin Molino beat Rochester's defense only to see his shot ring off the post. For long periods of time, the woodwork seemed to be the Rhinos most active defender as Orlando rained down 18 shots on Rochester's goal, several of which hit the posts.
After two extensive weather delays, totaling 2 hours and 28 minutes, both teams struggled to get momentum going. Matt Luzunaris was more involved in fouling Orlando players than contributing to a Rochester attack and picked up a yellow card for his efforts. As the halftime whistle approached, it was clear that many of the Rhinos players were playing for the 0-0 draw. There was no offensive movement so the defense and midfield were forced into sending awful clearances down the field.
Orlando capitalized on this lazy display by Rochester in first half stoppage time. Sporting KC loanee Dom Dwyer showcased his explosive speed as he burned down the right side of the field. As he cut into the box several defenders closed him down and the ball fell to Kevin Molino. Molino's hard shot was blocked by 2012's Goalkeeper of the Year Nicht but the Rhinos were unable to clear the second rebound. Long Tan (formerly of D.C. United and Vancouver Whitecaps) found the ball inside the area and sank his shot past a helpless Nicht.
The Rhinos seemed deflated going into halftime and never recovered their impetus to compete. Just after the start of the second half, OC Lions defender Bryan Burke made a run down the right side and played a ball along the ground into the box for Dwyer. The young English forward made no mistake from inside 15 yards to double Orlando's lead.
Jamie Watson is arguably the best set piece taker and attacking midfielder in USL-Pro and added a well-deserved goal just after the hour mark. The Rochester defenders again failed to deal with a loose ball in the area as Dwyer headed down a cross which Watson tapped home for his team's third while colliding with Kristian Nicht. Troy Roberts had a chance to clear the ball after it was redirected by Dwyer but he didn't connect well with the ball.
Even on a superb quality stream, this match was frustrating to watch from a Rochester perspective. Last season the team got demolished 4-0 in Orlando and lost a very poorly officiated match at home to the Lions 1-0. While Orlando didn't hammer the Rhinos as badly as last season, all three goals were bad goals to concede. A rebound goal, an easy ball into the box, and another 50/50 ball in the area are not the types of goals that a prepared team would let in.
Head coach Jesse Myers subbed out Gabe Latigue in the first half, replacing him with Kendell McFayden who is a Buffalo native forward/right winger for the Rhinos. To start the second half, Myers swapped Matt Luzunaris for Matt Horth but the Revs loanee only managed one shot. Young full back Tyler Polak came on for the final 25 minutes, after the game had been decided.
Former Revolution forward Blake Brettschneider scored the Rhinos' first goal of the season in the 90th minute. Brettschneider intercepted a pass from Orlando's defense, sprinted into the box, and chipped Kempin to notch a consolation goal for Rochester.
There is little respite for the Rhinos as they play another back-to-back series this coming weekend. The Rhinos have until Friday to recover from a grueling weekend as they continue their 5-game road trip when they meet the Charlotte Eagles at 7PM. The Eagles defeated a weak Antigua Barracuda FC side 2-0 this past weekend in their season opener. The following night on Saturday the team will then face the Richmond Kickers who have tied Pittsburgh and beaten a tough Charleston side.