Kristian Nicht started in goal. Troy Roberts and Tyler Bellamy were the starting central defenders. Danny Earls started on the left and Bilal Duckett started on the right. Gabe Latigue played on the left side and Mike Reidy played on the right side, while Michael Tanke and Lance Rozeboom combined in the center of midfield. Blake Brettschneider and Matt Luzunaris started up top for the Rhinos.
Rochester's defense played fairly well for most of the first half but was exposed by one through ball from Harrisburg. Fantastic blocking and pressuring from both the back four and midfield in the first 20 minutes. Rozeboom and Tanke were especially active at closing down Harrisburg's attacking midfielders on the outside of the area.
Center midfielder Tom Mellor was pulling the strings for Harrisburg in the latter part of the first half. He played several balls to Yann Ekra and Sainey Touray, but their shots ultimately hit the post and missed well high of the goal.
Rochester started out strong with a number of attacking moves in the first few minutes of the game. The team had two strikes of note in the first half. In the ninth minute, Gabe Latigue had a quality strike from a tight angle on the left side of goal but Harrisburg's goalkeeper made the save at the near post. Blake Brettschneider had a fair chance later in the half as he cuts in from a wide position and shot around his defender. Unfortunately the shot flew too near Nick Noble in the center of the goal.
In the 31st minute, Yann Ekra played Jimmy McLaughlin on a through ball to split the Rochester defense. Troy Roberts and Tyler Bellamy were playing a high line and the Philadelphia Union loanee had the speed to break through the back four and carry the ball around goalkeeper Kristian Nicht. McLaughlin did dribble wide to get past Nicht but was able to turn his shot in towards goal and past both centerbacks who had tried to cover the goal mouth. The goal didn't flatter Rochester's defense, but was an accurate representation of the run of play.
The turning point of the game was another red card for Rochester. Against Richmond, both George Kyriazis and Tyler Rosenlend received red cards in the second half. In Harrisburg, however, Rochester forward Blake Brettscneider was dismissed in just the 43rd minute. To understand why Rochester had to play a man down for the entire second half of the match, we have to look back at an incident a few minutes earlier between Brettschneider and Harrisburg midfielder Colin Zizzi.
Brettschneider and Zizzi both challenged for a ball near the Harrisburg area. Zizzi fell down and Brettschneider bundled over his opponent. Replays showed that the Rochester forward tried to avoid hitting Zizzi with his arms but inadvertently made contact to Zizzi's head with his own knee. The referee correctly saw no malice in that challenge and just awarded a free kick to Harrisburg.
A couple minutes later, Zizzi exacted his revenge. In the center of midfield, Zizzi triped pushed Brettschneider into Sainey Touray. Touray could have damaged his knee ligaments as Brettschneider appeared to slide recklessly into him. However, closer examination clearly showed Zizzi push Brettschneider and the Rhinos forward made contact with the ground first while trying to minimize contact with Touray.
Even though referee Neil Barbulescu was just a few yards away from the play, he showed no hesitation in issuing a straight red card to Blake Brettschneider. Rochester went into halftime a goal down and a man down against a Harrisburg team they've often struggled to deal with.
I have to give credit to head coach Jesse Myers for motivating the troops during the halftime interval. Rochester came out in the second half with purposeful passing and disciplined defending. Tyler Polak replaced Gabe Latigue at halftime but Mike Reidy on the other side of midfield was especially impressive. The team was able to move the ball around quickly and pressured Harrisburg much harder in the second half.
In the 62nd minute, Rochester's hard work paid off. The team had a free kick from distance that was served to the far post. A Rhino won the ball and headed back across the face of goal, finding Mike Reidy. The Rochester area native's shot bounced off the crossbar but former City Islander and Revolution loanee Bilal Duckett was there to head home the rebound. Duckett's celebration showed how important the tying goal was for the team that was playing with only 10 men.
The momentum shifted yet again only 4 minutes later. Yann Ekra drove down the left side and crossed the ball low into the box. The ball bounced around inside the area and Duckett fanned on his attempted clearance. Ekra had continued his run into the box and found the ball at his foot at the near post. The 22 year old Ivory Coast native made no mistake from close range to retake the lead for Harrisburg.
Jesse Myers swapped Matt Luzunaris for Revolution loanee Matt Horth in the 72nd minute, but the match was already decided. Despite active play from Horth immediately after coming on, Harrisburg soon extended their lead. Lucky Mkosana was played through on the left side and had time to loft a shot to the far post. Troy Roberts was sliding over to challenge Mkosana and slightly deflected the shot which pinged in off the woodwork past Kristian Nicht.
Nicht was isolated on Harrisburg's fourth goal when Sainey Touray had acres of space running down the right side of the field. Zizzi played Touray into the channel and when he got into the area, Nicht came off his line to close down the angle. Touray coolly slotted the ball between Nicht's legs and ran to celebrate with local children behind the goal.
Reidy continued to be active late in the game down Rochester's right flank despite the scoreline. He did well to receive a pass in the channel, cut into the box diagonally, beat two defenders, and get a shot off. Unfortunately, Reidy shot right at the keeper with his weaker left foot.
In stoppage time Harrisburg added their fifth goal. Touray played Lucky Mkosana through on the right side of the field. Mkosana carried the ball into the 18 and shot to the far post past an onrushing Kristian Nicht.
The game was similarly heart-wrenching to the match in Richmond. The Rhinos, the second best defense in the league last year, now cannot defend after they score a goal. Rocheste has only scored three goals but have as many red cards this season. A lack of discipline clearly hurt the team in Harrisburg, but Mike Reidy played very well in his full debut. Off-season acquisition Ross LaBaeux (Colorado Rapids) also made his appearance of the season with a seven minute cameo at the end of the game.
This loss means that Rochester is now 0-4-1 on the young season. The Rhinos next match is the home opener this Saturday, May 4 at 7PM against the Charlotte Eagles.