Rochester Rhinos built on the positives from last week's 3-1 loss in Orlando to take a 1-1 draw from Friday night's encounter against the Dayton Dutch Lions. Luis Soffner again stood tall in goal for the Rhinos for 90 minutes and Alec Sundly made his debut with the team in the second half. The team was well organized, scored in the first half, and should have left Ohio with a win. A poor refereeing decision in the fourth minute of stoppage time gifted an equalizing goal to the Dutch Lions in what was a fairly mundane affair throughout.
To start the match, Dayton's players knocked the ball around among themselves and Rochester was fully content to allow them possession in non-threatening areas. Playing in something of a 4-2-3-1, the Rhinos were able to absorb whatever Dayton produced and launch quick counterattacks both centrally and out wide. Rochester was called offside after a rapid exchange of passes in the first few minutes, a trend that continued the whole match.
Coming into the match, Rochester's biggest weakness was probably communication in the backline. This problem reared its head in the early going against Dayton with a number of miscues. Onua Thomas Obasi made his first start of the season as a left back instead of his more natural attacking midfield role. The hosts, however, were unable to take advantage of any mistakes or poor passes by the Rhinos' defense in the opening minutes.
In the 26th minute Dayton forced a rather panicked sequence in front of the Rhinos' goal. A deep throw-in from Joel DeLass on the left wing was met by center forward Aaron Schoenfeld at the near post but Tyler Rosenlund was able to clear the ball off the line. The follow-up shot from just inside the 18 yard box curled wide of Soffner's goal with a deflection.
While the video feed was showing a replay of that near-miss, Rochester took the lead with a clever pass and a quick run. From the left back position, Obasi whipped a cross into the no-man's land between the back line and the goalkeeper. Samuel Petrone, coming in from the right side of midfield, caught Dayton's defense flat-footed and calmly dispatched the ball past Matt Williams for Rochester's first lead of the 2014 season.
The goal didn't seem to change head coach Bob Lilley's orders to the team too much, as the Rhinos continued to play organized out of the back and look for quick breaks the other direction into the second half. After halftime Obasi made way for Tony Walls, who was also a second half substitute last week in Orlando.
As Dayton attempted to attack with more vigor in the second 45, Alex Dixon found himself with much more space to attack for Rochester. Dixon had a decent showing in Orlando but proved to be a crucial part of the Rochester attack on Friday night. When the home side started to commit men forward around the hour mark, Dixon exploited the gap between Dayton's midfield and defense while also enjoying the lack of any Dutch Lions' presence on the flanks.
In the 77th minute Dixon again carried the ball up the left wing with little resistance and played a well-timed through ball to Colin Rolfe. Dixon's incisive pass put his former Houston Dynamo teammate in on goal and Rolfe scored easily but the linesman had raised his flag calling the would-be goalscorer offside.
Alec Sundly entered the game in the 75th minute to replace Rolfe, who had been active the whole game. Sundly slotted in next to Lance Rozeboom as Lilley rearranged his midfield. The rookie didn't have notable heroics but at the same time didn't look out of place on the field.
With the match winding down, Dayton's controlled Dutch style devolved into American boot-ball with defenders hoofing the ball up in the general direction of the team's forwards. Soffner and the Rhinos defense dealt with all of these until the fourth minute of five minutes of stoppage time. Without attempting to describe the equalizing goal, I've included it below in the form of a gif. Decide for yourself what exactly happened as Soffner looked to claim the hopeful cross out of the air.
Bob Lilley set up his team to outplay the opposition and he got the better of his counterpart, Dayton's Sid van Dreunen. Rochester allowed Dayton to have harmless possession and was a loaded spring waiting for the counterattack. The Rhinos' passing was not only too quick for the home side but was also too quick for the officiating crew as at least 2 of Rochester 9 offside calls were "questionable".
Even well into the 93rd minute of the match, Rochester was not content to hold onto the ball or to run out the clock. For all the lipservice the commentary partnership gave to Dayton's "high pressure" (a phrase repeated at least 30 times during the match), Banks forced the home side into a defensive giveaway in stoppage time that resulted in Williams saving a quick shot. The Rhinos continued to drive forward throughout the second half and put the onus on Dayton. Perhaps the Dutch Lions weren't used to this and had no legitimate answer to the wave after wave of midfield attacks by the Rhinos.
I framed this gif of Dayton's goal incident at half speed so you guys can help me answer the following questions: Was there a foul on Soffner, was there a handball, did Broekhuizen head the ball out of Soffner's hands, or did the young keeper simply drop a ball falling out of the sky?
Rochester's next match is on the road at the Chicago Fire Reserves on Monday, April 21.