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Rochester 1-3 Orlando: Rhinos Drop USL Pro Season Opener in Florida

Rochester Rhinos put up a good fight in the second half but ultimately fell to the class of the league in the first match of the 2014 season


Despite the best efforts of Revolution on-loan goalkeeper Luis Soffner and goalscorer JC Banks, the Rhinos fell to Orlando 3-1 on Saturday night in USL Pro.

MLS-bound Orlando City Lions put Rochester under pressure from the opening whistle. While Rochester's players were settling into playing their first match together this year, the hosts aimed to capitalize quickly.

El Salvador national team captain Darwin Ceren spread the play out wide to U.S. U-18 fullback Tyler Turner overlapping on the right flank. Turner sent in a low cross towards Corey Hertzog, whose shot was blocked by Rochester rookie centerback Patrick Slogic. 2012 USL Pro MVP Kevin Molino was first to the rebound and finished past Soffner from 12 yards out for the early lead.

Rochester was already playing nervously and giving up a goal on the road in just the third minute certainly didn't help that situation. Orlando dominated possession in the first half of the match and dictated the tempo of proceedings. While allowing the home side to have the ball near midfield, the Rhinos pressed closer to their own goal and was able to spark the odd counter attack.

Rookie Minh Vu, who showed well in preseason, saw an attempt to chip Orlando goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo drop just wide of frame in the 13th minute. Forward Alex Dixon also had an effort sail wide of the mark in the first half.

Just before the half hour mark, Orlando nearly doubled their advantage on a corner kick routine. Ceren played a short corner that was crossed long to the far post where Yordany Alvarez played it back across the face of goal. Hertzog won his header at the corner of the six yard box but the ball careened back off the crossbar. Rochester's inability to deal with corner kicks would hurt them just a few minutes later.

Former New York Red Bulls midfielder Austin da Luz took a corner from the far side in the 35th minute. Soffner came off his line to attempt to punch clear but could not get clean contact with the ball because of the mass of players in front of him. The ball deflected off Soffner's gloves to Alvarez who hit the ball into the center of the box. Orlando defender Rob Valentino was able to poke the ball past an unsuspecting Soffner after a goalmouth scramble.

If a one-goal deficit could have been deflating, a two-goal deficit should have been more so. In the final ten minutes of the first half, though, Soffner came up with a couple of quality saves and Banks dropped back deeper into midfield to win possession and try to kickstart attacks the other direction.

The first half ended with Orlando notching 5 shots on goal and Rochester 0. Due in no small part to Bob Lilley's motivational skills, the Rhinos emerged from the locker room a completely different side.

The team's 2012 MVP capitalized on a poor back pass from central midfielder Aodhan Quinn to drive in on Orlando's goal. Banks' initial low shot was saved well by Gallardo but he made no mistake after pouncing on the rebound and drove his follow-up into the roof of the net. Despite looking completely outmatched in the opening sequences of the match, Banks put Rochester within one of the defending champions.

Banks' goal gave the team some belief and the Rhinos controlled play for large stretches of the second half. The quality between the two teams was evident in the depth coming off the bench, though. Rochester replaced Ayao Sossou, who had struggled to settle into the match, and Alex Dixon, who had received extended treatment from the physio, with Tony Walls and Johnny Mendoza. Orlando on the other hand brought on Dennis Chin in the 71st minute and just four minutes later he gave the hosts their insurance goal.

Trinidad and Tobago international Kevin Molino received the ball in the right channel and played a low, whipped in cross to the center. Kyle Hoffer misjudged the path of the ball as he was running to recover and the ball passed right through his legs to a waiting Chin. The fourth-year forward was able to trap with his left foot before coolly slotting his right-footed shot into the corner past Soffner for Orlando's third goal of the night in the 75th minute.

Onua Thomas Obasi, Samuel Petrone, and Patrick McMahon all featured for Rochester after the team went down 3-1. Even though the team lost by two goals, Rochester showed a great sense of fight to come to life in the second half and certain personal performances are encouraging. If Banks and Soffner can put up the same type of performances against teams that aren't of Orlando's caliber, we have something to look forward to in 2014.

The Rhinos next game is at Dayton Dutch Lions on Friday night at 7pm.