Rochester head coach Bob Lilley sent out a fairly untested midfield against Wilmington. Revolution loanee Jossimar Sanchez started as a right midfielder alongside Alec Sundly, Johnny Mendoza, and Samuel Petrone. Sanchez made the trip with the team, wasn't named to the 18-man squad for Friday night's match in Richmond, but earned his first start for the Rhinos on Saturday.
Sundly played well in his third start of the season but the midfield struggled with so many changes to the lineup. JC Banks and Alex Dixon, who started up top, are probably the strongest attacking players in the team but there wasn't consistent service from the midfield.
Rochester's back four employed in this match is probably going to end up being the most regularly used defenders over the season. Pat McMahon at right back, Onua Obasi on the left, and Kyle Hoffer partnering Tony Walls in the middle is as strong a defense as Lilley can assemble. This combination of strong defending and a lack of attacking intent from the midfield led a 0-0 draw to be the most likely outcome on Saturday night.
In the first minute of play, Rochester had a positive charge up the field. The Rhinos broke up a Wilmington attack and Alec Sundly played a ball forward for Alex Dixon. As Dixon bore down on the goal with a defender on his shoulder, he appeared caught between two minds. He was within range for a shot but also noticed JC Banks making a run to his right side. In the end Dixon's ball was neither a shot nor a pass and the Hammerheads had a goal kick.
Wilmington had its first quality chance of the game in the 7th minute and the home side would have scored if not for the heroics of rookie goalkeeper John McCarthy. Rochester's defense was undone by a ball over the top as Tony Walls stepped forward to pressure the ball and Kyle Hoffer mistimed his aerial challenge. McCarthy pinched over to his left to pressure Hammerheads' forward Cody Arnoux who was through on goal from a wide angle. Arnoux passed the ball to teammate Daniel Lovitz who was open inside the area but Pat McMahon did well to block Lovitz's first attempt. The rebound fell straight back to the Toronto FC loanee but McCarthy flew out towards the midfielder to block the point blank shot from 6 yards out.
Despite this early scare, Rochester organized itself defensively and allowed Wilmington to control midfield possession. During the run of play, the formation shifted into more of 4-2-3-1 with Banks up top, Petrone centrally, Dixon wide left, and Sanchez wide right. This system didn't seem to suit the New England Revolution fullback's game and he wasn't an effective weapon for Rochester. By the end of the first half, the Rhinos resorted to a lot of long balls and deep hopeful crosses.
The second half failed to produce more chances but did take a physical turn to the worse. Tom Parratt flew in on Mendoza who was making a run down the left wing. To be honest, the Hammerheads player hacked him down. That very poor challenge sparked some shoving from Rochester players and the whole mess resulted in bookings for Parratt and Paul Nicholson from the Hammerheads and for Dixon. I like seeing Dixon stand up for his teammate even if it earns him a yellow card, the former Houston HG player seems to be settling in nicely with the Rochester squad.
When Donnie Smith and Tyler Rosenlund entered the game in the 63rd minute for Sanchez and Petrone, Smith took up a position on the left and Rosenlund in the center which pushed Mendoza wide to the right side. Dixon and Banks played as staggered forwards.
In the 71st minute, JC Banks scored a goal that the referee called back for offside. Smith received a short pass back from Rosenlund off a throw in and sent a cross into the middle towards Dixon. Dixon nodded the ball into the path of Banks, who was playing on the shoulder of the centerback, and the team's leading scorer buried his shot into the far side of the net.
The referee immediately blew his whistle as the linesman on the near side had raised his flag. From the camera angle, it appears as though Banks might have been even with two Wilmington defenders, particularly left back Andrae Campbell.
McCarthy had another big save on a a driven shot from just outside the 18-yard box in the 86th minute. This save was the last meaningful action of the match and preserved McCarthy's professional shutout streak. The rookie goalkeeper has yet to conceded a goal in his professional career across three games with Rochester. As long as both he and Revolution loanee Luis Soffner are playing so well, it is hard to choose one over the other. From a Rochester perspective, the two are likely to continue splitting matches.
The 0-0 draw in Wilmington extends Rochester's undefeated streak to 5 games. The Rhinos have not lost since a season opening defeat in Orlando. Rochester's next game just happens to be at home this Saturday, May 10, against league leading Orlando City. Kick off in that match is at 7:05PM from Sahlen's Stadium.