In the fourth game of the team's five-game road stretch to start the season, Rochester again started on the front foot. In much the same way that Rochester began its three earlier matches in the USL this year, the Rhinos controlled the midfield from the first whistle and looked the much better team.
But also as in those previous games, the visitors were unable to make attacking possession translate into goals or even chances on frame. Louisville City FC was content to absorb pressure from Rochester in the first fifteen minutes while feeling out its opponent. Head coach James O'Connor saw that Louisville's best chance to punish Rochester would come through counter attacks, either with Kadeem Dacres on the right wing or over the top to forward Matt Fondy.
Through the first half hour, while rather dulled in the final third, Rochester was sharp on defense. Central defenders Grant van de Casteele and Vassilis Apostolopoulos combined to effectively eliminate Fondy from the game. The buildup to Louisville's goal was the former Chivas USA striker's first real involvement in the contest. Unfortunately for Rochester, and standing as a testament to his attacking prowess, Fondy only needed the one invitation to cause damage to the visitors' defense.
The home side's goal came through a quick break attack after a rather sustained period of pressure by Rochester. Louisville won the ball in its own half and drove up-field through the middle. Fondy dropped near half-field to play a wall pass before peeling around his defender and chasing down a ball over the top. Rochester's van de Casteele looked to have controlled the ball and was preparing to clear the danger before Fondy stole it off his foot.
Fondy came into his challenge on the former Colorado Rapids defender bringing his foot down on the ball which was in the air in front of van de Casteele. Louisville's target-man came over the top and made significant contact with van de Casteele's foot in the process of winning the ball. While Rochester's centerback was holding his foot in pain, Fondy raced off towards the goal.
Louisville's talismanic striker drove forward and cut centrally when he was inside the box. Instead of taking the shot himself, Fondy teed up his teammate Juan Guzman who fired a shot to the near post. Rochester goalkeeper Adam Grinwis saw the shot late as there were bodies between him and the ball and Guzman's shot rifled into the back of the net to give the home side the lead in the 35th minute.
Rochester attempted to mount a response to the goal in the first half but the team was undisciplined and disjointed. Tony Walls and left back Drew Ruggles both picked up yellow cards in the first half and the Rhinos lacked a cohesive plan either in attack or defense after Louisville's goal.
In the last minute of the first half, Alex Dixon hit a tight angle cross into the 18-yard-box from the right wing. Walls had time to trap the ball and turn his body before curling his shot high and wide of the far corner. For a team that doesn't create many chances, the captain knew he wasted a quality opportunity at a great moment in the game.
Rochester head coach Bob Lilley certainly lit a fire under his team during halftime as the Rhinos came out of the gate firing in the second half. The visiting team drove at Louisville's defenders relentlessly and won a handful of free kicks inside the opening ten minutes of the first half. Second-year midfielder Johnny Mendoza sent one free kick towards the back post and Louisville goalkeeper Scott Goodwin came off his line to punch the ball away. Marcos Ugarte was on hand to control the halfhearted clearance attempt his he fired his shot wide of the goal from 12 yards out.
In much of the second half, Rochester was the better team through the midfield. Tony Walls was able to join the attack much more frequently than normal playing alongside Christian Silva in the center of the Rochester lineup. Walls was also active on attacking free kicks for the Rhinos.
During another period of sustained pressure by Rochester, Alex Dixon won a free kick centrally about 25 yards from goal. Louisville's defensive wall blocked the shot attempt by Walls but Rochester recycled possession. Second half substitute Onua Obasi headed the ball across the field towards Mendoza, who sent Dixon into the area with a clever one-touch pass in the air.
Dixon lets the ball from Mendoza run past him while bearing down on Louisville's goal. As goalkeeper Goodwin attempted to make himself look big, Dixon coolly slotted his shot under the right arm of the goalkeeper to tie the game in the 68th minute.
After the equalizer, Bob Lilley made a couple substitutions that revealed his intention to play for the draw. While Steevan Humberto Fortes dos Santos, or Duba, is a powerful forward, Lilley introduced him much more for his ability to hold onto the ball in the attacking half than for his goal-scoring ability. Notably, Revolution loanee Tyler Rudy replaced industrious striker Colin Rolfe to add extra bodies to Rochester's defensive midfield contingent.
While Rudy did not see that many minutes in the game he did see considerable action. The New England midfielder was involved almost immediately in breaking up frantic Louisville attacks. Coach Lilley instructed Rudy to sit in the center of the field next to Walls and see out the result. The Georgetown alumnus repaid Lilley's trust with a solid cameo performance to ensure Rochester got out of Louisville with a point.
The Rhinos out-shot their hosts 15-5 on the night but not enough of those shots forced goalkeeper Scott Goodwin to make saves. Regardless, the result against Louisville City FC keeps Rochester near the top of the standings in the Eastern Conference of the USL and keeps the team undefeated on the young 2015 season.
Rochester next plays on Saturday on the road against Saint Louis FC at 8:30PM.