The Rhinos came into Saturday night's match knowing two things: that the team would have to be more effective in the final third and that the Riverhounds would be much more of a handful than they were in 2014.
The match in Pittsburgh started much the same way as the season opener against NYRB II, with Rochester on the front foot. Bob Lilley drilled his team well ahead of the match and several players stood out in the early minutes.
Tony Walls was dominant in central midfield and recovered the ball from his opponents twice inside the first five minutes. Alex Dixon moved from the wing up top to partner Christian Volesky and his speed caused problems for Pittsburgh's centerbacks from the opening whistle to the last. Taking up the right wing position vacated by Dixon, Kenardo Forbes was electric throughout the game and routinely got his service into the box.
While speed is a key feature of Dixon's game, Forbes is no slouch either. The one-time Jamaican international winger beat Pittsburgh's left back on four occasions in the first half. Dixon's versatility as a midfielder and forward allowed him to take chances on his own and also create chances for Volesky.
Christian Volesky again had a game full of chances but was unable to find the back of the net. A notable goal-scoring opportunity arose when Forbes sent a long ball into the box towards the forward. Forbes received a pass from McMahon, who had done well to intercept a Pittsburgh attack, and played a perfectly weighted long cross from half field into the 18-yard-box. Volesky attempted to take the ball on his chest but Pittsburgh's defense was able to clear after his heavy touch sent the ball away from him.
Tony Walls stood behind the ball, which was positioned just outside the penalty area. Pittsburgh goalkeeper Ryan Thompson lined up a five-man wall to cover the near side while he stood by the far post. Perhaps Thompson was out of position and perhaps the wall didn't do enough to impede the flight of the ball but Walls dispatched a beautiful shot over and wall and under the bar to smack into the back netting.
Club captain Walls channeled the goal he scored against Harrisburg on August 23 of last year from a similar distance to give Rochester the lead in the 28th minute. The goal capitalized a sustained attack from the Rhinos over the opening half hour.
Pittsburgh began creating chances before halftime but came out of the break with a renewed fire. Just three and a half minutes into the half Danny Earls sent a ball through the air straight up the middle. Brandon Miller came off his line but Max Toulette jumped into the air and acrobatically chipped the Rhinos' goalkeeper to tie the game.
The pivotal moment in the game was marked by a controversial play-on call by the referee. Rochester center midfielder Mike Garzi went in with a hard follow through on Pittsburgh's Rob Vincent as he cleared the ball. While the two fell to the ground, Vincent kicked out at Garzi's chest and then swung his leg to trip Garzi when he attempted to stand up. The referee ran over to mediate between the pair as Garzi shoved Vincent away from him but Onua Obasi kept the play going for Rochester.
Obasi beat his defender to the endline and sent a low cross back into the area towards Dixon running through the middle. Dixon met the cross at the top of the six-yard-box box and opened up his hip to coolly dispatch the ball with his right foot to the bottom far corner. Rochester re-took the lead in the 51st minute and set about to defend that 1-goal advantage in a true Bob Lilley fashion.
Pittsburgh attempted to catch Rochester's defense unaware on long balls and balls over the top but Grant van de Casteele and Vassilis Apostolopoulos were up the challenge. Full backs Pat McMahon and Onua Obasi also played well defensively in the second half but still were able to jumpstart counter attacks through Johnny Mendoza and Forbes.
Pittsburgh won a number of corner kicks and free kicks from promising positions in the last 15 minutes of the game. Fourth-year goalkeeper Brandon Miller did everything he could to maintain his team's lead and to solidify his claim to the starting position. Miller made some impressive saves and picked several balls out of the air.
Rochester held on to its 2-1 lead and earned its first win of the 2015 season. With four points from two games, Bob Lilley will look to carry this momentum into next weekend's match in Montreal.