Rochester Rhinos Head Coach Bob Lilley used Saturday's game against FC Montreal as an opportunity to rotate his squad. Lilley made four changes from the starting lineup that earned a shut-out win in last week's home opener against NYRB II.
Silky attack-minded left back Onua Obasi wasn't in the squad for this match as he is celebrating the birth of his daughter with his family. Revolution loanee Tyler Rudy played well last week but started the match on the bench along with forwards Colin Rolfe and Alex Dixon.
Sean Totsch took Obasi's place in defense while Mike Garzi stepped in central midfield to partner Tony Walls. Christian Volesky, who nabbed a brace against Montreal three weeks ago, started up top with Revolution forward Timi Mulgrew, who made his full debut for the Rhinos.
In a developing pattern, Rochester started the game well in Stade Saputo but was unable to force FC Montreal goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau into making many saves in the first half.
Montreal came into the match as the only team in USL without a single point and one of two winless teams in the eastern conference. Despite their record, and perhaps seen through rose-colored glasses tinted to excuse youthful inexperience, FC Montreal has performed better than the standings suggest.
Montreal Impact was not in action this weekend in MLS play, but the powers-that-be in the club decided not to loan down significant players who had not featured in the difficult CONCACAF Champions League defeat to Club América on Wednesday. FC Montreal did, however, feature six players on loan from the MLS side and all started against the Rhinos.
While Rochester was far and away the better team through the first half, the visitors had nothing to show for their ascendency. The team lacked crispness in their play and decisiveness in the mental aspects of the game.
After breaking up a Montreal attack, Tony Walls carried the ball out of the defensive area and played a long ball for Volesky. The forward controlled the 40-yard pass but hit his improvised side into outside netting in the 49th minute.
The second half was markedly different for Rochester's target forward as he broke the deadlock just eight minutes later. Left back Sean Totsch played a one-two with midfielder Kenardo Forbes on the left wing. Totsch then cut back near the corner of the 18-yard-box to curl a cross into the area with his right foot. Christian Volesky cleverly darted in front of the on-rushing Crépeau, rose above the goalkeeper like a salmon, and neatly tucked his glancing header to the far post in the 57th minute.
In the aftermath of Rochester's goal, Lilley replaced Revolution forward Mulgrew with Alex Dixon and in the 64th minute Revolution midfielder Tyler Rudy came into the game for captain Tony Walls. Rudy was on the field for just a dozen seconds before he played a productive ball over the top for Volesky.
With one goal already to his name, Volesky had the confidence to control Rudy's pass, to round Crépeau at the top of the 18-yard-box, and to coolly slot home Rochester's second goal. This 64th minute finish doubled the visitors' advantage over FC Montreal but was also Volesky's fourth goal against the team in just two games this season; he scored all four goals in the second halves of those games.
With the two-goal lead, Lilley made changes in both attack and defense. Grant van de Casteele entered the game for recently booked Julian Ringhof while Colin Rolfe came in for midfielder Mike Garzi. Perhaps the players on the field felt the game was won with fifteen minutes left to play because Rochester appeared to shut off mentally.
Alex Dixon had a great chance to finish the game off before FC Montreal began to battle back. In the 75th minute, Volesky played Rolfe down the right channel, beating the high defensive line from Montreal. Rolfe hit a low cross into the middle of the area towards a surging Dixon but the former Houston Dynamo forward was unable to get onto the ball. Rolfe's service was well-weighted but Dixon could not manage to redirect the cross onto the frame of the goal.
Rolfe received a square pass from the left wing in the 80th minute and neatly played Volesky through Montreal's defense. Again Volesky rounded Crépeau but he couldn't get his leg around the ball and his left-footed shot hit the outside netting. These two misses turned the tide fully towards Montreal and the home side drove forward to grab a goal.
After a series of crosses from the left wing that Rochester failed to confidently deal with, FC Montreal found success from the right flank. Substitute winger Alessandro Riggi embarrassed a handful of Rochester players en route to scoring his team's first goal on home soil.
Riggi cut in off the right wing past Rudy, coasted past Ugarte who lost his balance in the process, and played a pass to Frédéric Lajoie-Gravelle. That pass cut by Mendoza and Rudy, who was recovering centrally. Riggi then ran unimpeded past Rudy, Mendoza, Totsch, and Apostolopoulos to receive the wall-pass from Lajoie-Gravelle.
After wriggling through a half-dozen Rhinos players, Riggi took one touch on the dribble to set himself as Grant van de Casteele was slow to close him down. Riggi picked his spot at Miller's far post and pegged Rochester back to 2-1 in the 88th minute.
While Montreal looked livelier in the final ten minutes of this game than they had in the previous 170 minutes against Rochester, the visitors saw out the result and maintained the unbeaten start to the 2015 USL season.
The Rhinos now hold a 5-0-2 (W-L-T) record and keep pace with fellow USL mainstays Richmond Kickers and Charleston Battery at the top of the league standings.
The team next plays Toronto FC II on Saturday, May 9, at 7:05PM from Sahlen's Stadium.