In their fourth and final meeting of the 2015 USL regular season, Rochester Rhinos maintained three key records with a victory over FC Montreal. Rochester remained perfect at home (now 6-0-0), they swept FC Montreal (4-0-0 against them), and continued their impressive unbeaten run this season (now at 16 games).
Colin Rolfe opened the scoring in the 15th minute of the game in poetic justice after an apparent travesty of refereeing. Tony Walls played a ball over the top for Timi Mulgrew, playing on the left wing, to run onto. Montreal goalkeeper David Paulmin rushed off his line while right back Janouk Charbonneau maintained pressure. As the ball bounced up, the three players collided. Paulmin, ten yards out of his area, punched the ball away and kneed Mulgrew in the chest before falling on top of him.
The referee could have sent off Paulmin for a deliberate handball or for an egregious and dangerous foul on Mulgrew. Instead of either of those options, Ernie Constantine merely showed a yellow card to Paulmin and awarded a free kick to Rochester.
Revolution loanee Tyler Rudy served the free kick into the area where left back Onua Obasi was able to nod the ball on. After a bounce inside the area, forward Colin Rolfe emphatically finished from six yards out in the 15th minute.
Just after the half hour mark, Montreal centerback Mélé Temguia received a pass from his partner Jems Geffrard and attempted to drop a pass back to Paulmin. Rather than putting the ball within range of his goalkeeper, Temguia inexplicably played the ball into open space near the top of the 18-yard box.
Volesky graciously picked up the loose ball and drove into the Montreal area. The rookie forward forced Paulmin to the ground early and easily coasted by the goalkeeper before pulling a move to put Temguia on his heels and coolly slotting home to double Rochester's lead in the 32nd minute.
The first half of play, while not perfect, was a solid showing from Rochester with a rotated squad. The second half saw the Rhinos drop off significantly and the visitors from Quebec seized on lazy play and poor positioning.
In the 85th minute Fredéric Lajoie-Gravelle pulled a goal back for the visitors. Victor N'Diaye controlled a long ball off his chest and Onua Obasi was shoulder to shoulder with the Montreal forward. Obasi slid in and knocked the ball off of N'Diaye's foot but the ball fell right into the path of Lajoie-Gravelle who had slipped in behind Apostolopolous and substitute Grant van de Casteele. The crafty forward curled his shot out of the reach of Adam Grinwis's left hand for the first goal Rochester has conceded at home all season.
Notably, Tyler Rudy will be credited with an assist on Rolfe's goal and Timi Mulgrew was dangerous in this game from the opening whistle. Playing on the left side of midfield, Mulgrew served an effective cross, won a corner kick, and played in a dangerous service from that corner all in the first three minutes of the contest. Mulgrew's work rate never diminished Rudy was a rock in the middle of the field for Rochester until his odd sending off in the 64th minute.
Rudy had received a justified booking in the 29th minute for a professional foul in the center circle. In the second half, however, the referee apparently adjudged Rudy committed a similar tactical foul on Marco Dominguez-Ramirez. While the official was close to the action, replays show rather innocuous contact from Rudy on the Montreal midfielder.
The lack of clear explanation from the officiating crew on the red card added to Rochester head coach Bob Lilley's significant frustrations on the night.
"I'm not happy with the way we played; we didn't play well." Lilley didn't mince words after the game.
"We didn't put the energy into the game," he continued. "We didn't play since last Friday so by Wednesday with changes I expected the lineup that we played to have more energy. That was disappointing."
"Montreal deserves credit. They looked fresh, they looked sharp, and they took risks. They went at us and they created chances against us," Lilley told media after the game. "I don't want to take away from what they did but I just don't think that we played anywhere near the level we're capable of and I think we were fortunate on the night."
On a lighter note, Revolution midfielder/forward Timi Mulgrew was (almost) all smiles after the game.
"Yeah, it hurt," Mulgrew said after the game about his collision with goalkeeper David Paulmin. "I couldn't see what happened because I was seeing stars at the time but it definitely hurt." By the end of the game, Mulgrew's legs were feeling heavy and he was subbed off in the 83rd minute. "Both my calves started to cramp up a bit and I've still been getting back on my feet from the high ankle sprain I received like a month ago. I was happy to getting up to 80 minutes and at that point I had given it everything."
Bob Lilley mentioned off the cuff that Mulgrew was the only player whose performance pleased him on Wednesday night. Asked if it was his best game for Rochester, Mulgrew replied, "Yeah, definitely. I was really happy with coming out and mentally being ready to provide a spark. Every performance I try to give everything I've got so I was happy with how I started this game, for sure."
With regard to playing in midfield as opposed to up top against Montreal, Mulgrew responded positively. "As long as I'm on the field, I'm happy. Obviously each position is a bit different. But playing out left and right is something I know from college, so I'm used to that. Playing on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, tactically it's something I'm used to as well. Honestly, wherever coach wants me to play, I'll play."
That willingness to accommodate to the formation and his tireless work ethic mean that if he is fit Mulgrew should feature in Bob Lilley's squad as the season wears on.