Playing their 20th game of the 2015 USL season, the Rochester Rhinos lost for the first time.
Saturday night held several firsts for the team, including the first time they conceded more than one goal all season. Therefore, the game also marked the first time they twice three and four goals, and the first time they trailed by two goals.
The match against Charlotte was just the second time all season that the team was losing at halftime, the previous instance was a June 19 match in Harrisburg that Christian Volesky equalized in the 87th minute. Despite attacking efforts on Saturday, there would be no heroic comeback.
The home side announced their intentions by attacking at the heart of Rochester's defense several times in the opening half hour. Despite early chances from Charlotte, the Rhinos broke the deadlock.
In the 31st minute, Mendoza won a corner kick off of Colorado Rapids loanee Carlos Alvarez after racing up the right wing. Mendoza swung in service and found centerback Grant van de Casteele before the near post. The former Colorado Rapids player redirected the ball into the net with the help of a deflection to give Rochester the lead on the road in the 32nd minute.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Charlotte equalized just two minutes later. Reserve forward Tomasz Zahorski drove up field and played a ball into the path of Alex Martinez to the left of the Rochester goal. Miller came off his line to close down the angle but Martinez did well to curl his shot to the far post. The goal ended Miller's shut-out streak at 308 minutes.
In the 37th minute former Revolution midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo knocked a header over the top for Zahorski to run onto. As Miller rushed off his line to Zahorski chipped the ball over him from 12 yards to give the home team the lead. Zahorski's goal marked the first time this season the Rhinos conceded twice in a game.
Going into the halftime break losing for just the second time all year, the team came out for the second half just as disjointed as it ended the first.
Filling in at left back, Julian Ringhof made a poor attempt to break up a pass up the line to Alvarez and allowed the Charlotte midfielder to send in pinpoint service for Enzo Martinez at the top of the 18-yard-box. From 15 yards out, Enzo sidefooted a shot past a helpless Miller to extend the home side's lead in the 51st minute.
Sean Totsch entered the game in the 55th minute for Mike Garzi in the center of midfield. A few minutes later he played a long ball upfield that Charlotte's Jerome Mechack failed to clear. Christian Volesky bounced on the mistake and scored a chipped goal of his own from the edge of the penalty area in the 59th minute to pull the Rhinos back to within one.
Again, Rochester's positive vibes did not last long. Straight from the ensuing kick-off, Alex Martinez drove up the left wing and played a ball into the box for DelPiccolo. DelPiccolo get his cross off, a poor at that overshot the far post, before Totsch clobbered into him. Totsch's ill-advised late sliding challenge won Charlotte a penalty.
Miller argued with referee Neil Barbulescu that DelPiccolo had already played his ball before the challenge but Alvarez stepped up to the spot, nonetheless. Rochester's goalkeeper dove the correct direction but Alvarez placed his shot just inside the post and out of Miller's reach. Alvarez's second goal of the game restored Charlotte's two-goal lead in the 61st minute and the Rhinos were unable to mount a comeback.
Timi Mulgrew played the final 20 minutes of regulation but couldn't create a goal for Rochester despite his attacking flair. Tyler Rudy missed Saturday night's game due to the foot injury he aggravated against Charleston last week.
Two players from the starting lineup have played fewer than 900 minutes for the Rhinos this season; forwards Dixon and Duba. The former Houston Dynamo homegrown player, Dixon was injured after a strong start to the season and hasn't regained his form. Duba came into the game as the team's second leading goal-scorer with 6 but Saturday's match was just his 8th start of the campaign. Neither player had an effect on the game for Rochester.
While Ringhof had played nearly a thousand minutes before Saturday, he's played as a center defender or defensive midfielder. Against Charlotte, the German defender played left back due to the absence of Onua Obasi. In the five previous games that Obasi didn't start, Drew Ruggles (1) and Sean Totsch (4) filled in for the silky Englishman. Both of those players were available on the bench but Lilley opted to play Ringhof at left back for the first time this season.
The Rhinos remain in first place in the USL despite dropping their first game of the season on Saturday. Rochester holds a five point lead over Louisville but LCFC does have a game in hand. There are eight games left in Rochester's regular season campaign and six of those are at Sahlen's Stadium, including a four game homestand, The first of those four games is against fourth placed Richmond Kickers next weekend.