This is the first competitive match all year that captain Tony Walls has not started for the Rhinos. His absence signals head coach Bob Lilley's focus on the playoffs rather than the regular season. Walls has only been subbed out a handful of times this season despite USL's five substitutions.
The opening 45 minutes were not great, but the team worked hard on the road. Back in the starting lineup after a hip injury, Duba did well move into space and create pockets for other players running in behind him.
Johnny Mendoza was shaken by the physical nature of Richmond's defending him but he adjusted to the challenges after 20 minutes. A week after his teammates and coaches were beaming about his ability to make plays, Kenardo Forbes was unable to fulfill that role on Saturday night. Richmond did not leave gaps in their defense and his teammates appeared unwilling to make many runs forward.
Luckily for the visitors, the Kickers did not manage to muster a single shot in the first half. Rochester achieved the same defensive feat at home against Saint Louis last week.
Rochester was clearly a lesser team in the first half against Richmond but did the miss the play of Tony Walls or just his motivational presence in the center of the field? Tony Walls entered the game for defender Julian Ringhof at halftime. Sean Totsch, who had been playing in central midfield dropped into the back line.
Duba left the game holding his hip and the team hopes that he didn't aggravate his previous injury. The power and goal-scoring ability of the Cabo Verdean forward will be a key piece of any postseason success Rochester achieves. The slew of attacking substitutions Bob Lilley made could not find a goal but Brandon Miller was up to the task when he was called upon.
Miller pulled out an impressive double save at the end of the game to preserve the score at 0-0 and break the USL PRO / USL shutout record. The result on the road in Richmond was Miller's 12th clean sheet of the 2015 season.
He's now surpassed former Rhinos goalkeeper Kristian Nicht and former Orlando City net-minder Miguel Gallardo in the young USL record books. Brandon Miller has now shown himself to be the steward of one of the best defensive teams in the league's four year history.
Miller joins an impressive pantheon of former Rochester goalkeeping greats like Nicht, Scott Vallow, and Pat Onstad. Nicht played two years with the Rhinos before moving on to the Indy Eleven in the NASL. Vallow had a 9-year playing career with Rochester and was an assistant coach to Bob Lilley last season. Onstad played 4 seasons with the Rhinos and is widely recognized as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history for his work with San Jose and Houston.
Tony Walls suffered a jaw injury after taking a wayward elbow to the face late in the game. He may be fine, though, as he did not have any problem singing with the rest of his teammates in the bus after clinching the regular season title.
The 2015 USL Regular Season title is the first piece of silverware added to the Rhinos' mantle since 2010. Despite the success the team has already achieved the fans, the coaches, and the players want to press on and make a mark in the playoffs.
USL 2015 Regular season champions.Πρωταθλητές κανονικής περιόδου 2015 USL.⚽️⚽️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/QSjmeZmdUM— ApostolopoulosVasili (@5Apostolo) September 6, 2015