Thirty-mile-per-hour wind gusts shaped a hard-fought game between the Rochester Rhinos and Richmond Kickers at City Stadium. Yudai Imura scored the game's only goal though the wind should be credited with an assist and the referee could have whistled the play dead for a foul on the build-up.
Rochester entered its second game of the season with some confidence but knowing that the squad still needed improvement to match 2015's success. Notable absences from the Rhinos lineup were Steevan "Duba" dos Santos, who was serving the final game of his three-game suspension from last year's playoffs, and Tony Walls, who has yet to join the team.
The match started an even affair with neither team crafting clear chances in the early going. Rochester lined up in its regular 4-4-1-1 with Kenardo Forbes operating between the midfield and Asani Samuels up top. Forbes was particularly good at collecting half-clearances at the top of Rochester's penalty area and turning to find outlets on the flanks.
Ryan James and Marcos Ugarte, who swapped wings throughout the game, offered speed down the flanks but the high winds interfered with their aerial service into the box. The central midfield pairing of Mike Garzi and Sean Totsch did well to break up Richmond's attacks and tried to offer the team a wide range of passing.
The Rhinos came out of halftime energized and forged an opportunity just after the break. Forbes carried the ball over midfield on the right and passed forward to Ugarte's feet. Ugarte quickly fed the ball into the path of Samuels in the Richmond penalty area. The Jamaican forward was able to turn and fire a low ball across the face of goal as James made a run to the far post. While Samuels may have been shooting, James was only a couple feet away from redirecting the ball to the take the lead in the 47th minute.
The game remained scoreless until the hour-mark. Richmond right back Travis Pittman took a free kick from his own half and caught the gust of wind. The ball sailed into the Rochester penalty area and goalkeeper Adam Grinwis came off his line to grab hold of the ball. Grinwis initially caught the ball in the air but forward Luis Fernando collided into the goalkeeper.
Grinwis flipped over while airborne and actually hit the ball with his left foot as he fell. Richmond midfielder Imura ran onto the loose ball and Grinwis got to his feet but was impeded when Richmond's Brian Ownby challenged the keeper from behind.
With Joe Farrell on the ground holding his head, Imura buried his shot into the empty net in the 60th minute despite Revolution loanee Jordan McCrary attempting to cover the goal line. Rochester's players immediately and collectively pleaded with the referee for a foul by Fernando or Ownby on Grinwis or for the apparent head injury to Farrell but the goal stood.
After the goal, Rochester head coach Bob Lilley introduced Christian Volesky to partner Samuels. The two forwards combined well but failed to test Richmond goalkeeper Ryan Taylor. Sean Reilly, Jordan Becker, and Andre Fortune also entered the game as the Rhinos pushed hard for an equalizer. Despite sustained pressure and a number of dangerous balls served into the Richmond area, Rochester failed to beat Taylor.
The final whistle handed Rochester its first loss of the season in just the second game. The Rhinos now have a week to regroup before taking their 1-1-0 (W-L-T) record into Red Bull Arena.
Aside from rushing to the line to cover space on Richmond's goal scoring play, Jordan McCrary showed well. The right back defended well and jumped into the attack a couple times. A play in the second half illustrated a lack of chemistry, however, as McCrary won the ball high up the field, played a short pass into the center, but failed to continue the run on the wing that Forbes was expecting. If McCrary spends more time with the Rhinos this season, he should be able to quickly develop that missing familiarity with his teammates.
Rochester's next game is Sunday, April 17 at 4:00PM at New York Red Bulls II.