It has been a difficult week for Rochester Rhinos head coach Bob Lilley, whose father passed away last weekend. Lilley was with his family in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, making preparations for his father's funeral service on Friday morning while assistant coaches Georgios Kyriazis and Gavin McInerney trained the team in Rochester. At kickoff in Harrisburg, the Rhinos players and coaching staff wore black armbands with the letters "RL" in gold to honor Bob's father Robert.
With emotions running high for coach Lilley and the rest of the team, Rochester set up in the now-familiar 5-3-2 formation unchanged from Sunday's 1-1 draw at Bethlehem Steel FC.
In the 11th minute, dos Santos dropped a pass to Kenardo Forbes who played the ball out wide and moved the ball to Mike Garzi. Garzi hit his shot wide of Keasel Broome's near post. Just a minute later, Garret Pettis dummied a pass from Harrisburg's Matthew Bolduc who drove up the right wing. Jose Barril collected the ball at the top of the Rochester 18-yard box and hit a shot off the base of Adam Grinwis's post.
In the 39th minute, Harrisburg nearly found the breakthrough from the foot of Cardel Benbow. Bobby Warshaw won the ball from Forbes in midfield and played a well-weighted diagonal pass towards Benbow. The winger cut inside of Rochester's Joe Farrell to open a shooting lane but curled his right-footed shot wide of the far post.
Throughout the first half, Rochester appeared calm in possession but Harrisburg forged more and better chances on the counter. The Rhinos clearly came out for the second half fired up and almost fashioned a chance in the opening minute.
Running forward on the play into the Harrisburg penalty area, Garzi received a long cross from the right channel and knocked a header back across the middle of the 18-yard box. Dos Santos popped up in the center but directed his header at Broome in the 46th minute.
In the 55th minute, dos Santos showed a high work rate in the attacking third and created a good opportunity for his strike partner Volesky. The Cabo Verdean forward tracked down a long cross and was able to turn Harrisburg's right back Shawn McLaws and fire a cross into the area. Volesky made a darting, diagonal run towards the near post but his glancing header flashed wide of the far post while Broome was rooted to the ground.
Just before the hour mark, Volesky controlled a long pass from midfield on his chest and carried the ball by Harrisburg's on-rushing goalkeeper. At a sprint, Rochester's striker pushed the ball too close to the endline and his hurried shot from a tight angle sailed harmlessly over the goal.
In the 79th minute, Mike Garzi nearly sprung the go-ahead goal. The third-year midfielder drove up the left side of midfield before hitting a diagonal ball across the face through the no-man's land between Broome and Harrisburg's back line. Volesky slid through the center of the area but couldn't connect with the brisk pass and dos Santos stayed on his feet at the far post and did not reach for the ball.
Rochester finally found the breakthrough goal from the head of substitute midfielder Sean Totsch. Full back Bradley Kamdem struck a cross from the left channel into the danger area for the Rhinos. Totsch made a late run up and rose above his static defender to power the ball back the way it came, just inside the post for the game's first goal in the 87th minute.
With the recent events in coach Lilley's personal life looming large in the background, Rochester's players rushed over to the bench to celebrate. The scenes of players and coaches embracing Bob Lilley were a powerful illustration of the camaraderie developed within team sports that can often be overlooked or taken for granted as cliché.
Within 30 seconds of the feel-good narrative win so close to where Lilley grew up, Rochester's defense gave up an uncharacteristic goal on a set piece. Inside the second minute of two minutes of stoppage time, Harrisburg's Paul Wilson served in a corner kick that Brett Jankoukas met at the corner of the six-yard box. Jankoukas beat Farrell to the ball and the forward powered an unstoppable header at the near post for the late equalizer.
While a late win on the road might have been the Hallmark finish, Friday night's draw at Harrisburg extends Rochester's unbeaten run to eight games, including three straight 1-1 ties. The 14 points (out of a possible 24) in that stretch helped the Rhinos to 32 points and their 8-4-8 record on the 2016 USL season.
The Rhinos return to action on Wednesday, August 3 to face the Richmond Kickers at home at 7:05PM.