After a difficult week due in large part to off-the-field events, the Rhinos came into Wednesday night's match looking to continue its 8-match unbeaten run. Richmond was riding a 4-game winning streak and midfielder Yudai Imura was trying to build on his tally of four goals in the previous 3 games. One of those things happened.
The night's lineups were notable due to the presence of a New England Revolution loanee playing in Rochester, New York. Unfortunately for the Rhinos, the player was Matt Turner who started in goal for the Richmond Kickers. Turner is one of six goalkeepers to feature for the Kickers this season and had amassed 450 minutes for the team prior to Wednesday.
Though he was nearly caught in possession with the ball at his foot twice in the opening ten minutes, Turner showed well against the Rhinos. The 22-year old rookie impressed with 6 saves, including one of the penalty spot in the second half.
Rochester applied pressure early in the game from a number of corner kicks but quickly found Richmond's center back pairing of Hugh Roberts and William Yomby (both 6'4") difficult to beat in the air. The home side knocked on the door just before the quarter hour mark but was denied by the woodwork.
In the 14th minute, Kenardo Forbes spread the ball out wide on the right to an advanced Dominic Samuel. Samuel whipped in service with his right foot that missed Christian Volesky and Steevan dos Santos but sat up in front of a late-arriving Mike Garzi. Garzi crashed the far post on the play and thundered a powerful header into the crossbar as Turner was beaten. Dos Santos attempted a bicycle kick on the rebound but his acrobatic shot flew just over the bar to scrape the roof of the net.
"It was good service into the box and Bob [Lilley] had told me before the game to sneak in a few times and to make sure we get a third man in the box," Garzi told me after the game. "The ball bounced up perfectly for me and I got my head on it. I tried to keep it down but unfortunately the header went off the post. It's just one of those things where the last few games I've been getting chances, now I need to start putting them away instead of just coming close."
The missed chances would pile up for Rochester as the game progressed. In the 22nd minute, Sean Totsch carried the ball forward centrally before finding the feet of dos Santos making a run into the box. The Cabo Verdean forward appeared to get the ball stuck in his feet before hitting a rather tame effort that Turner smothered.
Volesky had an opportunity in the 43rd minute after Samuel curled a cross to the top of the six-yard box. The second-year forward attempted to generate power with a snap header but the ball sailed into the outside netting at the near post.
The best chance of the game for Rochester came in the 54th minute. From deep in his own half, Forbes hit a ball over the top that allowed Volesky to run in behind Richmond's defense. When Volesky tried to knock the ball onto his right foot to open a shooting lane, the ball struck the defender's left arm and the official pointed the spot.
Volesky mishit the penalty just slightly to the keeper's right of the center of the goal but Turner still did well to make the save. The rebound fell to Garzi but the ball came bouncing up at speed and at an awkward height so the midfielder's improvised shot did not trouble Richmond's goalkeeper.
As the game wore on, Rochester players grew more impatient and began shooting from distance with little success. The home team committed men forward but recent substitute Brian Ownby showed more incisiveness by beating three Rhinos players to a loose ball and kickstarting a counter attack.
Ownby drove up Richmond left side before finding Imura central. Left back Bradley Kamdem hauled down Imura a few yards outside of Rochester's penalty area despite having multiples teammates positioned to defend. The foul not only means Kamdem will serve a suspension for yellow card accumulation but also gave Richmond a free kick in a promising position.
Ownby ran over the ball before Imura stepped up to fire his shot over the wall and under the bar on the near side. Imura's 75th minute goal was his eighth of the season, his fifth in four games, and his second against the Rhinos in 2016.
After conceding, Bob Lilley rolled the dice by introducing Sofiane Tergou and Michel Guilavogui as attacking midfielders and by shaking up the formation to push more players forward. The frantic final ten minutes led to a number of half-chances for Rochester but nothing concrete until stoppage time.
Just a minute after substitute Luiz Fernando hit the crossbar at the end of quality run by Miguel Aguilar, Volesky tagged the woodwork himself. In the 91st minute dos Santos fired in quality service with his left foot from the right channel. Volesky controlled the cross off his thigh and hit a right-footed volley off the bounce from 11 yards. The shot rifled off the crossbar with Turner only able to wave to the ball on its flight but the rebound was cleared by Richmond.
The Rhinos created a number of quality chances and generated 12 shots, 6 on goal. "As good as they are defensively, I'm happy for the chances we created," Rochester head coach Bob Lilley said after the game. "We had to do a better job of taking those chances."
"I feel confident if that's the type of pressure we can put on a team like Richmond, we're going to score our share of goals. There are games where we felt like we just didn't do enough offensively. Today we did enough but unfortunately we just didn't stick it in the back of the net."
"When you get 0, you're never going to be happy with the finishing," Lilley. "We've created fewer chances in some of the recent games, so today was an improvement."
Lilley was very supportive of his forward Volesky in the light of the penalty miss. "He had a good game tonight. Yeah, I'm disappointed but to be fair it was one of his better games. I thought he held a lot of balls. His movement was good. And that's a tough center back pairing to cause problems for. Christian's got to put it behind him and we do as well. I hope he gets those chances every game because he'll score more than he'll miss."
To his credit, Volesky took much of the responsibility for the team's result when he faced media after the final whistle. "I put a lot of that on my shoulders, I should have finished the penalty kick." Though he leads the team in scoring, Volesky was clearly upset not to finish against Richmond. "We've just got to win at home, to get all three points. This is a big game and to drop points is frustrating for me."
"In training I finish all the time, it's just a matter of time for me to finish these opportunities that I do get in the games. I think the luck will come to our favor in the stretch and we've just got to keep at it."
"We had our chances. I hit the crossbar myself, Garzi hit the crossbar. We had a few chances inside and around the box," Volesky said. "If we finish our chances, I think we'll rattle off some wins. And we'll be in a good spot come the end of the season and running into the playoffs. We're going be a tough team to beat, we know that. As long as we finish our chances, because our defense stays strong, we're going to be good."
Playmaking midfielder Kenardo Forbes wasn't quite as pleased as Coach Lilley or as optimistic as Volesky. "A win tonight would have put ourselves in a good position and fighting for a top spot. Now it's a letdown, it's a disappointment tonight. I don't really care about the performance, we didn't finish the deal so it doesn't matter to me."
"We're getting quality looks in front of goal but we just have to finish the deal. At the end of the day, getting 10 chances and finishing 0 makes no sense."
Jeff DiVeronica of the Democrat and Chronicle asked Forbes about whether dos Santos and Volesky's goal tally on the season (10 combined) was surprising given the higher expectations on the strike partnership. "I'm a bit disappointed in them as a strike pair," he said. "They're working hard, trying to win us the ball back and stuff like that, but still we have to have better quality in front of goal. They're the ones leading us up there, the midfielders can do a better job pinching in still, but they have to lead us in that department."
"It didn't work out for us as a team. Next game, we'll come out and fight to get the three points," Forbes said.
Team captain Mike Garzi was also looking ahead to Saturday's match against Wilmington. "Today our focus was to put together a full-game performance and I think we did that. Unfortunately, sometimes the bounce doesn't go your way. I think we had better chances than them. We outshot them. At the end of the day we just didn't win," Garzi told me. "We're going to hopefully carry this performance into the weekend."
The Rhinos will look to rebound from Wednesday loss when they host Wilmington Hammerheads FC on Saturday at 6:05PM.