Rochester Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers didn't make any changes to his side that defeated Pittsburgh 2:0 last weekend. Captain Troy Roberts and star winger JC Banks both passed fitness tests and where able to make the starting line-up.
During the Rhinos first two matches of the season in Los Angeles the Blues held a majority of the possession with their attractive, short passing, possession style of play. On Friday night in Sahlen's Stadium the Blues were much more cautious in their set-up and style of play away from home. They fielded a 1-4-5-1 formation with Griffin alone up top and five midfielders underneath him to control the middle of the pitch. The Rochester Rhinos held a majority of play in the first 20 minutes, but couldn't create any chances against a well-organized Blues defense.
Rochester created the first chance of the half in the 20th minute. Rhinos striker Isaac Kissi played a long diagonal ball from left to right that winger Chris Estridge was able to track down. Estridge took Suggs on one-on-one and cut inside him with his left foot. Suggs took him down as he went by him, and the Rhinos won a free kick from 26 yards out. Center midfielder Danny Earls took the left footed free kick, and Blues keeper Jose Miranda parried the shot over the cross bar.
The next chance of the match came in the 34th minute. Rhinos center back Georgios Kyriazis found Kissi with a long ball over the top. As Kissi tried to chase the ball down he was fouled by Blues center back Erlys Garcia. Earls sturck another left footed free kick from almost an identical position, but he couldn't finish the set piece.
Five minutes later Earls sprung left back Jack Traynor on an overlapping run down the touchline. Traynor served the ball into the box, and it dangerously floated to the back post. Miranda parried the ball up and over the cross bar, and the Blues were able to clear the ensuing corner kick.
Perhaps the best chance of the first half fell to the Rhinos in stoppage time. Estridge cut inside from the left flank and found Banks on the right flank with a penetrating pass. Banks drove past Suggs and shot the ball, but he blazed his effort just over the cross bar.
The Rhinos and Blues entered halftime in a scoreless draw.
The Blues created their first chance of the match in the 56th minute. Left midfielder Bryan Burke chipped a ball over the Rhinos back four, and found Griffin inexplicably unmarked at the far post. Griffin took a touch to settle the ball, but Traynor was able to recover and tackle the ball from behind to extinguish the threat.
Rochester opened the scoring on the hour. After Roberts was fouled from behind on the midfield stripe, forward Tam McManus flicked a dangerous ball into the Blues box off of the ensuing free kick. Blues left back Matheau Hall was the first to the ball, but he was heavily pressured from behind by substitute Quavas Kirk. Hall tried to head the ball back to Miranda's hands, but his effort had too much pace on it. It beat the keeper and crossed the goal line for an own goal.
The Blues were almost able to level the score in the 64th minute. The Rhinos defensive pressure momentarily broke down in midfield, and allowed the Blues to be able to find Burke with a long ball behind the Rhinos back four. Burke had a chance to finish, but he couldn't put his shot on target.
Nicht was called on to make his best save of the match in the 71st minute. The Blues had made some offensive for defensive changes since the Rhinos scored the opening goal of the match, and one of them almost paid off. Substitute Matthew Fondy got behind the Rhinos back four at the far post. Fondy was able to settle a ball over the top and he only had Nicht to beat. Fondy tried to slot his finish past him to the far post, but the Rhinos goalkeeper was able to kick Fondy's effort away to keep his clean sheet intact.
The Blues continued to turn the screws and increase the pressure on the Rhinos, but could not create any clear cut opportunities against Rochester's well organized defensive shape.
The Rhinos broke out from the pressure on a counter attack in the 83rd minute. The Blues were pressed up in the Rhinos half trying to find the equalizer, but Rochester midfielder Tyler Rosenlund was able to pick out substitute Kendell McFayden with a through ball behind the Blues back line. McFayden was in on goal with a breakaway, but he still had to travel half the pitch. Garcia and Baptiste were able to catch McFayden from behind and limit his shooting angle. McFayden still got off a shot from twelve yards out but it was saved by Miranda.
One minute later McFayden had another chance to secure all three points for Rochester. Traynor found McFayden with a long ball in behind the Blues back four. McFayden was able to get on the end of Traynor's service, but he couldn't keep his effort on target.
The clean sheet leaves Nicht tied with Rhinos legend Pat Onstad (1999, 2002) and his goalkeeping coach Scott Vallow (2008) for the third best single season shut out mark in franchise history.
Orlando City's championship leaves Rochester without the regular season title for the first time this decade. The Rhinos won the USSF Division II Championship in 2010 and the USL PRO National Division title in 2011.
Although they are in second place in the table, Rochester is still in a tight race just to make the USL PRO playoff tournament. They have not clinched a playoff spot with three matches remaining in the USL PRO regular season.The next Rhinos home game is Friday, August 3rd at 7:30PM against the champion Orlando City Lions in Sahlen's Stadium.
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