The Rochester Rhinos defeated the Dutch Lions 1:0 on Saturday night in Dayton to open the season 3-0-0. JC Banks scored the game winning goal in the 67th
minute, and Kristian Nicht kept his third straight clean sheet to start the season. The Rhinos open the season with a 3-0-0 record for the first time since 2006. The team returns to Rochester for their home opener in Sahlen's Stadium on Saturday, May 5th
at 7PM against the Charlotte Eagles.
The first half did not feature many chances for both teams. The match was played on CareFlight Stadium's pitch which was just 100 yards long. The Dutch Lions came out in their traditional 1-4-3-3 system, and their three forwards did a good job of pressing the Rhinos back four and forcing them to play long balls out of the back. The Rhinos seemed content to sit in and defend with a good team shape just as they did for their first two matches in Los Angeles. With both teams defending well the opposition had difficulty keeping the ball in play on the small pitch.
The Rhinos had their first chance of the match in the 17th minute. After a good spell of possession involving Rhinos front runner Graciano Brito, right back Quavas Kirk, right winger Danny Earls and center midfielder Tyler Rosenlund, Rosenlund was fouled 27 yards out. Earls played the ensuing free kick through forward Tom McManus's legs. McManus spun and fired a low shot that clipped Banks heels in the box and was cleared away by the Dutch Lions defense.
In the 40th minute Banks began to turn up the pressure on the Dutch Lions defense. His service from the left flank into the box was cleared away by the Dutch Lions back four, but only as far as Rosenlund at the top of the box. Rosenlund took one touch and then shot the ball on frame, but Dutch Lions midfielder Joel DeLass blocked it and cleared the ball away from danger. Two minutes later Banks drew a free kick when he dribbled down the left flank and cut inside Dutch Lions right back Greg Preciado. Precidao fouled him just outside the box, but Banks blazed over the ensuing free kick.
The Rhinos opened the second half with a corner kick in the 48th minute. Earls played a left footed inswinging corner kick to center back Georgios Kyriazis on the far post. Kyriazis was able to win the header and knock the ball down in the box. He was the first to the loose ball, and he struck a shot on frame but it was well held by Dutch Lions goalkeeper Matthew Williams.
In the 61st minute the Rhinos created another good opportunity when Rosenlund won a turnover at the beginning of the attacking third, and he laid the ball off for Earls. Earls struck the ball first time and it took a short hop right before it got to Williams. However, the Dutch Lions goalkeeper was able to dive to his left and make the save on Earls 27 yard effort.
Six minutes later Banks would find the winner for the Rhinos. The play started off with a short goal kick from Williams to Preciado. The Dutch Lions left back received the ball but popped up his back pass to Williams creating a fifty-fifty ball. Banks was able to beat Williams to the loose ball and calmly tap it into the empty net for the 1:0 Rhinos lead. The goal was Banks second in as many games. It was also the fourth straight regular season match in which Banks has recorded a point dating back to last season's regular season finale at Sahlen's Stadium against Pittsburgh.
The Dutch Lions and forward Gibson Bardsley would pressure the Rhinos in the last twenty minutes of the match, but they could not find the equalizer thanks to the defensive efforts of Nicht and Rhinos captain Troy Roberts.
In the 79th minute the Rhinos had a bad turnover in possession in their own half that sparked a Dayton Dutch Lions counterattack. Bardsley ended up on the end of the counterattack with the ball on the Rhinos near post eight yards out, but Roberts got a foot in to prevent Bardsley from applying the finishing touch.
Two minutes later Bardsley struck a free kick from 27 yards out very well, but it was right at Nicht.
In the 84th minute Dutch Lions forward Akeen Priestley found Bardsley on the back post on a corner kick. Bardsley volleyed the bouncing ball that had snuck through the Rhinos defense but Nicht was able to get across his goal and cover the his post.
When Bardsley's overhead kick in a crowded Rhinos box sailed over the crossbar in stoppage time, it sent the Rhinos into their home opener with no losses for the first time since 2006 - the last time they played in a USL Cup final. With the victory the Rhinos have now kept three consecutive clean sheets, and they will kick off their match on Saturday, May 5th at 7PM with a 270 minute scoreless streak. Banks has now appeared on the score sheet with a goal or an assist nine times in his career, and the Rhinos are 9-0-0 when he does.
"We knew we had a rough start to the season with three road games in a row." Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers said. "We turned in three professional performances and started the season with three straight victories. Now we've got a week to prepare for a challenging home opener against an improving Charlotte Eagles team.
"The Rochester Rhinos 17th home opener is Saturday, May 5th in Sahlen's Stadium at 7PM against the Charlotte Eagles.
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