The Rochester Rhinos took a 1:0 lead in the 80th minute off of midfielder Michael Tanke's first professional goal, but the City Islanders rallied late to steal a 2:1 victory in Harrisburg on Friday, June 15th. Front runner Yann Ekra scored the equalizer in the 86th minute, and Lucky Mkosana scored the game winning goal in the 90th minute for the City Islanders. The loss leaves Rochester stuck in an 0-3-3 run of form in their last six matches in all competitions, and they could be in fourth place by the time they kick off on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
The match got off to a promising start for Rochester in the first half. The Rhinos possessed the ball as they had done in their previous two home matches against Wilmington and Richmond, and they were able to keep the City Islanders on their back foot. Rochester was looking to get behind the City Islanders back four or change the point of attack with long diagonal balls. They built over the flanks and provided service into the box, but the City Islanders back four absorbed the pressure and did not allow Rochester many good looks on goal. If the longer penetrating passes were not on, then the Rhinos were content to just possess the ball. They had a distinct advantage in possession in the first half, but did not generate a lot of chances to score goals.
The Rhinos opening chance came in the eighth minute when winger JC Banks served a ball in from the left flank. Banks service rolled through the box and found right back Lucas Fernandez on the far side of the City Islanders penalty area. Fernandez hit a shot on frame, but City Islanders goalkeeper Nick Noble was able to parry the bar over the crossbar.
In the 28th minute the City Islanders got their first chance of the match. Center back Andrew Marshall served a long ball in behind the Rochester back four, and Garrett Pettis was in on goal for Harrisburg. He dribbled at Rhinos goalkeeper Kristian Nicht in the one v. one situation and shot the ball to the near post. Nicht dove to his left and made a big save to keep the score level at zero.
The Rhinos responded five minutes later with a shot that glanced of the City Islanders post. Banks got loose down the right flank and served a ball to forward Tom McManus at the penalty spot. McManus flick the cross to the back post with a header. McManus' shot beat Noble, but ticked off the far post and went wide.
The match was tied 0:0 at half time.
City Islanders manager Billy Becher made three changes at half time to try to alter the flow of the match. He inserted Mkosana and Ekra, the eventual goal scorrs for the City Islanders, and midfielder Tom Mellor. His side responded almost immediately and had two chances in the first five minutes of the second half. Mellor drove a shot with pace from thirty yards out in the 48th minute, but it was right at Nicht. One minute later Ekra was fouled by Rhinos captain Troy Roberts just outside the Rochester penalty area, but Mellor's ensuing free kick was once again right at Nicht.
In the 64th minute the City Islanders were rewarded with a dubious corner kick by the head referee, and they almost converted it into the match's opening goal. Jason Pelletier's corner kick was flicked onto the Rhinos goal at the near post, and Nicht was forced to make a reflex save to keep the ball out. Ekra was the first to the rebound, and he beat Nicht with his effort only to have the ball cleared off the line by Roberts. Rhinos center back Georgios Kyriazis cleared the ball to safety for Rochester to end the threat.
Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers made two influential changes of his own immediately after the City Islanders chance. McManus had to leave the match due to an injury, so he inserted Quavas Kirk in as a right winger. It was the first time that Kirk had played a position other than right back this season. He also took off starting striker Andrew Hoxie and inserted Isaac Kissi. It was Kissi's first appearance of the season for Rochester. He was the team's leading scorer in 2010, and he had the team's best strike rate last season.
Myer's substitutions paid dividends in the 80th minute as Rochester opened the scoring. Kirk was played in behind the City Islanders back four with a long diagonal ball. After he dribbled and drew a defender he dropped the ball to Fernandez. Fernandez hit a shot on frame that was cleared by the City Islanders defense. The clearance came right to Tanke. He took a touch and blasted a shot from 35 yards out. It took a slight deflection off of City Islanders center back Dustin Bixler's head at the top of the box and went into the lower left corner of the net.
The Rochester lead lasted for six minutes until the City Islanders found the equalizer. Ekra made a great run off the ball between Roberts, Kyriazis, and Rhinos left back Jack Traynor that opened up enough space for Pelletier to find him with a chipped ball in from the right flank. Ekra was able to take a quick touch that wrong-footed Nicht before slipping it by him for the equalizer.
In the 89th minute Nicht was able to keep the score level at 1:1 with a kick save on a Mkosana shot, but he could do nothing to keep the rookie out one minute later. Right back TJ Duckett pushed forward and got loose on the right flank. He served a ball into the box on the ground. Mkosana ran onto the ball with a well-timed run, and he was able to one time it past a diving Nicht for a 2:1 City Islanders lead.
The Rochester Rhinos are now winless in their last six matches in all competitions. Fourth place Richmond plays two matches before Rochester kicks off on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh at 3PM. If Richmond wins both matches, then they could overtake the Rhinos in the standings. However, a Rochester victory in Pittsburgh will guarantee that they exit the weekend in third place in the table.