The Rochester Rhinos used a goal from right winger Quavas Kirk in the 60th minute to salvage a point in their 1:1 draw with the Riverhounds in Pittsburgh's Chartiers Valley High School Stadium on Sunday, June 17th. Former Rhinos forward Tino Nunez put the Riverhounds up 1:0 with a 16th minute header, but the third place Rhinos showed the character to overcome the one goal deficit and take a valuable away point. The draw leaves Rochester in third place in the USL PRO table at the end of the weekend.
Rochester Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers made three changes to his side that lost 2:1 late in Harrisburg on Friday night. Center back Tyler Bellamy returned from a knee injury that he suffered against the Los Angeles Blues. It was Bellamy's first appearance since April 14th as he replaced first year Rhino Georgios Kyriazis in the starting eleven. Kirk replaced winger JC Banks. Banks is the Rhinos leading scorer, but he has not appeared on the score sheet since May 22nd in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup. Graciano Brito replaced Andrew Hoxie as the Rhinos striker in a regular rotation that Myers has used during away weekends throughout the season.
Pittsburgh coach Justin Evans gave front runner Darren Amoo and midfielders Neil Shaffer and Michael Green surprise starts in the match against Rochester. Amoo is a rookie out of Liberty who is pacey striker that can get behind defenses, and Green is a highly regarded rookie out of New Mexico. The trio had combined for only 644 minute in Pittsburgh's first 11 league matches before Evans gave them the start against Rochester.
Pittsburgh opened the scoring in the 16th minute. Midfielder Stefan Lundberg received a long ball down the right flank. He worked a nifty one-two combination with midfielder Rich Costanzo at the top of the box to create space for a service. Lundberg drove a ball into the far post and Nunez finished a free header into the back of the net for a 1:0 Riverhounds lead.
It looked like the Rhinos had drawn level in the 30th minute when Kirk headed a service from Rhinos midfielder Michael Tanke past Pittsburgh goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap. However, Kirk's goal was ruled out due to an offside infraction.
The Riverhounds nearly doubled their lead just before half time. A Costanzo free kick found Shaffer making a run into the box. Shaffer was able to direct a header on target, but Rhinos goalkeeper Kristin Nicht was there to make the save.
Pittsburgh took a 1:0 lead into half time.
The Rochester Rhinos found an equalizer in the 61st minute when Kirk scored off of a breakaway. Myers selected Kirk as a right winger for his athletic ability and his pace to get behind opposing defenses on the right flank. Tanke sprung Kirk with a ball over the Riverhounds back four. Kirk got on the end of the long ball and was one-on-one with Gilstrap. Kirk took a touch and finished a right footed shot to level the score at one.
Kirk was a standout winger earlier in his career when he was a member of the U17 United States Men's National Team. After Kirk turned professional after the 2005 U17 FIFA World Cup, he began to move further back until he finally found a home at right back for Lilley's Rhinos last season. Friday, June 15th in Harrisburg was Kirk's first appearance at right wing this season, and the match against Pittsburgh two days later was his first start. The goal was Kirk's second game tying goal of the season. His first came against the Dutch Lions in Sahlen's Stadium on May 19th.
The Rochester Rhinos will exit the weekend in third place in the USL PRO table. They are two pints behind second place Charleston and three points ahead of fourth place Wilmington.
The Rochester Rhinos next match will be on Saturday, June 23rd at 7PM in City Stadium against the Richmond Kickers.