The Rochester Rhinos went to the top of the USL PRO table for the first time in 2012 with a 1:0 win over Charleston in Blackbaud Stadium on Saturday, May 12th. The Rhinos entered the match with a 450 minute scoreless streak, but exited the match with a 540 minute scoreless streak based on Rhinos goalkeeper Kristian Nicht's best performance of the season. The Rhinos were outshot 20-2 in the match but used ten saves from Nicht, a timely clearance off the line from Jack Traynor, and the ever-present Troy Roberts to win their sixth consecutive match. Rhinos left winger Danny Earls scored the only goal of the match.
Charleston created their first chance of the match in the 13th minute when midfielder Amadou Sanyang picked out right midfielder Tony Donatelli with a long diagonal ball. Donatelli was able to cut inside Rhinos left back Michael Zaher, but he hit his shot right at Nicht.
The Battery created a chance off of a corner kick five minutes later. Midfielder Jose Cuevas played a short corner to midfielder Nicki Patterson at the top of the box. Patterson drove his shot on goal, but Nicht punched the ball away. Patterson was the first to the rebound and served the ball to center back Kyle Hoffer on the far post. Hoffer's header was right at Nicht and the match remained scoreless.
Jamaican midfielder Navion Boyd got loose down the right flank for the Battery in the 22nd minute. Boyd was able to get in behind Zaher and dribble up the Rhinos endline. He dropped the ball to Patterson at the penalty spot, but his shot was denied by a reflex save from Nicht.
Charleston's best chance of the match came in the 34th minute. Left back John Wilson countered down the left flank and beat Rhinos center midfielder Gustavo Zamudio. Wilson served a blistering ball into the near post, but Roberts was there to show the ball out for a corner kick.
On the ensuing corner kick Jose Cuevas picked out Sanyang. He volleyed a shot from the penalty spot that had Nicht beaten, but Rhinos right back Jack Traynor cleared the ball off the line and the Rhinos scrambled it away.
The Rhinos had their best chance of the half in the 35th minute. Earls cut across the pitch and found Zaher pushing up into the attack on the left flank. Zaher found center midfielder Drew Cost, who picked out center midfielder Tyler Rosenlund with a service to the far post. However, Cost's service was just a little too long for Rosenlund and he was not able to get a shot on target at the far post.
Charleston started the second half with a talking point in the 49th minute when their star striker Sallieu Bundu went down in the Rhinos penalty area under the weight of a tackle from center back Georgios Kyriazis. The head referee had a good look at the incident and decided that it was not a spot kick.
The Rhinos would break through and score the only goal of the match in the 61st minute. Traynor pushed up into the attack on the right flank and served a ball into the middle for Earls. Earls crushed a left footed shot from about 25 yards out that left Battery goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra with no chance, and gave Rochester a 1:0 lead.
Two minutes later Nicht was to the Rhinos rescue again as he saved Donatelli's shot to the far post from eight yards out. Three minutes later Nicht denied a blistering shot from Wilson and the Rhinos were well on their way to their six consecutive clean sheet.
They would need one more save from Nicht in stoppage time to secure the result. After the Rhinos cleared a late Charleston corner kick, Wilson picked up the ball and drove down the left flank. He was fouled just outside the box. Cuevas and Patterson lined up over the free kick for the Battery, and Patterson took the shot. Nicht dived to his left and punched the ball away to secure the victory for Rochester.
"Kristian was out of this world tonight." Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers said. "We were playing in back-to-back matches on the road. We needed someone to step up with a big match, and Kristian did just that.
Nicht has now tied Rhinos legend Pat Onstad for the most consecutive clean sheets in club history with six. His consecutive scoreless minute streak is second to only Onstad's 681minute markin the Rhinos 1998 campaign.
Rochester is now alone in first place in the USL PRO table with 18 points from six matches. Orlando City trails the Rhinos by two points and plays in Antigua on Sunday, May 13th.