The Rochester Rhinos captured their first three points of the 2013 USL PRO season on Friday, May 10th, 2013 when they went to Legion Stadium and defeated the Wilmington Hammerheads 1:0.
2012 USL PRO Goalkeeper of the Year Kristian Nicht returned to form with four key saves in the second half of the match, and 2012 USL PRO Defender of the Year Troy Roberts made a key tackle before New England Revolution striker Matt Horth scored the only goal of the match in the 79th minute. Nicht earned his first clean sheet of the 2013 season in the victory.
Rochester Rhinos Head Coach Jesse Myers was forced to make two changes to his line-up as striker Matt Luzunaris (broken leg) and defensive midfielder Michael Tanke (compartment syndrome) were both unavailable for the match after being injured in last weekend's 1:0 loss to the City Islanders. Myers selected New England Revs loanee Matt Horth to start up top in place of Luzunaris. Fellow Revs loanee Bilal Duckett returned to the starting line-up at right back after missing last weekend's home opener with a foot injury allowing Ross LaBauex to push back up into his favored role as a midfielder. Myers made a third change when he gave veteran Scottish forward Tam McManus his second start of the season.
Wilmington Hammerheads boss David Irving strengthened his line-up with three changes as 2012 All-USL PRO Second Team selection Bryce Taylor returned for his first start of the season at left midfield, front runner Cody Arnoux made his first appearance of the season up top, and midfielder Paul Nicholson returned from a two match suspension after being sent off in the first minute of Wilmington's 4:0 loss in Los Angeles.
The home side had the best chance of the first half in the 20th minute. Wilmington played a long ball into the Rhinos box that Arnoux was able to get on the end of. Arnoux tried to flick the bouncing ball past Rhinos center back Troy Roberts with his first touch, but the ball made contact with Roberts. The match referee ruled that Roberts had handled the ball in the box. He awarded Wilmington a penalty, but he decided not to book Roberts. Arnoux took the spot kick and missed his chance when he put his shot over the cross bar into the VIP tent behind the Rhinos goal.
Wilmington had another chance to take the lead in the 26th minute, but this time they were denied by the woodwork. Hammerheads center midfielder Tom Parratt played a through ball to right midfielder Daniel Steres. Steres took the ball to the endline and crossed it to striker Richard Isberner at the near post. Isberner put his shot on target, but the ball was deflected around the near post and over the endline for a corner kick. Arnoux served in the ensuing corner kick, and Wilmington center back Gareth Evans met the service with a header at the back post. Evans effort was on target, but it bounced off the post and clear.
The Rhinos had their best chance of the first half in the 39th minute. Veteran Greek center back Georgios Kyriazis played a diagonal ball over the top of Wilmington's back four and into the path of rookie left winger Mike Reidy. Reidy was ruled onside, cut inside onto his favored right foot, and dribbled into the Hammerheads penalty area. Reidy hit a shot, but he drove his effort just past the far post.
Both teams entered half time tied at nil.
Wilmington had the first opportunity of the second half in the 56th minute. Center midfielder Paul Nicholson won the ball with a great tackle 35 yards away from the Rhinos goal, and quickly got it forward to Isberner. Isberner surged into the Rhinos box and laid the ball off to his right for Parratt. Parratt hit his shot on target, but Rhinos goalkeeper Kristian Nicht dove to his right to make the save. Wilmington locked Rochester in their defensive half, and one minute later defender Uriah Bentick put a long throw-in into the Rhinos box that found Arnoux's head. Arnoux's header was on target, but Nicht dove to his left and stopped the ball on the goal line.
Wilmington kept the pressure on Rochester with another chance in the 73rd minute. A tackle from Bentick created another Rochester turnover in their own half. Bentick quickly got the ball forward to substitute Steven Perry who was loose in the Rhinos box. Perry hammered his shot on goal, but Nicht dove to his right and parried the shot away for his best save of the night.
Three minutes later Perry was through again, but this time Roberts chased him down from behind and poked the ball over the Rhinos endline before Perry could get a shot on goal.
The Rochester Rhinos scored the game winning goal in the 79th minute. Reidy surged down the left flank then found Horth at the top of the Wilmington penalty area. Horth took a little touch into the Hammerhead's box, shot the ball to the far post, and nestled it into the side netting to give the visitors a 1:0 lead.
The home side had their last chance in the 88th minute, but substitute Kyle Greig's header looped over the Rhinos cross bar.
The victory was the Rochester Rhinos first three points of the 2013 USL PRO season, and it was also the first victory in club history over the Wilmington Hammerheads. The only active club that the Rhinos have never defeated is now Orlando City.
The Rochester Rhinos next home match is Saturday, May 18th 2013 at 7:05PM in Sahlen's Stadium against the Orlando City Lions.
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