The Rochester Rhinos lost their first match of the season 1:0 on Friday, May 25th in Harrisburg against the City Islanders. Morgan Langley scored the only goal of the match in the 48th minute, and new goalkeeper Nicholas Noble kept his fourth clean sheet of the season for the City Islanders. The Rhinos will travel to Dayton overnight and kickoff against the Dutch Lions at 7:30PM tomorrow, Saturday May 26th.
Images of last season's USL PRO National Division Final played between these two teams were rekindled in the first minute as Rhinos center midfielder Danny Earls slid in on City Islanders center midfielder Andrew Welker and fouled him. Welker got up and shoved Earls in retaliation in full view of the referee who deemed that no further action was warranted.
In the 12th minute the City Islanders changed the point of attack in possession and left back Stephen Basso was able to push forward with the ball down the flank. Basso served a ball into the box that midfielder JT Noone dummied on to front runner Brian Ombiji at the top of the box. Ombiji drove a shot on goal that Rochester keeper Krisitan Nicht was able to parry over the crossbar for the save.
Four minutes later the Rhinos received a stern warning from the City Islanders attack. Welker whipped a ball to the far post that front runner Sainey Touray was able to get his head on. Nicht was stranded on his goal line, but Touray's effort ended up going just wide of the target.
Rochester's defense tightened after Touray's 16th minute header. Rhinos center back Georgios Kyriazis and left back Jack Traynor won head balls and made timely tackles. Earls was well positioned in front of the Rhinos back four and had several timely interceptions in the box to thwart the City Islanders service into the box.
While the Rhinos solidified their defensive effort in the back, there was still work left for captain Troy Roberts to do to neutralize the City Islanders attack. In the 24th minute midfielder Jason Pelletier whipped a dangerous ball into the box. Roberts was forced into a diving header that he was able to direct up and over his own cross bar to keep the match scoreless. Seven minutes later Roberts was called into action again. This time Welker was able to pick out Langley running down the right flank all alone. Welker was able to play Langley through on goal, but Roberts tracked him down and snuffed out the effort with a sliding tackle.
The first half ended with a talking point in the 39th minute. Rhinos center midfielder Tyler Rosenlund slid in one Welker and appeared to tackle him cleanly. The 6'1" Welker immediately went to ground after the challenge, and the head referee thought he saw more to the tackle. He decided to book Rosenlund, although the resulting free kick for the City Islanders amounted to nothing.
The City Islanders opened the scoring in the 48th minute. Ombiji was able to get free on the left flank, and put Noone in behind Rhinos right back Quavas Kirk. Noone flighted a cross to the far post that Langley was able to shoot with a header on frame. Nicht dove to his left and appeared to make the save, but it trickled through and into the back of the Rhinos net.
The Rhinos first chance of the second half did not come until the 63rd minute. Kirk pushed up into the attacking half down the right flank and was fouled. Earls took the ensuing free kick from 40 yards out. He drove it on frame, but it was no trouble for Noble.
Four minute later Rochester had a better opportunity to find the equalizer. Earls took a corner from the left side and found forward Tam McManus's head on the far post. However, McManus was unable to direct his header on frame and his effort went over the end line for a corner kick.
In the 70th minute the City Islanders launched a counter attack that led to the second major talking point of the match. Langley ran with the ball down the right flank and crossed it into Welker at the top of the box. Kirk swung over from his right back positioned and clattered into Welker. Welker went down immediately and ultimately required the attention of the City Islanders training staff. Three minutes later Welker was replaced by midfielder Drew Yates. When action resumed the City Islanders had a free kick, but Kirk was not booked.
Basso took the resulting free kick from the top of the box. His effort got up over the wall and down on frame, but it was right at Nicht. He deflected the effort over the crossbar, and the Rhinos cleared the ensuing corner kick to end the threat.
In the 82nd minute Lucas Fernandez was the second Rhino to receive a booking in the match. Fernandez went to ground and made a sliding tackle in front of the City Islanders bench. Although his effort made no contact with any City Islanders player, their coaching staff exploded off of the bench to ask for a caution to be issued. The referee blew his whistle and Fernandez's name went into the book. A foul was assessed and the City Islanders received a free kick although it was unclear what it was awarded for. The incident was the third talking point of the match for the head referee.
The City Islanders effectively closed up shop for the last ten minutes, and the Rochester Rhinos were not able to generate another quality chance for an equalizer. The result was the Rhinos first loss of the season, but they have now taken only one point from their last two league matches. They will try to break out of their first slump of the 2012 season in Dayton.
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