The Rochester Rhinos turned a professional performance on the road into their first three points of the 2012 USL PRO Season as they defeated the LA Blues 1:0 in their season opener on Saturday, April 14th. The difference in the match was Scottish striker Tam McManus’ first goal as a Rhinos in the 22nd minute. German goalkeeper Kristian Nicht recorded the first clean sheet of his Rhinos career.
“Well we got the result tonight.” Rhinos coach Jesse Myers said. “When you take a 1:0 lead in the first half on the road early in the season, you want to see your team show the professional quality to get all three points. I think we did that tonight.”
The Rhinos had the first chance of the match in the fifth minute. The LA Blues controlled possession of the ball in the their own half during the early going, but Rhinos center midfleder Tyler Rosenlund was able to get on the end of an errant pass from Blues center back Carlos Borja about 35 yards out from the Blues goal. With possession, Rosenlund picked out the diagonal run of front runner Graciano Brito. Brito found himself in behind the Blues back four, but he blazed his effort over the goal.
The first and only talking point of the first half came in the 11th minute. Blues center maidfielder Ricky Widdell layed off a Bryan Burke throw-in to front runner Cheunyong Park. Park controlled the ball and drove at the Rhinos defense. Rhinos left back Jack Traynor and Rhinos center back Troy Roberts converged on Park, and he went down in the box. Head referee Jesus Cisneros got a good look at the incident and waved play on amid appeals for a penalty from the Blues.
The Rhinos scored the games only goal in the 22nd minute. The Rhinos won a fifty-fifty battle for an LA Blues free kick, and the ball popped out to right winger JC Banks. Off the ball, McManus made a great run to get into the space between Borjas and LA Blues center back Ebrima Jatta. With time and space Banks was able to pick his head up and deliver the ball into McManus. McManus finished with a header at the back post to give the Rhinos the 1:0 lead.
The LA Blues had a great chance to find the equalizer in the 26th minute. Blues right back Bryan Burke made an overlapping run down the flank and served a ball to Park at the penalty spot. Park had a free header but could not put it on frame.
The Blues had the last chance of the first half in the 39th minute when former NY Red Bull attacking midfielder Irving Garcia found a pocket of space in the Rhinos midfield. Garcia took the space and dribbled ten yards before he found striker Israel Sesay at the top of the box. Sesay had an open look at the Rhinos goal, but his effort was right at Rhinos goalkeeper Kristian Nicht.
Rochester Rhinos coach Jesse Myers played a 1-4-5-1 formation with Graciano Brito as the lone striker and a well-organized five man midfield throughout the match. Myers and the Rhinos seemed content to allow the home team to possess the ball as much as they wanted to in their own half, but the Rhinos applied immediate pressure once the Blues crossed the midfield stripe. The result was a lot of possession for the Blues, but not a lot of space in behind the Rhinos back four for Los Angeles to play into.
“One thing we knew about the Blues is that they were going to want to get into their rhythmic, possession, short passing game.” Myers said. “I thought our defensive shape was verygood tonight. They had more of the ball than we did, but we took the lead and then just focused on controlling the space. We did a nice job limiting the number of times that they were dangerous to us.”
In the 51st minute the Rhinos pressure resulted in a corner kick. Danny Earls served the ball into the box and center back Troy Roberts found himself with a header from twelve yards out. The best Roberts could do was put his effort right at Abedzadeh and the Blues keeper was able to make the save.
Rhinos goalkeeper Kristian Nicht made his biggest contribution of the match in the 66th minute. An LA Blues corner kick found right midfielder Brian Farber open at the near post. Farber was able to direct a point blank header on frame, but Nicht was able to make a reflex save. The Rhinos scrambled the ensuing rebound away, but the ball found Burke on the right flank. Burke sailed a cross into the box, but Nicht was able to get off his line to catch it to end the threat.
The LA Blues had their second big talking point of the match in the 70th minute. Blues new signee George Davis got loose on the left flank, and Rhinos right back Quavas Kirk and substitute midfielder Michael Tanke converged on him right at the edge of the box. Davis went down under the weight of their challenge. Cisneros blew his whistle but ruled that the foul occurred outside the box. Garcia drove the ensuing free kick right into the near post. Nicht was beaten, but Roberts was able to cooly head the ball over the bar.
The Rhinos had their last chance to put the match out of reach in the 76th minute. Earls whipped a free kick into the goal mouth, but Abedzadeh punched it clear just before Banks could get on the end of it. Drew Cost headed the clearance back into the mixer from the top of the box. Banks was clearly in an offside position, but McManus was onside. He flicked the ball to Rosenlund on his left. Rosenlund had an open look from six yards out, but Abedzadeh was able to get down and make the save.
Davis had the last chance of the match for the Blues when he got in behind substitute right back Lucas Fernandez and center back Tyler Bellamy on the left flank. Davis crossed the ball into the far post, but no one was making the run and the chance came to nothing.
The Rhinos victory over the LA Blues marks the first time that the Rhinos have taken all three points from a season opener since 2006, breaking an 0-4-1 streak over the past five seasons. Myers victory is the only time in Rhinos history that a manager has won his first match in charge of the club.
“Getting the result is going to take some pressure off us in the coming week.” Myers said. “Over the next couple of days we want to focus on recovering and getting healthy. Then we’re going to prepare for the match next Friday.”
The Rochester Rhinos next match in the 2012 USL PRO season is on Friday, April 20th at10:00PM (EDT) in Los Angeles against the LA Blues. Live coverage of the match will be available through UNATION at usllive.com.
The Rhinos home opener will be on Saturday, May 5th at 7PM in Sahlen’s Stadium against the Charlotte Eagles. Season tickets and flex packages are currently available by calling the Rhinos box office at 585.454.5425.
Rochester Rhinos – 1
LA Blues - 0
Rochester Rhinos: 24 - Kristian Nicht; 5 - Jack Traynor, 6 – George Kyriazis, 12 – Troy Roberts, 13 – Quavas Kirk; 3 - Drew Cost, 8 - Tyler Rosenlund, 10 - Tam McManus, 16 – Danny Earls, 15 - Graciano Brito, 29 – JC Banks
Reserves: 2 – Tyler Bellamy, 7 – Gustavo Zamudio, 11 – Conor Chinn, 20 – Lucas Fernandez, 23 – Andrew Hoxie, 25 – Brandon Miller, 27 – Michael Tanke
LA Blues: 2 - Amir Abedzadeh; 8 - Bryan Burke, 27 - Carlos Borja, 13 - Ebrima Jatta, 22 - Sunhyung Cho; 2 - Erlys Garcia, 99 - Irving Garcia, 17 - Ricky Waddell, 25 - Israel Sesay, 7 - Brian Farber; 18 - Cheunyong Park