Former US National Team star and current ABC/ESPN soccer analyst Eric Wynalda has a favorite line: "Players win games, coaches lose games, and referees ruin games." Well, the last portion of that quote can certainly apply to last evening's game between the Rochester Rhinos and the Charleston Battery.
Heading in to last night's game, Charleston had never won a game in Rochester. And the Rhinos led the overall series 10-2-2. But thanks to a blown offside call and horrible finishing by the Rhinos, Charleston was able to get their first win in Rochester and the first ever win by a visiting team at PAETEC Park.
Coach Calloway rolled out pretty much the same lineup that looked really good in the second half of the Rhinos 2-0 win over Vancouver on Monday night. Connally Edozien and Matthew Delicate started up top, Jonny Steele, Mike Ambersley, John Ball, and Greg Howes started in midfield, Nate Craft, Scott Palguta, Kenney Bertz, and Frankie Sanfilippo started on defense, and captain Scott Vallow once again got the start in goal.
The Rhinos got off to a torrid start as Mike Ambersley had a glorious chance less than sixty seconds into the match. Unfortunately, his shot was right at Charleston goalkeeper, and last year's backup in Rochester, Dusty Hudock. The shot clattered off of Hudock's shins and was cleared out of danger. That missed chance would be a recurring theme on the evening.
In the 8th minute, rookie Kenney Bertz would make a couple of mistakes that would come back to haunt the Rhinos. First, Bertz had a poor trap and turned the ball over just outside of the Rochester penalty area. Bertz then compounded the error by attempting a shoulder challenge in the penalty area. The Charleston forward tumbled to the turf and the referee awarded a penalty kick to the Battery. Bertz also received a yellow card for his troubles.
Ben Hollingsworth then stepped up to take the penalty for Charleston. He placed the ball to the far righthand side of the penalty spot. But, Vallow read things correctly and dove to his left when the ball was struck. Unfortunately, Scott was unable to hold onto the shot as it trickled in underneath his left arm.
After that, Charleston tried to bunker down defensively. Former Rhino Ian Fuller, who was listed as a forward in the starting lineup, dropped deep in the midfield soon after the penalty goal, as the Battery tried to hold on to the one goal lead.
The Rhinos continued to pepper the Charleston goal and continued to be frustrated with a lack of finishing. Edozien could easily had a goal or two by half time, but the former New England Revolution forward was unable to put any of his 3 or 4 glorious chances in the first half away. The most glaring chance was a turnaround half volley in the box that went over the crossbar as the net was wide open.
At the half, the Rhinos led in shots 13-2, but trailed on the scoreboard 1-0. Somehow you knew it was going to be one of those nights.
The Battery actually came out a little stronger than the Rhinos to start the second half. The Rhinos didn't seem to have a real urgency in their play coming out of the locker room.
But in the 64th minute, Coach Calloway made his first substitution of the evening and it was evident what he was looking to do. Out came left back Nate Craft and in came forward Johnny Menyongar.
In the 72nd minute, John Ball had a glorius chance that slammed off of the right post and the rebound was just out of the reach of Edozien.
Then the referees had their chance to ruin the game and seized upon it. In the 75th minute Charleston midfielder Omar Daley played a ball ahead to forward Gavin Glinton. The problem is that Glinton was at least five yards offside. But apparently neither the referee nor his assistant on that side of the field noticed. The Rhinos noticed as they stopped running. Glinton noticed as he stopped for a second expecting a whistle to be blown. But once he realized that the refs were going to let play continue, Glinton raced in on Scott Vallow and neatly finished the play to put Charleston up 2-0.
After the goal, Rhinos forward Matthew Delicate earned a yellow card for pointing out that the referee's assistant wasn't even watching the play as he ran down the sideline. Delicate figured it was only the second or third card he has gotten in his pro career. Coach Calloway was also ordered back towards the Rhino bench as he was venting about the call.
The fans were just as unhappy. And the fact that the play was shown multiple times on the scoreboard didn't help sooth the uneasiness with the fans. Personally, I was wondering what Monday night's referee, Kevin Barci, thought of the call as he sat in the stands and watched this unfold.
Thankfully, the Rhinos turned up the pressure a notch. The Rhinos continued to pour pressure on the Battery. And the Rhinos continued to have issues finishing.
John Ball was able to get the Rhinos back to within a goal in the 89th minute on a beautiful strike from the right side of the penalty area. And the referee did allow for six minutes of stoppage time, due largely to Battery defender Chris Corcoran having to be carried off on a stretcher with a lower leg injury.
But in the end, it was not to be as the Rhinos bad luck and poor finishing combined to be the Rhinos downfall on this evening. Along with the fact that the referees ruined the game with one of the worst non-calls I have ever seen.
- The midfield play was much improved. John Ball and Jonny Steele had solid games out on the wings and Mike Ambersley and Greg Howes worked well in the middle of the park. All four probably could have combined for at least 2 or 3 more goals at a minimum, but they did continue the momentum built by the strong second half versus Vancouver.
- Dusty Hudock was both good and lucky last night for the Battery. Add in a couple of goals that were cleared off the line by Charleston players and it all added up to a good defensive outcome for a team that was badly outshot (11 to 26).
- Only 8397 fans showed up for what was perhaps the best showing by the team at home and a wildly entertaining game at a minimum. Even given the loss, I doubt there are too many fans that left last night that didn't feel like they got their money's worth. Especially anyone that took advantage of the 2 for 1 deal.
- I don't know what was worse, the Rhinos finishing or their luck. The Rhinos hit 3 posts and a crossbar and had plenty of other chances that were either right at Hudock, just off the mark, or cleared away by defenders. In the end, the Rhinos finishing, or lack thereof, was just as big of a reason as the officiating for the way the final scoreline read.
- The non-call on the second Charleston goal was the worst blown call I've ever seen at a Rhinos game. And I'll just leave it at that.
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