The formula was simple, put a pacey forward up top and send him in behind the defense. For the Rhinos on Wednesday night, this formula worked not once but twice in the opening twenty minutes of the game. In fact, I was still making my way to the stands when 23 year old Kendell McFayden got on the end of a pass by Tam McManus and finished with the composure of a player who’s been in the league three years, not three matches. Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers gave McFayden his first start since joining the team two weeks ago and the Williamsville native quickly repaid that trust by scoring in the third minute.
McFayden wasn’t satisfied with just one goal, though. J.C. Banks recovered the ball from Antigua in a promising position and played a pass over the top for McFayden to run on to. The speedy forward coolly finished past advancing goalkeeper Molvin James to double Rochester’s lead in the 18th minute.
The first half hour of the game was really open and it seemed goals would tumble out of it. Antigua relies on the speed of their attackers, spearheaded by Peter Byers, who also looked to probe and stretch Rochester’s back line. On the other end of the field, Kendell McFayden looked likely to score on every attack. The back and forth, all-out attack nature of the game was really fun to watch.
But as pretty as the soccer was, the officiating was again a blight on an otherwise great game. Near the center circle, and in full view of the referee, Byers ran through midfielder Michael Tanke with an elbow from behind. Tanke hit the deck holding his head and everyone paused for a second expecting to hear the whistle. Everyone except Byers, that is, who carried the ball into space and unleashed an uncontested shot from range that curled into the upper left corner of the net in the 29th minute.
After the goal, the Rhinos played a little bit more conservatively to reduce the spaces for Antigua to run into. The game was punctuated by a few chances for Rochester but there were not too many anxious moments for the Rhinos defense.
Andrew Hoxie made an impact again as a late game substitute, this time scoring twice in a five minute span. Conor Chinn, who had just come into the game at left midfield for Quavas Kirk, got on the end of a Danny Earls corner kick with nearly his first touch. Molvin James was able to block Chinn’s header, but the “Big Smooth” was on hand to blast home the rebound. Just four minutes later, Issac Kissi played in Hoxie who was able to slot the ball past James easily for his double. Hoxie took his total goal tally for the season to four and help to solidify his role as super sub.
Wednesday night’s result was just what the doctor ordered for a team that was beginning to lose hope. After the game goalkeeper Kristian Nicht was telling me that the win felt really good and had helped ease the frustrations of recent form (and the Harrisburg game in particular). Against Antigua was the first time this season the Rhinos scored 4 goals in one game and only the fourth time the team managed more than one goal in a game this season.
Attention now turns to Dayton Dutch Lions who visit Sahlen’s Stadium this Saturday. It may seem odd to refer to a team in second-to-last place as surging, but that’s what Dayton is. In their last three games, they’ve won twice and tied league-leading Orlando. Hopefully Wednesday’s win will put the Rhinos in the right mindset to kick off the last third of the 2012 USL-Pro season in winning ways.