Rhinos Looked Weak Against Spirited Dayton

J.C. Banks added another assist to his season and career totals (8 and 13, respectively) by playing a ball into Danny Earls who finished far side in the third minute.  Isaac Kissi sealed the game when he coolly finished off a feed from Andrew Hoxie that beat the high offside trap in the last minute of regulation.  The interceding 86+ minutes were often not worth watching.  Rochester got the three points they needed but the game should have been much more comfortable.

In the match preview I noted that Dayton has rarely been knocked out of games this season.  The team hangs around even after going down a goal on the road.  I noted, along with several other observers at the game, that Dayton was only ever one pass or one touch away from getting into dangerous scoring opportunities.  There were a couple occasions when Dayton forwards were through on goal but Kristian Nicht made himself big and blocked the chance.

Lucas Fernandez was signed to the Rhinos to be a back up behind Quavas Kirk.  However with injury problems at left back and center midfield, Danny Earls has had to play in other positions and Kirk moved forward to fill that gap in wide midfield.  This has meant Fernandez playing a significant number of games during the middle part of the season.  The defender from Argentina has had to face not only opposition attackers but also the language barrier this year.  Against Dayton he also had to adjust during the game to marking against a 4-3-3.  I want Rochester’s #20 to do well and come good by the end of the season.  Usually I may write off a mistake or two as bumps on the road or the learning curve while figuring out the American style or playing with his new teammates.

However against Dayton Fernandez looked lost most of the game.  When he went forward he got into spaces well but failed to send in his final ball or connect with his teammates on short passing sequences.  Fernandez often played too high in defense and didn’t cover goal side of Dayton’s left forward.  It was encouraging to see center back Tyler Bellamy put an arm around Fernandez and communicate with the Argentine about improving his positioning in the 74th minute.

As much as that talk may have helped, the next danger came from the other side.  In the next minute Dayton’s Akeem Priestly and Gibson Bardsley combined well to streak down the right side and play a low hard cross in front of goal.  Although Kristian Nicht and Troy Roberts both missed the ball, so did Eli Garner making the far post run for Dayton.

Dayton’s diagonal passes up to the feet of their forwards killed Rochester every time.  The fullbacks hesitated because they didn’t know when to go forward or stay at home.  Michael Tanke has been fantastic as a ball winning defensive midfielder but he can’t be everywhere on the field at once.  If the full back did move up to pressure the man with the ball, there was a gap in behind him that Gerritt Jan Bartels (the center forward) then ran in to and exploited.

The Dutch Lions were also very quick on the counter and changed the flow of the play very well.  As soon as their defense recovered the ball from Rochester, the forwards were making wide runs and midfielders were surging up the field into space.  It was one of these breaks that caught Rochester napping in the back in the 81st minute.  Roberts pulled up to try to play Dayton offside but Tyler Bellamy didn’t get the memo.  Bellamy backtracked to cover the run of Gibson Bardsley but he was unable to match the speed of the Dayton striker.  Bardsley broke in behind Rochester’s defense but he blasted his shot high when Nicht came out to pressure.

Before Kissi sealed the win for the home team, there were a few embarrassing notes on the game.  In the 85th minute there was an angry disagreement over who should take Rochester’s throw in on the far side in Dayton’s end.  The throw was a result of a great play by Drew Cost.  Cost dispossessed Dayton in their own defensive third and began a cutting run through the middle towards goal.  Instead of opening up a foot of space to take a shot from 18 yards out, Cost cut the ball on the ground out to Andrew Hoxie who got the ball caught in his feet and couldn’t get his shot off.  After Dayton cleared the ball off the field, there was an argument about which Rochester player should play the ball in.  To waste time late in regulation, there is a strategy of gamesmanship in which one player picks up the ball before getting called off by his teammate who in turn leaves the ball for a third player to throw it in.  However, this incident was not one of those instances.  Rosenlund was barking orders around and several players were yelling at each other.

J.C. Banks appeared disinterested and physically frustrated towards the end of the game. Banks is a player who leaves it all on the field most games.  My guess is that he felt some of his teammates were not matching his effort.  I don’t disagree with that sentiment.  Conor Chinn has not impressed me in any of the games I’ve seen him play.  This is one more way the injuries to Jack Traynor and Mike Zaher hurt the team.  These injuries have forced Danny Earls to play in the back and pulled Quavas Kirk in to midfield because the team can’t rely on Chinn.  This then places the inexperienced Lucas Fernandez in a starting spot for multiple games.

All of that is moot however, when you look at the final score.  Isaac Kissi’s composure under pressure allowed Rochester to hit Dayton while they were pushing numbers seeking the late game equalizer.  Hoxie played in Kissi when Dayton were only playing three in the back and had five forwards going at Rochester’s defense.

This week’s results have given Rochester the 6 points they wanted, but each game showcased weaknesses the team still has.  These defensive weaknesses will be ruthlessly exploited by red-hot Corey Hertzog in Wilmington on Thursday and six-goal Dennis Chin on Saturday in Orlando.  Unless he can motivate the troops, Jesse Myers may need to shuffle the deck during training before the trip down south.

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