On Friday night at Sahlen’s Stadium, Rochester Rhinos had the clear advantage against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. A meager but vocal 3273 supporters saw their beloved Rhinos completely overrun their opponents in the divisional semifinals of the 2011 USL Pro playoffs. The first five or six minutes were of the ulcer inducing dreadful kind as Pittsburgh maintained possession and passed in neat triangles against the Rhinos, however that remained their only meaningful action for the whole 90 plus 3 minutes.
The Rhinos lined up in the familiar 4-5-1 formation with Tyler Rosenlund playing the attacking midfield position tucked in behind Issac Kissi. J.C. Banks was again the man of the match for me. Playing on the left wing, Banks played in a ball that tall center forward Isaac Kissi nodded down into the path of onrushing Tyler Rosenlund who deftly chipped it over the Pittsburgh goalkeeper in the tenth minute.
After the opening goal, Rochester settled into its game and always kept the ball moving. Alfonso Motagalvan directed traffic for the Rhinos, popping up as a quick outlet for the defense and spreading the play out wide.
Banks was again in the center of the action as he whipped in a brilliant cross from the left. Sluggish midfielder Tony Donatelli rose above the crowd in the box to power his header just inside the far post in the 28th minute.
Pittsburgh keeper, Hunter Gilstrap, had it all to do as Rochester rained down 15 shots, 11 of them on frame. Two minutes after the restart, however, Isaac Kissi ran down a long ball near the endline and from an impossible angle found the far post past the fumbling Gilstrap. Adding insult to injury, rookie midfielder Drew Cost took a shot that deflected into the net off a Pittsburgh defender in the 85th minute.
The game was all but over within the first half hour, but the Rhinos entertaining passing play made the match worth it for the three thousand faithful who turned up at Sahlen’s Stadium. Next for Rochester is the Harrisburg City Islanders at home Friday at 7:30 in the National Division final. The Rhinos have played the City Islanders three times this season, winning at home and splitting the two games at Harrisburg; all three matches ending in a 1-0 result. Look for a closer game next week than against Pittsburgh, but the Rhinos should be riding high after a confidence building 4-0 victory.