Since their first round U.S. Open Cup victory away to Portland Phoenix, Brooklyn Italians managed to earn another three points in the league. Their win against New York Athletic Club moved the Italians to 12 points from four games in the National Premier Soccer League Northeast Atlantic Conference (but some might lead you to believe that the Italians somehow managed a 10-1-1 record out of four games; who knew that was possible). In their weekend action, the Rhinos drew Dayton Dutch Lions at home 1-1. A late header from Quavas Kirk salvaged a point from their match on Friday after giving up their first goal in league play this season.
After a flurry of chances for the Rhinos in the first few minutes of the game, the pace of the match slowed down. It appeared that Rochester was lured down to the Italians level of physical long ball play trying to find their target forward. There wasn’t much possession or creativity out of the midfield from other side for twenty minutes.
The Rhinos lined up in a 4-4-1-1 in front of Kristian Nicht. Jack Traynor and Troy Roberts (captain) partnered in the center of defense, Mike Zaher played left back and Quavas Kirk played on the right. In the midfield, Conor Chinn started wide left which pushed Danny Earls into the middle with Tyler Rosenlund. J.C. Banks played his normal right wing and Tam McManus once again excelled at his role playing behind a target forward, this time Andrew Hoxie.
Because of McManus’ position between the midfield and lone forward, Rochester’s wingers had the freedom to push forward. That meant that if Hoxie pulled over to one side of the field to combine with a wide player, McManus occupied the center of the box while the far side winger could make a run to far post or to the space at the near post that Hoxie and McManus opened up for him. This consistently happened allowing Conor Chinn several clear chances at goal throughout the game.
Head coach Lucio Russo sent out the Brooklyn Italians in a 4-4-2 with Nathan Stockie starting in goal behind Kirk Scarlet, Ben Graver, Patrick Ouckama, and Karim Russell. The Italians midfield consisted of Andrew Cormack, Christian Camacho, Oscar Castillo, and Christian Turizo. Robbie Weir played just behind their big man up top Jumol Harewood.
Steve Montanino was the center referee, Andrew Evangelos and Chris Trottier were the assistant referees, and Bill Engel was the fourth official for the match. The club announced an official attendance of 3,631 at Sahlen’s Stadium for the second round U.S. Open Cup match (while there is no official figure for last year’s second round match against amateur Phoenix SC, the team drew 5,558 when they hosted the Chicago Fire in the third round last summer).
McManus endured his first foul of the mach at just the 37 second mark. It was a theme that was to continue for the rest of the game. From the outset, Brooklyn Italians set about to make their physical presence known. A hard tackle by Karim Russell left Conor Chinn reeling in the third minute. Russell jumped up over the top of Chinn. The Rhinos wide player tried to shield the ball down to his chest as the Italians’ defender jumped in towards the ball and caught Chinn with a knee to the body and a hip to the head. Steve Montanino decided it was a fair play because Russell won the ball.
J.C. Banks shot wide in the fourth minute from a lay off by Hoxie. Hoxie nodded the ball forward to an onrushing Banks who pulled his shot just shy of the far post. In the tenth minute Danny Earls put a free kick just wide. McManus tried to rise to get a touch but couldn’t meet the quick ball in from Earls. In the twelfth minute, Andrew Hoxie played a ball into McManus but his first-time effort was tame and found the gloves of Nathan Stockie. The veteran Scotsman could not manage his first goal for the Rhinos.
J.C. Banks fed the ball to Quavas Kirk in the 24th minute, who continued an overlapping run down the right side and got off a decent cross. The ball was directed towards Andrew Hoxie who was denied by Brooklyn Italians keeper Nathan Stockie. When Rosenlund latched onto the rebound he looked certain to score but Stockie came out of nowhere to make himself big and deflect the shot behind for a corner. On the ensuing corner kick in the 25th minute, Danny Earls took the corner which found Troy Roberts at the far post. The central defender intelligently headed back across the face of goal and Tam McManus then put the ball back where it came from over a diving Stockie from about 6 yards out.
The pinpoint executed set play ended with Tam McManus tallying his first goal for the team. What was almost as beautiful as the goal itself was the Scotsman’s celebration; he ran directly to the bench to celebrate with the entire Rhinos team.
Two more repeating themes in this match were Kirk marauding forward and Danny Earls coming close on free kicks. Earls had a chance with a free kick in the 28th minute, but his shot was deflected off the wall just over the goal. Quavas Kirk found lots of space down the right flank, McManus found him and the right back let loose another quality cross in the 31st. In the 39th minute, a foul on Andrew Hoxie set up Earls with a free kick on the edge of the box. The Irishman was able to get the ball over the wall, but couldn’t get his shot to dip below the crossbar in such short range.
In the 41st minute Earls chipped a pretty cross to the far post. Stockie put himself in no-man’s land by misjudging the flight of the ball. After the keeper completely missed his punch, Chinn was looking at an empty net but clipped his header wide of the near post.
McManus played a low cross into the box looking for Conor Chinn. Chinn made the run but Brooklyn’s defender beat him to the ball after Stockie hesitated and failed to commit to either staying on his line or going for the cross. On the ensuing corner kick in the 43rd minute, the same two players set up another goal for the Rhinos. Earls took the corner and again found Roberts just a bit wider at the far side of the box. Roberts did well to get a head on the ball and force it forward to a lurking Conor Chinn. Chinn’s turning first time left footed half volley beats Stockie at his near post. The former New York Red Bull forward put some distance between the Rhinos and their opponents and eased some worries about his team’s numerous missed sitters in the first half.
The Rhinos had about 6 dangerous crosses coming in from the right side of the field from Earls, McManus and especially Quavas Kirk.
Halftime stats, Rochester-Brooklyn: shots 11-2; saves 0-1; corners 5-2; fouls 4-8; offside 1-0.
At halftime, advanced midfielder Hemir Niebles came in for Rob Weir, who had struggled to adjust to the pace of the match in the first half. The combination of the substitution and some napping on the part of the Rhinos allowed Castillo to dance his way through the defense and lay the ball off to Niebles, whose shot beat Nicht but careened back off the post.
Montanino issued a yellow card for Danny Earls in the 55th minute for a hard tackle on Oscar Castillo. The ball was available 50/50 between the two players but Earls slid in with his foot off the ground. In a different situation that tackle could have caused a dangerous injury or seen Earls dismissed from the game. No one likes studs up tackles, but it wouldn’t be the last one of the match.
Just as McManus was heating up (he had an audacious chilena attempt but from an offside position and seemed to chase the ball around four or five different Brooklyn players), his match was cut short. In the 60th minute, Kirk Scarlet came in very late and very hard on Tam McManus. McManus received the ball near the top of the 18, turned and played a pass off. Scarlet couldn’t have had any intention of playing the ball and brought the studs of his leading right boot down on the Rochester forward’s right leg while his left foot trapped McManus in a scissor tackle. Scissor tackles have been recognized worldwide in the last few years as senseless, dangerous and bad for the game. If the Rhinos’ player had been in a slightly different position, the tackle could very well have been a leg-breaker. Needless to say, Scarlet was shown a straight red. Graciano Brito replaced McManus. In the ruckus after the call, referee Steve Montanino showed a yellow card to Camacho for dissent while hounding him.
After the Rhinos took the resulting free kick, Brooklyn coach Lucio Russo takes out defender Karim Russell and replaces him with attacker Moriken Sangary. Two goals down and a man down in the 64th minute, Russo decides to go all out with his attack.
In the 67th minute, Masaki Hemmi came on to make his debut for the Rhinos. Conor Chinn made way for the Tokyo native can play right back but was introduced to the midfield. 21 year old Jakeem Johnson, Brooklyn’s highest scorer in the NPSL, replaced Jumol Harewood in the 69th minute.
In the 70th minute Graciano Brito swooped in the steal the ball away from a dumbfounded Nathan Stockie. The goalkeeper recovered before Brito could turn and play the ball back across the goal, however.
In the 76th minute, J.C. Banks sprayed the ball out wide left to an advanced Mac Hemmi who crossed the ball long to Brito. The big man nodded the ball forward to Banks who had smartly continued his run. Banks took a touch round the keeper and then turned his hips to fire the ball squarely into the empty net. The Rhinos faithful at Sahlen’s Stadium then had the pleasure of witnessing Banks’ signature backflip goal celebration. Banks put the Rhinos up 3-0 and sealed up the game against a thoroughly outmatched Brooklyn Italians.
Michael Tanke replaced Tyler Rosenlund in the center of midfield in the 80th minute. Graciano Brito received a booking for a challenge on keeper Stockie when in actuality both players were going for the ball and Stockie’s lack of confidence prevented him from winning the ball out of the air.
Referee Steve Montanino blew his whistle to end the match at 3-0. The Rhinos can celebrate the victory in front of their fans at Sahlen’s Stadium, but they will be worried about the damage done to their attacking engine Tam McManus.
The Rhinos have an action packed next 7 days as they travel to Harrisburg City Islanders on Friday, Dayton Dutch Lions on Saturday and finally to PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania to face the Philadelphia Union of MLS.
The Rhinos outshot the Italians 17-5 and had the advantage in corners 7-3. Rochester quite easily dominated Brooklyn but also left something to be desired on a night when USL-Pro rivals Orlando City post 7 goals against their cup opponents. Although Conor Chinn did score one goal off a corner kick, he missed at least 5 quality opportunities during the run of play. Mike Zaher routinely booted the ball forward without a target in mind instead of playing the ball on the ground through the midfield. Zaher was also embarrassed on a regular basis by 18 year old Oscar Castillo. Though the team walked over the Brooklyn Italians in this match, they will need to tighten up their game against the Philadelphia Union.