The Rochester [formerly Raging] Rhinos were fully expected to get three points at home against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Not only was Pittsburgh sitting in 10th place out of 11 teams, was coming off a five game losing streak, has only managed 1 win and 6 goals away from home all season, but the team was also struggling from a demoralizing home loss Friday night before traveling to Rochester through the night. All signs pointed to a Rochester win and J.C. Banks did his part to ensure the victory early.
In front of an announced attendance of 7,221 fans, J.C. Banks nodded home a ball at the far post that was crossed in by right back Lucas Fernández and flicked on by forward Isaac Kissi in the 10th minute. Banks told me after the game that he felt a tweak in his knee during the scoring play and you can see him jogging back gingerly after his shoe polish goal celebration with Kissi. After hobbling around the field and taking an injury break, the tenacious winger called it quits on the night’s proceedings. Scoring a goal is not bad for 10 minutes worth of work and 9 minutes of playing with an injury. There are more important games coming up in the team’s schedule so Jesse Myers didn’t want to risk needlessly aggravating the slight knock.
The injury did force coach Myers to make yet another change to his lineup. Jack Traynor and George Kyriazis returned from their own injury layoffs to reclaim their starting positions in the back four. With Traynor playing left back, Chris Estridge was able to move to left midfield and Danny Earls played in the center of midfield alongside Tyler Rosenlund. Up top with Tam McManus, Isaac Kissi earned his first start of the season after a lengthy injury recovery during the beginning of the summer. The most surprising starter for me, however, was Lucas Fernández.
In other games, Fernández started at right back because the injuries on the left side forced Quavas Kirk into midfield. On Saturday night, Fernández repaid Myers’s trust for placing him in the starting lineup over Q. It was Fernández who played in the cross on the first goal, was consistently dangerous getting forward from the back after Kirk subbed in for Banks, and ultimately assisted on Andrew Hoxie’s goal, the team’s second in the 77th minute.
Previously this season Fernández appeared to struggle to adjust to the team, but against Pittsburgh he looked calm and confident in his play. Despite contributing to both goals, it is hard to only praise the Argentine in Rochester’s win.
It was clear that the team appreciated the return of George Kyriazis as a dependable figure in the back. Big George (as my friends and I like to call him) never once lost possession and seemed to always make the correct choice on the ball. The defensive trifecta of Troy Roberts, Kyriazis, and goalkeeper Kristian Nicht combined for yet another shutout, the league leading 9th of the season, as they did so often at the beginning of the season.
Chris Estridge displayed his versatility by seamlessly filling in at left midfield. The recent signing pulled off a blockbuster Maradona on two Pittsburgh defenders in the 70th minute that I made sure the other attendees in my section appreciated. The left back by trade played well and constantly made himself available for forward passes. In addition to making several intelligent runs, Estridge rarely turned the ball over and allowed for the smothering but patient attack that Rochester needed to wear down a defensive Pittsburgh.
Beyond J.C. Banks’s early heroics, Estridge’s positional flexibility, and Kyriazis’s experienced guidance, my man of the match has to be right back Lucas Fernández. Fernández has developed almost exponentially from the high-risk error-prone play he exhibited early in the season. Playing in the ball on the first goal and serving up Andrew Hoxie on a golden platter for the second earns Argentine defender Lucas Fernández the Doherty Soccer Man of the Match for the victory against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.