Rhinos kick off season with 3-2 win at Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM, PA - If you watched the match, you probably ran out of fingernails to bite. The Rhinos jumped out to a quick lead inside through a Darius Madison’s effort from 15 yards out. Mike Garzi made a key tackle in the offensive third and found Madison at the top of the 18. Madison took a touch, beat his man, got a half step and swung his right leg through the ball just as it seemed to be rolling away, finding the left inside netting 9 minutes into his professional career.
The Rhinos seemed very much in control through the first half, despite the Steel starting several Union loanees. This included 17-time capped US international forward Charlie Davies and midfielder Brian Carroll, who has been an MLS mainstay since 2004 and has started in 345 matches.
This control would pay off as the Rhinos won a penalty during a scrum in the box. Coach Lilley gave Wal Fall the responsibility and he did not let him down. Fall stepped up and tucked it calmly into the bottom left corner, sending Bethlehem’s keeper the wrong way.
Rochester looked to be going into the locker room with a two goal cushion, but the Steel had other plans in mind. An offensive flurry by Bethlehem in the final minute eventually led to penalty. Charlie Davies stepped up and converted as cool as you like to cut the deficit in half right at the final whistle.
Bethlehem came out of the locker room all fired up, and looked to be the stronger side at the beginning of the half. In the 67th minute, the Steel nearly tied it up on a corner, as the service was headed directly onto the crossbar and cleared away.
However, four minutes later, the referee pointed to the spot for the 3rd time in the game. The ball hung in the air, with a Steel player missing a bicycle attempt which could’ve been called a high boot. The ball then fell to another Bethlehem player who was taken down. Liberian internation Seku Conneh stepped up and drew the match level.
The Rhinos would not be denied, and Bob Lilley’s genius paid off to the tune of three points. In the 88th-minute, Ryan James burst down the right wing, and put a dangerous ball across. Jalen Brown; who had just entered the game, nodded the ball over the goalkeepers head and somehow Jochen Graf; another substitute, got his foot on it, sending the team into euphoria.
Both teams battled it out at the end, but it was the Rhinos at the end of the day who took all 3 points. The team shook hands with the Steel players and immediately celebrated with the Oak Street Brigade, who traveled from Rochester to support the club.
“We (the team) are all really close, and we want to work really hard for eachother,” Graf said after the match, “There are a lot of ties to the area on our team, which made our level of motivation even higher. We fought back against a strong side and took home the three points.”
ROC: 9' Madison (Garzi)
ROC: 34' Fall (Penalty)
BST: 45'+3 Davies (Penalty)
BST: 72' Conneh (Penalty)
ROC: 88' Graf (Brown)